Artist Ren Ri creates stunning beewax honey maps of the world

Beijing-based artist Ren Ri has an unusual team of collaborators: bees. And he has mastered the art of taming bees to such an extent that he has become the first bee artist in the world. By successfully combining his love of beekeeping and art he has created accurate honeycomb maps of various countries and continents.

Ren Ri with his beewax art maps

Ren Ri with his beewax art maps

Starting as a beekeeper

He started beekeeping in 2007, and within a year, he mastered the basics. As he got more proficient, he began to think of ways in which he could manipulate the bees’ movements, by controlling the queen bee. Over time, he started creating meaningful beeswax patterns, and he eventually managed to produce a world map which was his first piece of ‘bee art’

Ren Ri's beewax world map

Ren Ri’s beewax world map

He added that he did get stung a lot when he first started working with bees, especially when he tried to interfere with their operation. “I may have been attempting to achieve something, but the bees only stung me in order to protect themselves. But as he became more familiar with the bees, he understood how to handle them better.

In spite of producing stunning pieces of art Ren considers himself more of a beekeeper than a professional artist.

Ren’s gallery states: “The duality of interactions between the human body and the bees is not simply in the physical sense; more importantly it hints at an interrelated force and its counterforce. The artist believes his sculptures represent the truth of how humans interact with nature, which involves harmony, destruction, molding, and interference, and can result in unpredictable, sometimes volatile, but sometimes wondrous results.”

Russia beewax map

Russia beewax map

Manipulating beewax through the Queen bee

To start creating his bee art maps Ren placed a map of the world inside the beehive. He then manipulated the queen bee to move in different directions and angles, so that the bees would build the hive at the locations he desired.

“The bees continued to mould the beehive, and this moulding affected the original shape I had given the piece, through a process of addition and subtraction. Beeswax is a very special material; it’s unstable and can change shape with temperature. The structure of 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.”

Once the world map was ready, Ren created individual maps of several countries as well. He called the series Yuan Su I: The Origin of Geometry.



Yuan Su 1: The Origin of Geometry

Ren explained why he named his bee art maps Yuan Su “The title of this work – Yuan Su – can best be understood by splitting it into two parts. Yuan signifies nature, the origin of life, while Su signifies the part that is man-made. Therefore, Yuan Su signifies the relation between man and bees: that is, man and nature, the relationship by which the two are unified.”

Ren said that the process of working with bees has taught him a lot. For instance, the human construction process is upward, while for bees it’s the opposite. “Man battles against gravity in order to build upwards,” he said. “As for the bees, their way of building is a downward process; they do not challenge the force of gravity. I find this thought very interesting.”

For more interesting taughts and explanations about his work have a look at this video

Ren’s impressive and original beeswax art  maps have been displayed all over the globe. From galleries in Taipei, Shanghai, Milan, Beijing, Venice and Hong Kong.




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