A message to China. Thank you Xu Bing.

This is Xu Bing from China. We have never met.  What he has done with my poem takes it to the next level.


Photo by Kwong Lee

Xu was born in Chongqing, China, in 1955. He earned his B.A. degree from the printmaking department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (CAFA) in 1981, while earning his MFA in 1987. He moved to the United States in 1990. He moved back to China in 2007. From 2008 to 2014, Xu Bing served as the vice president of CAFA, where he is now a professor and the director of the Academic Committee. He currently lives and works in Beijing and New York.

In 2021 Xu Bing  created this piece for the acclaimed exhibition  Poet Slash Artist  which  ended its run at Manchester International Festival a few days ago on August 30th.You can see Tracey Emin’s neon accidentally reflected upon the glass in front of  Xu Bing’s work.  There is something poetic about that.  What you will not immediately see is that this is an excerpt from my poem. All the letters are in the English language!  Read on and I will explain.

photo by Kwong Lee

This form of art work is  Square Word Calligraphy . Look further into the piece. Each square is a full word. In English.  If you are looking at the screen right now then work from the top down left to right.  The title of the piece is ‘Square Word Calligraphy: Gold from the Stone.


Here is a clearer image of the work which should help. Remember. It is a four line excerpt from my poem. Each line works from the top down starting on the left hand side if you are facing the screen. The first word is CAN’T. The second word is SELL. The third word is A.




Xu Bing’s work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas; the British Museum, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Spain; the Joan Miro Foundation, Spain; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery of Prague, Czech Republic; and Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Additionally, Xu Bing has participated in the 45th, 51st and 56th Venice Biennales, the Biennale of Sydney, and the Johannesburg Biennale amongst other international exhibitions.  The Southern Graphics Council conferred on Xu Bing its lifetime achievement award in recognition of the fact that his “use of text, language and books has impacted the dialogue of the print and art worlds in significant ways..

I  hope you can see why I am so honoured to find Gold From The Stone within his work.  Thank you Xu Bing. Thank you.  This poem holds great meaning for me. I wrote it before I found my family.  It remembers the search.  What I didn’t realise is this:  The search really started when I found them.

3 thoughts on “A message to China. Thank you Xu Bing.

  1. Hi lovely Lemn! It’s late, but wanted to say how much wife and I enjoyed your ‘Walk’ on TV – little talk and instead you let us hear the place and the sound of your walking. Thank you for a true piece of poetry.
    Jack Angelo, Gilwern, Wales

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