Exploring the relationship between sexuality and identity, Ren Hang’s work is like none other and instantly recognizable. Considered by some as the Nobuyoshi Araki of our generation, the late photographer had a unique eye when it came to composition, colour, and even optical illusions. Repetition, patterns, surrealism; despite seeming staged, his work is the result of improvisation, instinct, and spontaneity.
His work, as unique as it is, also reflects something bigger than himself: the new way contemporary artists, especially photographers, in China, see the world. With it, a new wave of talents is emerging unstoppably, including the likes of Luo Yang, Lin Zhipeng, Alexandra Leese, or Zhang Kechun. Actually, as Luo Yang said to us in an interview, “We are in a time of information explosion, singularity and uniformed patterns no longer reflect the current situation in China, and it no longer suits the need as well.”
Ren Hang was one of the most prominent photographers of the new creative youth in China capturing the country’s current zeitgeist, where nudity and positive sexuality are not considered bad, embarrassing, or even sinful. It is nature, intimacy and honesty that prevail above all. He himself undressed his feelings on a personal diary he kept online, where he wrote many entries and poems, saying for example, “If life is a bottomless chasm, when I jump, the endless fall will also be a way of flying”.
The Maison Européenne de la Photographie exhibits some of these poems and texts – the lesser known works of Ren Hang – together with books (like Athens Love) and a hundred and fifty photographs chosen from different collections. The show Love, Ren Hang, is organized chromatically in a way: from his characteristic, bright red images (exhibited in the same room), to the darker snapshots taken at night, to others dominated by acid hues. Also, there is a more conceptual approach, like the one in the room devoted to her mother, or the last one, focusing on the body, eroticism, and their connection to nature.