Rapid economic growth has made our environment and culture even more sick and irrational. For a country like China, this is unhealthy, but for a contemporary artist it is a catalyst.”

Born 1986, Changdao Island, Shandong

On Han Jinpeng’s gold-framed video screens, Western art’s most celebrated paintings collide with nature’s most intractable features: rain and wind.  Costumed as the Mona Lisa and Vermeer’s Milkmaid, the artist—with the aid of a friend off-camera—subjects himself to a steadily intensifying series of climatic assaults. A few drops of rain become a deluge; a light breeze builds into a hurricane.  Finally, wigless, skirtless, blinking and gasping, Han Jinpeng is forced to abandon his act and revert to his everyday, if visibly uncomfortable, self.  None of the filmed weather is real: it was created with lamps and a dimmer switch, tap water and a large electric fan.  Yet it does reveal true nature—that of the painting’s subject, aka Han Jinpeng: “As the fake Mona Lisa is washed away,” he says, “you can see the real person.”  The artist’s take on the intersections between nature and man’s creations may make viewers laugh, but it is “a serious social issue”, he says. “Civilisation is artificial.  We should never assume that we can push nature around.”

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