“LOVE, Ren Hang”
Venue: Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP)
Dates: 06.03.2019 - 26.05.2019
“LOVE, Ren Hang”, the first ever institutional exhibition in France of the work of the photographer Ren Hang, honours the memory of one of the most influential Chinese artists of his generation, who died tragically at the age of 29.
Ren Hang’s work has been exhibited in many galleries around the world and regularly published in fashion magazines including Purple and Numero. After his suicide in 2017, he left behind a wide-ranging body of work that is presented in the exhibition “LOVE, REN HANG”, which deals with all aspects of his artistic practice, from photography to books and self-published texts. Presented for the first time in a French institution - in Paris, a city he loved - 150 photographs selected by the MEP from European and Chinese collections allow us to assess the scope of his outstanding corpus.
Ren Hang’s audacious work explores the relationship between identity and sexuality, and because it was produced in China, its subversive tone had an all the more destabilising effect. His work, which has often been censored or deemed pornographic by the Chinese authorities - even though Ren Hang often stated that it did not set out to challenge the political establishment - remains, with respect to a repressive context, the expression of a yearning for creative freedom, freshness and impulsiveness. His unique vision is clearly influenced by “cynical realism”, a Chinese artistic movement rooted in the events that took place in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Ren Hang’s instantly recognisable work is mainly composed of portraits and landscapes often within the naked bodies of his male and female models. He worked with people close to him - his friends and his mother - and with young Chinese people he reached out to online. He produced his emblematic images in the confined space of his apartment or in the outdoor spaces of the city. Although his photographs appear staged, they are the result of a spontaneous and instinctive process, and their candidness imbues them with poetry and humour.
The exhibition occupies the second-floor gallery of the MEP. The layout does not present the artist’s work series by series, but instead places the different facets of his work side by side, as he did during his lifetime. Adopting a partly chromatic matic approach, it takes the visitor through the artist’s worlds: in one area red predominates, while elswhere other acid colours prevail; one room is devoted to his mother, while another, darker space presents his night photography. The last room features a selection of more “daring” works focusing on the body, creating a powerful, organic connection between eroticism and nature.
The show is also a chance to discover a less well-known facet of Ren Hang’s art, namely the editorial and poetic works that he produced in parallel with his photography. He posted his poems on a regularly updated website (now defunct); most of them are presented in this exhibition. They are chiefly meditations on his struggle with depression. “If life is a bottomless chasm, when I jump the endless fall will also be a way of flying”, he wrote.
There is a strong connection between the works of Ren Hang and those of Coco Capitán, who felt a powerful kinship with the Chinese artist. Although they never met, they wrote to one another. The fact that their work is being presented simultaneously at the MEP is thus no mere coincidence: together they provide an alternative view of the intersecting trajectories of fashion, performance, text, and highly original approaches to the photographic image.
“The Bliss of Conformity”
Venue: Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP)
Dates: 20.04.2019 - 26.05.2019
True to its commitment to showcase international emerging talents, the MEP presents “The Bliss of Conformity”, a series by the Chinese artist Yingguang Guo combining photography, video, installation and book.
Yingguang Guo first came to public attention in 2017 when she was awarded the Prix Madame Figaro Chine – Jimei Arles for this very series. This is her first exhibition in an institutional setting in Paris.
Yingguang Guo focuses on contemporary China, here specifically the experiences of young women who enter arranged marriages. The series exhibited at the MEP, “The Bliss of Conformity”, was taken in the People’s Park in Shanghai, where there is an area used as a marketplace by parents seeking spouses for their children, by posting ads in the hope of finding a suitable match.
Yingguang Guo explains that the question of marriage is a central feature of daily life in China. As a student at the London College of Communication, she began to take an interest in the “weight of conformity” that bears down on these young Chinese women. As she experienced European culture first hand, she began to reflect upon the value assigned to women in her own culture.
In addition to the exhibition in the Studio, there is a specially designed virtual exhibition on the MEP website. Its format offers a range of different angles of interpretation for “The Bliss of Conformity”. This online project is unveiled on the MEP’s website starting March 6, 2019.
Born in Liaoning, China, in 1983, Yingguang Guo studied first at the Communication University of China, then at the London College of Communication. She has collaborated with various media and press agencies such as China Daily and Reuters. Little by little, she moved away from a purely documentary process to turn towards a more inter-disciplinary style: photography with engraving, drawing, video, and performance.
More information: www.mep-fr.org