Unaltered Landscapes

The Art of Wei Xiong

Landscape paintings in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) were often microcosms, reflecting the social, political, or philosophical ideals of the artists. With the rise of Neo-confucianism and the reinterpretation of Chinese philosophy, triggered by the introduction of Buddhist metaphysics, landscape paintings began to embody a more metaphysical aspect. Beyond merely representing social order through hierarchical compositions of mountains and trees, Song artists sought to address questions of higher significance, by outlining the patterns and principles that underlie all phenomena.

熊薇 Wei Xiong R1412-2 油彩布面 Oil on Canvas 2014, 91 x 127 cm
熊薇 Wei Xiong
R1412-2
油彩布面 Oil on Canvas
2014, 91 x 127 cm

The artist Wei Xiong also expresses interests in similar philosophical concerns in her landscape paintings. Inspired by the traditional Chinese concern with man’s place in nature, Xiong’s modern understanding formulates the concept into the question of the Self versus Others. Not only is she interested in man’s connectivity to other beings and the natural world, but also in a possible relation to a divine force. While her mind engages in thought experiments tackling such concerns, her brush leaves traces of her thought behind, in the form of lines, colors, and sometimes space.

熊薇 Wei Xiong 山水1203 Landscape 1203 布面油畫 Oil on linen  2011, 70 x 100 cm
熊薇 Wei Xiong
山水1203 Landscape 1203
布面油畫 Oil on linen
2011, 70 x 100 cm

Examining Xiong’s paintings from 2011 to 2017 in Unaltered Landscapes, while her subject matter remains the same, there is an evident transition in style. As she ponders deeper into her philosophical enquires, Xiong’s landscapes become increasingly more abstract. In her earlier Landscape series, sketchy lines converge diagonally, forming the outlines of mountains in the fashion of linear representation. In her Tide and more recent series, this mode of representation gives way to more expressive brushstrokes. While certain lines seem reminiscent of mountain peaks, the overall composition does not constitute a formal landscape. These images are best understood as mindscapes of the artist, in which lines, colors, and space reflect her thoughts or emotions. Xiong’s lines can be free, whimsical, bland, sudden, heavy, obtrusive, or violent, which equate to a wide range of emotions, including ease, playfulness, boredom, sorrow, anger, and frustration. However, in Xiong’s most recent works, such as 1607-2B, her lines undergo an intense transformation, becoming nearly all uniform in direction and length. This ultimately reflects a heightened concentration in her energy and an extraordinary state of mind.

熊薇 Wei Xiong 潮汐116-9 Tide 116-9 油彩布面 Oil on Canvas 2011, 153 x 75 cm
熊薇 Wei Xiong
潮汐116-9 Tide 116-9
2011, 153 x 75 cm

As Wei Xiong’s mind wonders deeply into the realm of metaphysics, in either Chan Buddhist teachings of Emptiness or Taoist Non-action, her landscapes transcend into total abstraction and brutal minimalism. All forms of traditional symbolism and linear representation is forgotten and left behind. There is only evidence of space and time, left by the artist’s brush. While the formal qualities her so-called landscapes have dramatically changed, the spirit behind the image remains unaltered. Like the Song artists, Wei Xiong seeks to address philosophical concerns within the boundaries of her canvas, in which the painted image appears as enigmatic as that of the ancients before her, leaving only traces of her mind to be deciphered.

by Timothy Chang

熊薇 Wei Xiong 1607-2B 油彩布面 Oil on Canvas 2016, 45 x 91 cm
熊薇 Wei Xiong
1607-2B
油彩布面 Oil on Canvas
2016, 45 x 91 cm

景。境

文/張敬亭

觀察郭凱的繪畫作品,其細膩的筆觸、婉轉柔美的曲線、平行的橫向線條、非對比性的色彩,構成了風格獨具的淡雅風景。其繪畫所呈現的寧靜氣氛,使觀者的心境很快的就可以獲得沈靜,進入畫面風景的世界中,感受陽光、溫度、濕度,甚至是呼吸到田園土地的芬芳,觸摸到老宅歲月的斑剝。之所以能帶給觀者如此豐厚的感受,全來自於郭凱精心的畫面設計、獨特的色彩詮釋、熟練的運筆與肌理塑造,以及對風景與建築的拆解與重組。

雪霧 Cloud & Mist 油畫布面 Oil on Canvas 2015, 80 x 100 cm

雪霧 Cloud & Mist
油彩布面 Oil on Canvas
2015, 80 x 100 cm

 

郭凱作品的繪畫類型大致可分為風景與建築。他以充滿生命力的有機線條與刻意經營的畫面空靈感,構成了個人風格明顯與高辨識度的淡雅風景畫。在郭凱的筆下,活潑的線條似乎擁有自我決定的能力,在畫面上自動分散和擴張,帶給畫面動力也同時創造豐富的構圖。此生命力正是來自於風景中大自然的生命力,也是山水畫本身的重要精神,重現在所有的花草樹木上。

郭凱善於使用超現實的視覺角度呈現他的風景,時常以介於高或遠的角度強調一片開闊土地的寧靜和遙遠的感覺,此視覺實際上並非寫實或真實存在,而是藝術家想象中虛擬排列的。在觀者眼中,此畫面的視覺似乎來自於對面遠山中神仙的觀點,空靈感就此而生。

郭凱畫中的建築來自現實而非現實,皆經過拆解與重組。首先,他以幾何線條創造秩序感,如同於郭凱風景畫的空靈感。他所追求的是寧靜的畫面,而不同於大自然的有機線條,建築中人為的幾何橫向與縱向線條產生的感覺是理性的秩序,構圖是可預測的組合。

山村秋韻 Rhythm of Autumn丹培拉布面 Tempera on Canvas2016, 60 x 80 cm

山村秋韻 Rhythm of Autumn
丹培拉布面 Tempera on Canvas
2016, 60 x 80 cm

我們可以看到建築結構在畫面上的分解與組合。郭凱經由建築形象(門,窗等)的重複和抽象組合,創造出超越時空的感覺。隨著時空的演變,以及時代的需求,一個建築物會經歷許多結構上的變化;比如增加一扇門,擴大一扇窗,改變一個房間的用途等變化。此演變也證實了建築與人的密切關係,以及建築本身靈活的精神。

而在風景與建築兩個類型的繪畫中,郭凱皆以圖像的重複為觸動視覺的工具 ,以及以橫向線條的強調來呈現構圖的平靜。單一圖像的多面重複和演變,如大大小小的樹木在畫面不同部位的呈現創造出一種穩定的韻律感。橫向線條的發展容易引導觀者的視覺跨越整體的畫面;細微的有機線條,如彎曲的樹枝,更加引導觀者的視覺探索畫面局部的細節。

畫面的韻律感也來自於自然風景與建築的結合。房子融合在樹林或田園中成為一體,而不是的單一主角,中式房頂流暢的線條也呼應了在背後的遠山。自然風景與建築的組合,象徵的是理想中的田園生活和對於現代生活的反思,也同時以現代的繪畫語彙談論傳統山水畫中天人合一的價值。

秋枝逆影 Autumn Reflection 油彩布面 Oil on Canvas2016,60x80cm

秋枝逆影 Autumn Reflection
油彩布面 Oil on Canvas
2016, 60 x 80 cm

接著要探討郭凱作品的一大特色,就是在色彩使用上的刻意經營。郭凱在色彩選擇上以淡雅而非對比的顏色為主,使畫面呈現似真似幻的朦朧詩意,但細看下單色系的整體畫面中融合許多的鮮豔的顏色,如螢光綠,紫,和粉紅。而這些鮮豔的顏色是以整體的單一色系所演變出的相關和對比顏色,它們使單色系的畫面更活潑生動,但也不破壞畫面完美的整體性。

在畫面中隱藏鮮豔的色彩,使單色系的畫面產生能量,似乎隱喻著大自然植物中隱藏的能量;在一個自然風景裡,所有的花草樹木都不突兀的融合在整片土地中,而每一片葉子和每一根草都擁有自己獨特的生命力。此生命力與動物界動態的生命力有所不同,是一種隱性的,看不到的力量,而郭凱則是以色彩細微的變化以及巧妙的對比呈現出這種能量的存在。

在部份作品中,郭凱使用丹培拉顏料,特性介於油彩與水彩的中間。與油彩相比,丹培拉具有水墨顏料可暈染的特性,也同時保留油畫鮮豔的色彩和顏料可修改的能力。對於郭凱的用色,丹培拉具有水墨的特質以及平光(亦稱為亞光)的視覺呈現,更加允許他創造出淡雅的繪畫效果。

最後要探討郭凱作品裡的深層涵意,他以超越時空與非真實的風景與建築,表達他對真實的風景與建築的主觀感受,以及他對於風景與建築的主觀期待,那是一個沒有人煙與喧囂的世界,隔絕了人世間的不美與不善。

我們發現,建築結構分解與組合,象徵了時空的轉變。雖然可感受時空的變化於建築結構的演變,繪畫的主題仍然無法被定位於任何個別的時空背景。其次,郭凱絕大多數的畫面缺乏絕對的主角,尤其是帶有動態的主角,他主要的畫面是寧靜的。通常畫的主題並非是任何一棵樹或房子,而是整片風景或一群房子。畫面中缺乏絕對的主角和主要的動態(雪景:雪是下落之後的寧靜,不是正在下的動態;水景/湖景:水面無動態,寧靜平和如鏡子;風景畫無強風暴雨。),不只更加顯示畫面的寧靜,更是呈現時空停止的感覺。嚮往田園生活的理想正是對於現代生活的快速節奏的反省,將時空暫停於一個不熟悉的時代,隱喻的是桃花源中脫離現實與政治的情景,這就是超越時空。

郭凱刻意創造非完美以及非完全寫實的畫面,一方面是為了提醒觀者去觀察藝術本身與繪畫的過程,二是為了留下藝術家個人的影子(風格)和可立刻識別的符號。郭凱的用色除了隱藏微妙的生命力,也大膽的超越風景中自然的色彩,達到畫面夢幻的效果,創造出一個虛擬的理想世界。單色系的整體構圖傳達給觀者清淨和安逸的感覺,而細節中霓虹色的紅紅綠綠具有親和力,使畫面更有活潑喜悅的趣味。

静影之二 Tranquil Landscape No. 2丹培拉油彩布面 Tempera & oil on Canvas2015, 100 x 150 cm

静影之二 Tranquil Landscape No. 2
丹培拉油彩布面 Tempera & oil on Canvas
2015, 100 x 150 cm

郭凱經常在畫面周邊加入與畫布邊平行的直線條,如畫中的框 一般。這種視覺技術象徵傳統的相片中或由窗戶往外看的圖像,也證實了藝術家設想構圖的過程。相片或畫作四周的框就像另外一個時空或世界的窗口,郭凱使用這視覺技術的目的就是為了強調另一個世界的感覺。對於觀者,透過這視覺技術,觀者可由畫面中的框或窗口看入藝術家的心境,或則是由藝術家的眼光觀察這世界。

郭凱的畫時常突然出現一些不同顏色和大小的點,隨機的分佈在畫面上,這些點並非是畫中圖像的一部份(風景:點不是一片葉子;建築:點不是一個建築結構;點就是點),而只是藝術家刻意添加在畫布上的顏料。在視覺藝術上,這些點,稱呼為定位點,容易吸引觀者的視覺,使觀者靠近畫面並且尋找其他相似的點,在此與作品產生更親密的互動。

在觀念上,這些一點一點的顏料,提醒觀者這畫面的真性,也就是它的藝術性;本畫面不是一張照片也不一定是寫實的風景,而是一位藝術家由繪畫虛構出的心靈的景色。畫中的樹木或建築皆是具象的圖像,是借用觀者本身已經所熟悉的畫面傳播信息,而定位點是抽象的,它本身不具有任何含義,也沒被設定為了傳播任何訊息,它唯一的用意就是證明藝術家在創作中留下來的痕跡,即是他的個人符號。

徽州之二 Guizhou No. 2油畫布面 Oil on Canvas2015, 97x130cm

徽州之二 Huizhou No. 2
油彩布面 Oil on Canvas
2015, 97 x 130 cm

惻隱

Commiseration – the World and Art of Chen Yufei

According to Mencius, commiseration is the beginning of humanity, meaning our ability to sense the suffering of others urges us to act compassionately toward each other. Commiseration is an innate human instinct. When it is fostered, it puts us in the shoes of others. When it is ignored, we become selfish unsympathetic creatures. Judging from his artwork, Chen Yufei can be said to have a heightened sense of commiseration.

Born in 1962 in Hefei, Anhui, Chen Yufei attended university at the age of fifteen due to the special circumstances following the Cultural Revolution. Most of Chen’s formal education was filled with communist indoctrination. Perhaps during this time, Chen developed a special sensitivity toward the working class and the lives of everyday people, for after all he was taught to believe the proletariat was the foundation of Chinese society. However, such values were soon met with doubt during China’s economic reform and transformation of the 1980s.

陳宇飛 Chen Yufei  《空心人》  Hollow Man 布面油畫  Oil on Canvas 2012, 105 x 75 cm (40F)
陳宇飛 Chen Yufei
《空心人》 Hollow Man
布面油畫 Oil on Canvas
2012, 105 x 75 cm (40F)

 

In 1987 Chen Yufei left Hefei for Shenzhen, China’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ). There Chen found employment under two foreign-invested art firms, but felt estranged by the corporate culture and quit both jobs before his contracts were up. During this time, Chen could only relate with members of the working class, most of whom, similar to him, came from inland areas in search of job opportunities created by the influx of foreign capital. He became deeply captivated and observant of their lives, in which he witnessed countless hardships and exploitations. Chen watched as men and women worked long hours in hazardous conditions, with little or no corporate benefit and minimal protection under the law. Yet Chen knew that they willingly did so because the pay was significantly higher than that outside of the SEZ. As the circumstances of what he saw began to sink in, Chen came to the haunting conclusion that such an environment was robbing his mind of all mental nourishment, and promptly left Shenzhen later that year.

陳宇飛 Chen Yufei 《受傷》  Hurt 布面油畫  Oil on Canvas 2012, 140 x 100 cm (70F)
陳宇飛 Chen Yufei
《受傷》 Hurt
布面油畫 Oil on Canvas
2012, 140 x 100 cm (70F)

Upon his return to Hefei, Chen Yufei redirected all of his energy towards art, in an effort to recollect his thoughts and recuperate his mind. Yet, Chen was unable to relieve himself of the memories and images of what he saw in Shenzhen. The cruel nature of the capitalist society came as a shock to him. The competitive environment brought on by the introduction of free market made him feel unprotected and even threatened. Never in his life has he experienced such an uneven distribution of wealth and power. Almost everything he saw seemed to contradict the values he was taught to believe in. Unable to cope with these realities directly, Chen’s only form of understanding was through his art.

The hardest thing for Chen’s mind to come to terms with was the extreme hardship of the workers, which consequentially became a prevalent theme throughout his art. In Shenzhen, Chen encountered countless workers who were mistreated and exploited, suffering from both physical occupational injury and emotional pain. In his 2012 painting Hurt, Chen depicts a man in an uneasy posture with a small wound across the left side of his chest. Here Chen expresses not only the physical discomfort of the man depicted, but also his inner mental anguish, as represented by the bleeding wound on top of his heart.

陳宇飛 Chen Yufei  《回家過年》 Going Home for Chinese New Years   布面油畫 Oil on Canvas 2010, 85 x 65 cm (27F)
陳宇飛 Chen Yufei
《回家過年》 Going Home for Chinese New Years
布面油畫 Oil on Canvas
2010, 85 x 65 cm (27F)

In Chen Yufei’s art, he often blurs the distinction between physical and mental distress, and draws a distorted connection between the two. In Going Home for Chinese New Year of 2010, Chen depicts a downcast man with luggages traversing through a snowstorm. The luggages and snow indicate the purpose of the man’s journey, the time of the year, and thus the subject matter, which is the Chunyun or Spring Festival Travel Season. As tens of thousands of migrant workers are attracted to work in major cities like Shenzhen, their return home for Chinese New Years has become the largest annual migration in human history and a major social problem in China, simply because there are not enough public transportation to provide for all the migrant workers. Although the man in Going Home for Chinese New Year is not shown with any significant signs of physical pain, his luggages are uncannily painted to appear as part of his naked body. This creates the effect that his luggages are all that he owns, in the sense that he has nothing but the skin on his back. Here Chen uses the improvised nature of man’s physical presence to suggest the similar improvised condition of the man’s mind. The distorted connection between physical and mental distress is further illustrated in Chen’s Life on the Wheelchair series. Chen’s depiction of the disabled reflects not only their physical disability, but also their mental pain, as well as the correlation between the two. In China’s swift economic transformation of 1980s, attention to details were often overlooked. Workers will often under-qualified or undertrained, and as a result risks of occupational injury was high among workers, and cases of injury-led disability or death were common. To make matters worse, workers were poorly protected by the law and received very little compensation for their injuries or losses. Thus in Chen’s art, he strongly stresses one’s emotional suffering in correspondence to their physical pain or disability.

Through his art, Chen Yufei is able to reflect on the social ills around him and the suffering of everyday people. In this way Chen can be said to have a heightened sense of commiseration. However, outside of his art, Chen feels inability to fully confront these social ills and the rapid changes around him. His feeling of being powerless or incapacitated can be felt by his chosen subject matter of the hurt or disabled. While Chen’s heightened sense of commiseration urges him to confront injustice, he is only able to most comfortably do so in his art. In other words, Chen Yufei’s art is his chosen tool of compassion.

Timothy Chang
Taipei, Summer 2013