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Wang Guangle
2020041101, 2020
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Painting

Oil on canvas

11.80 x 9.84 in

30.0 x 25.0 cm

Unique Work

Signed and dated on the back of the canvas

ESTIMATED VALUE: $24,000 - $46,000

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  • Although his early practice derived from photorealism, Wang began to delve into abstraction in 2002. Inspired by a traditional practice, his Untitled works, which extend from his Coffin Paint series, stem from the burial traditions from his hometown in Southern China. Wang explains: “When an old person is not feeling well, he prepares a coffin for himself. He paints the coffin himself, but if he doesn't die, the following year on the same day he paints the coffin all over again. Some old people even paint it over dozens of times. This is called applying ‘longevity paint.'” Wang produces his paintings by working with his canvas resting flat on the studio floor, systematically applying layers of acrylic paint in alternating colors—at times monochromatic, at times colorful—resulting in a densely stratified surface. Here, a layer of paint is only applied after the previous one is completely dry, which means the artist can only finish small quantities of layers in a day. Each stratum of paint is applied from the far edges of the canvas working inward toward the center, thus resulting in an illusionistic depth, the lighter tones of the composition acting as a framing device. Nuanced hues reveal themselves between the layers, ultimately producing a minimalistic gradation deepening in color as it spans from the periphery to the center of the canvas. The Untitled paintings, as with the Coffin Paint series, are provided with numeric titles indicating the year, month, and day of completion—a record of process. From a Western perspective, Wang's minimalist process-based art can be located in discourse with Robert Ryman's investigation of material and gesture as well as On Kawara's series of Date Paintings from 1965. However, Wang's paintings also connect to a cultural preoccupation with longevity located in narrative perspectives of Chinese landscape paintings. Instead of conveying a single moment in time, as we find in Western convention, the narrative unfolds by featuring the same figure several times from different perspectives and on different registers throughout the visual plane. In this way, Wang's method evokes a strong metaphor, relating to Chinese cultural identity as much as it relates to conceptual art practices. Each stroke of paint signifies a moment in time, an amalgamation of gesture, which in completion becomes a meditation on temporality. He reveals, “the most important thing is not the ‘what' of painting, but the ‘how.'”
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