Raised in a small village in rural China, Han Bing is a Beijing-based multidisciplinary artist whose language encompasses photography, performance, installation and painting. Han Bing’s main research is centred on the critical theme of modernisation in China today, and delves into issues caused by the frantic and dramatic urban transformation of the country. His work investigates the bifurcated reality of Chinese economic development, which if on the one hand presents progress and wealth for some individuals, on the other hand generates what art critic Zhuang Jia defines as “new capitalistic problems […] such as soaring inequalities, increasing materialism and consumerism, a collective nihilism, and a lack of human care.” 1
This duality of Chinese economic development plays a crucial role in Han Bing’s conceptual photographic series ‘Urban Amber’. The artist creates exquisite landscapes where the image of modern China is ambiguously reflected within resplendent and polluted fragments of urban transformation. Mirroring China’s pursuit of modernity and its desperate desire to achieve a better life, the visions of these dazzling skyscrapers remain totally appealing until one becomes aware that they are embraced by rivers in which industrial waste and rubbish are gently floating. As art critic Maya Kovskaya notes “like amber, these rivers capture the sediment of times, showing us through a mirror darkly, the underbelly of China’s fantasy of modernity.”2
Han Bing’s photographs, whose texture is reminiscent of Impressionistic paintings, encapsulate scenes of this era of frenzied construction, where the stunning reverie of urbanisation is intermingled with the polluted destruction of the environment. Both atmospheric and dense, exuding the beauty of a mirage and bearing the detritus of time, these images oscillate between pleasure and pain, taking their ultimate shape in reversed dreamscapes.
1 Zhuang Jia, New York Art The Other Shore of Desire: Han Bing on Modernization and Marginalization www.hanbingart.com2 Maya Kóvskaya, Eroticizing the Everyday: Possession, Desire, and Everyday Dramas in China's Theater of Modernization, www.hanbingart.com