As a colour, yellow in Europe and the US implies different things. In spring it is a colour of hope, sunshine and of rebirth; but at other times it has negative meanings – fever, cowardice and treachery. In China, it is a positive colour. The Yellow River, the second largest river in China, is known as the “Mother River” and yellow is considered a beautiful and prestigious colour. The Chinese saying, Yellow generates Yin and Yang, show the importance of the colour. It was a royal colour, a colour of heroism and of freedom form worldly cares.
Chinese artist Wang Guangle (b 1976) has adopted yellow as the theme for his exhibition of that name at the PACE Gallery in London where, in his first exhibition in Europe, the canvases are painted in yellow of subtly different shades with the form within created by the texture of the brush strokes.
Also on show are his “Coffin paintings”. In his native province of Fujian, the elder men apparently add a coat of laquer to their coffins every year until they are needed – presumably they are hoping to paint many coats. Guangle’s work at first looks three dimensional as if formed of layers of different-coloured material like fabric; in fact the canvases are painted from rectangles, layer upon layer, the first rectangle covering the whole canvas and then each layer slightly smaller, moving from the top and bottom edges to the centre, leaving only a line from the original shape like the rings of a tree which also denote annual cycles, linking back to the tradition in his home province and with a further link to time in the titles of the paintings which are the dates on which they are completed.