Ren Hang’s poetic photographs capture an idyllic world inspired by Greek mythology and the Mediterranean landscape.

Ren Hang created his latest photographic series during an artist residency in Greece in April 2015, continuing on his exploration of the multi-faceted, quasi-magical links between man and nature.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

Free from the constraints on his creativity in his native China, young Beijing-based photographer Ren Hang (b. 1987, Changchun, Jilin Province) has recently produced a new series entitled “Athens Love” while on residency in Greece in 2015. The new work is now on show at New York-based Klein Sun Gallery until 30 April 2016. A 68-page monograph published by Session Press accompanies the exhibition.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

The images on display at the gallery and reproduced in the book were all shot in Athens and Attica, Greece, in April 2015 during Ren Hang’s participation in the Occupy Atopos (OA) artist residency and exhibition curated by Vassilis Zidianakis from April to June 2015. The Occupy Atopos website describes Ren Hang’s work as “radical, avant-garde” and “pervaded by intense lyricism and eroticism”.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

His work has been largely misinterpreted in the past, often seen as “a staged display of the modern Chinese subcultures and youths on the margins of society”, as OA writes. However, Ren Hang’s intention is on the opposite spectrum and does not offer a criticism of contemporary Chinese society or youth in general, but rather aims to capture men and women in their most natural and authentic state: the nude within nature.

OA describes his latest series “Athens Love” as a “conversation between the naked human body and the natural environment”.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

While in Greece, Ren Hang could finally free himself of the censorship imposed on him in China, where he is not allowed to take nude pictures in the open air. In an interview with Dazed on the occasion of his first New York exhibition “2014” at Capricious 88 (now Company) in 2015, Ren Hang explained about the Chinese authorities pursuing him and his work:

They won’t bother my lifestyle, but they will arrest me if I’m taking pictures outside. […] My pictures’ politics have nothing to do with China. It’s Chinese politics that wants to interfere with my art. China doesn’t allow outdoor nudity. I’m very careful about taking pictures outside. If I see police, I’ll run. But I’m not hiding as I’m taking pictures.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

Ren Hang tells Pacific Dissent that he started taking pictures of naked bodies when he was a student of marketing in university:

I shot whatever I saw. When I lived in the student dorm, what I saw most was my roomie’s naked body.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in, 100 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

The young artist offers no concept behind his images, leaving them open to infinite interpretations. He only emphasises a deep engagement with humanity’s relationship with nature, expressed through the freedom of the nude intertwined with the natural environment.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

In the 2015 Dazed interview, he explains about his ‘camouflaged’ images:

China has had little influence to me. If I was born in America, I would like American models. If I was born in England, I would pick English models. When I take a picture, I’m not sure what I want. It’s only when I see the picture that I realise what I want. […] It’s more natural if they’re not wearing clothes. […] When you look at them [the bodies and nature], they look like they should be together.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

In “Athens Love”, the young subjects pose naked in the sea, among cacti, againsts a mountains backdrop populated by cows, rocky landscapes, fields of yellow flowers and asphalted roads leading to the horizon.

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang

Ren Hang, 2015, C-print, 26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in, 67 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery. © Ren Hang.

The images both include an urban and a rustic edge, with “casual yet provocative” expressions, as Klein Sun Gallery writes in the press release, “hinting at the erotic and playful energies between Ren Hang and his intimate circle of companions”. Ultimately, Ren Hang seeks to capture the magic that links humanity to nature, through playfully eroticised and romanticised photographic portraiture.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Chinese artists, photography, nature, human body, gallery shows, picture feasts, events in New York

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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