Visualizing birth through the natural world in Wenji Billow’s “Pregnancy”


Pregnancy (detail), 60×90, oil on canvas
Copyright 2013, Wenji Billow, All Rights Reserved.

It is wonderful to return to the artwork of Wenji Billow, an artist from Guangxi who now resides in Sweden. I first covered Billow’s work back in 2011 when looking at her piece, “Dancing in the Wind.” In some of my academic writing (here and here), I have discussed a trope in Chinese art in which the human body is depicted as merged with elements of the natural world. This aspect is present in Billow’s work, and we see its occurrence here in her painting, Pregnancy , in which a seated woman dressed in a white garment places her hand on a pregnant womb that protrudes from an organic plant-like body (see full image below). Through our correspondences, Billow has explained to me that the woman is reaching out to a lotus seedpod representative of the woman’s own womb. One notes the theme of externalizing the physiological process of pregnancy through representation of nature. The woman’s own pregnancy is external to her, enmeshed in nature instead; thus individual pregnancy merges with the broader landscape of the natural world, removing the woman from isolation and connecting her to her surroundings.

Wenji’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and has been published in magazines and books related to Chinese art.  She currently lives with her family in Göteborg, Sweden.  More of Wenji’s work may be seen at Saatchi Online.  She may be reached at: