In The Tentacles project, by Chinese artist Hu Weiyi, bright sparks and fiery electrical waves flow through a series of freshly blossomed flowers against matte gray backgrounds. To produce the images, Hu uses high-voltage capacitors to create electrical currents that run through the pink and maroon roses, showcasing the power of electricity in all its beauty and danger.
The photo series was inspired by a previous project Hu created in 2014, called Flirt, which introduced cold light to various objects to manipulate viewers’ perception without using digital software. “I then began to study the high-voltage arc and made a high-voltage capacitor which can instantaneously penetrate through the air,” says Hu. “The principle is similar to that of the electric baton, but much stronger.”
The research behind The Tentacles took Hu over a year. He worked with various technicians to try different types of electric discharge devices that would exert the right amount of electrical flow to be captured by his camera. In this experimental phase, Hu used dozens of roses and took hundreds of photographs before finding the right images and settings for his final collection. “My studio is therefore filled with the unpleasant smell of rotten flowers, just like a morgue,” says the artist.
Hu’s work illustrates the aesthetic beauty and diversity of physical forms; the softness and stillness of the spongy rose petals in comparison to the dangerous allure of the electrical spark. “The moment of discharge is wonderful and sexy, but it can also be a cold-blooded tool for torture and execution,” he explains. Hu’s combination of materials illustrate the impermanence of natural plant matter, much like the fragile nature of the human body when exposed to lightning. “The flowers in full bloom remind me of my own fragility and powerlessness,” says Hu.
In comparison to manipulating photographs with software such as Photoshop, the time, precision and research in Hu’s work gives the subjects in his images more weight, their electricity more tangible. You can see more of Hu’s photographs on A+ Contemporary’s website.