Chinese artist Liu Bolin is known in the art world as “the Invisible Man” because of his uncanny ability to use bodypaint to camouflage into everything from grocery store aisles to library stacks to gun racks. Bolin is a master of disguise, but he isn’t merely interested in neat optical illusions–rather, he uses his work to illustrate the oppression of artists and citizens in China, who are frequently silenced by the government. His first U.K. solo exhibition, The Heroic Apparition, opens this week at London’s Scream Gallery.
Bolin’s work began as performance in 2005 in the artist village of Suo Jia Cun in Beijing, which was destroyed by the government. Bolin would choose a location and have a team of assistants paint his body to seamlessly merge into the urban environment. Passersby were often oblivious to his presence, as his body became a ghostly outline against a the urban backdrop. The series of photographs resulting from these performances, called “Hiding in the City,” went viral, turning him into one of China’s most talked-about artists–inspiring not just fellow dissenters, but also a slew of ad campaigns. “The only way I have to express my feelings is to show them in my works and try to use them to wake up the world around me,” Bolin says of his work in a statement.