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August 8, 2014

Chinese Art Stripped Bare

Ren Hang, the Beijing Photographer Shooting Down Taboo

“I’d love to have sex with all the models that I’ve shot—the urge to shoot nudity probably originates from my own impulses,” says prolific Chinese photographic artist Ren Hang, whose entwined and contorted sculptural compositions are often derided as obscene in his own country. “Most of the subjects are friends of mine,” the Beijing-based Changchun native adds. “I just want to organize parties, not tell a story: everything you see in the pictures you can find in real life.” Today’s series of portraits are featured in his alluring, disinhibited first solo exhibition Physical Borderline at Beijing’s Three Shadows +3 Gallery. Hang’s seemingly nihilistic exploration captured over the past six years—and featured in Purple magazine and Rencontres d'Arles Photography Festival in France—examines the confines of our bodies, or in his own words, “the lack thereof.” The artist’s courageous pursuit has not gone unnoticed in the West, but his unwavering passion for unrestrained nudity is still a taboo subject in China. “Being routinely banned here has made me feel numb towards any change,” says Hang of the exhibition’s unapologetic attempt to penetrate the uptight censorship culture of his home country.

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The Book of Derek

Simon Fisher Turner Reflects on Derek Jarman's Life in Collage and Ink

The diaristic sketchbooks of Derek Jarman tell the story of a live-wire creative mind in this photo series, ahead of the forthcoming exhibition Pandemonium at King’s College London, courtesy of the King's Cultural Institute. The show marks 20 years since the artist died of an AIDS-related illness, and reflects on his fascination with London’s abandoned docklands. Jarman's figure looms large over the film and art worlds. He played a big hand in the careers of Tilda Swinton and composer Simon Fisher Turner—below, the latter reminisces on his time spent with his influential old friend. 

Whenever Derek was working on something he’d have his amazing books lying around everywhere. All of his diaries are just beautiful art works. He made them pretty meticulously every dayideas just popped out of him all the time. He was an impulsive and positive artist, he loved to work and got really excited. It was like we were terrorists, film terrorists. I remember being down at his place in Dungeness in Kent in Army uniforms and balaclavas with machine guns and cameras, attacking a man dressed as a woman. 

We were fighting against the pricks, and he had his political and sexual agenda. It was very punk: it was definitely fuck Thatcher, fuck BFI, fuck everybody because nobody was giving us any money. I first worked with him as an extra on his 1978 film Jubilee, and later scored his films Caravaggio, The Last of England, Blue and others. I’ve never met anybody who wrote, painted, filmed and drew as much as him. He opened my mind completely, to art and politics. As a friend he was certainly the biggest influence of my life.

I have contributed a piece to the exhibition called “Silence”. It’s a recording of him that I made a sound collage around. He was very ill at the time and had become quite frail. He talked to me about the only time in his life that he could remember silence. It was during a total eclipse of the sun, when the lights went out: the birds stopped singing, and everything went completely quiet. When an eclipse happens, they think it’s night so they all just switch off. Life stops.

Pandemonium runs at Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand Campus from January 23. Derek Jarman's Sketchbooks edited by Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall is published by Thames & Hudson.

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Spotlight

Dickie Landry: New York Stories

Memories of Manhattan From Philip Glass and Robert Rauschenberg's Favorite Saxophonist

Musician, photographer, artist and farmer are some the guises formed by the inimitable Dickie Landry in Tabitha Denholm’s portrait that comes on the eve of a new exhibition of his pictorial work. Landry moved to New York in 1969, becoming an integral member of the Philip Glass Ensemble and part of SoHo's burgeoning avant-garde art scene alongside artists Robert Rauschenberg, fellow Louisiana-native Keith Sonnier and Gordon-Matta Clark, co-founder of experimental gastronomic clubhouse Food with Landry’s then wife, Tina Girouard. “Dickie was really ahead of his time,” says Denholm of the saxophonist who collaborated with David Byrne, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, and whose restlessness saw him branch out into black-and-white photography and abstract painting. “It was his Louisiana upbringing that taught him to do what’s necessary to survive and he took that with him as a model to New York. These days it’s pretty normal to do several things at once but at that time being a polymath was quite unusual.” In the early 2000s, Landry returned to his hometown of Cecilia, Louisiana and now resides between his family pecan farm and his apartment in nearby Lafayette, where he is surrounded by the beautiful ephemera of his extraordinarily full life.

Dickie Landry runs at Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, Lafayette, LA from January 14 through May 3.

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