Bi Rongrong (毕蓉蓉)

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A Thousand Plateaus

Trained in traditional Chinese landscape painting and educated in contemporary art in the Netherlands, Bi Rongrong (b.1982) redefines the traditional concept of drawing and applies drawing-as-practice into physical places and virtual spaces. For Liste Showtime, we introduce Bi Rongrong’s two recent installation projects – Re-encode-Pattern XI-∞, A Growing Landscape(III), and a newly created video work - Coiling Out of A Single Plane. We will dive into her mind and experience her “growing drawings” both externally and internally.


As a trained Chinese painter who then chose to transition her craft into contemporary art, Bi Rongrong’s take on contemporary art is somewhat different and unique compared with her peers. She collects visual materials directly from her daily life and gradually comes up with a highly individualized module system during her drawing practice. The nature of her collecting is similar to sketching, a habit that she developed during her painting studies. Bi Rongrong collects visual images from local cities during her travels - such as the ornamental patterns on the architecture and the designs from graffiti ...

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Each of the modules embodies a moment that touches and impresses her. More than what they originally stand for, the modules also epitomise the chemistry between the artist and the objects when she first encountered them. Through constant repetition, collaging, rearrangement and overlapping, the new narrative that hereby emerges comprises the somewhat unconscious superposition of memories, and becomes an autobiographical novel. Her unique creative technique makes her works a true expression of herself.

Bi Rongrong's work, in essence, is the edited records of her life’s trajectory. In this sense, she becomes the writer of her autobiographical novel, and every new creation (or every different project) is a different chapter of this novel. The "Re-encode—Pattern XI-∞ (2020)" series is the chapter about “cultural skin” and individualised “aesthetic taste.”

  • Installation views, presented in 2020’s spring exhibition of Hong Kong CHAT(Centre for Heritage Arts & Textitle) (scroll to see more images) )
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The patterns in this series originally came from posters and graffiti seen on British streets. Bi Rongrong then further expanded her collection to exterior walls and interior decorations of ancient architecture in Europe and the Middle East, as well as everyday textiles and articles. In her eyes, these patterns are the "skins" of different cities and various cultural relics - they are the city’s outermost layers but carry the culture’s most essential information. Although they come from all over the world as fragments, they are filtered by the artist's own interests and her oriental aesthetics.


The "Re-encode-Pattern XI-∞" series was presented in 2020’s spring exhibition of Hong Kong CHAT (Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile.) In order to comprehensively show the relation of this work with the physical space, Bi Rongrong recorded a guide video in which she interprets her ideas of exhibition and demonstrates the origin of the patterns in her works.

Many of Bi Rongrong's works are related to "weaving," whether it is handmade or machine fabrics, paintings related to fabrics or animations about "weaving." Regarding these works she said, "Fabrics start from a thread. This is very similar to drawing. The lines in both media are extended and spread out. In the process of 'weaving,' new patterns/images are constantly generated. There is a connection between drawing and weaving, for instance I used the elements that I pulled from my drawing in some of my fabric works. Very often when I switch from drawing to weaving, drawing itself becomes one of t ...

Like a seed, her works start with a pattern and grows with the constant transformation of time and space, just as a thriving plant. And the project "A Growing Landscape (III) (2020)" further demonstrates the vitality of this continuing growth in Bi Rongrong’s practice.

  • A Growing Landscape (III), installation, presented in the exhibition "In the Name of Flower" at the Pearl Art Museum in August, space dimension W 5 x L 8 x H 3 m, 2020 (Scroll to see more images)
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Unlike how the “Re-encode-Pattern XI-∞” series utilizes architectural patterns, “A Growing Landscape (III)” uses Chinese medicinal plants, that have been closely related to Bi Rongrong’s daily life in the past few years, as source material. “It had become a daily routine to listen to some audio programs about ancient medicinal stories while I was drawing.” Bi Rongrong said, “on the one hand, these plants acted on my body. On the other hand, I gradually developed a psychological curiosity and interest in them over time.” In this site-specific project, she transforme ...

  • A Growing Landscape (III), manuscript 01, Pencil, watercolor, leaves, linen, polyester thread, acid-free watercolor paper, 25.5x35cm, 2020
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If the "Re-encode-Pattern XI-∞" and "A Growing Landscapes (III)" series are Bi Rongrong's dialogues with her external world, then "Coiling Out of A Single Plane (2020)" is more of an introspective mind mapping chapter in her autobiographical novel - an external presentation of the artist's inner growth.

The original idea for this video was inspired by the fishermen’s ropes that Bi Rongrong discovered in Nan’ao Port Fishing Village near Shenzhen. They are the least noticeable yet the most important object for the fishermen. The fisherman’s safety in the open sea is dependent on the ropes, and if they are lucky to catch big fish, the rope is the key to securing the fruitful day.

Referring to the fishermen’s ropes, this single channel video starts from the perspective of a spinning rope dangling around a Mondrian-colored cube. Suddenly the camera shifts revealing the rope, inertially swaying in the cube, representing the unpredictable line of life. The cube then expanded, transformed and collapsed and soon reshaped again by a series of sophisticated mathematical calculations and linear deductions, gradually developing into a series of contrasting virtual spaces.

As Bi Rongrong said, “There was no script at all when I make this animation. The work has been constantly inspired and evolved by itself during the process.” In the video, the movements of rope seem to follow a certain deductive rule. The new motion trail of the rope inspires the way the next knot is woven, twisting and stretching as the mortal coil, but the next extension of the rope unravels the knot. Meanwhile, the formation and break down of geometric patterns happening in the periphery, resembles our chaotic world. But eventually the rope returns back to the original cube, like an endle ...