For the first time since the Beijing-based artist Ren Hang's tragic death broke into the news in 2017, Berlin is graced by the revolutionary work of the late photographer in the exhibition presented by C/O Berlin, Love, Ren Hang. Opened since 7 December, the exhibition is a befitting swansong to C/O Berlin's arching theme of the relationship of photography and death as well as to immortalize and continue to fight for his artistry.
Known for his use of body formations, Ren Hang was breaking the Chinese photography scene with male and female models acrobatically posed, donning jet black hair, porcelain skin, red-coated lips and nails with eyes piercing through the camera. At times, they are paired with strange props of flora and fauna, backgrounds ever-changing. Some are shot in the blankness of indoor walls, some against the cityscape, while some shot in the rural wilderness. Hang combined both famous Western art motifs with East Asian philosophy.
As with the exhibition title, the show is one way of bidding goodbye with emotional impact -- as with his relationships with his models and friends. According to curator Felix Hoffman, Hang was always intimate and had a lot of emotionality in him -- his passion and warmth are felt and seen with his models. Hoffman says:
"The idea of body shapes by Ren Hang related to Bauhaus photography in the 1920s in reflection to his death was the motivation to dedicate a bigger exhibition to him – especially to fight him from being forgotten."
Hang's film photographs also represent the complicated feelings of China's younger generation. The models in his photographs, while can be seen abstract with the whole picture, also have an active presence with their gazes. As heads, limbs, and torsos intertwine in bare flesh, Hang also conveys messages of gender-queerness. His work is rebellious and relevant in light of China's prevailing artistic censorship and their socio-political climate. Hoffman further stated:
"For me, Ren Hang stands for a fresh and liberal play with influences from the history of photography and art. He implemented the social media channels in his work and used it as a forum to send a signal against political and social barriers in the Chinese system. But nudity can also be an attempt to point out injustices and break down barriers – especially compared to photo- and art history."
His influence and social impact went beyond contemporary Chinese photography as Hang's artistry gained more momentum and popularity worldwide posthumously. The C/O Berlin holds Hang's torch as the retrospective will be featuring 150 of his recent works, until 29 February 2020.
For further information of the show, visit the C/O Berlin's website.