Hang Ren

Ren Hang

About the artist

1987 — 2017

Born in China in 1987, Ren Hang began taking photographs to conquer the boredom of being enrolled on an advertising course at college. By the time his career was cut short at the age of twenty-nine, Ren had become one of the most essential voices to emerge from China in the twenty-first century. In a country whose art remains stifled by tradition and conservative values, Ren made his friends his subjects: often nude, sometimes erect, hanging from trees, or arranged in strange positions like slabs of meat. He took pictures with an eye that could be at turns clinical (with cool, neutral tones balanced by vivid splashes of colour) and humourous (inventive cameos by snakes and octopi).

His influences included the prolific Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. Although his work could be explicit, Ren rejected the notion that it was pornographic, or low-brow. He also denied any conscious attempt to break down societal norms in China, on the grounds that everyone is born naked, and everybody is sexual — and therefore neither nudity nor sexuality can be considered shocking. Breaking through internationally, Ren collaborated with the musician Frank Ocean and worked within fashion and pop culture for the likes of Vice. Identifying as gay, he often photographed gender non-confirming subjects, claiming that gender "only matters to me when I'm having sex." 

Ren posted self-written poetry online, including a series titled My Depression. That depression would ultimately claim his life. Ren Hang committed suicide in 2017 in Beijing. Though his life and career were cut short by tragedy, he was widely published and exhibited, leaving through his uniquely curious photography a legacy that continues to shapeshift and grow.

Technical information

Image 1: Red Girl Roof 
Size: 100 x 67 cm 

Image 2: Bath 
Size: 40 x 27 cm