Liu Bolin has become world renowned for his camouflage art. The real-life Invisible Man from China is the artist with the ability to disappear into any surrounding, from supermarket aisle to the streets of New York. Most recently, the likes of fashion designers Valentino and Jean-Paul Gautier have been Bolin’s canvas.
Liu uses himself as a blank canvas, and two assistants paint the camouflage onto his body to merge as seamlessly as possible with the background behind him. One single photo can take up to 10 hours to prepare. He makes the most of his invisibility, sometimes remaining extremely still until an unsuspecting passer-by happens to walk past.
Liu’s work is not just about optical illusions. He also communicates political and cultural meanings. His artwork series has centered on a concept of “hiding in the city,” wherein the artist paints himself into the background of various notable locations in China, France, Italy and New York, in order to investigate the often contentious relationship between the individual and society and between man and nature.
He started these series in 2005 as a political commentary on the tensions between the Chinese government and their people, on the identity an environment gives an individual and vice versa.
His latest series ‘Lost in Fashion’ sees Liu collaborate with fashion designers. This time, it’s the designers who are the canvas, who are seamlessly blended into the background of their own designs. Valentino Pierpaolo Piccioli shares his experience of being camouflaged by Liu: “We felt like Veruschka in a Franco Rubartelli picture. But you don’t really know what’s happening, and all the people around you are saying: It’s amazing“.
At first glance you might not even notice the human standing in the photograph. It’s on closer inspection that a man painstakingly painted to blend in with the background appears. If you are hungry for more, check out the the camouflage in action: