For many, Wang Guangyi was one of the great role models of the Chinese avant-garde as early as the mid-1980s, not only producing signature and historic canvases that embodied the spirit of the times, but as a critic, theoretician, and curator, promoting a rigorously conceptual and confrontational approach to painting. By the 1990s, Wang had all but single-handedly put China's "Political Pop" movement on the map, having participated in the ground-breaking 1989 exhibition China Avant-Garde (No U Turn) at the National Art Gallery in Beijing, and at numerous biennales worldwide, including the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993 and the 22nd Sao Paulo International Biennale in 1994.
The works that ultimately brought him to the international arena were his Great Criticism series, of which Swatch is a fine example. In these works, Wang focuses intensely on the expression of irony, criticism and derision towards Chinese tradition and the Cultural Revolution, especially in light of China's rapid pace of change after the death of Chairman Mao. For Wang, the iconography and visual strategies of Chinese propaganda have proved to be an especially productive resource for highlighting the gap between official political stances and contemporary reality. In Audi, Wang ostensibly follows the rules set forth for the conventional depiction of the human figures in propaganda paintings - that they should appear positive, strong, and heroic. But Wang displaces their conventionally didactic impact by ironically adding the names of Western consumer brands. The two numbers that recur on the canvas refer to the licenses required to produce official propaganda under the Cultural Revolution: one giving the authority to print, the other the authority to distribute.
Wang has stated that fundamental point of the series was to highlight the "ideological antagonism that exists between Western culture and socialist ideology" (Merrewether, Charles, "An Interview with Wang Guangyi on the Socialist Visual Experience", Wang Guangyi, TimeZone8, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 28). Wang's fusion of these two aesthetic and ideological systems is almost disturbingly harmonious and compatible. The result is a sophisticated and furious combination of these two antithetical systems, reflecting Wang's on-going status as one of the most aggressively critical and cynical of China's conceptual painters.