HomeBiographyArtworksSealsArticlesPublicationsReviewsConversationColumnNewsChinese PaintingContact

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SUCCESSFUL INTEGRATION BETWEEN THE TRADITION AND THE CONTEMPORARY AN INTERPRETATION OF ZHU WEI’S ARTISTIC PURSUIT

 

Lu Hong

 

We could easily read the contemporary features in Zhu Wei’s artworks if we simply adopt the approaches of iconography and sociology. Because it’s obvious that his works are well related with contemporary life and this could be clearly seen in many series like “The Story of Beijing” series, “Sweet Life” series, “The Utopia” series and “China Diary” series. However, such an interpretation will simplify the works of Zhu Wei to be fairly some common conceptual contents, or will describe them to be one and another symbolic fable. As we all know, similar articles are numerous today. Usually they are not talking about artworks themselves, moreover, they impose unrelated external standards to artworks, and therefore, the achievements in artistic value it acquired are naturally negligible. Of course I’m not denying the necessary grand influence of contemporary life or certain concepts on Zhu Wei; yet I still believe faithfully that they are no more than materials Zhu Wei deals with. When he draws, he is always facing or solving a large amount of formal issues. But these cannot be solved easily through merely presenting contemporary life and new concept; or there would be many peoples who could become outstanding artists. In my impression, there are some people do much better than Zhu Wei in talking about new concept. In fact, artistic forms, including composition, modeling, brush work and coloring, are comparatively independent systems which have both their origin and history. It’s forming up and development depend more upon their internal structure and self-improving rules. If an artist skips to create new approaches or rules before he could enter the existing ones, then it’s impossible for him to be written into the history. Therefore, in the history of art, even those most creative artists cannot but choose patterns and conventions in tradition to be their starting point of certain stages, then change and re-construct them according to needs. There is no other way out. Based on such a stance, I insist my opinion that the key point to understand Zhu Wei’s art is to start from his artwork itself, then analyze and study how the contemporary life and certain concepts influenced his adoption and creation in form. French historian of art Henri Focillon proposed the principle of “technique is the most important” in his The Life of Forms in Art, [1] which I appreciate very much.

We could see from Zhu Wei’s artworks that the main form of his painting is undoubtedly originated from the great traditional imperial court (fine brush) painting. Here we see a problem highlighted: why Zhu Wei didn’t imitate the form of western modern painting with fine brush painting like some others? As is pointed out by the theorist Wu Hong in an article, during the past three decades, some ink and wash painters have been focusing on thinking about how to make ink and wash painting contemporary and globalized. [2] Can this be enough to achieve the goal of making their artworks with “contemporary sense” and “globalized feature” quickly? Moreover, it is easier for medium used in fine brush painting to draw from western modern painting than that in freehand painting. I guess, the reason why Zhu Wei chose the opposite direction is firstly his education background and secondly his artistic ideal. Then what on earth his artistic ideal is? Obviously, it is, based on tradition, to re-create in order to get a contemporary expression completely different from those of the West. He once said: “It’s almost thirty years since I started drawing ink and wash painting and all my materials and techniques come from tradition and are closely related with tradition. I never left tradition yet what I depicted are peoples and things today which are in progress, namely the contemporary subjects we normally refer to. Therefore, I never thought that tradition is separated from the contemporary; making the past serve the present is the idea and clue in my ink and wash painting.”[3] Of course, this also made his exploration especially significant in the progress of Chinese contemporary art pursuing after “Re-Sinofication”.

I noticed that in the process of utilizing and reshaping tradition painting, Zhu Wei has gone through an experimental process of constant trials and errors or constant adjustments. Documents showed that he also had earlier attempts in other ways. Take “Portrait No.2 derivative from Bada’s landscape brush style, the embryo of Beijing Story” created in 1988 as an example, it’s easy to discover that he then was depicting peoples and Tian An Men of Republic of China with minimalist freehand brush on processed rice paper that emphasize the sense of oldness and time. Moreover, he also borrowed forms from traditional mural paintings; that is on the deep blue rectangular grounding, he wrote down some characteristics in simplified Chinese in white color. The work did featured Chinese characteristics a lot, yet not good enough in sense of the times. Maybe he sensed the differences between personal intention and form then, he made significant adjustment to his creation. Take his “Beijing Story, Colorful Sketch, No.2” painted in 1991 as an example, though he maintained the approach in using processed rice paper with ancient sense as the grounding of painting, yet he turned to refer to traditional imperial court (refined) painting in creation, which also became his later main way to go. As we see, in this painting depicting the plot of Peking Repartee, he not only made meaningful deformation to figures, but also used the small surface of Cubism in his background. It’s precious that he made a wonderful integration of the two. In Zhu Wei’s picture, there are the following elements that led to the distortion of figures: firstly, following the modeling form of traditional imperial court (fine brush) figure painting, Zhu Wei’s work is to make a transformation to cater to contemporary peoples. Moreover, during this process, he successfully created bold soldier, red flag, five pointed star, lattice window, banana leaf and other artistic symbols full of personal features based on his special personal experiences and he successfully transformed these symbols into forms. Actually this is a process that new subjects and new sense, including “socialism experiences”, entered traditional conventions and reshaped them; then in turn the results influenced the overall structure and dealing approaches of the picture naturally; secondly, Zhu Wei’s humorous mentality also had certain impact which not only promoted his expression of absurdity in life with wisdom in a mocking way, but also helped him to form a modeling way with personal characteristics——for example, the faces of his figures feature big head, big nose, big mouth and small ears which made people recognize that they are Zhu Wei’s artwork at the first glance; thirdly, the flat and decorative characteristics caused by the process and material in traditional fine brush painting called “alum water for 3 layers and dyeing for 9 layers” also played a role. That is to say, he has always been doing a contemporary transformation based on the traditional aesthetic principles of fine brush painting. Having in mind that some fine brush art painters often reform fine brush painting in 3D approaches or western realistic techniques, I could realize the brilliance of Zhu Wei even better. Related with this, Zhu Wei also went further deeply into his creation pursuit; namely, on one hand, he adopted the big-close up approach often used in modern photography into his paintings, for example, this composition is used in “The Story of Beijing, No.3” and his recent works “The Ink and Wash Research Lectures” series; on the other hand, he used surrealistic approach through juxtaposing ancient peoples and modern peoples together in picture, which we can see in “My Story No.1” and “New Positions of the Brocade Battle, No.5” which showed the coexistence of modern soldier and ancient child. Besides, he also utilized “post-modern” approaches like “image appropriation” and “reforming the classics”, for example, there are utilization and re-processing of traditional Chinese painting subjects in both “Two Red Flags, No.5” and “China Diary No.54”. The former one featured Zhu Wei’s reference borrowed from “Cao Buxing’s depicting of clothes look like just coming out from water” and described details of red flag which is closely related to the memory of contemporary Chinese; the latter, however, showed Zhu Wei’s re-process of the details of “Five Bulls Picture”, a masterpiece of Tang Dynasty painter Han Huang. As for the coloring, in my mind, though Zhu Wei added in some new approaches based on the lightening of modern life and western modern art, he is still in the traditional painting procedure and is still using colors from Chinese paintings. The sober visual effect with sense of thickness in thin coloring is achieved through his many times dyeing and rendering blending color and ink; it also has a totally different artistic sense from western paintings. Undoubtedly, to a certain extent, the unique style in Zhu Wei’s artwork is established upon his alternative utilization of the features stated above. I must emphasize that the “Album of Vernal Equinox”, a recent series of Zhu Wei changed the past freehand approach and adopted traditional composition. For example in “Album of Vernal Equinox NO.17”, four agravic peoples are drawn on the widely empty background, which stand there dully like four tumblers. A bunch of blossoming peach on the mid-left part of the picture is manifesting the coming of spring yet the scene that spring outing peoples who are in isolation from one another seem to be implicating that peoples have strange mentality that keep looking out one another and emphasize self-protection in the declining era. Yet in his new works “The Ink and Wash Research Lectures series” series, he still adopted his normally used close up composition and red color tone. The background is the red flag symbol he created while in the foreground, it’s Chinese man of strong modeling style of Zhu Wei who is in Chinese tunic suit and looks dull, numb and slow, or with the hair style that the separation line lies in the middle or on one side; or with eyes open or closed. I don’t know other people’s feel about them; as to me, after viewing these paintings, I sensed the great impact on most Chinese people from a kind of strong invisible power. So in my mind, they seem to be portraits of the era. I believe that all peoples with same background could read out some personal thoughts of their own from these works.

Today, people rarely talk about the conventional representation problem in Chinese painting when touching Chinese painting and contemporary ink and wash. Some even think that Chinese art has always been emphasizing the conventional representation; it is like this in painting as in opera. I remember once Mr. Jiang Zhou said in an article that “the integration of the east and the west made Chinese traditional painting gone through an almost damaging development in the 20th century, when many precious excellent elements were lost for that; the lesson we got in it need to be reflected entering the new century.” He also said that “development of Chinese traditional painting is a process solving the relationship between formula and reality, rather than cancelling the basic formula to rely on because of the existence of this relationship. No formula, no Chinese traditional painting.”[6] I agree to him a lot and here I want to supplement something: the artistic representation formula of traditional fine brush painting not only showed a special aesthetic assumption, but also formed a set of special representation principle and thinking logic. Heritance and development could only be gained through good training up to a precise extent. Looking back to those outstanding painting masters in the history of China, all of them had precisely grasped the traditional formulas before they could create their personal ones. With a profound and overall understanding of the art history of China, Zhu Wei of course knows well about this point. His brilliance lies in that he can on one hand well inherit the representation formula of traditional fine brush painting, while on the other hand well re-construct the new tradition of fine brush painting with new subjects, new ideas and new experiences, which made him feel free to do brand new artistic manifestation. This reminds me of the following words of Ooka Makoto, an artistic critic of Japan:

“All products of human civilization hide in the past time and space, which is unknown world to every one of us. What we need to do, is to start exploring it from now on and take it as something of our own, namely to acquire ‘future’ again. Based on such a consideration, what I try to discover is new Du Fu, new Mozart, new Baudelaire, and new Matsuo Basho. For me, they are never peoples of the ‘past’, but on the contrary, they are peoples of ‘our future’. When we enter their worlds, we enter the future rather than withdraw back to the past. In this sense, I think, one of the greatest powers of culture and art is that they can turn the past into the future.” [7]

I don’t know whether Zhu Wei has read these words of Ooka Makoto or not, but I think, he is unanimous with Ooka Makoto mentally. Or he cannot develop the contemporary elements he excavated from the traditional imperial court (fine brush) paintings. And this pursuit which closely connected contemporary art with traditional context is precisely what we must give full attention to when we do contemporary art creation or participating in international dialogues. My teacher, the famous art historian Ruan Pu once said, “Chinese fine brush painting is a genre with great future and should be well developed.” Zhu Wei proofed the rightness of professor Ruan Pu’s view.

In the new era emphasizing artistic invention and personality expression, Zhu Wei kept good tension between “creation” and “reservation” which well worth learning from for other painters. The inspiration he gives us is: when seeking for the expression of contemporary life, it’s important to inherit and develop the traditional expression and make something new and better. Against the background that contemporary art is going on a globalized homogenous development, isn’t this pursuit of differentiation expression even more important?

I wish Zhu We a greater success!

At Marco Polo Hotel, Hong Kong
Dec.16, 2012


NOTES:
[1] Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art , Peking University Press, January, 2011.
[2] Wu Hong, Integration of Chinese Contemporary and Tradition: Re-Outlining, published in Hong Kong M+ art center website.
[3] Zhu Wei: Techniques and Materials Can Be Inherited, But Not Spirit, published in Art website www.99ys.com: Song Rui interviewing Zhu Wei.
[4] During the “’85 New Wave” period, as a rebellion to the extremeleft Cultural Revolutionary creation mode, Chinese new wave artists borrow ideas and methods more from western modern art; which, though was helpful in surpassing Cultural Revolution mode and open multiple pattern, brought about “de-Sinofication” problem. From mid- 1990s onward, Chinese contemporary art started to make effort in “re- Sinofication”; where the importance of Zhu Wei’s pursuit was revealed.
[5] Here the so-called “socialism experience” specifically refer to the collective memory of Chinese people after 1949.
[6] Published in Wenyi Bao (Literary Gazette), on May 11st, 2000, edition 4.
[7] See Core Problems in Modern Art , by Ooka Makoto, published in World Literature, issue 1, 1990.

 

(First published on Zhu Wei: Works 1988-2012 , China Today Art Museum Publishing House, January 2013, p.10)


Lu Hong, art director of Shenzhen Art Museum, famous critic and international curator.

 

 

 

 

 

传统与当代的成功对接 ——解读朱伟的艺术追求

 

鲁虹

 

  

如果简单援用图像学和社会学的办法,我们将很容易解读朱伟作品的当代性。因为其作品与当代生活的相关性再明显不过了。而这无论在《北京故事》系列、《甜蜜的生活》系列;还是在《乌托邦》系列、《中国日记》系列中,我们都可以清楚地看到。不过,如此解读只会将朱伟的作品简化为极一般的概念化内容,或者描述为一个个象征性的寓言。大家知道,此类文章在当下是很多的。由于其常常不是在谈论艺术品本身,加上它还要塞给艺术品一些无关的外在标准,于是,由它所获得的关于艺术价值的成果自然微不足道了。我当然不否定当代生活或特定的观念必然会对朱伟产生巨大影响,可我坚信,这一切都只是朱伟处理的材料而已。当他伏案作画时,他总要面对或解决大量的形式问题。但所有这些是不能单靠表现当代生活与新的观念就可以简单解决的。那样的话,很多人都可成为优秀艺术家。在我的印象中,有些人谈起新观念来,远比朱伟厉害。事实上,艺术的形式——包括构图、造型、用笔或用色是相对独立的系统,既有自己的源头,也有自己的历史。它的组成与发展,更多依赖于自身的内部结构和自我完善的规则。一个艺术家要是不能进入到这些规则之中,进而去创造新的方法或规则,决不可能青史留名。因此,在艺术史上,即使最有创意的艺术家,也不得不从传统中选择若干样式与惯例作为自己在某个阶段的出发点。然后再按照需要予以偏离、重构。除此之外,别无它法。基于这样的立场,我坚持认为,理解朱伟艺术的关键点是要从作品出发,进而分析或研究当代生活和特定观念,究竟如何影响了他对形式的借鉴或创造。法国艺术史家福西永在他的著作《形式的生命》中曾经提出了“技术第一”的原则,[1]我是非常赞同的。

从朱伟的一系列作品看去,他创作所借鉴的主要形式无疑来源于伟大的传统院体(工笔)画。在这里,一个问题就突显了出来,即朱伟为什么不像一些人那样直接用工笔画的媒材去摹仿西方现代绘画的形式呢?正如理论家巫鸿先生在一篇文章中指出的一样,过去30年来,部分水墨画家思考的重点就是怎样把水墨画变得当代与全球化。[2]而这不是可以很快就让作品达到“当代感”与“全球化”的目的吗?况且,工笔画使用的媒材远比写意画使用的媒材更容易借鉴西方现代绘画。按我的猜想,朱伟之所以要反其道而行之,首先与他的学习背景有关;其次则与他的艺术理想有关。那么,究竟何为他的艺术理想呢?很明显,那就是立足于传统进行再创造,以追求一种完全不同于西方的当代表达。对此他曾说道:“我画水墨快三十年,使用的材料、技法全部从传统来,和传统有密切的联系。我一直没有脱离开传统,但我描绘的是当下发生的人和事,是正在进行时,也就是人们常说的当代题材。所以我一直没觉得传统和当代是隔离的,古为今用是我画水墨画的理念和创作脉络。”[3]当然,这也使他的探索在中国当代艺术追求“再中国化”的过程中显得特别有意义。[4]

我注意到,朱伟在借鉴与改造传统绘画的过程中,其实有一个不断试错或不断调整的实验过程。资料显示,他早先也有过其它的尝试。以他在1988年所画的《用八大笔法描绘北京故事人物图二号》为例,我们并不难发现,他当时是在已经做旧或强调时间感、间隔效果的宣纸上,以极简的写意笔法描绘民国的人物与天安门。而且,画上还借用了传统壁画的方式,即在深蓝色的长方形底子上,以汉简的风格与白色写下了一些文字。作品的确很有中国特点,但时代感却不太够。也许是感到了个人意图与形式之间尚存着差异,他此后大幅度地调整了创作方案。以他于1991年创作的《北京故事粉本之二》为例,虽然他还是保留了将宣纸做旧为画底的方式,但却改以传统院体(工笔)画传统作为创作的借鉴,这也成为了他今后的主要创作方向。恰如大家所见,在这幅表现讲相声情节的作品中,他既对人物进行了有意味的变形处理,还将立体主义的小面引用到了对背景的处理中。难得他将两者融合得特别的好。分析起来,在朱伟的画面中,人物变形的结果乃是由以下几个方面的因素所决定的:第一,传统院体(工笔)人物画的造型方式在起着前导作用,而他所做的工作就是将其转化,使之符合当下人的感觉。而且,在此过程中,他基于个人的特殊经历,还成功地创造了光头军人、大红旗、五角星、格子窗、芭蕉叶等具有个人特点的艺术符号,并让这些符号成功地转换为形式。应该说,这是新题材与新感受——包括“社会主义经验”进入传统程式,[5]继而改造传统程式的过程,其结果又自然的影响了画面大的结构与处理方式;第二,朱伟本人幽默化的心态亦起到了一定的作用,而这不仅十分有利于他以调侃的方式智慧表达生活的荒谬性,也很有利于他形成具有个人特点的造型方式——比如,他的人物脸部造型就具有大头、大鼻、大嘴、小耳的特点,以致让人一看就是朱伟的作品;第三,传统工笔画“三矾九染”的程序与材料自身引发的平面化、装饰化特点所致。也就是说,他一直是在遵从传统工笔画美学原则的基础上进行当代性的变通。联想到一些工笔画家常常借用三维或西方写实的画法改造工笔画,更令我体会到了朱伟的高明所在。与此相关的是,朱伟还进一步深化了他的创作追求,即一方面将现代摄影常用的大特写手法移入了他的画中——如在《北京故事三号》、近作《水墨研究课徒》系列中就运用了这样的构图方式;另一方面还将古人与今人并置的超现实方式置入了他的画中——如在《我的故事一号》、《新编花营绵阵五号》中,就有现代军人与古代小孩共处的处理。此外,他还巧妙地运用了“形象挪用”与“改画经典”的“后现代”方式——如在《两面红旗五号》、《中国日记五十四号》中都有对源自中国传统绘画的题材的借鉴与再处理。在前者,是借鉴 “曹衣出水”的手法,描绘了与当代中国人记忆密切有关的红旗局部;后者则对唐代大画家韩晃的《五牛图》局部进行了再处理。至于在色彩的运用上,我认为,尽管在现代生活与西方现代艺术的启示下,他也加进了一些新的手法,但他仍然是在传统的作画程序中操作,运用的也主要是中国画颜色。由于他画中的色彩是通过色墨交混的多次渲染而成,所以既具有薄中见厚、深沉耐看的效果,也具有与西画完全不同的艺术感觉。毫无疑问,在很大的程度上,朱伟那独辟蹊径的作品风格就是对以上诸特点加以交错使用才形成的。必须强调的是,朱伟最近的作品《开春图》系列一改了过去的大特写方式,采用的是传统构图方式。如在《开春图十七号》中,便在大片留白的背景之上画了四个失重的人,他们都表情木讷的站着,就像四个不倒翁一样。在画幅中间偏左的地方,放有一束开放的桃花以表明春天的到来,可游春人之间互不往来的场面,却似乎暗示了在当今世风日下,人们相互防范与强调自保的奇怪心理。而在新作《水墨研究课徒》系列中,他仍然采用了过去惯用的大特写构图与偏红的色调。背景是他创造的大红旗符号,前景上则是有着强烈朱伟造型特点的中国男性。其身着中山装,显得十分呆滞、麻木、迟钝。或者梳着中分头或侧分头;或者睁着眼与闭着眼。不知他人感受如何,我在看了画后,体会到的是一种强大的无形力量对大多数中国人的巨大影响。故我认为其仿佛是一幅幅关于时代的肖像。相信一切有着相同背景的人都可以从中读出自己的感想来。

现如今,人们在涉及中国画与当代水墨画时,一般很少谈论中国画的程式化表现问题。有些人甚至认为,程式化是中国画走上千篇一律道路的原因。这当然是极大的误解。因为与西方艺术相比,中国艺术一向十分强调程式化的表现。戏剧是这样,绘画也是这样。记得江洲先生在一篇文章中曾经说过:“中西合璧使国画在20世纪遭遇到几乎是毁灭性的发展过程,国画因此失去了许多宝贵的优秀成分,其中的教训,在新世纪初需要反思。”他还说道:“国画的发展是解决程式与现实的关系,而不是因为这种关系的存在,而取消基本的赖以生存的程式。国画没有了程式,也就没有了国画。”[6]我很同意他的看法,在此想补充一下,即传统工笔画的艺术表现程式不仅体现了特殊的审美假定性,也形成了一套特殊的表现原则与思惟逻辑。只有很好地加以训练,并达到精确的地步,才有可能继承与发展。纵观那些中国历史上的优秀绘画大师,无不是精确掌握了传统程式,又创造出个人化程式的人。熟读中国艺术史的朱伟当然知道这一点,他的过人之处就在于:既很好地继承了传统工笔画的表现程式,又用新的题材、新的观念、新的感受重构了工笔表现的新传统,这就使他能从容自如地进行全新的艺术表现。相信中外观众都会感到他的作品既是传统的,又是当代的;既是中国的,又是世界的。这不禁使我想起了日本文艺评论家大冈信说过的一段话:

““人类文明的产物,一切都隐藏在过去的这个时空中,而这一切对于我们每一个个体来说,都是未知的世界。而我们需要的则是从现在开始发掘它,把它作为我们自己的东西,即重新获取‘未来’。正因为基于这样的考虑,我所试图发现的是新杜甫、新莫扎特、新波特莱尔、新松尾芭蕉们。他们对于我,绝不是‘过去’的人,相反,他们是‘我们未来’的人们。当我们进入他们世界之时,就进入了未来之中,而绝不是退到了过去。在这个定义上,我认为文化艺术最伟大的力量之一,就在于它可以把过去变成未来。”[7]

我并不知道朱伟看过大冈信的这段话没有,但我认为他与大冈信的心是相通的。要不然他决不可能从传统院体(工笔)画中挖掘出当代因素去发扬光大。而这种将当代艺术与传统文脉保持紧密联系的追求,恰恰是我们从事当代艺术创作或参与国际对话时必须充分注意的。我的老师、著名的美术史家阮璞曾经说过:“中国工笔画是一个很有前途的画种,应该给予发扬光大。”朱伟用他的作品证明了阮璞教授的观点是十分正确的。

在一个强调艺术创新与个性表达的新时代,朱伟在“创”与“守”之间保持了很好的张力,这很值得同道借鉴。他的启示是:在寻求对于当代生活的表达时,重要的是要努力沿续传统的表达方式,并有所创造、有所丰富。而在当代艺术有着全球同质化发展的情况下,这种保持异质化表达的追求不是显得特别重要吗?

祝愿朱伟取得更大的成功!

                   2012年12月16日写于香港马可勃罗酒店

注:
[1] 福西永,《形式的生命》,北京大学出版社,2011年1月版。
[2]巫鸿,《中国当代和传统的齿合:重新勾勒》,载于香港M+艺术中心网站。
[3] 《朱伟:精神不能继承,继承的是技法和材料》,载于99艺术网:宋睿采访朱伟。
[4] 在“85新潮”时期,为反拨极左的文革创作模式,中国新潮艺术家更多是借鉴西方现代艺术的观念与手法,这虽然对超越文革模式与开创多元化的局面有利,但带来了“去中国化”的问题。从90年代中期以后,中国当代艺术开始了“再中国化”的努力。而朱伟追求的重要性在此之中,也显示出来了。
[5]这里所说的“社会主义经验”特指1949年以后中国人的集体记忆。
[6] 载于《文艺报》2000年5月11日第4版。
[7]见《现代艺术的中心问题》,大冈信,载于《世界文学》1990年1期)                
                               

 

首次刊发于《朱伟作品1988-2012》,中国今日美术馆出版社2013年1月出版,13页

     

鲁虹,深圳美术馆艺术总监,著名艺评家、国际策展人。