Lot 1081
  • 1081

Wang Guangle

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 HKD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Wang Guangle
  • Terrazzo 2004.2.7 - 2004.4.5
  • oil on canvas
signed and titled in Chinese and dated 2004 on the reverse, framed


Private European Collection


China, Shenzhen, Hexiangning Art Museum, Ideal of New Generation - Chinese New Generation Artist Award Exhibition, 2004, p. 131

Catalogue Note

Enlightenment of Red
Wang Guangle

The primary hue of Wang Guangle's Terrazzo 2004.2.7-2004.4.5 (Lot 1081) is dark red, which contrasts with the greys and greenish-blacks that dominate most of the artist's Terrazzo Series. This reddish colour also played a key role in 3pm - 5pm Series, a major series of works from earlier in the artist's career. In addition, the subtle but distinctive fluctuations in light make this piece a highly representative work of the Terrazzo Series. Chronologically located between the earlier 3pm - 5pm Series, a pure reconsideration of classical painting, and Wang's later Coffin Paint Series, which explores time and life, Terrazzo 2004.2.7-2004.4.5 captures light itself and presents the vestiges of time on the canvas. Thus the painting is a key link in helping us understand Wang's creative journey from his earlier fascination with classical painting traditions and his later, more conceptualist ideas.

Wang Guangle (born 1976) represents a new generation of Chinese artists' formal explorations in the 21st century, their subversion of traditional realism, and their nihilism and pessimism towards the politics of old and even social subject matter. This new aesthetics is evident in the two-dimensional works by this new generation, and Wang Guangle is undoubtedly a pioneer among them. Academically trained in realist techniques, he uses realistic details, unemotional expressive brushwork, and a calm and rational treatment of colour and form to create a radically new kind of abstraction. Wang’s visual language, infused with a poetic sensibility, and his creative process both embody the special characteristics of his milieu, making him a unique figure in both East and West.

A 2000 graduate of the Oil Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Wang Guangle is an important member of N12, a collective of young artists at the Academy. N12 represents a new generation’s attempt to explore “all possibilities beyond the rules of the Academy” and counts among its members the independent young artists Song Kun, Qiu Xiaofei, Hu Xiaoyuan, Xu Hualing, and Wen Ling. Among the other artists born in the 70s, Wang has not chosen an easy path.  While other young artists opted for favourites of the market such as illustration, cartoon and caricature, Wang spent almost half a year on a set of five paintings 3pm – 5pm. He chose yellow and red hues for these paintings in order to suggest the warmth of the afternoon.  With the motif of a beam of light in the dark corner of a studio, the work showcases the quest for classical aestheticism and won him the Academy President’s Award.  More importantly, art education under the doctrine of realism in Chinese society has always emphasized the functionality of art, but 3pm – 5pm has defeated the expectation of art as a tool of expression.  It has returned art to pure graphic rendition, and in so doing opened up a new generation of painting concept.  As Wang’s first series after graduation, 3pm – 5pm was so successful that it had a huge impact on the artist’s future works.  Gradually, terrazzo appeared in the 3pm – 5pm Series, taking up the floor of the paintings’ interior space.

Terrazzo was a very common construction material in the 70s and 80s.  Wang Guangle’s uncle was a cement worker and he frequently polished terrazzo. This initiated in the artist’s formative years his cognition of the material’s beauty. The terrazzo’s placement in the 3pm – 5pm Series is a reminiscence of this beauty.  Bit by bit, the artist hoped that the tableau could be even purer, so he simply eliminated the light beams and manifested the texture of terrazzo, thus creating the Terrazzo Series.

The colours in the paintings gradually changed, but few of the works in the series returned to depictions of light, and even fewer revisited the red and yellow tones of 3pm - 5pm Series. Of the rare paintings to do both, Terrazzo 2004.2.7 - 2004.4.5 is the finest example. According to Chinese folk customs, art history, and history in general, the colour red possesses an indelible importance. It has important societal and political connotations, and might even be described as the signature colour of the Chinese people. In art history in general, red has long been an important creative subject for both Chinese and foreign artists, including the Fauvist artist Henri Matisse, who used the colour to create a startling sensory space in his 1908 painting Harmony in Red. The painting, which combines objective material space with subjective individual sentiment, is a masterpiece of modern art. In the 1950s, the American painter Mark Rothko used colour blocks to produce an almost religious effect, and red featured prominently in most of his major works. Rothko's paintings use colour to abstract and vividly express human emotions such enthusiasm, passion, anger, and elation.

Terrazzo 2004.2.7 - 2004.4.5 is the utmost expression of this series. To render the subtle texture of terrazzo, Wang worked day after day for three entire months. The texture changes when it spreads from the inside to the outside, whereas the shades of the colour also change accordingly.  The trace of light beams in the painting is a continuation of 3pm – 5pm, and a further development of the artist’s concept. This poetic piece appears to be abstract when seen from a distance.  But when the viewer approaches, it turns out the work is very realistic.  For the artist, the meticulous details in the imitation of real terrazzo are not only to shock the viewers visually, but also serve as a concrete record of his time spent on creation and a witness of the passage of time.  The long creative process with endless repetitions is not only a reflection of the tedium of urban life; in artistic terms it is also a trial for the artist’s patience, in the course of which he gets to know and learns to control his body.  In the monotonous and even boring process [peaceful journey] of painting, the artist feels life itself, as if he were a monk meditating.  Such a way of creation, more importantly, allows the viewers to be intoxicated by the painting, understanding the passage of life through the stunning details.  There is an anecdote about this series.

A year prior to the creation of Terrazzo 2005.6/8, Wang Guangle spent more than a month in a Beijing factory which was going to be demolished.  With writing brushes, water and colour, the artist drew terrazzo texture on a wall 6 metres high and 9 metres long.  After its completion, the humungous terrazzo painting of course vanished into thin air as the factory was torn down.  The performance art / mural is tantamount to setting the tone for the Terrazzo Series. Subsequently, Wang Guangle transferred his exploration of the passage of life in the Terrazzo Series into his new Coffin Paint Series. He repeatedly painted the canvas so that the paint piled up, forming layers of colours.  The series originates from the artist’s hometown custom.  The old people there would annually repaint the coffins they prepare for themselves until they eventually pass away.  The Coffin Paint Series has inherited the theme of temporal contemplation from the Terrazzo Series.  Death is explored through the visualization of time. He once said, "All my works are thematically related to time. Every little rock in the Terrazzo Series is time materialized. Every passage of colour in the Coffin Paint Series is a recitation of time." Stylistically, the Coffin Paint Series represents the artist's transition from realist abstraction into a more conceptual kind of abstraction, as well as his more emphatic focus on creative process and conception. The resultant abstract paintings are actually the crystallizations of creative process.

Among his contemporaneous artists, Wang Guangle represents a significant artistic breakthrough. Incorporated conceptualism and performance into abstraction, he transcends the conventional Western understanding of it and establishes a creative mode that is infused with the Eastern spirit. As an important work in Wang Guangle's signature Terrazzo Series, Terrazzo 2004.2.7-2004.4.5 embodies the artist's philosophy of painting and stands as an important document of creative process and time.