«People come into this world naked and I consider naked bodies to be people’s original, authentic look. I feel the real existence of people through their naked bodies» | Ren Hang
Ren Hang, who passed away in February 2017, had a short but intense career. He was a well acclaimed contemporary photographer, famous for his photographs of body compositions – though his work was continuously censured by the Chinese government. The young artist took his own life after a long period of depression, leaving behind an unsurmountable human and artistic vacuum.
Ren Hang was known for his inclination towards poetry and “lightness”. Even though he was arrested many times for his photographs (considered obscene and too explicit), he always asserted that he considered the body and nudity to be one of the most natural things in the world, and that he was acting merely on the ideas going through his mind without the (premeditated) intention of creating something which could be considered transgressive. Models to his photographs were usually his friends, family members, or acquaintances with which Hang had some sort of connection/relationship; most of them are young, not because he preferred or chose them based on their age but because, as he himself stated in a 2016 interview with Antidote Magazine, “young models are simply much more relaxed with the idea of being naked, especially in China”.
The nude body – main character to his photographs – stands out against the white background of walls, which are usually part of intimate domestic environments; it blends with the verdant landscapes of parks in Beijing; or it intertwines with other bodies giving life to surreal compositions.
The human form becomes a soft sculpture, pulsating, alive. Even colour, always present, is an important focal point to his photographs: constant references to red, placed on the lips or nails of the models, almost seem like the artists’ signature. Other colours, like yellow, green and blue, belong to the natural world hence they become an integral part to his poetic and erotic vision.
The eroticism portrayed in his shots is always spontaneous, never artificial, and it blends with the purity and candour of the subjects photographed, resulting in a formal and conceptual balance. Gender, male or female, becomes irrelevant; as the artist himself explained, it wasn’t important for it to be explicit nor explain the nature of it, as Hang’s research was a continuous exploration of the body, its dimensions and the relationship between identity and sexuality on a universal level, without hierarchies or preferences.
Ren Hang’s photographs have been a part of more than 20 solo exhibitions as well as 70 group exhibitions around the world. Beijing is one of the many cities which hosted his exhibitions, even though in China the artist was often attacked for his work. The artist self-produced numerous books, though currently the only available volume, which encompasses the artists’ career, is published by TASCHEN and edited by Diane Hanson: a rich and comprehensive volume full of photographs and unpublished works, perfect for anyone wanting to know more about this Chinese artist.
Find out more on the official website of the Gallery representing the artist.
Translated by Ludovica Sarti
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