Words by Miranda Hine
WE’RE all aware that the human body can be an incredibly beautiful thing. Many of us will admire it, but few of us will actually attempt to capture it. Ren Hang is one of those few, and boy does he do it well.
Hang is a Chinese photographic artist based in Beijing. Using the body as subject matter, he creates enchanting patterns and aesthetic compositions.
Hang makes the human body, the most familiar thing we have, into something totally unfamiliar and new. In exploring compositions for the body which are completely out of the range of our everyday use of it, we see it in a new way, as if for the first time. Not only that, but it’s ethereally beautiful.
Often placing his nude subjects together with animals and the natural environment, Hang’s work could be seen as a denunciation of the industrialisation of his city. The body becomes an extension of the natural environment once more.
Rather than trying to capture a specific personality or story with his nudes, Hang uses repetition and form to turn the body into a purely visual object. This links in with Hang’s ventures into fashion photography, which use many of the same principles as his artistic works.
Some of Hang’s work is initially confronting, with imagery of taboo bodily functions like urination and erections, plus close-up shots of genitalia holding fruit or animals, as well as the most unexpected of poses. Hang doesn’t edit out the weird bits but rather includes them all as if to say ‘hey, this is the human body and it’s all got aesthetic merit’.
So, you may ask, what makes this different from porn? Personally, I believe it’s the intention behind the work. Hang’s work is not made with the intention of turning people on, but rather to capture a unique aesthetic image… even if that image might coincidentally have the effect of exciting some viewers.
But it’s not all easy going for Hang at the moment. As you might imagine, exhibiting graphic photographs of nudity in China is not always the easiest task. Hang has been arrested while creating his photographs outside, and his exhibitions have been banned several times by the Chinese police. Regardless, Hang keeps on keeping on. He’s still prolifically creating his mesmerising works. I’ve included some of the tamer ones in this article, but check out more of his photographs on his website.