Oct 25, 2011

PROFILE | Liu Bolin: The Invisible Man

Liu Bolin, Hiding in the City series, paint and photography, starting in 2005
 It’s just a picture of cans on shelf….right? Wrong! If you look closely enough there is a man painted in camouflage against the cans and shelves of a grocery store! Liu Bolin and his two assistants have painted his clothes along with all parts of his body that aren’t covered! Bolin started working on this series after he could not find work in Japan and then his government attempted to shut down his work. However, Bolin has not stopped his insane camouflage and there is a purpose behind it.

 Bolin was born in 1973 in Shandong Province, China. Graduating from one of China’s finest art schools, he moved into an artist village that consisted of around a hundred of his artist friends. When the Chinese government decided to bulldoze this village, it made Bolin and his friends all homeless. Bolin was hit very hard emotionally and wanted to do something to show his country this was wrong. In an interview that Bolin did he expresses “After all that I became very concerned with the state of China. My work is really an expression of my concern.” Bolin also reveals that his inspirations are the environments he is in and his political feelings to try to influence his world that is not really excited about up and coming contemporary artists. In several images that Bolin and his team paint are located in areas of destruction or have caused destruction, such as his artists village in Suojiacun, China.

Liu Bolin, Hiding in the City series, paint and photography

Bolin even blends in with a tire or a bulldozer that helped create this horrible, desolate destruction, creating more homeless people in an already vastly growing population.

Liu Bolin, Hiding in the City series, paint and photography

Each piece of Bolin’s series Hiding in the City takes him and his team ten hours or more create these marvelous temporary painting but lasting photographs. Although Bolin’s work is political, I believe Bolin still has some fun participating in these optical illusions. In another article Bolin says: his art makes a statement about his place in society – he sees himself as an outsider whose artistic efforts are not always valued, especially within China. If you simply look at the intricate detail his team paints and then the intense patients he needs to stand there for the paint and illusion, you can see the jaw-dropping effects it has on the crowds.

This series started in 2005 when his village was bulldozed and I believe each work or art becomes more and more intense and intricate. Bolin hopes that with his protest and the interest building behind it may lead to a change. Bolin is also showing people “how city surroundings affect the people living in them”, and that this might help him and his fellow artists to become appreciated in a country that seems to “forget” about the artist. Bolin continues to work with camouflage and has been in areas around the world for anyone that can “see” him!

-Abigail Cannon


  1. This makes me wonder if he can hide himself in front of a pool of still water, or how he would address moving water.

    -Diana Babson

  2. I was glad to be able to read this blog and find out the story behind this artist. After seeing the photo of Bolin camouflaged in front of the bulldozer on a photo blog I wanted to know more. Not knowing the artist name or what it was about, I was intrigued to find out. It was interesting that Bolin made an artistic reaction to being made homeless by his government by doing these works of art.

    -Calvin Millar

  3. can anyone say, wheres waldo? anyways these images remind me of shutter photography where a humanly image appears in photographs. besides from that I'm completely fascinated with this guys art, everything from his costumes to the images after he has hidden himself in them.

    - Allan Gindic