Even though China is considered one of the world’s powerhouses, its people are still coming to terms with the rapid transition from a traditional culture to a raft of modern cities. This theme has been reflected in recent exhibitions by Chinese artists such as Ye Hongxing and the Gao Brothers.
Han Bing explores a similar theme but through a very different method. He has taken photographs of buildings in China and at first they seem to be littered with imperfections, as if they’ve been overexposed in the dark room or distorted in Photoshop. But they are actually reflections of the buildings captured on river surfaces, and the ‘imperfections’ are detritus floating on the water’s surface.
The litter on the river is often discarded wrappers and it’s a nod to the environmental impact that the commercial and economic advancement of China has had – Bing’s work is asking whether having a McDonald’s in China is worth the ecological cost.
Han has a superb eye for composition and a tree reflected in water and oil is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, while floating fragments in the water could easily be the leaves fallen from a tree. A skyscraper is made to look like it’s on fire and a reflection of cranes along the skyline feels like it could be a Lowry.
The artist is able to take the pollution of a river and find a beauty hidden within it that you wouldn’t think possible – it reminded us of the photographs by Daniel Beltra of oil spills and Edward Burtynsky of open cast mining.
The artist’s homage to Impressionism makes for a fascinating exhibition that is both aesthetically pleasing and also has a deeper message about the potential downsides of progress.
Han Bing: Reversed Dreamscapes is on at Hua Gallery, Unit 7B, Albion Riverside, 8 Hester Road, SW11 4AX until 14 March. Entrance is free.