Ren Hang 1987-2017

‘I don’t really view my work as taboo, because I don’t think so much in cultural context, or political context. I don’t intentionally push boundaries, I just do what I do.’

born in jilin province in 1987, hang was best know for his images of chinese youth, often naked and arranged in strange and surreal compositions. a poet and photographer, the artist combined urban and natural environments to create fantastical and unflinchingly raw portrayals of young people — both in china and abroad. due to the graphic and overtly sexual nature of hang’s work, he was frequently censored in his home country, even going so far as to be threatened with arrest.

hang’s subjects — usually just his friends — are arranged into peculiar choreographies: a jumble of limbs, faces and features that interact both with each other the world around them. laden with eroticism and mystique, hang’s work was an unfaltering reaction to his home country’s repression of sexuality and sexual identity, and a celebration of the human form.

‘people come into this world naked and I consider naked bodies to be people’s original, authentic look,’ hang told vice magazine back in 2013. ‘I feel the real existence of people through their naked bodies.
shooting exclusively on film, he has been widely exhibited, holding solo shows in china, and group exhibitions in italy, france, russia, israel, sweden and more. the photo-book ‘ren hang’, recently published by taschen, collected some of the artist’s most notable works. the release of the publication coincided with two international exhibitions of his work: at foam photography museum, amsterdam (until march 12 2017) and at the fotografiska museum, stockholm (until april 2 2017).

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Ren Hang
Human Love
17 February — 2 April, 2017
Young Chinese art photographer whose sensual images of the encounter between man and nature makes the Chinese government tremor. In Ren Hang’s photography, these two universes are combined into a surrealistic reality through a sensual dance.

Ren Hang (b. 1987 Chang Chun) is a photographer from North-eastern China. Self taught within photography, Hang captures intimate portraits of a generation young adults growing up in post-Mao China. In an intuitive and playful, yet beautiful and tender way, he transforms naked bodies into sculptural objects against an empty background, or surrounded by the wonders of nature.

–I mostly use my friends, both women and men, often naked. But if I’m shooting them naked outdoors, we’ll have to be very careful, even if we’re not hiding, since public nudity is forbidden in China.

The result is a sometimes-surrealistic image, a landscape of skin and flesh, filled with sexual liberation and longing for a touch. In his very personal imagery bodies, limbs, plants and flowers are mixed in a sensual way, with a fascinating result awaking a wish to see more, come closer, and maybe even to participate…

Because of the partly explicit content of his artistry, Ren Hang has often been put under censorship by the politically sensitive government in China. He has even been threatened by arrest. If the police arrive when photographing his friends, he starts running.

–My art is not trying to intrude into the politics of China, it is the politics of China that is intruding into my art. I do this pictures because life would be so boring without shooting them but I have no specific goals, says Ren Hang who carefully points out that he is not trying to politicise his art.

Another famous Chinese artist, who very openly questions the politics of China, is the artist Ai Weiwei, who has curated one of Ren Hang’s exhibitions.

Despite the situation in his home nation, Hang’s work is internationally renowned and has been exhibited across the globe, making him one of the most interesting contemporary photographers of his generation. He describes his work procedure to be “just like everybody else”.

–I’m very honored to have this exhibition at Fotografiska, and also excited, says Ren Hang,

He works very intuitive and says that he does not set out to capture something he imagined on beforehand. Not until the photograph is taken does he know what the image was trying to say.

Nudity and naturalism. Humanism and love. For Ren Hang, these universes are tightly intertwined and his photography mirrors that this might be a universal truth.

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