liu bolin camouflages emotion and art
Posted by Zadi Diaz

It's easy to dismiss Chinese artist Liu Bolin's work as "camouflage art" because, well, that's the title of this particular series. I can say "look how cool -- they painted people to match their surroundings! Wow, that must have taken a long time." That would be missing the point. At least for me.

Yes. At first glance, you can't help but be in awe of the precision and attention to detail and the astounding amount of patience an artist must have to complete a series like the one shown here. At second glance... at a longer glance... things get more complex.

After reading the artist's statement, which seems to have been translated and therefore in a bit of broken English, I began to wonder about the deeper meaning behind the camouflage... the camouflage not just of the art, but of the emotion.

Bolin asks, "Are human beings animals?"

Naturally, most animals live in balance with their environment. They inherently know how to protect themselves through concealment and adaptation, and in doing so ensure their chance of survival. Human beings, on the other hand, seem to develop through the destruction of their environment.

In this series, Bolin seems to serve up a healthy dose of food for thought. What are we? Are we natural? Are we artificial? An afterthought? A menace? A ghost? Can we find a way to fit in? Can we find a way to camouflage ourselves so that we become part of the balance?

I think the sign of great art is that no matter what the initial meaning may have been, the interpretation becomes art all unto itself.