Bingyi’s art is saturated with an aristocratic sophistication and elegant classicism, rooted in her aesthetics and academic training that has taken many years to develop. Her biography has to be written in terms of hardships: her parents divorced when she was young; and she moved around without a normal family life. Nonetheless, she has thrived though these difficulties and has graduated from a Ph. D. degree from Yale University with impressive academic honors.
Although Bingyi has established herself as a young art historian, she is a devoted painter and poet. She paints, writes, travels and sees the world through her boundlessly curious eyes. This exhibition presents four media that materializes a combination of creative methodology and social and cultural activities.
As life flows like water and time, landscape extends and meanders, her thoughts ebbs and continues. The sensational boundlessness can be only described as beyond “Yi”, the Chinese expression of metaphysics. Her impressive format, the long scroll, is the ultimate expression of a mental dwelling. Five hundred Arhats， thousand li of mountains and waters, then thousand Buddhas – classic Chinese has always poeticized the infinity of numbers into an infinite spiritual pursuit. The formalism of Bingyi’s scroll inspires meditation, experience and enlightenment. This process has always been a sharing experience amongst the painter and her viewers. The notion of “scroll” here is an artistic embodiment of “yaji,” the scholarly gathering.
Today, the time for yaji is long gone. What is in place is public exhibitions and social parties. Hence “scroll” longer plays the role in our cultural life. Bingyi, however, continues to organize scholarly gatherings and likewise continues with the creative format of “scroll.” As scroll grows into her signatorial style, she has enlarged the scale to fit the contemporary exhibitional space. If ancient viewers use “hands and eyes” to view the scroll, we have to view the paintings with our “feet and eyes.” We can be instantly taken by her grandiose compositions and will no longer need to roll the paintings. Such departure is challenging yet also meaningful, for Bingyi has managed to maintain a spectacular coherence in her overall composition while carefully cultivating the idiosyncrasy in her details. Her paintings, like fallen flowers and flowy water waves, are loose, imaginative and transcendental, for a whimsical semiotic cause: every detail can be “read” both as a story, and as a sign.
Bingyi’s paintings seemingly are telling various intimate stories, yet every image is an embodiment of signs, whether it is a tree or a flower. It represents a “monogatari” of events, characters, thoughts from the past. They are notes carefully selected from ancient novels, poetry and parables and have been subtly annotated by Bingyi’s personal interpretation.
After the socialist revolution, reform and opening up, and globalization, Chinese are no longer used to the aristocratic notion of “private viewing.” Intimate experience with art is not only a private matter. It is a medication of a cultural individual, a longsome retreat in a crowded metropolitan city, a self-aspiration for a creative mind. Such intimacy or privacy is instrumental for a city dweller to keep her conviction and engagement with arts and cultures.
By Minglu Gao