Critics’ Picks

View of “Ren Ri,” 2015. From left: Yuansu Series II #6-47; #6-16; #6-15; 6-22, all 2013–15.

View of “Ren Ri,” 2015. From left: Yuansu Series II #6-47; #6-16; #6-15; 6-22, all 2013–15.

Hong Kong

Ren Ri

Pearl Lam Galleries | Hong Kong, SOHO
189 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan Shop No. 1 G/F & 1/F, SOHO 189
March 11–April 12, 2015

Walking into the new Pearl Lam Galleries SOHO space, it’s unclear whether Beijing-based artist Ren Ri is simply an eccentric beekeeper or an artist with an inclination for ethological cultivation. The artist, who claims to spend most of his waking hours with bees, blurs that distinction to play with the genesis of order and chaos. Shown for the first time in Hong Kong, “Yuansu I: The Origin of Geometry,” 2007–2011, and “Yuansu II,” 2013–15, christen this pristine gallery space.

On the second floor, juxtaposed with peeling tong lau walk-up buildings seen through the windows, are topographical maps solidified in beeswax from “Yuansu I.” The best works are on the first floor, however, accompanied by a screening of the video Yuansu III+2, 2015, which shows bees climbing all over the artist’s body. Reminiscent of the Perspex boxes containing dried Chinese medicines popular in shops along Queen’s Road West, Ren Ri’s “Yuansu II” series of translucent boxes contain inactive beehives supported with struts. For these, the artist played with chance by placing a queen bee in each box and carefully manipulating the formation of the beehives. Every seven days, he randomly moved each box on its side or on another angle, altering the way the worker bees built their home around the queen. The results are abstract honeycombs, each hexagonal cell molded from surprise. More than just an ethological experiment, then, Ren Ri’s work questions the extent of an artist’s role in creation.