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Story of Ink and Wash

 

October 2009 Issue, HI Art

Over thousands of years, ink-and-wash painting has developed smoothly with few sufferings, and it has only suffered two great calamities in recent decades. One is the May Fourth Movement took place in late Qing Dynasty and early Republic China, during which serious controversies over this kind of painting occurred. Indeed, the so called ‘controversies’ were nothing but the negation of the existed culture, including ink-and-wash painting, arranged marriage, imperial examination system and Shaman ceremonies. The other calamity was the Traditional Chinese Painting Revolution. In other words, that was a revolution in traditional Chinese paintings. Then ink-and-wash paintings were required to be mixed with western elements such as sketch and perspective principles, which made them rather queer and ridiculous. Strictly, the latter one was brought about within art circles at first, and consequently ink-and-wash paintings suffered most and unprecedentedly.

For thousands of years, ink-and-wash paintings have played a very important role in China’s arts: they were still included in the mainstream culture of this nation till the end of Qing Dynasty, and nobody then, official or civil, happy or not, felt it was necessary to alter them. According to Sullivan, a famous western art historian, Chinese art in Europe has caused at least two Sinicization Movements, one occurred in the 17th century and the other in the 18th century. In these two periods, the influence exerted on ideology, art as well as physical life in Europe by Chinese art was much greater than that done by Europe to China. For instance, Kang Xi, an emperor in Qing Dynasty, disliked oil paintings because they would blur after years. Therefore, he ordered European painters in China then, such as Castiglione, to study Chinese fine brushwork, painting on silk fabrics with gelatinous materials. Later, these foreigners reported to the emperor that ink-and-wash paintings were too difficult to learn: during the process of drawing, neither revision nor touching-up were allowed, and the painting would be ruined by even a little hesitation or inappropriate strength. It seems to a lot of Chinese artists that it is insincere and non-artistic to solve problem of space with perspective principles of Geometry. In Chinese paintings, there is more than one viewpoint towards the object, and the angle of line of vision is flexible, so in the same painting figures and objects may show different viewpoints and angles. Then the rule formulated by Guo Xi, a famous palace painter in Song Dynasty, was followed by almost all painters, official or civil, common or brilliant, ‘In landscape paintings, mountains should be as high as ten feet, with trees reaching one foot, horse one inch, and figures one tenth of inch’. In other words, parallels should not be altered in Chinese paintings. Castiglione came to China in 1715 when he was 27 years old and died at 78, during which he had served for three emperors (Kang Xi, Yong Zheng and Qian Long) and contributed his life to the task of combining Chinese and western painting techniques. It was through his efforts that western oil paintings won recognition for the Royal in China and excellent opportunity of spreading, from which the Chinese saw a new painting method. After the May Fourth Movement, various western arts such as operas, stage plays and oil paintings appeared in China, and from then on we saw Oil Paintings of Republic of China, of Russian School, of ’85 New Wave movement and of Post-1989 era. Even now most of the mainstream paintings advocated by the government and modern works speculated by the public are oil paintings. It is really hard to say whether that is good or not.

Ink-and-wash paintings are frequently discussed now, which is rather unusual in its history for thousands of years. Indeed, it should not be taken as a question that whether ink-and-wash paintings ought to be modernized. Just like westerners and the Chinese have different foods, which is fairly common, but it is unreasonable to put out such questions as ‘Is Chinese food good?’ or ‘Can it meet modern Chinese people’s need?’ Why do we insist on negating ourselves? Does that result from our lack in confidence, or other hidden reasons? Why Europeans will not have various meetings for discussing the possibility of modernizing oil paintings? If they had shown their hesitation and were unsure of themselves, would Chinese painters still imitate their every move?

The purpose of discussing something is to decide whether to repair and reuse it or throw it away. As to ink-and-wash paintings, we have talked about them for years, and what is our conclusion?

Zhu Wei

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

 

 

 

水墨的故事

 

《HI艺术》2009年10月号

水墨画几千年运作下来一直比较顺畅,没受过什么制,只是到了最近这几十年才遭受到了两次大规模的劫难:一是清末民初五四运动,水墨画饱受争议,说争议还算是好听的,其实就是要否定已有的文化,当中包括水墨画、包办婚姻、科举制度、跳大神等等这些倒霉蛋儿;另外一次就是解放后的国画革命,说白了其实就是革国画的命,把素描带进水墨画,把透视原理带进水墨画,终于使水墨画变得非驴非马人不人鬼不鬼。严格的说,这后一次的折腾是从美术界内部发起的,所以它对水墨画的摧残最重,也是划时代的。

几千年来水墨画一直相当牛逼,直到清朝结束之前仍然是这个民族主流文化的一部分,从官方到民间有情的没情的有愁的没愁的都借水墨画说事儿。按照西方著名艺术史学家苏利文所说,在欧洲中国艺术至少导致了两次中国化运动,前者出现在十七世纪,后者在十八世纪,这两个时期中国对欧洲的思想艺术和物质生活的影响远超过欧洲对中国的影响。当年康熙皇帝不喜欢油画,因为年代久了就会变得黑乎乎的模糊不清,于是令郎世宁等欧籍画家学习中国工笔画,使用胶质原料在绢上作画。后来郎世宁等几个外国哥们儿向康熙反映,水墨画太难,一笔下去就不能再画第二笔,也不容修改润饰,笔触偶有踌躇或下笔太重,那幅画就毁了。在许多中国人看来,用几何学透视原理来处理空间的问题是虚伪的,非艺术化的,中国画对物的视点不止一个,而是几个,视线角度是不固定的,所以画家在同一幅画中写人和写物表现出不同的视点和角度。当时宫廷画院民间在野大家都依照宋人郭熙定的作画原则:“山水画中画山盈丈,树木盈尺,马盈寸,人物盈十分之一寸。”意思就是说,你要是画平行线,就一直不折不扣地平行下去,才中。郎世宁一七一五年二十七岁来中国,直到七十八岁去世,历康熙、雍正、乾隆,在中国从事水墨绘画五十多年,把一生献给中西结合上。他使得西方油画在中国首先得到宫廷的认可,有了很好的传播,使得中国老百姓知道世界上还有这么画画的。五四运动之后,话剧歌剧油画等等西洋玩意儿在中国广泛登陆,随后才有了民国油画、苏俄派油画、八五新潮油画、后八九油画,甚至到了今天,政府的主旋律绘画题材、民间的中国当代艺术炒作竟然都是以油画为主,真不知是喜是忧。

几千年来水墨画从没像现在动不动就拿出来讨论,水墨画能不能当代化不能作为一个问题。就像外国人吃西餐我们吃中餐,一直都这么吃下来的,可我们偏偏要讨论,该不该这样吃,还能不能这样吃,中餐符不符合当下中国人的需要。我们为什么老惦记着要否定自己呢,是不是太不自信了呢?还是有什么其它不可告人的原因?你什么时候听说欧洲人动不动开会广泛讨论油画能否当代化的问题?如果他们一天到晚拿不定主意,犹犹豫豫,一副前途未卜的德性,我们中国的画家能像现在这样一窝蜂地去学人家吗?

一东西拿出来讨论无非是想得出来两个结果:一个是想修理一下看还能不能接着用;一个是想扔了。这么多年我们讨论的目的更倾向于哪一个呢?

朱伟

2009年9月23日星期三