The concept of being an artist in China is a very fine line to walk. While the government and media obviously love the self-celebration of keeping their own fine arts history alive, it’s a different game altogether when you’re a modern Chinese artist. The themes so readily fed upon by artists in other areas of the world – politics, discrimination, economic disparity, freedom of the arts – are minefields for any Chinese citizen who chooses to express their opinions in any fashion. Sometimes, Chinese artists are forced to find more subversive and nebulous means to get their message across, and this in itself leads to a kind of ingenuity. Finding a surreptitious path that some will recognize, others won’t, and if challenged can be proven to mean possibly nothing at all, photographer Liu Bolin‘s work is layered and simplistic all at once.
By literally painting people into his photographs, Bolin’s photographic series “Camouflague” creates not only visually stunning shots but a metaphor for how Chinese citizens are treated by their government. Not as indiviuals, but as pieces of a great whole. They are forced to blend into the economy and population of their country just as they blend into the walls, temples, and into the very Chinese flag. A clear allusion to the loss of self-identity to anyone in the West, but just as much it could be, to any Chinese official, a celebration of China. An honourable display of sacrifice and love of country, that a person would want to mix themselves into the very fabric of what surrounds them. It’s simultaneously bold and defensible, and its balancing act is exquisite.
Aside from the meaning of the series, the technical production is flawless. The detail and shading (not to mention the patience of the dude getting painted) is incredible. Bolin claims no photoshop is used in any of the shots. Lots of people will refuse to believe that, some will choose to. To me, it’s always the most limited minds that jump right to the conclusion that things this fantastic can’t be made by human hands anymore. There’s a magic in these photos, and I believe in it.