Lin Tianmiao – Art Basel Hong Kong 2014

At first glance from a distance,  a magnetic bonsai tree sculpture by Chinese artist Lin Tianmiao appears to be painted in a pale blue color.  Instead, it is intricately and completely bound by ribbon in the artist’s signature “thread winding technique,” according to the Galerie Lelong, which hosted a few of her pieces at their booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014.


A pile of gold toy soldiers and civilians anchors the base of the bonsai tree, which extends and hovers over the pile like an abstract otherworldly creature.  For this particular piece, “Untitled (Bonsai Tree),” the Taiyuan-born artist drew from “the intersection of man and nature,” according to the Galerie Lelong.

“[The piece] asks us to think about the intersection of man and nature,” the gallery said in a statement. “We think of the natural world as nourishing mankind, but by placing the figures beneath the roots of the tree she asks us to consider the reverse.”

If the figures underneath the tree represent mankind, it is clear that we human beings are suffocating the roots of nature itself. The figures are preventing the tree from receiving sun and water, elements it needs to survive. Although nature has provided us with nourishment, there is a clear unbalance with the environment and our care (or lack of) of it. “Untitled (Bonsai Tree)” suggests that perhaps mankind should consider taking care of nature and giving back to it what it has given to us.



“Minty Blue” is a serene, but sinister, piece with its framework of bone pieces. The canvas area is completely covered with green ribbons surrounded by beribboned bone bits, including a skeleton hand and several skulls. The blank frame could easily represent the loss of identity women have in a country that restricts their choices or a society that looks down on them. Or it could mean the exact opposite: women who conform to society and stereotypes end up losing their identities in their efforts to fit in. The skeletons could represent dreams died or quite literally other women who have died wishing for something better.