Wang Guangle’s current solo exhibition makes some interesting appeals to definition. Might it be called a sculpture, an installation, a painting, a fissure, a lesion or mouth of some kind on the wall of Beijing Commune? This is the artist’s current solo exhibition at the gallery where he had his first one back in 2009; the latter displayed examples from his Coffin Paint series, begun in 2004. Born of the practice of the aged in his home province of painting a layer of lacquer onto their waiting casket for every year they remain alive, sees the passing of time made physical in accrued stripes of paint on canvas.
‘Passage’ might be a more appropriate term for the wide, stretched white oval now protruding forwards into the otherwise-empty gallery room. Wang achieved it over the course of one month using a methodical, accumulative practice reminiscent perhaps of the natural world -- nests built of layers of mud pushed through a wet beak to affix and build up a round nest, or sediment, or insect hives. Wang embeds himself in time’s endless onward movement -- making physical its progression, layer by layer of paint, as if channelling it through his own body -- and fixing it to the wall. The overbearing whiteness of the thing that results (in contrast with the colours of the Coffin Series), can only aggravate the odd sensation that somehow one is seeing something one is not meant naturally to perceive, and certainly not visually; regular, concentric, the product of a quasi-religious painting regimen, this abstract volume is like an existential signature. There is also great tension held in the flat slit in the middle, the foremost part of the form, which marks the moment when the layering reached its centre and had to stop. Whilst this piece is not necessarily inventive, it feels like a formal leap for the artist’s work, and one that testifies to its future.
-- Iona Whittaker
(All images courtesy of Beijing Commune and the artist.)