As a visual artist working between China and the UK, Ruichen Song uses various painting methods to explore issues of gender identity. Interested in the blurring of gender boundaries in contemporary society and problems of gender cognition, she expresses her views and arouses reflection through metaphorical works. Inspiration comes from contemporary gender phenomena, gender theories, traditional culture, and philosophy. Experimental drawing methodologies interrogate the transformation of gender identity as concurrently emotional and embodied; personal and political; social and cultural. Tactile materials such as Chinese rice paper with its strong malleability and random effects, convey the fluidity and instability of gender identity. Painting her own body whilst recording it on video results in an irregular bodily imprint that encompasses something inexplicable about human nature and experience. This unpredictable and irregular beauty drives further investigative practice-based research. Kobudai, - a fish that can change gender - is a recurring motif of Song’s paintings, acting as a signifier and metaphor for the extreme transformation of women's identities in the contemporary era. Song’s expansive practice combines drawing, painting, photography, print and video. For example, Growing in the Shadow uses moving image to depict the slow growth of women in a society dominated by men as indicated through an upward dance of women in the shade. Such videos act as both continuous images and static two-dimensional paintings. They invite the audience to think more deeply about gender assumptions and the blurred boundaries of contemporary identity. Drawing such as Undersea Utopia depict figures purposefully devoid of gender markers. Whilst performative printed works like ID Photos invite the audience to participate in visually undoing their gender. In this way, the uncertainty of gender and dual-gender identity remains a central element throughout.
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