Infamous political artist Ai Weiwei has shared his thoughts on photographer Ren Hang following his death late last month. Like Weiwei, Hang had run-ins with the Chinese government over his "controversial" art. Weiwei spoke about his love and understanding for the photographer to TIME yesterday.
Weiwei, who is a longtime appreciator of Hang's work, called the late photographer's images "poetic" and full of "sadness." He stated that "[Ren Hang's] works interpreted sex in a Chinese way, which contained a sense of loss and sorrow, in Chinese literature or poetry, sex is about something which is impossible. It's very different from the West. It's sexier." The artist went on to discuss Hang's raw aesthetic, saying that "Ren Hang represented a new generation of young Chinese artists."
Ren Hang died tragically on 24 February from apparent suicide after struggling with depression throughout his life. His sudden death shook both the art world and his global network of fans and collaborators. Hang was praised for his photographs' celebration of intimacy and the naked beauty of life, despite the censorship he frequently faced as an artist. His images were explicit in the most human way, exposing Chinese sexuality in an unexpected light.
Though Weiwei didn't have much direct contact with the photographer, the artist included Hang's work in shows on multiple occasions. "The images are fresh, but also empty and superficial," he said, "They contain a deep sadness within."
Text Jo Rosenthal
Images courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery, (c) Ren Hang