Mar 09, 2017 3:59PM

Read Ai Weiwei's Moving Reflection On Ren Hang


Visionary artist Ai Weiwei sat down with TIME this week to reflect on the life and work of other visionary artist Ren Hang. On top of being art icons, the two men also have a shared history with censorship — producing groundbreaking work despite government restrictions in their home country.

"[Ren Hang's] works interpreted sex in a Chinese way, which contained a sense of loss and sorrow," Ai Weiwei told TIME. "In Chinese literature or poetry, sex is about something which is impossible. It's very different from the West. It's sexier."

He continued by poignantly pointing out that Ren's work spoke to the struggles of a generation.

"Ren Hang represented a new generation of young Chinese artists," he said. "Their works reflect the reality of China, today. The images are fresh, but also empty and superficial. They contain a deep sadness within."

Ren Hang battled with depression and suicidal thoughts for many years, documenting this struggle in diary entries on his website. The legendary photographer lost his life to the disease on February 24, after jumping from a building in Beijing.

Ai's words come as a heartbreaking reminder of Ren's enduring legacy — a sad, magic, and undeniably human one.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Lucy Jones