Interview | Lili Ren

This post is also available in: English

R= Lili Ren

RD = Research Department at the Magician Space


RD: Let’s talk about your works for Art Basel Hong Kong OVR. Your works seem to have a certain soft and fluid texture, may I ask where this texture comes from? 

R: The works on display were created during the pandemic, they are my response to the current status quo of humans. The world is being built, but at the same time, our own space is inevitably breaking, disintegrating and decaying with its surroundings. In addition to continuing my previous exploration of the relationship between memory, trauma and discipline, I also attempt to suggest a possibility of redemption. Through absurd and dreamlike forms, I create an opportunity for escapism, taking viewers to a place where the real and imagined merge. 

RD: The possibility of redemption represents itself as a fluid form in your works, which is, however, very different from the fragile world you’ve mentioned. What’s the relationship between these two worlds? 

R: What I want to explore is how the individual confronts traumatic incidents, whether they are personal or historical. When traumas formed, how to change the attitude towards them, it is something I’ve been pondering lately. Our world is shaped by consciousness and languages, and it has a confining nature, just as our lives are surrounded by industrial materials, which are often made into standard objects. But in fact, what makes them rigid and regular stems from their own malleability. When I use resin in my work, I let it flow freely and accumulate as it coagulates, or I gently knead it into what we see now while it is still warm during the coagulating process of the chemical reaction. 

RD: The properties of the material you’ve mentioned enable different sensations towards it. Rigid and fluid worlds co-exist. Perhaps this is the reason why you wish to convince us the possibility of redemption and repairmen of the world. 

R: In the current works, the world of water has a magic power, a hope, which can respond to the rigid status quo. The fetus is protected within the mother, and birth may be the beginning of trauma. The memory of the fetus cannot be put into words, but perhaps it can instead take us away from the world we have been imprisoned in. Although the forgetfulness of this experience makes it difficult for us to feel that special enfold and appease, the imagination can bring us extremely close to and back to the past. 

RD: Are you trying to bring some memories back to a pre-linguistic state? How do you interact with your memories during the process of creation? 

R: It often starts with a lingering and vague impression, which then accumulates and transforms within my body, and the senses of the body are opened up to see, read, hear and touch to make this impression more explicit. In the end, what is really remembered or what is intended to be conveyed are the feelings, which would transform as well over time.For me, the material is a very genuine evocation of this impression. I am interested in the haptic memories evoked by materials. These perceptions and imagination of different textures of materials, such as soft, hard, smooth or rough, solid or fluid, come from the specific memory of touch. I am also interested in capturing the transformation of materials, the narratives constructed by their dialogue and interpenetration in space.


RD: Your works are hard to be described in concrete words. Do they have any specific interlocutors since they are inspired by your personal experiences? 

R: Some have specific person to talk to, but they can also encompass everyone. When I encounter materials and spaces, there is a lot of serendipity and improvisation in the process. I have a great interest in space and I am curious about the relationship of the works in their respective positions and interactions. It is a bit like a mise en scene in a film or a dream you can control in the early morning, and these processes make final works a relative abstraction.Speaking of memory and trauma, I am reminded of an interesting quote from a novel I recently read: “I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they’re outside of time, are the only ones with time.”


RD: Shall we talk about the significance of everyday objects in your works? 

R: I experience everyday objects by observing them in their state of being with people and nature. They are owned, used, worn, abandoned, mended and passed on, and in their various states, they carry and conceal a variety of desires and secrets that intrigue me. For example, the abandoned chairs that we come across on the road, or the second-hand sofas that have been scratched to reveal the foam inside, or the intimate objects that are commonly found in indoor spaces and have been exposed to the elements in public spaces…


RD: How do you describe the concept of time in your work? Your works seem to expand the temporal dimension of sculptures, whereas space is, generally speaking, a more traditional theme of sculptures. 

R: What might the time be? Is it the moment of escape? Is it the slow unfolding and decaying of things? Is it soft or frangible? Is it a mystery or a riddle? I try to keep a trace of time in my work. The work Homesick for another world was created at the height of the pandemic in London. I was grounded at home and had an inexplicable longing and nostalgia in my heart. It was winter, the wind was cold and the sky was getting dark early, as I wove the yarns into the imaginary landscape, I realized how close it was to my childhood memories.