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An homage to Ren Hang

When art meets censorship

An homage to Ren Hang When art meets censorship

A talent discovered by chance that of the young Chinese photographer Ren Hang, who took his own life on the evening of Friday, February 24. This brief text is a tribute to his work, a discovery and a hymn to that delicate eroticism that made him famous.

"If life is a bottomless abyss, then when I'll jump the endless fall will also be a way to fly"
- Ren Hang, My Depression

The approach to photography of Ren Hang occurred as a vocation. After deciding to abandon advertising studies, he begins to photograph his roommate without clothes. Then his friends. "Through their naked bodies, I feel the real existence of the people (...) I do what comes naturally to me, I don't do plans". In his photographs, there aren't hidden conceptualisms or reflections, no criticism on the taboo of the naked body or its representation in People's Republic of China; no virtuosity. The bodies of his models are immersed in domestic and bucolic landscapes without bumping. A delicate and harmonious eroticism. Explicit sexuality, almost brutal, but never vulgar. Nude for Ren Hang is like an obsession that he chase shameless and fearless in spite of this will lead him several times in Chinese prisons for violation of morality.

In his works there is no trace of vulgarity, the naked bodies and the portraits are presented with frank honesty and almost childlike candor, making obscene delicacy. Fell in the noose of censorship in its own China, Ren Hang is instead supported among the dissidents of the regime and queers from all over the world, ending under the protective wing of Ai Weiwei who in 2013 invited him to participate in his collective exposition Fuck Off 2. Both intellectual dissidents rejected by their nation, Hang and Weiwei are connected by a unique bond that unfortunately will not be able to free the young Hang from the shackles of depression, that he describes in an almost manic manner on its online site, like it was a travel diary.
Suspended between the plastic classicism of Robert Mapplethorpe and the explicit eroticism of Nobuyoshi Araki, his nudes mark a furrow in contemporary photography and an important turning point in the sensitive issue of cultural censorship. Hailed abroad as one of the artists to watch but despised in China, when politic tries to slip in art the results can be various.