东方视觉 当代艺术第一门户
资讯/评论

承载传统与当代对话:魏立刚当代水墨画论
东方视觉 Robert C. Morgan
2011年01月27日 20:53:31

/传统的水墨画需要很多技术和形式上的训练,这一切都是以书法艺术奠基的。首先,艺术家必须清楚每一个字中每一笔的确切顺序和位置。第二点,在写每一笔的时候,他要下笔有道,晓得如何准确用力。第三,好的水墨画须在时间上具有一致性,从而产生一种原汁原味的韵律感。最后一点,在墨的调配上,要比例适当,恰如其分。一旦掌握了这些技巧,从书法到水墨画更深一步的转换,就成为很艰难甚至令人气馁的工作了,这是需要付出心力的劳动,尤其是在初始阶段。在艺术上的执着努力,对于想法和过程的倾心付出,都是非常重要的。这要求艺术家专注于自己的创作方式,对此毫不动摇。为了将水墨画传统进行创新而打破常规的艺术家,不可背离初始的目标。若想获得更高水准的技艺与更敏锐的观察力,在通往成功的路上,则意味着毕生的竭心付出。

 

当看到山西艺术家魏立刚的几件作品时,我注意到了巨幅布幔《大金幛》 (2005,尺寸500 X 300cm) 的复制品,可以说,它很敏锐地把握了水墨画的精髓。里面那“狂放的草书”正是源自其滴水不露的精准与节制。黑底金字,令人叫绝,它的张力与内敛,自信与丰富的表现力,让人期盼能看到艺术家更多的作品。很快,我看到了与之完全不同的大幅绘画作品《魏氏种植的伟大荷塘》,这是一幅纸上丙烯画。此时我发觉,他的作品和美国抽象表现主义者杰克逊·波洛克之间有些接近。我想起魏在工作室作画的一张摄影,这张图是从俯视的角度拍摄的,他的身体直接半伏在地板上。右手伸向左边腰际,完全地专注于所描绘的线条。此情此景,令我不由得想起了Hans Namuth1951年起,在波洛克的工作室里拍下的那些关于画家的著名摄影作品,图中的波洛克,站在那里泼墨,在画布上挥洒自如,四处走动。两位艺术家之间的比较是非常突出的。魏作画具有一种放松下来的平静,波洛克则激情洋溢,同时向四面八方走动。很显然,魏在运笔上和波洛克是不同的。魏的笔墨体现了绘画突出的中国风格,这种风格是以表意文字为基础的。在《魏氏种植的伟大荷塘》中,他不断地解构和重建与狂草风格有关的表意形式。他能够对当下做出回应,却不忘或忽略历史所留下的财富,而他的作品的灵敏性和敏锐的直觉力正是得益于此。

 

当人们对当代书法水墨画进行定性评判时,人们的审美趣味可能会完全不一样,比如魏立刚的那些作品。这些作品的主体所处的“抽象”本质,与永恒的视觉世界里的那些可见的形式是不同的,这可能会在那些有兴趣购买所谓的优秀作品的人们当中产生迷惑甚至担忧。在2009年发表的一篇文章中,我提出了重新恢复艺术鉴赏的标准化和专业化的重要性,凭借真正的标准,我们才得以去评判这样的作品。在艺术鉴赏方面,中国具有最古老的传统,高度训练过的职业行家被选出来,以便为艺术作品的质量进行最准确的判断----这一传统可回溯到汉朝的宫廷画的鉴赏上,并且在唐朝得到充分的发扬。

 

从传统的角度来看,鉴赏力与艺术的密不可分的两个方面有关:一是决定物体或绘画的真实性,尤其是当它与历史处境有关时;另一点是运用一种标准来确定作品的原创性或平庸性,根据实际情况下结论。当然,想到这些方面的细微处,彼此间的差异则是很大的。这样的分析将必然涉及到观念,材料,技能,结构和情感内容,而这些都是产生对作品的美学理解和对其价值进行清醒评估的方方面面。关于艺术标准的观念在接下来的朝代中发展下来,但根据重点不同而发生着变化,尤其要提的是1112世纪文人的大量出现和繁荣创作,最终,他们获得了赞助人的支持。清朝晚期,通过众多的政治内部斗争和学术纷争,鉴赏家的活动也从制度上规范起来,得到发展。上世纪的下半叶,由于共和国的成立以及修正主义者们统治下的动荡混乱,曾经专业的鉴赏家团体开始趋向没落,或者暂时地退出了公众视线。

 

魏立刚正处于向新形式的书画打开大门的过程中,这种形式的作品已经来到了批评的前沿,他在中国的观众已经有能力去理解它,欣赏它。近些年,人们对当代形式的中国水墨画产生了兴趣,通过观念艺术的窗口,发展出一种新颖的鉴赏方法将是非常适时的。然而,采取一种倒退的鉴赏方式、为了传统的利益而回归传统的做法,并不是基于当下的语境而出现,很可能与本世纪初出现的当代艺术市场并不相符。在当今的水墨书画创作内,需要一种新的批评方法和判断思维的出现,正因如此,魏立刚具有创意而又非常敏锐的绘画一直能够发挥着重要的作用。

 

近代的学者们认为,人们对抽象画或意象水墨画持续的兴趣可上溯到四百年前的明朝,尤其是山西的大书法家傅山的时代,他将狂草风格和2000多年前的篆刻结合起来。魏立刚将傅山作为书法创造的导师,他们都来自同一个国度,在将书法作为绘画的构造基础中,忠于这种固有的内在价值。魏立刚对数学和书法都极有兴趣,他运用被称作“魏氏魔块”的一种观念体系来打造笔下的作品。魏立刚发现,中国的表意文字从根本上依靠的是方块里的格子结构或变化的字模,他对这种思想进行实验,通过发挥自己在书写上的极高天赋,将其变成了一个可实行的概念。向17世纪的前辈傅山致敬的《明堂赋》(2010)就是一个绝佳的例证。这是一幅纸上丙烯画,上面有一个方格,在方格里,古老的篆刻被分解并进行重构,但却并未破坏原初的基本形式。这让人想起他之前的作品《荒漠石窟》,这也是以“魏氏魔块”为基础完成的作品,在之前的展览中展出,狂草赋予了古老的篆刻以新生的活力。除了魏对于魔块的运用自如以外,人们应注意到艺术家近期在宣纸上创作的丙烯画所产生的惊人之美(均创作于2010年),其中的作品有《佛指》、《上》、《木马》、《尼斯湖水怪·3》和《圣山》。在每件作品中,艺术家创造图像的才能令人称奇,他自身的神秘传统,以宇宙某种符号的面目呈现出来。捕捉这件作品瞬时的美丽,即向中国画内在风格的可能性打开了一扇门---这种风格承载着一种变化的力量,能够将十足的智慧和情感价值传递给人们。

 

Robert C. Morgan是一名国际评论家,策展人,演讲家,艺术家,现居纽约。他获得雕塑专业学位(MFA,当代艺术史学博士。他是Rochester技术学院美术史荣誉退休教授,纽约布鲁克林Pratt学院的兼职美术教授。曾获很多奖项,著作颇丰,包括书,散文杂文,画册,专题论文,评论等,很多都与韩国和中国艺术家的议题有关。

To Respond to the Moment without Forgetting:

Contemporary Brush Painting by Wei Ligang

 

Robert C. Morgan

 

 

The practice of traditional Chinese brush painting involves much technical and formal training based in the art of calligraphy.  First the artist must know the exact order and placement of each stroke within each character.  Secondly, he is required to know the precise application of pressure in making each stroke.  Thirdly, successful brush painting necessitates a consistency of timing to obtain an authentic rhythmic style.  Finally, one must possess the skill and accuracy to properly mix water and ink.  Once these skills are obtained, the further passage from calligraphy to brush painting can be a daunting and somewhat arduous affair, particularly at the beginning stages.  As with any significant artistic endeavor, a strong commitment to both concept and process is essential.  This includes an unwavering ability to concentrate on one's working method.  Any artist who goes beyond the norm in order to take the tradition of brush painting in a new direction may not digress from the path of one's objective.  The decision to progress further to a higher level of skill and intuition implies a lifetime commitment.

 

While reviewing a compendium of work by the Taiyuan artist Wei Ligang, I saw a reproduction of Grand Golden Curtain (2005), measuring 500 x 300 cm, and immediately grasped the power of this extraordinary painting.  The "mad cursive" was there as was the inexorable precision and restraint.  I was so impressed with this magnificent work of gold brushwork on a black field, given its power and restraint, its confidence and expressiveness, and wanted to see more.  Soon I came upon an entirely different large scale painting, titled Great Lotus Pond in which Wei employs acrylic on paper.  Here I began to realize that the distance between his work and that of the American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock was not so far apart.  I recall a photograph of Wei in his studio taken from an aerial perspective in which he semi-reclines on a large paper placed directly on the floor.  His right hand is crossed over his left wrist as he is completely focused on the line he is drawing.  In contrast, I recall the famous photographs of Pollock taken by Hans Namuth in the painter's studio in Easthampton from 1951 in which emphasis is given to Pollock as he stands pouring and dripping fluid paint while actively moving around the canvas.  The comparison between the two artists is striking.  Whereas Wei paints in relaxed stillness, Pollock is visibly emotive, moving in every direction simultaneously.  It is evident that the control of Wei's brush functions differently from that of Pollock.  Wei's brushwork reveals a definitive Chinese style of painting, based on ideographic signs.  In his Great Lotus Pond, he perpetually deconstructs and reconstructs ideographic forms in direct relation to a cursive style of painting.  Wei holds the capability to respond to the moment without forgetting or ignoring the lessons of history that empower his incredible dexterity and conceptual manner of intuition.

 

People's aesthetic sensibilities may radically differ when it comes to making qualitative judgments about contemporary calligraphic ink paintings, such as those produced by Wei Ligang.  The "abstract" nature of these works, where the subject matter is removed from recognizable forms in the external visual world, may engender confusion or even intimidation among patrons who are otherwise interested in acquiring works deemed significant.  In a recent essay published in 2009, I advocated the importance of restoring a sense of criterion and connoisseurship to the manner in which we judge such works.  China has one of the oldest traditions whereby highly trained connoisseurs were sought out in order to make accurate assessments of quality pertaining to works of art -- a tradition that goes back to the courtly paintings of the Han Dynasty and was later perfected during the Tang Dynasty.

 

From this early traditional perspective, connoisseurship was concerned with two indispensable aspects of art:  One was to determine the authenticity of the object or painting, particularly in relation to its historical placement; and the other was to apply a qualitative standard in order to assess the work's originality or mediocrity, as the case might be.  Of course, the range between these antipodes was huge given the minute degrees of subtlety that resided between them.  Such an analysis would necessarily involve the concept, material, technique, structure, and emotional content that would lead to an aesthetic understanding of the work and a clear appraisal of its worth.  This concept of a criterion in art lasted through the ensuing dynasties, but varied according to its emphasis, especially as the literati rose to prominence in the 11th and 12th century and eventually found acceptance among benefactors.  By the end of the Qing Dynasty, the institutional practice of connoisseurship had run its course through excessive political in-fighting and academic squabbles much to the detriment of offering anything of significance to the pedagogy of aesthetics.  By the second half of the previous century, it was apparent that the origins of this kind of elitist expertise had either degenerated or was temporarily hidden from view, given the rise of the Republic and the uncertain years of the revisionist regime that followed.

 

Wei Ligang is in the process of opening the threshold to a new form of calligraphic painting that has come to the forefront of critical attention as his audience in China has become capable of grasping it.  Given the revival of interest in contemporary forms of Chinese ink painting in recent years, it would appear appropriate to develop a fresh approach to connoisseurship as seen through the window of conceptual art.  However, a return to tradition for the sake of tradition in the form of a regressive connoisseurship would appear not out of context but most likely be at odds with the contemporary art market that emerged at the outset of the current century.  It is time for a new approach to a critical and qualitative thinking to occur within the practice of calligraphic ink painting today, and it is for this reason that Wei Ligang's inventive and incisive paintings will continue to play a central role.

 

Recent scholars have traced the history of the resurgent interest in abstract or "metaphysical" ink painting going back four hundred years to the Ming Dynasty, specifically to the time of Fu Shan, the calligrapher from Shanxi Province who combined a cursive style of writing with obscure greater seal scripts going back 2000 years.  Wei Ligang regards the calligraphic inventiveness of Fu Shan as a mentor in that they were both from the same region of China and were similarly attuned to the inherent values available in the act of using calligraphy as a structural basis in painting.  Given Wei's personal interest in mathematics and calligraphy, he saw an opportunity to move his project ahead using a conceptual system called "Magic Squares."  Realizing that Chinese ideographs are essentially dependent on a grid system or matrix of variations within a square, Wei Ligang proceeds to experiment with this idea and to transform it into a viable concept through his supreme gift for manual writing.  Bright Palace Fu (2010) – obviously an homage to his 17th century mentor Fu Shan -- is a good example.  Painted in acrylic paint on Xuan paper, there is a grid in which the ancient seal scripts are torn apart and rebuilt without disrupting the essential format indigenous to their origins.  This recalls a previous work, titled Wilderness Grotto, also based on the "Magic Square" from a previous exhibition, where the cursive script invigorates the order of the ancient seal script.  In addition to Wei's brilliant maneuvers with the Magic Squares, one must pay attention to the sheer beauty of the artist's recent acrylic paintings on Xuan paper (all from 2010), including such works as Buddha Fingers, Ascending, Wooden Horse, Loch Ness #3, and Holy Hill.  In each case, the genius of specificity in the artist's ability to conjure an image that goes deeply within the mystic sources of his tradition emerges as a universal sign.  To grasp the instantaneous beauty of this work is to open a new threshold to the possibility of an indigenous style of Chinese painting that holds a transformative power in its ability to transmit important intellectual and emotional values. ___________________________________________________________

 

Robert C. Morgan is an international critic, curator, lecturer, and artist, who lives in New York City.  He holds an advanced degree in Sculpture (MFA), and a Ph.D. in contemporary art history.  He is Professor Emeritus in Art History at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Adjunct Professor of Fine Art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  As a winner of many awards, he has authored numerous books, essays, catalogs, monographs, and reviews, many of which deal with Korean and Chinese artists.

 

 


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