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Invisibility Cloaked – Liu Bolin

Liu Bolin is a contemporary concealment artist born in China's Shandong province. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Shandong College of Arts in 1995 and his Master of Fine Arts from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2001. His work has been exhibited in museums around the world.


Can a person disappear in plain sight? That’s the question Liu Bolin’s works seem to ask.
Also called as “The Invisible man” his work has been exhibited in museums around the world.
The Beijing based artist, started his work with an intention to focus on the political and social issues in and around China.
A simple painting takes 3 to 4 hours for completion, during which Liu Bolin stands still, gets painted from top to bottom against the background, after which he is indistinguishable from the scene behind him.
To spot him in the paintings, try to locate his shoes.

Emaho : In the 1990s, as someone said, “The voice of an artist in China was worth even less than that of a peasant”. How different is the scenario in China at this point for upcoming artists?

The focusing on the contemporary art of China is because of the development of China in last ten years. In the last ten years, China changed a lot. The economy became the most important thing, which was politics before. However, the development gives lots of space and material to the artist to create their art work. Like many social problems, such as the environmental problem, and the food safety… and also, after that development, all of the society and the thought of Chinese people are changing to respect the individual’s will.

Emaho : How was the experience having Sui Jianguo as your mentor, in the initial phases of your art growth?

In 1999 when I tried to be the postgraduate to study and to be guided from him, I often went to Beijing to ask Mr. Sui some questions about my puzzle in the art road. And then I learn art from him and tried to get in touch with the contemporary art. Though I learnt sculpture, the soul of art is the same. From that time, I pay more attention to contemporary art.

After the graduation, I went back to the Shandong province to be a professor; however I still pay attention to contemporary art. In 2005, I came to Beijing to be the assistant of Mr. Sui. Then I started my ‘Hiding in the City’ in the demolition of Suojia village.

I think that I was guided by Mr. Sui in the art road step by step and his thought has had a great impact on his students like me.

Emaho : The deteriorating condition of historic and cultural artefacts of nations is inevitable, due to rapid increase in development and demand. Isn’t there a helpless feeling, knowing the fact the backgrounds, which inspire you in your paintings, someday would no longer exist?

As an artist, it is an instinct to reflect the things that happened in your life. And the only thing he could do is using the method which is familiar to him to express the anxiety that he has. The art work is the extension of the artist’s thought.

The history and the culture is very important for the heritage of the nation, however, social development brings new technology, and also brings many issues to human beings. Art comes from this. Because people need art to release the pressure which comes from living… with the different kinds of lives coming out, different kinds of art come out. Therefore, art won’t disappear. Since human beings need that release…

Emaho : Do you plan to cover the Seven Wonders of the World through your art form?

I had that idea from the start. I wanted to hide myself in the Terra-Cotta Warriors before. But I could not do it for the protection. I will try to make it in the future. And then it will be the others by turn.

Emaho : Painting your own body to express art…was this the initial idea?

I don’t know what you mean by the ‘initial idea’. However, I had a long period of time when I didn’t even have a job in the early years of my life. At that time, I always thought I’m a man who is useless. I had such feelings for a long time. Only after I make the ‘Hiding in the City’, I release all that feeling. That is why ‘Hiding in the City’ is only series of art work comes out from the demolition of Suojia village. Before that series, I try to do some sculpture for experiment, but I could not find anything I really need from my heart from that.

Emaho : To bring this idea of art to execution, a team of sculptor, painter, and photographer is also involved. So is it a joint effort which is shown in each of your images?

Yes, you are right. The work is not only a piece of photo, the process that I stand there for a long time, the process of hiding into the background and the background which has special stories is the most important thing I want to express. The act itself is the work. The photo is only the last shot for record. Personally, the greatest thing and the most touching thing in that work is the persistence the artist has.

Emaho : We are just a mere dot in front of this environment. What do you mean by that?

In China, we people have an idea that is called “天人合一”, which means that human beings is one part of the nature, they are same, and they are almost one thing. They are ruled by the same natural laws. However, human beings made many regulations like the code of ethics and the law. The regulations take human beings far away from the situation which they were and where they should be. So Taoism tells people ‘please forget the things made by human beings and try to jump out from there. Try to back to the nature’. Try to get into the situation that being in harmony with nature. My work is the extension of that thought. And I use that art work to express my opinion that human beings are bound to be one part of nature.

Art & Culture Interviewed by Hemanshi Jain

Art work by Liu Bolin

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