Liu Bolin | The Disappearing Act
START Art Fair, Saatchi Gallery 13-17th September 2017
Mehta Bell Projects are delighted to present a unique performance by Liu Bolin as one of the highlight projects of START 2017. Whilst the iconic photographic artworks by the artist are much acclaimed and collected, Bolin has often referred to his practice as a performance, yet curiously there is very little live exposure of these physical performances. It is this fascinating aspect of the artist’s oeuvre that will be highlighted at START 2017 in a live performance, as part of the special projects programme curated by Mehta Bell Projects. This will be the first time that Bolin’s work will be showcased as a time-based performance in the context of an art fair.
Although this facet of Bolin’s work is rarely presented in public, it is the performative element that is truly at the heart of the artist’s practice and concept of his ‘invisible man’. As captivating as they are, his beautiful photographs are essentially documentation of Bolin’s laborious and physically demanding process. Very often it is misunderstood that his photographs are digitally manipulated to ‘blend’ him into his background. However in actual fact, what makes these artworks truly enthralling is that the artist has painstakingly posed right in front of his chosen backdrop, while his carefully directed team embark on the scrupulous task of gradually painting him in to the background, by hand and in situ. Over the duration of the art fair the artist will don his signature military suit, and the audience will witness the artist gradually ‘disappearing’ into the intricate Lego background brick by brick. His highly skilled team of painters will meticulously emulate the complex background, painting over the entirety of the artist, until he is completely camouflaged.
For START 2017 Liu Bolin will present a mesmerising performance. He will pose against a specially commissioned sculptural backdrop designed by the artist and made from thousands of Lego bricks sponsored by Brick Live. The sculpture depicts a cluster of colourful sunflowers, referencing Van Gogh’s epochal symbol that has become one of the icons of Western art, whilst also alluding to the use of the sunflower in Chinese culture to inspire young children. The sunflower is a heliotropic flower, as its head always rotates to face the sun. Bolin talks about how as young children in China , they were taught to be like little obedient sunflowers who always face the sun. In 2014 there was a mass Taiwanese student uprising called the ‘Sunflower Student Movement’ in protest to a trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China. The artist comments on a form of social conditioning, as by the end of the performance Bolin will become lost in the cluster of plastic sunflowers, virtually rendered invisible, thus echoing the feeling of many who may feel that they lose their right to voice their own individual opinions.
The sculptural installation goes ‘beyond the brick’, as the multitude of Lego bricks not only reference the brushstrokes of the Post-Impressionist painter, but also suggest the idea of pixilation, which is a poignant allusion to the end result of the performance, which will be in the form of a photograph. Lego bricks are one of the most popular and iconic children’s toys, and their ubiquity and accessibility make them incredibly democratic and appealing. As a privately owned powerful global corporation, Lego’s influence and global reach offers a host of stimulating ideas that resonate with Liu’s practice and provide START’s audience with an engaging live performance and installation.
Liu Bolin was born in 1973 in China’s Shandong province and attended the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2001 and received a Master of Fine Arts degree. He is one of the country’s most acclaimed and established artists. Bolin’s practice has been influenced by the dramatic developments that have occurred in Asia in recent years and his series of photographs capture the fears, frustrations and the cultural, political and social issues that have gradually accumulated since the Cultural Revolution in China.