These magnificent bronze figures depict Tibetan monks engaged in the act of sweeping. This simple act of cleaning is both a daily chore and a ritualized practice. The smiling monks, depicted with generalized features and ambiguous but contented expressions, look off into the distance. They are performing the task in an automatic and unstudied manner. Visually, the striking difference between the figures in shadowy black and brilliant red plays out as a manifestation of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind at work during repetitive tasks, as well as the way in which those who perform maintenance and cleaning can sometimes recede into the background.
Red has many associations in Chinese culture – a symbol of joy, prosperity, and good fortune. With the color black paired as a symbolic opposite to red in Chinese art, it is associated with the element of water, as well as standing for conservative, reactionary, or bourgeois ideas. Wang further provokes multi-layered cultural influences by treating figures of the monks with the visual language of idealized Classical Western sculpture. By using the medium of bronze sculpture for these pieces, Wang is exploring reproducibility, since more than one sculpture can be cast from the same mold. These sculptures’ informal arrangement and placement at ground level are deliberate choices that engage with the history of art and the history of China with the deceptively simple subject of monks, sweeping.