Beijing-based artist and beekeeper Ren Ri has been obsessed with art and the relationship between man and nature since he was a young boy: “Back then, I was spending a lot of time observing animals and plants; my passion for molding was parallel to an interest for insect ethology.”
His latest project, dubbed “Yuansu II,” is a series of beeswax sculptures contained within plastic transparent polyhedrons. Each sculpture is a combined effort. While the bees, of course, make the honeycomb, Ri toys with the environment, gently nudging his busy designers in various directions. He begins by suspending the queen bee in the center of the polyhedron using wooden sticks, encouraging the bees to build around her. Every seven days, he alters the polyhedron’s orientation in accordance with the outcome of a random cast of die.
Beeswax is a unique medium, one with somewhat unpredictable properties. “Beeswax is a very special material; it’s unstable and can change shape with temperature. The structure of the wax cells is orthohexagonal, which is an inconceivable feature in the natural world and it’s a peculiarity of honeybees. Another reason behind the choice of bees is that I wanted to try to eliminate the subjectivity of the artist and the mediation of bees served this purpose,” the artist said.
The name “Yuansu” comes from the words “yuan” and “su”, which mean “element” and “mold,” respectively. “Yuansu” as a whole term can be translated as “a comprehension of the gestalt of life.” Ri believes his sculptures represent the truth of how humans interact with nature. It involves harmony, destruction, molding, and interference. The world is an outcome of the human-nature interaction, an interaction that produces often unpredictable, sometimes volatile, but sometimes beautiful, results.
“Yuansu II” will be on display at the T-Museum in Hangzhou through August 7.