On Bingyi’s Six Accounts of A Floating Life


Bingyi completed Six Accounts of A Floating Life in Beijing. She is as strange and unpredictable as her composition. I wish to respond with articulation, but often lack certainty with words. Weird, surprising. You can attempt to trace her thought process, yet you can never quite catch her.

I asked Bingyi to leave her West Chamber series at my studio. The series includes five panels. I asked because I love those paintings; also because I had not seen “real paintings” for a long time. Real paintings are rare and usually inspire a sense of awe and confusion; I often do not know how to deal with them. I have not collected much art previously. I asked her because I hoped that her paintings would “stabilize” once in my possession. I feared that otherwise they might be hidden away by some unknown collectors. Good art often gets lost in the craze of art collecting. Secretly, I was also concerned because I had no idea where she was going with her next paintings.

In Six Accounts, I have come to see coherence and internal logic in her work, although I remain incapable of describing her approach.

Her paintings affect me profoundly because I see so much ambiguity and uncertainty.
Maybe so many paintings today are too “certain” or too “clear” in what they wish to say.

Can she really paint? Or perhaps not? Her technique and palette seem to come from nowhere. Are they derived from some kind of graffiti? Or are they just some scribbling?

One thing is clear: She is NOT afraid of the canvas. It appears that she may not have studied art, nor does she seem to care. Art theories, conceptualism, or abstract ideas are irrelevant when looking at and thinking about her fragmented lines and abrupt textures, which I often associate with children’s painting.

I ask Bingyi to speak about her Six Accounts. She casually mentions literary and historical allusions, often from ancient classics. In fact, a sense of allusion permeates her.
She turns every detail into a historical narrative. Her work makes up the immense volume of a “Bingyi Art Index.” Hence graffiti is indeed a sophisticated literary exercise.

But Bingyi is not just a playful classicist. She went to Yale and has a PhD in art history.

She breathes and manifests the energy and trends of major cosmopolitan cities like New York and Beijing. Nonetheless, painting, as a medium, is fatal. There exists a person like her; there exist paintings like hers.

It is difficult to paint if one paints in accordance with art history. Since ancient times there has been only one canvas. Numerous people wish to paint. Even more art history books have been written. We have always been confident that we can verbalize paintings. We trust words. In the end, what is left on the canvas often only belongs to art history.
But I believe that what canvas can contain is beyond words, hence beyond art history.

And that is why painting exists.