A parallel Worlds

Sunday January 8 2012 / Art & Design

What started off as a protest against the authorities has become a career for Chinese artist Liu Bolin.

Born in Shandong in 1973, Liu has made a name for himself as the ‘invisible man’, a master of camouflage – an exponent of ‘stage photography’, as he likes to think of it, who paints himself so well that he blends in with his surroundings.

A graduate of theSuojia Village, a Beijing community where Bolin was based built specifically for artists.

“At the time, contemporary art was in quick development in Beijing,”
says Liu. “But the government decided it did not want artists like us to gather and live together. "

“The situation for artists in China was very difficult and the forced removal of Suojia Village was my direct inspiration of my series of photographs ‘Hiding In The City’. 


“I was filled with indignation,”
he adds. “I painted myself in the same colour as the pulled-down walls and tried blending into the demolished areas. I wanted to disappear!"

It was a sort of self-defence mechanism because I think it was better than being overlooked. It represented my helpless mood and I achieved some balance in my heart after finishing this artwork.”

A year later, a gallery curator from America went to the artist’s studio,and bought some of Liu’s works, which brought him worldwide attention.

For the last four years, Liu has branched out from his Chinese setting and created a series of photos where New York, Paris, Venice, Rome and London have been the backdrop for his human canvas.

To achieve the required effect, Bolin stands still for hours – at least five and sometimes as many as ten – to be painted and photographed.

When he started out, he asked friends to do the painting and photography but now employs assistants, most often art students.

He says: “My job is to choose a good background where I want to be ‘disappeared’, and then stand there stationary until a design has been painted on me."

“My work sort of reminds people what the community we live in really looks like, and what kind of problems exist."

“Some people call me the invisible man, but for me it's what is not seen in a picture which is really what tells the story.” 

The video above shows the transformation that Bolin has to go through to create one of his artworks. Here he blends into the staircase of Paris’ Grand Palais.

For more information on Liu Bolin, please visit http://www.liubolinart.com/


Suggested by
Steven Rogers