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Interview: 'Cloth painter' A Ling

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Local artist A Ling (阿玲) is from Ruili, Yunnan, where she grew up exposed to Dai minority culture and was influenced by the natural beauty of the area.

After leaving her hometown, A Ling spent about half a year in Dali before coming to Kunming. She eventually established a successful trade in handmade clothing, bags and jewelry.

Beginning Friday, Cat's Cradle Café will hold the first exhibition of her unique artwork, with an opening at 3 pm.

The works resemble paintings, but A Ling doesn't use paint to make them. Instead she cuts pieces out of a myriad of cotton, hemp, and synthetic fabrics and glues the pieces onto canvas in complex layers that take the shape of people, landscapes and whatever else she feels the urge to portray.

She calls this medium butiehua (布贴画), literally "cloth-sticking painting."

GoKunming sat down with A Ling to find out more about her life and art:

GK: I heard somewhere that the favorite job you've had was working as a duck herder.

A Ling: That's right: from when I was two years old until I was 12 I helped my parents run their duck farm on the outskirts of Ruili. We had about 200 ducks and sold the eggs in local markets. It was a great job.

GK: What did you like about it so much?

A Ling: First of all, ducks are very cute creatures and I gave names to some of the biggest and most unique ones. But the best thing about that time was that I had a very simple, natural and free life.

GK: Life in Kunming must be quite a bit different. Do you like living here?

A Ling: Yes, there are advantages. For one thing, people back home didn't really understand art – or at least I never met anyone who did. In Kunming I have more opportunities to display and sell the things I make and I have a lot of artist friends.

GK: Does that mean that you have more opportunities to have others critique your work?

A Ling: Actually, many of my friends have only seen the handbags and jewelry that I make, not the works that will be on display at Cat's Cradle. I keep those in my house.

GK: Your medium is called Butiehua. Where does it originate from?

A Ling: I haven't seen anything else like it, so I guess I created it myself. I've been painting since I was about 15 years old and I started to experiment with "painting" using pieces of cloth about four years ago. It's a style that looks very traditional, but I like to incorporate modern subject matter.

GK: What kind of glue do you use to stick the cloth to the canvas?

A Ling: That's a secret. I can only tell you that it is a 100 percent natural adhesive that I make myself.

GK: Do you have a favorite work that you've done?

A Ling: I recently completed this one and I like it a lot [see below].

GK: Are they kissing?

A Ling: The way I envision it, they already know each other well and they're close to kissing, but neither is willing.

GK: How many pieces of cloth did you use for it?

A Ling: At least hundreds, maybe thousands, I'm not sure.

GK: What are your plans for the future?

A Ling: I try not to think too much about the future. I already have a great life and I want to keep creating whatever comes to my mind and experimenting in the kitchen. Cooking can also be a kind of art.

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I absolutely love that second work! Wish I could see the whole exhibition...


Her artwork is very beautiful. This medium should probably be translated in English as "appliqué" or "cloth appliqué."


Aling....the "kissing" piece is wonderful. When I saw it you had only worked a bit on the faces. Congratulations on the upcoming exhibition.

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