“Alternative Histories”: Bingyi’s language of ink

Dr. Luise Guest, Ran Dian 燃点, February 18, 2023
The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
—Li Bai, Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain *
The first time I met Bingyi (冰逸), in 2013, she sent her driver to pick me up because, she said, I would never be able to find my way to her home and studio in the heart of Beijing’s old hutong alleyways. The following year when I tried to find it again, threading my way down narrow passageways whose grey walls and red doors began to look more and more the same, I realised she was right. At that time, Bingyi was living and working at the heart of the city’s central axis, close to the Forbidden City, in what had once been a Yuan Dynasty temple. When I stepped over the stone threshold from the courtyard, it was with a sense of leaving Beijing’s dust and grime, and its constant noise, far behind. Finches fluttered in tall birdcages and the porch was filled with Ficus trees, orchids and ferns growing in tall pots. Inside, all was serene; tea was poured at a long table and assistants unrolled enormous ink scrolls across the floor as Bingyi explained her curious journey towards a practice today that crosses multiple disciplines. Ranging from intimate fan paintings to monumental site-specific works in which ink is sprayed and splashed with tools engineered by Bingyi herself, she juxtaposes China’s long cultural and artistic history with a very contemporary twenty-first century sense of the perils of the Anthropocene. 
A true polymath, Bingyi is described by Ink Studio Gallery in Beijing as an “artist, architectural designer, curator, cultural critic, and social activist.” Her practice encompasses land and environmental art, site-specific architectural installation, musical and literary composition, ink painting, performance art, and filmmaking. She has published a treatise on the history and significance of shan shui painting and involved an entire community in her trilogy of films exploring the loss of Beijing’s hutong neighbourhoods. She cites recurring themes in her work as ecology, ruins, rebirth, and poetic imagination. 
Occupying a space that is both inside and outside China’s contemporary artworld, Bingyi very deliberately separates herself from an increasingly commercialised art scene in Beijing. She is immersed in Chinese history, philosophy and classical literature, and works at the cutting edge of an expanded field in which painting intersects with sculpture, architecture, fashion, film, new media, dance, and music to create immersive site-specific spectacles and intimate works of the most delicate and nuanced kind. 
More information, please refer to Ran Dian“Alternative Histories”: Bingyi’s language of ink.