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blog. 25.03.2016

blog. 25.03.2016

Ren Hang’s intuitive photographs of lily pads and lithe bodies

Photographer Ren Hang had no set plan when he began the series of images featured here. He encountered the lily pads and flowers along the side of a road and knew he had found a setting that would work for him. Often, the plants that appear in the artist’s work—the tulip in a male model’s mouth, the leafy plant wrapped in a woman’s hair, the poppies covering crotches—seem accidental or intuitive, like something Hang simply encountered and so incorporated.

Born in 1987 in Changchun, part of the Jilin province in northeast China, Hang moved to Beijing to attend college and stayed. He often documents the underground Beijing youth culture and the images he makes, full of lithe and listless bodies, recall the 1980s work of Nan Goldin or the more recent work of Ryan McGinley. The difference, of course, is that Hang is working in a city where galleries are banned from showing work as explicit and rebellious as his. Because of this, he primarily shows elsewhere, in Paris, London or in The Netherlands, where dissident Chinese artist Ai WeiWei included him in a group show called Fuck Off 2 at the Groningen Museum. But in talking about his work, Hang does not emphasize taboos. Sex, plants, nudity, nature: it’s all part of the vitality of living that attracts him. People are more authentically themselves when nude, and plants, which spread pollen everywhere, are constantly trying to perpetuate the life cycle.

See more photos in Strange Plants II.