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Ren Hang’s Athens Love
Photography Ren Hang, courtesy of Dashwood Books

Ai Weiwei pays tribute to Ren Hang’s photography

‘The images are fresh, but also empty and superficial. They contain a deep sadness within’

Ai Weiwei has shared his thoughts on Ren Hang following his tragic death last month – calling the late photographer’s work “poetic” and full of “sadness”. 

The artist – who, like Hang, had run-ins with Chinese authorities over his controversial work – made the comments to TIME yesterday. "(Ren Hang’s) works interpreted sex in a Chinese way, which contained a sense of loss and sorrow,” Weiwei said. “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 aesthetic, which – while celebrated for its intoxicating beauty – also faced criticism for its lack of depth. “Ren Hang represented a new generation of young Chinese artists,” he continued. “Their works reflect the reality of China, today. The images are fresh, but also empty and superficial. They contain a deep sadness within.”

Hang died on February 24, after jumping from the 28th floor of a building in Beijing. His suicide, while tragic and sudden, came after years of struggling with depression – a cyclical issue which he spoke openly about on his website.

Weiwei added: “He is evidence of this so-called New Photography in China, which is poetic and superficial at the same time.”

Read Dazed’s tribute to Ren Hang here