Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne Acquired from the above by the present owner
Wang Guangyi, Timezone 8, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 89, illustrated in colour Wang Guangyi: Art and People, Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House, Sichuan, 2006, p. 123, illustrated in colour
Famous Paintings Covered with Industrial Oil Paintings No. 11 from 1989 is an archetypal work from Wang Guangyi’s iconic oeuvre – one that engages with Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 classic The Death of Marat. Wang Guangyi first encountered Western classical art, philosophy, and aesthetics during his time at the China Academy of Art in the early 1980s, and the canonical images of classical art became a primary reference point for his visual lexicon. The artist has written that “I felt that art, seen from a cultural perspective, always comes from tradition, but as its own cultural fact, art always has its residual issues that can serve as a starting point for the present. So I settled on the theme of retouching ‘classical art’ […] Only then did I truly begin to participate in contemporary art as a contemporary artist, rather than painting simply as a person who loves art”. In the artist’s earlier Post-Classical series, the artist engaged in reworkings of iconic images in art history that rendered them frozen, lifeless, and imbued with a sense of tragedy. After the Post-Classical series, Wang Guangyi engaged in another type of intervention in the present series, which overlays art historical iconography with dotted lines and letters, creating an absurdist impression. The resulting works are ‘cleansed’ and ‘purified’ of meaning and passion; as Wang wrote: “My task now was to cleanse the ‘proliferation of meaning’ caused by an illogical growth of humanistic passion. I had first to cleanse myself. I thought that the nature of contemporary art was to generate a conceptual aporia, which was possible only by analysing artistic language. Artworks with a conceptual aporia would stop people’s critical judgments in their tracks”. Roughly concurrent to Wang Guangyi’s red and black Rationality series in the late 1980s, the present work’s ‘cleansing’ and ‘purifying’ of humanistic passion evolved shortly thereafter into the artist’s Mao Zedong series.