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The title Coffin Paint—its Chinese title translates literally as “lacquer of longevity”—carries serious sentimental and cultural connotations.
As with the Coffin Paint series, each painting is provided with a numeric title indicating the year, month, and day of its completion. Each stroke of paint signifies a moment in time, an amalgamation of gesture, which in completion becomes a meditation on temporality. Wang reveals, “the most important thing is not the ‘what’ of painting, but the ‘how.’”
The Coffin Paint series was inspired by a burial tradition he witnessed while growing up in Fujian province, southern China, where it is customary for the elderly to cope with their impending mortality by acquiring a casket and painting it in red lacquer, adding a coat of paint every year on the same date as a celebration of longevity. A meditative symbol of acceptance and preparation, the coffin can incur several years’ worth of paint layers up until the moment of a person’s passing. In this way, Wang’s method evokes a strong metaphor, relating to Chinese cultural identity as much as it relates to conceptual art practices.