绘画的抗体

                                 ——-浅析中国当代新绘画语言特征

持续混乱的事故现场
     历史不是一架计算机。它在心灵和想象中展开。他体现在一种民族文化的多种多样的表现中。他本身是物质现实、其背后的经济现实和坚实的客观实际的微妙的中介物。
                                             巴西尔-戴维森《现代非洲》
   中国当代新绘画语言表征暗合了混乱与过渡的中国当代艺术和社会的潜流,从80年代的伤痕绘画、乡土绘画 、理性绘画、90年代的泼皮和玩世现实主义、政治POP、艳俗绘画等。中国当代艺术随着中国社会结构的变化,由80年代的现代化理想到90年代市场和消费的全球化商业时代和信息化、网络资讯时代的来临,资本和市场成了新的神话。经济制度的深刻改变也同时深刻的改变了我们的政治、文化、生活、艺术。要解读在这个动荡而热烈的混乱现场里的中国当代艺术变得复杂和困难起来。集体主义的物质化欲望诉求,传统文脉的崩溃,当代人精神的普遍失落,以及全球化市场和后社会主义政治和经济转型期的混合,给每个中国人带来巨大的震荡和变化,呈现了荒芜的废墟和繁荣的工地交织的壮丽景象。这些构成了今天中国社会的基本特征。本文试图从2000年以来中国当代新绘画视觉语言的表征来揭示中国当代社会的精神症候和美学特征在艺术本体语言中所呈现的转换。
    80年代“宏大叙事”的现代主义诉求和90年代的符号化的政治神话的远去,集体主义潮流的不复存在,发生了从集体主义经验到个人经验的转换。生命的个体差异取代时代、国家、地域的“宏大叙事”的历史经验。“大众文化与微观政治”(1)时代的来临,谁也把握不住这个时代的整体,我们只是成为无数的碎片中的一环。“微观叙事”的到来,剩下的是艺术家的个人和个案,那些从现场里生长的具有普遍性的当代艺术经验和方法论,越来越具有国际性品质。以往的中国当代艺术过多强调社会学和“东方学”(Orientalism)特征,从而丧失艺术语言的本体诉求。本土现实中生长出来的文化经验和艺术语言变得越来越重要,当代艺术进程也由学习和参考国际艺术潮流资讯,发展到自我发现,清理和总结。这反映出中国当代社会进程和文化演变的自觉,经济的高速增长和文化荒芜的悖论。让知识界文化界重新思考我们的现代化道路、历史文脉和本土化经验的联系,只有无数的有价值的艺术家个案才会汇成艺术历史的洪流和当代文化的深度。但是国家一直没有关于当代艺术的赞助和扶持制度,当代艺术的状况一直是处于民间与地下状态。全球化时代的瞬间到来,有不少的海外学术和商业机构,如美术馆、基金会、画廊等,为中国当代艺术的推广和传播做了大量的介绍工作。国际资本和中国民间资金大量介入,艺术空间和艺术生态变得立体而丰富。当代艺术空间和机构在蔓延,使得艺术市场持续增温。如北京798从2002年以来逐渐引起大众和国内外媒体广泛关注,成为北京新的文化时尚前沿阵地和当代艺术潮流的地标。这些文化景观已经构成了今天的文化事实,它们正在点滴的改变我们的文化进程。尤其是一些国际性的画廊全面的进入中国,为艺术市场生态的国际化开辟了新的道路。今天的中国当代艺术舞台是新自由秩序和全球化经济和文化的战场。
    无论是商业,还是学术,每个人都逃离不了时间无情的审判和考验。推动今天艺术的发展到底是泡沫市场,还是艺术内部的动力呢?艺术在今天如果还有意义的话,或许是我们对这个崩溃和迷狂时代的质疑和追问,是我们用视觉编码这个混乱时代的信息,告诉后来者我们今天的种种精神痕迹…… 但是有谁还在追问历史、现场、个人的心灵呢?艺术依然还有穿透时空的神奇力量吗?究竟当代艺术发生了什么?
    90年代中后期全球性双年展“竞赛制度”让装置、行为、录像、摄影、多媒体等的迅猛发展,一时间绘画受到了空前的压力。绘画被排斥在前卫艺术之外,工具先进论是那个时期最主要的话题之一。绘画死亡”的诊断书宣判了很久,存活下来的绘画产生了抗体”。新绘画已经广泛的吸收了当代艺术中的装置、摄影、录像、网络、多媒体,以及其他媒介的元素,变异成另外一种新的图像工具。绘画已经不再是静态的观看和冥想,而是和今天的媒介发生了广阔的联系。今天的绘画已经成为一种普遍的当代艺术媒介。就像摄影术诞生曾经对绘画纪实性功能的颠覆,导致绘画走向语言结构的观念化和超现实主义和心理学的变化一样,当代也有不少的艺术家用摄影来模仿绘画,如加拿大的杰夫·沃尔(JEFF WELL)的观念摄影作品是对西方绘画中经典图像进行重新阐释和解读。我们看到了更多的画家把绘画当成独立的图像制作工具,绘画也在重新整合其他媒介的视觉经验和图像、观念的叙述方法,建立一种新的图像修辞学,或者在历史文脉中寻找到新的方法论。从课题和语言都在进行全面的绘画本体的实验,或者打破绘画的边界之后的延伸,多重特征的观念叠加,变得晦涩同时更赋有视觉侵略性。绘画不再是像伟大的思想和哲学那样静态的在博物馆里让人沉思冥想,今天的绘画和这个时代一样,呈现了空前的混乱,绘画表面的皮肤和内在的细胞都在变异。信息和网络化时代改变了我们观看图像、绘画的基本方式,图像的视觉化的表达代替了伟大的思想和哲学。我们看到绘画边界的延伸和拓展,新绘画变得未知不确定性、充满了陷阱。这是今天绘画呈现的最基本特征,尤其反映在新绘画的语言中。今天绘画的边界在延伸,从结构到语言都在发生变化,从单一的线索演变成多重空间和叙述线索的重叠,要解码今天绘画的密码是困难的,我们无法再用符号化和政治化元素来粗暴的阐释今天的绘画。九十年代英国YBA一代关于颓废、战栗、耸动、暴力化的末世美学,对80年代经典的当代艺术美学产生了强烈的震荡!德国新莱比锡画派(NEW LEIPZIG SCHOOL)呈现的社会主义学院的语言特征,在他们的新绘画语言中,POP化,日常化,图案和凌乱空间的交织,新旧的冲突,现实和图像叙事的混杂,这和新表现主义的历史性的宏大叙事的语言特征相去甚远。中国当代新绘画中也在经历着这样的变化:远离宏大叙事、反符号化、反政治化,进入了个人化、微观化、碎片化的解构性的图像时代
   我想通过对今天中国当代新绘画的语言表征来揭示和呈现,在图像和语言下的方法论和美学转向,以及中国当代社会的精神症候。新绘画吸收了装置、影像、多媒体、大众传媒等媒介的视觉经验,它们从社会学、历史文脉、当代现场、像素图像时代、网络、动漫、卡通、流行文化等方面延伸,绘画的边界在打破,绘画以他者的身份重新回到当代艺术的现场了。
 
作为表征的语言
1)微观的社会学关怀
   今天具有学院背景的当代画家中的部分个案显现了对当代社会的历史变迁中底层的人群的关注,这些工作是关于三峡移民和城乡结合部的建筑“面相”,表达了艺术家的立场和观点。他们的绘画语言是现实主义绘画的变异和修正,表达了强烈的微观社会学特征,对社会的底层人民朴素的人道主义关怀。
刘小东在《三峡大移民》和《三峡新移民》的新画中以历史主义恢弘壮观的现实主义绘画记录和呈现了在具体的历史语境中个人的脆弱和无助。正在施工的三峡工地、爆破的废墟、表情亢奋而又无聊的成年人、天真顽皮的孩童…..这些景观构成了一场场新的历史剧。这些视觉画面超越了我们通常对绘画的定义,如电影分镜头般并置舞台戏剧化的情节处理,让他的绘画和现实主义发生了某种变异和联系。他对人物面相的处理极其准确,和正宗娴熟的学院绘画语言相比,他现在的绘画语言有 “坏画”的倾向。语言有破坏感,比先前更率真、放肆,赤裸裸地呈现了在一个混乱而动荡的巨大的社会背景中,人的尊严和价值观的沦丧,个人的渺小。他对三峡的历史文献和搬迁的历史照片运用,我们仿佛触及到了时间沉积的厚厚尘埃。
 

《温床》 200X1000 cm 亚麻油彩 刘小东 2005

       陈卫闽在他的新作《小洋楼》、《BMW》、《SONY》,是再现中国城乡结合部贴有马赛克瓷砖的新建筑上的乡土广告。那些口号和标语是充满了中国特色的物质化诉求和梦想,“农村要致富,少生儿子多载树”、 “宝马广告”、“别墅广告”, “与时俱进”的记录了中国城市和乡村结合部的变迁,有些幽默和荒诞,但也是中国最现实的POP。他的绘画语言从90年代的新表现主义手法,充满符号化历史记忆的文革图像《道具》系列发生重大的变化,从历史的梦魇记忆回到了当代人的世俗情境中来。这些单线平涂色彩,有些粗俗的乡土广告画法;这些城乡结合部的绚丽灿烂、花里呼哨的现实场景,是今天中国底层细胞最基本的变化,从人的面像和心灵、视觉发生的最真实的变化。粗俗的浅薄和欲悦是当代中国社会的最基本的色彩基调。他们在不动声色的观看和记录,在用传统的媒介朴素地表达他们对这个动荡而混乱的过渡社会的声音和立场。

《小洋楼》 油画 130 x110 cm 2003 陈卫闽

2)日记和涂鸦
俞洁和段建宇都是既做装置,又做绘画的艺术家。她们的作品都有好几个线索在同时展开,尤其跨媒介的装置和绘画两种语言的交织和错位,为我们阅读她们的作品添了不同的密码。俞洁的新作《假山》、《刺破》语言显出日记和自由涂鸦倾向,有国际化艺术家的语言特点。她的画面笼罩了一种迷雾和空白感,有节制的单线平涂手法,玩偶化的剧场和空中漂浮的道具如假山、动物、匕首,形成了一个荒诞而又矛盾的多重叙述空间。是寓言?还是心理真实的梦魇呢?她的画面没有具体的时间感,是过去?现在?还是未来呢?破碎的片段如字迹被水侵蚀后呈现的残句一样无法辨认和解读,要解读这些密码我们是依赖直觉?还是占卜呢? 似乎她在图像里设置了复杂的编码程序,让绘画的解读和观看变得困难和晦涩。从一个通道进入她虚构的图像世界会显得很困难,转来转去还是在表皮游荡,她有几重叙述空间是同时展开的。如果我们对比他在2000年《白日梦》展览里的装置《大云朵》,就会发现她的语法的原点——超现实主义。熔化云朵的色彩尤其灿烂耀眼,小外星人的并置让这个作品有了说不清楚的视觉快感,但是这种愉悦的快感又是有某种不祥的焦虑在里面,这些元素依然延续在他的纸本作品里……

《截机》布面油彩210x145cm 2005 俞洁

《大云朵》装置 2002 俞洁

   段建宇《艺术鸡》系列中以戏拟和嘲讽的手法模仿了印象主义大师马奈《草地上的晚餐》资产阶级情调,把自己置身与城市的风景中,艺术的庸俗、凌乱、琐屑、无聊与“高贵”并存。她的绘画语言里充满天真烂漫的涂鸦手感,猴子、鸡、猪、熊、水果、植物、名画、空姐的错位组合形成了一个陌生化的空间。这种视觉经验有一种虚构的合法性,这些绘画语言有一种视觉的狂欢。没有明确的主题和固定的符号,这些“幼稚的”涂鸦或许是对经典传统绘画的颠覆或者视觉习惯的嘲讽,充满了凌乱、自由和狂欢。图像叙述显得隐晦和奥妙,我们无法像以往解读符号性的绘画那样“明确”的解析她画面的含义,因为在她的绘画中一切叙述都是隐含在图像的下面…… 那些“恶搞”的闹剧和虚假现实的叠加,有了更为复杂的叙述方法和线索。

《艺术鸡》 第50th威尼斯双年展 梁钜辉摄

《艺术鸡》 油画 2005 段建宇

周葵是居住在远离当代艺术中心的江苏盐城的画家。她的绘画是视觉化的日记,充满了寓言和童话。这些视觉日记记录了充满了痛楚、欢娱、孤独的梦魇记忆,那些人和动物混杂的超现实画面显得沉重、突兀而灵异,精灵古怪。那些毛茸茸小动物和女人的身体符号的混杂和狂想,蛇、鸟、猫、女人体纠缠的奇特联想和混合,尤其是有性器官和小动物元素混杂,她的画让我想起了弗蕾达·卡罗(Frida Kahlo)那些穿越生死之间的痛楚记忆转换的视觉图像,成为她连接时空隧道的桥梁。在历史、现实、个人心灵之间,卡罗有自己独特的解码系统,她那些充满激情、痛苦和欲望燃烧的超现实主义画面,不是来自心理学的梦境和观念语言的设计,而是来自她生命现实和痛楚经验。家族历史、车祸、流产、婚姻和爱情的破灭,国际共运和墨西哥独立运动等事件,都成为了她图像叙述的原点。在她弥留之际写下的“我希望我是喜悦的离开,永远不再回来……” 这些直指心灵的精神力量再次证明了伟大的艺术是充满神性的!周葵那些受伤的寓言图像弥漫着一种浓厚的悲伤气质,她没有弗蕾达·卡罗的宏大和复杂,但是她放大了今天的个人在中国社会巨变里精神和肉体所遭遇的心理和生理的痛楚,并且是强烈而又刺激的性图像和意象。在她的图像世界里,身体既是道具也是战场,它们一点一滴的在刺痛观者的皮肤和毛孔,有些耸动和发麻的感觉!今天的艺术普遍越来越演变成概念化和智力化竞赛,与心灵越来越没有关系,当代艺术演变成天才和骗子同台演出的游戏化舞台!言说愈发显得苍白和无力,直指心灵的力量让我们回到了人的现场,力量是来自中国今天的超现实主义的日常化生活情境,或许这些情色画面是欲望战场的“恶之花”再现,更是她对个人灵魂深处痛楚和煎熬的表达和倾诉。

《无题》 素描 周葵 2004

3) 抽象绘画的语言诉求
   2003年出现的“中国极多主义”和“念珠与笔触”,两个重要展览可以看作是90年代后期以来,一些艺术家对当代艺术一直强调社会学的叙事特征或 “东方学”( Orientalism )特征的自我妖魔化和符号化的异国情调,从而忽视艺术语言本体的反拨和修正。尤其缺乏更深远的文脉联系,“文以载道”的传统使我们的视觉里充满了意义和问题。我们没有真正经历过现代主义时期的语言追求,尤其像西方抽象绘画的语言和视觉逻辑演变,如康定斯基(Wassily Kandinsky)和马列维奇(Kazimir Malevich)的哲学化语言研究。“在西方,语言学的发展对西方现代哲学、艺术及其他学科的影响至深。他也是西方现当代艺术的语言方法的基础”(2)。在这里语言的繁复和重叠,成为方法论。去掉意义和形象语言成为了主题,过程就是意义。“我强调繁复的手工过程,是因为艺术家在这个过程中,达到一种心理甚至身体的治疗和平复,或者这个过程就是修性,慰籍心灵的过程”(3),这种艺术现象的兴起可能和中国今天社会整体的浮躁有关,他们选择了治疗和平复。繁复的手工性,劳动和时间的痕迹在这里停留,我们看到了当代艺术语言和历史文脉的深远联系。在虚无的时间中去建立视觉和精神的迷宫,他们在自己的文脉中找到了某种依据。和以往的当代艺术家把传统文化的符号表面化运用不同的是,这些画家的作品里在内心里融化文脉的精神,把传统文脉里的因素和自己的生命现实和艺术语言自然而然的在融化和生长。在当代艺术里这强调复数性质和手工的劳动性特征,这和徐冰80年代的《天书-析世鉴》的复数排列和手工性劳动似乎有着某种联系?这和60年代日本“物派”(4)提出的日本现代艺术中的“日本性”或者“东亚性”是不是也有一定的相似性呢?
   李华生是80年代就成名的水墨画家,早年深受陈子庄影响。90年代中期他的作品经过万水千山的修炼,完成了重大的转型。他在消除了一切的形象、符号、人事之后,只有单一规整的线条和痕迹,平庸的重复,严格控制情绪。他把作品的过程当作佛教徒的日常功课,如喇嘛诵经绵延不绝。这些关于“思想的日记”没有具体的叙述,只有过程。那些繁复的线条构建了一个线条的迷宫,或许在他看来都是去掉任何图像和意义。他以时间来命名作品的标题,时间的痕迹在他的笔下停留。但是在这些线条的下面有是些什么呢? 是云山雾海?是山山水水吗?还是时空错乱的痕迹相叠加呢?还是错误的密码呢?

《壬辰·立冬》90x180cm 水墨 2002 李华生

  周洋明是从90年代从浙江来到北京的“北飘”画家,他在自己的作品中建构一种视觉幻象,这种幻象是和他的心灵相连接,他试图在幻象和心灵之间找到一个对应的通道和桥梁。通过千军万马的“划道道”他获得了自由的呼吸和静观,让自己平复下来。繁覆的重叠中,他在编织一个个复杂的密码,“密密麻麻的排线像火山喷发一样,后来慢慢的平静了,就成了一道道整齐的线”(周洋明手记)。无穷尽的道道构成了深蓝画面如夜空一样静谧深远。那些千千万万的道或波涛汹涌的虚妄?或寂灭?或绵延无穷的时间碎片的结晶?

《无题》 油画 周洋明 2005

     王光乐的作品呈现出一种惊人的意志和坚韧,他像苦行僧徒步朝圣跋涉万水千山一样用大量的时间在重复和放大水磨石地板的纹理。在巨大的墙面上,表面看来这些徒劳的手工劳动显得毫无意义可言,甚至“无聊”。他通过点点滴滴的时间,把微观的碎片化世界荒诞置换成了一个悖论空间。看似无绪和零乱的日常工作,在这个巨大的墙面上,转换另一个错位空间。我们无法判断是墙变成了地板,还是地板变成了墙面,似乎这个工作成了一个关于空间悖论的视觉游戏。通过他的苦力,他把绘画关于时间和空间的概念都置换和延伸了。

《墙》 行为 王光乐 2004

4)现场经验的叙述和篡改
    舒阳把90年代后期国内众多的画家用绘画来表现影像的艺术现象总结为“中国影像绘画”,为当代绘画在图像泛滥的时期梳理了线索,影像绘画在当代语境中的视觉经验、文化性、绘画性的学术依据(5)。或许影像只是一个借口或托词,只是当代社会物象的一个个的幻象和表面而已。图像时代具有高度的视觉感染力,和以往习惯用文学、哲学、社会学方法来阐释和解读图像不一样,影像的质地有高度的视觉幻觉和感染力。绘画回到了视觉,或许图像后面的方法论和图像线索才是更核心的问题。
   李大方的早期作品通过图像和文字的并置,文字误导观者对图像的理解,能指和所指的严重错位,我们可以看作他关于图像修辞学的偏执。这些来路不明的图像也让我们对绘画经验和美学判断发生了位移和偏差,荒谬的感觉。他的《光天化日》营造了“废墟之后的废墟”景象。荒芜空旷的废墟背景中,景象有一种厚厚的尘土感和丑陋的现实感,故意残缺的画面人物和孤独而丑陋的现实之间有一种不明确的联系。正常的逻辑和线索被颠覆,突兀的,人在挖坑,寻找,是受虐,还是自虐?所有的氛围都如无名剧照一样让人一头雾水。大方的画面有一种视觉的暗喻,所有的矛盾和荒诞叙事都在编织一个关于真实和谎言的闹剧摧毁之后的景象。这些图像是一个关于现场的充满迷雾的迷宫,横亘在观者面前的是未知的境地。这些寓言透露了一种朴素和真实的力量,这些关于废墟的记忆或者记录,不是噱头式的撕裂,而是痛楚之后的平静和无力感……

《找》 200X150cm 油画 2005 李大方

张小涛从2002年以来一直在放大他对北京持续混乱的事故现场的生命经验。他一直转换于各种微观的图像之间,如死老鼠、霉变的蛋糕、杯盘狼藉的餐桌、废弃的卡车、溃烂的草莓、忙碌的蚂蚁、废弃的医用垃圾等。他用密集性的绘画语言把这些微观世界置换成宏观的景象,他试图在图像背后建立一种“视觉化的反思逻辑”,成为“图像的制造者”。他一方面“误导”读者进入图像的表面和背后的各种社会学含义,另一方面他又把观者拉回到绘画语言的陷阱中,在图像和语言之间制造一种悖论。他强调图像背后的方法论,从图像阐释、现场经验到绘画的本体语言,不难看出他的质疑和矛盾。《五花海》、《来自天堂的礼物之二》更像一个事先预谋的突发事件,或者装置艺术的方案草图。“这场写作一直围绕的主题是图像本身的二重性,糜烂的草莓也可能是山水画正如一堆发霉发丑的垃圾也可能是更微小事物的温床和天堂,美丑、大小之辩在他的绘画中总是让人难以决定,濒临崩溃的形象处在进退两难之中,这种在绘画中养成的怀疑主义也渗透在他对未来的想的想象”(6)

《来自天堂的礼物之六》 亚麻油彩 200x150cm 2006 张小涛

石心宁的图像修辞方法是来自马克·坦西(Mark Tansey )式的“关于绘画的绘画”,“马克·坦西以自己的绘画为媒介,来对作为文化现象的绘画艺术本身进行反省。结构与重建,现代与后现代,理论与实践、文字与图像、历史与现实、具象与抽象、游戏与务实、调侃与严肃、所有对比的范畴都共存一体,他的作品有一条潜在线索将这一切筑成一个有序的整体;这就是戏拟和并置的方法”。(7) “石心宁的作品将毛的图像画进中外各种新闻图片中,以捏造的方式制造一个新闻的真实感,另外的是把美术史中经典作品的场景与当代景观混合在一起,石心宁的作品用颇具真实感的幻象,映射出一代人所经验的视觉世界的梦幻和变迁,充满智慧而感伤的人文情怀”(8)。石心宁的作品在虚构的历史和现实情境之间,在寻找中国现当代历史和现实之间的联系和通道。他在深入的思考和寻找当代图像和历史文本的临界点,那些充满荒诞而神奇的误会和相遇,何尝不是中国今天现实的剧烈变化让每个人都不得不产生的癫狂和臆想呢?

《奇迹》 250 x 200cm 油画 2002 石心宁

5)像素时代的图像悖论
    今天是信息、网络、数码、影像等象细胞一样繁殖蔓延的视觉化时代,视觉化的阅读已经成为新一代通过图像认知世界的基本手段。早期的心理学是通过对梦的阐释和解析来分析患者的心理疾病问题,当代心理学开始了从图像的阐释和解析来和患者交流。从“释梦到释图”的变化可以看到,图像是世界上最直接和广泛的信息传播和交流工具。“影像是重造或复制的景观,这是一种表象或一整套表象,已脱离了当初出现并得以保存的时间和空间,其保存时间从瞬息直数百年不等,每一影像都体现一种观看方法”(9)。像素图像(Pixilated  Picture)改变了我们对现实世界的认知,图像悖论是关于绘画的观看和阅读的变化。在英国当代画家格兰-布朗(Glenn Brown)的图像世界里,弗兰克-奥尔巴赫(Frank Auerbach)的表现主义绘画被平面化冷静的照相写实的手法精准而荒谬的置换,无论我们退远和靠近都沉浸在这种巨大的魔幻视觉的欺骗性中。他把萨尔瓦多-达利(Salvador Dali )的《西班牙内战》轻微的变形,我们无法判断谁是真的原作,劣质的复制颠覆了经典,这是玩笑还是解构?这是关于绘画的再观看的视觉阅读,是绘画“观看”方式的改变,“看”成为了矛盾的悖论和现实。这些“别出心裁的复制品”,严重的改变了我们观看绘画的空间经验,他使绘画越来越有了娱乐化、游戏和颠覆性特征。
   李松松的绘画是关于历史记忆和日常经验的图像再阅读和写作,他用浓厚的油画颜料笔触像书法的临帖,一小块一小块地分解图像,甚至是故意的错位阅读。他把这种视觉的再次阅读称为“一个痕迹对另一个痕迹的模仿”,或许他在设置另外的视觉陷阱?一方面我们被历史的老照片所吸引,当观者努力的想清楚这些老照片和他的联系时,但是我们又被充满表现主义的绘画语言所欺骗。这些模糊不清的痕迹让人迷惑,他在用痕迹来还原痕迹,用痕迹来颠覆历史。试图用今天的微观的视点和关于图像的像素原理复制历史风景的记忆碎片,他的绘画是关于复制图像和绘画语言之间的游戏和悖论,既是历史的日常化照片,也是通过表现主义语言痕迹来覆盖、篡改、放大低像素的劣质影像的视觉经验。

《新闻制造流程 》280x420cm 油画 2006. 李松松

   付晓东的《机械生活》系列是关于沈阳老工业铁西区废墟之后的一些碎片化的放大,她试图用传统的写生方法在宣纸上用笔墨去再现这个神话和光环褪去的昔日重工业基地的迟暮和悲情,她在记录和放大的工业垃圾的微观化世界。这些图像工作很像一个个来自考古现场的残片抽样调查,她用巨大尺寸的画来表现那些缠绕的线和管子,尖锐的工业垃圾混杂在一起的细节,画面充满了怅惘的怀旧情绪。这是关于失忆废墟的记忆,这是繁华褪尽之后的废墟和精神荒原的真实景象。所有的物象都像在水中,也像在雾中,那些云山雾海之间缠绕线条中的锈迹斑斑的工业垃圾,就像美丽而病态的罂粟花绽放……或许在绵延的时间中一切物象都会褪去,最后剩下的就只有淡淡的云烟了……

《机械生活》 水墨 付晓东 2004

李青的《一起来找茬》系列,来自经典的训练视觉反映游戏的启发,他对绘画的在图像泛滥时代的质疑显得机智而清醒。这些来自游戏的观看方式让绘画有了新的可能性,在时间、痕迹、幻象、手工的诸多的理由之中,他在用手工痕迹调侃悖论现实和悖论的图像,或许重要的不是两者的区别或者联系,而是用手工涂抹绘画的时间和空间叠加的过程。他们让绘画有了完全的不同的定义,把绘画从深刻而晦涩的语法和复杂的图像学阐释,拉回了我们日常的游戏经验,绘画的表面也在和这个混乱的时代一样变得未知起来了。或许这是个玩笑,是个封闭和循环的视觉陷阱,因为我们根本发现无法在图像的蛛丝马迹中去寻找到任何可靠的线索和答案。

《大家来找茬.六方会谈》 油画 2005

6)网络、游戏、动漫、卡通的扁平化倾向
   “文化积极地与民族或国家联系在一起,有了我们和他们的区别,而且时常带有一定程度的排外主义,文化这时就成为了身份问题,文化成为了一个舞台,各种政治的意识形态的力量都在这个舞台上较量,文化不再是一个平静的领地,他甚至可以成为一个战场”(10)
   美国60年代POP ART 大众文化曾经广泛的影响过政治波普。90年代中后期,伴随着真正的商业化和市场经济的全面到来,中国社会的剧烈转型城市化、现代化进程,大众流行文化成为了当代艺术中重要的文化资源。“卡通一代”的提法开始于90年代中期广州的黄一瀚、江衡、响叮当等,或许是被国内的主流话语屏蔽,真正的卡通化现象2005年的艺术市场兴起之时,推波逐浪的展开。“你卡通了吗?”成为了时尚的标签。随作经济全球化浪潮的到来,伴随商业社会成长的大众流行文化已经和市场成长的新一代自然的融合在一起了。游戏和动漫,卡通化的影响,已经成为“80后”一代的重要的文化资源和“集体无意识”。这些美丽而又充满欲望的物质元素成为了他们最天然的语言资源,不再是关于伤痛和批判的文化精英意识,更多的是无厘头的恶搞趣味。他们试图以网络和游戏化的态度颠覆既定的美学结构和视觉经验。“ 犯贱、发骚 、装嫩、 扮酷 ”已经成为新时期不靠谱青年的标志性特征(11),正如:鲍栋所质疑的新卡通如何与“原生”卡通(12)的区别?尤其是当“新老卡通”遭遇日本以国家机器来推广和传播的动漫美学的文化战场时,我们自己的卡通文化特征和卡通美学又在那里呢?比如日本江户时期的“浮世绘”到村上隆和奈美良智的历史线索,卡通动漫在日本的广泛普及和在全球化背景中的文化战略,我们真正又了解多少?或许卡通、动漫绘画需要更多的和历史文脉和今天现实精神的普遍联系,尤其是有自己文化特征的视觉联系。
   熊莉钧的《特快周末版》、《达达、达达》等系列巧妙地借用波普艺术的元素,炫目的色彩,去深度的扁平化语言处理,流行大众文化的视觉化冲击力,来反传统绘画的视觉经验。那些让人看了天旋地转的强烈色彩,是关于消费性物质主义时代的艺术娱乐和狂欢,有“洛可可”的趣味。这是关于美丽和炫的视觉童话,使她的作品有着“超女”一样的阳光、自由、灿烂,洋溢着青春张扬的活力。青春就是挥霍和燃烧,“在QQ、在BBS和社区灌饱了水,接受了每日必需的信息轰炸后,满足而去”(熊莉钧手记)。“新新人类”在网络和现实之间去享受虚拟生活的此时此刻爱的甜蜜幻觉。

《 达达、达达》 240x300cm. 油画 熊莉钧

  陈飞的早期作品曾经用过肉和动物的内脏、塑料纸来摆拍玩偶的童话,异化了的玩偶童话,显得残酷而美丽。这些语言和材料的实验深深的影响到他现在的《欲海》、《快感》的卡通绘画语言里。这些突兀的粉红的底,腥红的嘴唇和蛋黄的肉色组成了一个视觉化的欲望之都。那些破腹的小肉球,张开的血盆大口、开枪的玩偶、晶莹剔透的珍珠、臆想的性器官、交媾的肉球、华丽的项链和残酷的拔河比赛,显得有游戏化的暴力、怪诞、残酷和幽默。他的工作在用玩偶的童话来表达中国在转型的社会中个体的承受力的极限,以及我们被物欲的异化和伤害。

《快乐感觉》 油画 陈飞 2005

屠宏涛像导演一样把他的那些来自网络和游戏动漫里的玩偶,暴力的场景,物质化的美女,色情图片和道听途说的荒诞情节虚构,成为一个个妖艳而真实的剧场。巨大的城市化的景观成为了《梦幻剧场》的舞台布景,他在用全景的舞台来构筑了关于物欲和精神矛盾冲突的气势恢弘的视觉化寓言。他用繁复的手工化语言来背离时尚和主流的扁平化处理,用超现实主义的荒诞叙事的来摆脱卡通绘画中新的符号化倾向。这些对图像的“以虚拟化的方式切入本质”(13), 这些关于青春和欲望的肥皂剧寓言是幻灭还是狂欢呢?他把宏观世界置换成微观化的舞台寓言,它们呈现了我们难以言表的关于毁灭、繁杂、混乱、希望和悲伤的经验。

《 放逐》210X150cm油画2006年. 屠宏涛

俸正泉的《我的山水》把中国传统山水,当代物欲社会的物质化消费品和卡通的小玩偶并置。所有的卡通人物、花花草草、化妆品等情节,构成一个荒诞的叙事空间,传统的文人山水被置换成可以消费的山水。他在两种矛盾的图像之间表达了对当代物质化社会的质疑和思考。那些崩溃的传统文脉已经成为了旧梦一样的往事,璀璨的消费品在勾引我们物欲的神经。最近他借用了波普的手法,把这些美丽的物质消费品通过喷绘,转换成廉价的墙纸,铺天盖地的裱在了展厅的墙上,把这些美丽得炫目的艺术品又直接的转换成可观看和审美的物质,真是一个循环的玩笑和闹剧。

《我的山水》 喷绘 俸正泉 2006

   韩娅娟录像《暂存》是新一代女性艺术家对无意义的碎片式语言的修正。多重线索的图像关系和单调枯燥的声音的并置,她的作品具有国际化的艺术品质。只有重复的视觉和声音,去掉了叙述的意义,通过影像语言呈现了一个多元和混乱的工作状态,噪音刺激着我们的生理和心理的反映。它们似乎在向我们暗示着什么?她的绘画《奶牛王国》华丽妖艳的色彩既是甜美的食品也是宠物、小美人,它们是双重身份的叠加,《奢侈品》里的奶牛小美人和AUDI 、 BMW名车相伴随是白日梦还是现实呢?我们无法真正的解读她的各种碎片图像的完整信息,或许从她跨媒介的工作中我们可以看到它们之间的表面之间的语言联系和逻辑关系,但是这种转换之间她已经获得了新的视觉元素和语言张力的可能性和不确定性,让我们对她未来的工作充满了期待。

《平步青云》 韩娅娟 影像 2006

《奢侈品》 韩娅娟 100X100CM 油画2006

 
是癌变?还是重生?
    历史是有问题的烟云,美术史也概莫能外…… (14)
   正如高居翰在《山外山》论述的晚明绘画中的复杂和混乱一样,今天的现实也是疑团和迷雾。“晚明画家除了创作出作品外许许多多的分外有趣的作品外,他们也以极为错纵复杂的方式,与传统绘画史建立关联,同时也与其当时的文艺理论相结合,形成复杂的互动关系,成为此一时期的文化游戏,晚明绘画中的知性化,且对艺术极为自觉,构成了罕见的多重艺术史情境中”(15) 。晚明山水中对传统的模仿和重新阐释深刻原因是南宋的心学和后期的新儒学,尤其是王阳明(1472-1520)所发展出来的学说,重视心灵和现实的内外一体,即“知行和一”。晚明哲学中的所特有的对传统深刻怀疑和质问,对同时代的画家产生了潜移默化的作用,或许是一种暗合。“师古人,师造化”成为程式化的格言,但往往他们丧失掉个人的天才性和颠覆性。晚明的项圣莫和张宏都是被正统的文人画历史所遗漏的具有自然主义视觉经验的创造性大家,但是董其昌至高无上的地位,让同时代的其他类型的艺术家都消失掉了。或许当代现场是充满迷雾的迷宫,而历史一切已经尘埃落定,这其中一定蕴涵着某种普遍的经验和方法论。
   在这个转型和过渡的混乱社会现实中,每个人身在其中如热锅上的蚂蚁一样焦虑不安。这个巨大的舞台里弥漫着一种紧张的空气,总有要出大事的不祥预感,有一触即发的火药味道……是更混乱,还是更清晰?是艺术市场的需要?是吸“毒”过多,还是绘画产生了抗体?是基因的良性转变?还是癌变?我们无法预言明天,但是绘画确实回来了。我们可以看到今天的新绘画在摆脱所谓的“观念绘画”的陈旧方法,用绘画颠覆绘画或许本身就是个低级的想法,过多点子和想法让绘画成为了没有难度系数的工作,那些号称绘画只需要助手按配方就可以独立填图完成的“发明”,最后无非成为了市场需要而批量生产的简便方法而已,放弃绘画语言性在今天显得简单化,不选择绘画这个媒介就是对绘画的颠覆,绘画重新回到语言的本体,回到了“手艺”,通过“手艺”和“劳动”来表达新技术和新观念。新绘画吸收了其他媒介的视觉元素和新的美学特征,新绘画的语言和语法在延伸新的观念方法,或许这些转基因让绘画的抗体加强。这是绘画边界的开放或延伸吗?绘画重生了吗?
 
                                    张小涛
                                                  2006-6-1于花家地西里
注释
         1   殷双喜 “ 大众文化与微观政治 ” 《艺术与社会》湖南美术出版社  P 285
         2   高名潞 《另类现代另类方法》 上海书画出版社 P19栗宪庭《念珠与笔触》策展手记– 疗,修性艺术,积简而繁或者积繁主义《念珠与笔触》2003  北京东京艺术工程  P5
4  物派是20世纪60年代后期在日本兴起的一场艺术运动,与极简主义(Minimalism)有着间接联系,倾向以物质为基础的反形式主义,作品往往以装置的形式表现事物(Mono)的状态或阶段(日语的Mono含义非常广泛,由于英语中没有与之相对应的词,这个词可以理解为“物品”、“物质”、“材料”、“物体”等意思。“物派”运动与日本现代艺术的危机:《美术馆》杂志文:建田 哲 (日本)
         5    舒阳 《中国影像绘画》 香港文化中国出版社 2003 、
6    邱志杰《未来考古学》湖北美术出版社段炼《世纪末的艺术反思-西方后现代主义与中国当代美术的文化比较》
上海文艺出版社P58)
8    舒阳 《798》 TIMEZONE 8 出版社P 116
9   [英] 约翰.伯格 《观看之道》 广西师范大学出版社 P 3
10  《文化与帝国主义》Edward W.Said 著  三联书店 P4
  • 付晓东“不靠谱青年”的趣味转向 –谈70一代精神症候特征的艺术呈现
《画刊》2006年4期http://www.art218.com/culture/criticism/200601/812.html
12   鲍栋 《卡通了又能怎样?》美术同盟 http://arts.tom.com/1004/200599-23183.html
13   “以虚拟化的方式切入本质”鲁虹《图像的图像》广西美术出版社
14   吕澎 《20世纪中国艺术史》  湖南美术出版社
15   高居翰 《山外山》晚明绘画(1570-1644) 上海书画出版社 P1
本文选自《艺术当代》2006年 第三期

The Painting Antibody

– A light analysis of linguistic traits in Chinese contemporary new painting

A Continually Chaotic Accident Scene

History is not a computer. It unfolds in the spirit and the imagination. It manifests within a multifaceted expression of ethnic culture. In essence it is the medium of the material reality, and the economic reality and substantive objective behind it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Basil Davidson, Modern Africa

Chinese contemporary new painting is the confluence of the chaotic and transitional Chinese contemporary art and social undercurrents, from the scar painting, rural painting and rational painting of the 1980’s to the pop, cynical realism, political pop and kitsch painting of the ‘90’s. Following the changes in China’s social structure, Chinese contemporary art went from the idealism of modernization in the ‘80’s to a state where capital and the market became the stuff of legend following the arrival of market and consumer-oriented globalization and commercialization and the dawn of the information and internet age. The deep changes in the economic system also drastically changed our politics, culture, life and art. It is complicated and difficult to try and decode Chinese contemporary art in the midst of this thriving and chaotic scene. The materialist desires of collectivism, the collapse of traditional cultural roots, the universal sense of spiritual disorientation among contemporary people and the combination of a globalizing economy and the transitional phase of postsocialist politics and economics have brought massive change and upheaval to every single Chinese person, and emerged as the astounding spectacle of festering ruins and blossoming construction sites standing side by side. These things make up the basic traits of Chinese society today. This article attempts to reveal the spiritual symptoms and aesthetic traits of Chinese contemporary society through the transformations emerging in artistic ontological language as seen through the linguistic characteristics of Chinese contemporary new painting since 2000.

In the disappearance of the grand narrative modernist appeals of the ‘80’s and the symbolical political mythology of the ‘90’s, in the death of the collectivist trend, there was a transformation from the collectivist experience to the individual experience. The individual differences in life replaced the “grand narratives” of the historical experience of the era, nation and region. The era of “mass culture and microcosmic politics” had arrived, and no one was able to grasp this era as a whole, becoming nothing but innumerable fragmentary links. After the arrival of the “microcosmic narrative”, what remained was the “individual and individual case” of the artists. The universal contemporary art experience and orthodoxy which had grown out of the scene, were taking on more and more international qualities. Earlier contemporary art had overly emphasized sociological and “orientalist” traits, and through this had lost the appeal of artistic language. The cultural experience and artistic language that had grown out of the local reality became more and more important, and the progress of contemporary art moved from learning and referencing international artistic trends to self-discovery, organization and summarization. This reflects the autonomy of progress in Chinese contemporary society, development in culture and the paradox of rapid economic growth and the withering of culture. For intelligentsia and the cultural scene to reexamine the links between our path of modernization, the historical context and the localized experience, there must be countless individual cases of valuable artists to join together the flood of art history and the depths of contemporary culture. But the country has never had a system to sponsor and support contemporary art, and contemporary art has remained in a private and underground state. During the instantaneous arrival of the globalization era, many foreign academic and commercial organizations such as museums, foundations and galleries have done a lot to introduce, spread and promote Chinese contemporary art. With the entry of large amounts of international capital and Chinese private funds, the space and environment for art have become enriched. Contemporary art spaces and organizations are spreading out, leading to a continual warming of the art market. Since 2002, Beijing’s 798 Art District gradually attracted the attention of the masses and national and foreign media, becoming a forward position for China’s new cultural fashions and a landmark of trends in contemporary art. These cultural sites make up today’s cultural reality, and they are slowly but surely changing the progression of our culture. This is especially the case with the wholesale entry into China of international galleries, which has opened up a new path for the internationalization of the art market. Today’s Chinese contemporary art stage is the battleground for the new free order, the global economy and culture.

Whether in business or academia, no one can escape the unfeeling judgments and tests of time. What is driving today’s development of art, is it a bubble market, or an internal momentum in art? If art today still has meaning, maybe it is our suspicion and inquisitiveness towards this collapsing and lost era; we are using the mixed-era information of visual encoding to tell those in the future of all our various spiritual traces of today… But who still seeks out the soul of history, the scene and the individual? Does art still have the mysterious power to penetrate time and space? What has happened with contemporary art?

The global “competition system” of biennial exhibitions in the mid to late ‘90’s enabled the rapid development of installation, performance, video, photographic and mixed media arts, putting pressure on painting for space. Painting was excluded from avant-garde art as the theory of tool advancement became one of the most important topics of the time. “Painting is dead” was the diagnosis for a long time, and the painting that was still alive began to produce “antibodies”. The new painting widely adopted the contemporary art elements of installation, photography, video, the internet, mixed media and other mediums and mutated into a new image tool. Painting was no longer about static viewing and contemplation, and it began to interact heavily with today’s mediums. Today’s painting has become a universal medium for contemporary art. Just as the birth of photography subverted painting’s role in realistic documentation, pushing art to move towards the conceptualization of language structure, surrealism and psychology, many contemporary artists now use photography to imitate painting, as with Canadian artist Jeff Well’s conceptual photography works, which newly expound on and decode the classic images of Western painting. We’ve seen even more painters treat painting as an independent image production tool, and painting is now newly arranging the visual experiences, images and conceptual narrative methods of the other mediums, establishing a new rhetoric of images, or finding a new methodology within the historical context. In theme and language they are now taking part in wholesale experimentation in the essence of painting, or extending beyond the previous boundaries of painting and stacking up the traits of various concepts, so that while becoming obscure it has also become more visually aggressive. Painting is no longer a static object that draws people to ponder and meditate in the museums like so much great thought and philosophy. Today’s painting is like today’s era, appearing in an unprecedented state of chaos; the skin and cells of painting are all undergoing mutations. The era of information and the internet has changed the fundamental way in which we view images and paintings, and the visualized expressions of images have replaced the great thinking and philosophy. We have seen the stretching and expansion of painting’s boundaries, and the new painting has become unknown, uncertain and full of pitfalls. These are the basic characteristics of today’s painting, and they are most apparent in the language of new painting. Today the boundaries of painting are extending, and from the structure to the language, everything is changing, evolving from singular lines to stacks of multiple spaces and narrative tracks. To decode today’s painting is a difficult task. We can no longer use symbolized and politicized elements to force a rough explanation of today’s painting. The dispirited, shaken and violent apocalyptic aesthetic of the YBA (young British artists) generation in the nineties was a shock to the classical contemporary art aesthetic of the ‘80’s! In the hands of the New Leipzig School, the socialist academic language took on the traits of pop and the everyday. The interlocking of the images and scrambled spaces, the conflict between new and old, the mix of reality and image narrative, this is a far cry from the historical grand narrative language of new expressionism. Chinese contemporary new painting is also undergoing such a change: leaving the grand narrative, going against symbolization, against politicization, entering into an individualized, microscopic, fragmented, structural image era.

   Through the linguistic traits of today’s Chinese contemporary new painting, I intend to reveal and present the shifting in methodology and aesthetics beneath the image and the language, and the spiritual symptoms of Chinese contemporary society. The new painting has absorbed the visual experience of installation, photography, mixed media and mass media. They spread out from sociology, historical context, the contemporary scene, the era of the digital image, the internet, manga, animation and popular culture. The boundaries of painting are being broken, and painting has returned to the scene of contemporary art under a new identity.

The Language that Serves as Indicator

1) The Microscopic Sociological Sentiment

Today, some contemporary painters with academic backgrounds have shown a focus on the lower classes in a contemporary society undergoing historic change. This work is about the displaced people of the Three Gorges region and the “face” of buildings in the urban-rural transitional zones, expressing the artists’ standpoints and viewpoints. Their painting language is a mutation and revision of realist painting, which expresses traits of microscopic sociology and simple humanist sentiments towards the lower rungs of society.

 Liu Xiaodong’s new paintings, Three Gorges Big Migrants and Three Gorges New Migrants have recorded and presented the weakness and helplessness of individuals in a specific historical context through grand and magnificent historicist realist painting. The Three Gorges construction project, the rubble of the demolished buildings, the adults with their agitated yet bored expressions, the children with their naïve and mischievous expressions…these sights all come together to construct a new historical drama. These visual scenes have transcended our normal definition of painting, arranging the dramatically choreographed plot elements like scenes in a film, leading to some mutations and some connections between his paintings and realism. His arrangement of facial features is extremely accurate, and in comparison with authentic and skilled academic painting, his painting language has a tendency towards “bad painting”. The language has a destructive feel. It has nakedly presented the death of respect for man and values and the smallness of the individual against a backdrop of a chaotic and rumbling society through a language that is more frank and uninhibited than its predecessors. With his use of historical documents and photos of the Three Gorges relocation effort, it is as if we have touched the thick dust of time.

Chen Weimin’s new works, Little Foreign House, BMW and SONY have recreated the rural advertisements pasted in mosaic tiles on new buildings in the urban-rural transitional zones. Those slogans and spiels are full of very Chinese materialistic yearnings and dreams. Things like “If the countryside is to grow rich, we must have fewer sons and plant more trees”, “BMW advertisement” and “villa advertisement” have “stayed with the times” in their documentation of the transformation in the areas where China’s cities meet the countryside. There is some humor and absurdity, but it is also China’s most realistic pop. His painting language has changed drastically from the ‘90’s new expressionism and the Cultural Revolution images so full of iconic historical memories in the Props series, returning from the historical dreamlike memories to the context of common contemporary people. The single lines and color smears have a bit of the worldly advertising painting technique. The bright, garish and noisy scene of reality in the urban-rural zone is the most basic change in the cells of China’s lowest rungs, from their faces to their hearts and vision, it is the most real change that has occurred. Worldly superficiality and self gratification have become the foundational hues of contemporary Chinese society. Without batting an eye, these painters are observing and recording, using a traditional medium to plainly express their voices and views on this turbulent and chaotic transitional society.

Yu Jie and Duan Jianyu are artists who do both installation and painting. Their works all have many lines that spread out simultaneously, especially in the tangled cross-media dislocation of installation and painting language, adding different codes for us to deal with in reading their works. The language of Yu Jie’s new works False Mountain and Pierce shows traits of a diarist and a free scribbler, and has the linguistic traits of the international artist. Her pictures are shrouded in a dense fog and feeling of emptiness. There is an orderly single line and smear technique, a puppetized stage and props that float in the air, such as false mountains, animals and daggers that all come together to create a ridiculous and contradictory multifaceted narrative space. Is it a parable, or a psychologically realistic dream? There is no specific sense of time in her images. Is it the past, the present or the future? The shattered fragments are unintelligible like partial sentences in water-stained handwriting. To break these codes, do we rely on our intuition or on divination? It is as if she has woven a complex code program into the picture, making the decoding and viewing of these paintings difficult and obscure. Entering into her virtual image world through a passageway would appear difficult. Walk around all you want, you’re still just knocking about on the surface; she has multiple narrative spaces unfolding simultaneously. If we compare with her installation Cloud Mass from the 2000 exhibition Daydream, we will discover the origins of her grammar – surrealism. The colors of the melting cloud are quite dazzling, and the placement of aliens imbues the piece with an arousing sensation that’s hard to describe, but this joyful arousal also has an unfortunate anxiety inside. These elements have continued to expand into her paper-based works…

Duan Jianyu’s Artistic Chicken series playfully and mockingly imitates the bourgeois tones of impressionist master Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, sticking himself in the urban scenery with the banality, disorder, triviality, senselessness and “refinement” of art coexisting. Her painting language is full of naïve scribbled texture, and the dislocation of monkeys, chickens, pigs, bears, fruits, plants, famous paintings and airline stewardesses creates an estranged space. This kind of visual experience has a fabricated legitimacy, and these painting languages have a form of visual revelry. There is no clear theme or established set of symbols; these “childish” scribbles might be a subversion of classical painting or a visual habit of mockery, full of chaotic and free revelry. The image narration appears veiled and subtle, and we can’t “clearly” dissect the meanings in her images through the past methods of decoding symbols, because all of the narratives in her paintings are concealed beneath the picture…those “mischievous” slapstick comedies and the stacking of real and virtual have richer narrative methods and lines.

Zhou Kui is a painter who resides in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, far from the center of contemporary art. Her paintings are visualized diaries, full of fables and fairytales. These visual diaries have recorded trancelike memories full of pain, joy and solitude. Those surreal images that are both animal and human appear heavy, lofty and weird. Those hairy fantastical mixtures of animal and female symbols, the connection and fusing of snakes, crows, cats and women, especially the mixture of vaginal and animal elements, remind me of Frida Kahlo’s images that penetrated through life and death, becoming a bridge she used to cross time and space. Kahlo has her own unique decoding system that falls between history, reality and the individual spirit. Her surrealist pictures, so full of enthusiasm, pain and desire, do not spring from the psychological dream state or conceptual linguistic design but from her life’s reality and her painful experiences. Family history, car accidents, miscarriages, marriage and the destruction of love, the international socialist movement and the Mexican independence movement all serve as starting points for her image narrative. Her last words, “I hope leaving is joyful and I hope never to return”, pointing straight at the power of the spirit, reaffirmed that great art is full of the spirit! Zhou Kui’s wounded allegorical images are full of a thick tragic atmosphere. She doesn’t have the grandness and complexity of Frida Kahlo, but she has magnified the spirit of today’s individual in a drastically changing China, and the psychological and physiological pain that is wrought on the body. On top of that, the images and ideas are also strongly sexual. In her image world, the body is both weapon and battlefield pricking the viewers’ skin and pores. It gives off a tingling sensation! Today’s art is universally becoming more and more of a conceptual and intellectual contest, and less connected to the heart. Contemporary art has become a stage where virtuosos and cheaters play on the same stage! Saying it makes it seem even more pallid and powerless. This power that aims straight at the heart brings us back to the scene of man; the power comes from the surreal everyday setting of today’s China, or maybe the sexual imagery is the reappearance of the “evil flower” on the battlefield of desire. Even more so, it is the expression and outpouring of the pain and torment in the depths of her soul.

Two important exhibitions, “Chinese Maximalism” and “Beads and Brushstrokes” which appeared in 2003 can be seen as the self-demonizing and symbolized exotic atmosphere of contemporary artists who have been emphasizing sociological narratives and “orientalism” since the late ‘90’s who go on to ignore the ontology of art language and revise it. Especially lacking in cultural roots, the tradition of “truth conveyed by text” has left our visuals full of meaning and questions. We’ve never truly been through the linguistic pursuits of the modernist period, especially the linguistic and visual logic developments of western abstractism, like the philosophical linguistic research of people such as Kandinsky and Malevich. “In the West, the development of linguistics has had a deep impact on philosophy, art and other fields. It is also the foundation of the linguistic methods in Western contemporary art”. Here, the repetition and stacking of languages has become the methodology. The theme has become the removal of meaning and formic language, with meaning as the process. “I emphasize a repetitive handcrafted process because the artist will attain curing and healing of the mind and even the body through this process, or this process is one of healing and comforting the heart.” The rise of this artistic phenomenon could be related to the restlessness of Chinese society today, leading them to choose healing and curing. With the repetitive crafting, the marks of effort and time stop here, showing us the deep connections between contemporary artistic language and historical cultural roots. In building a visual and spiritual labyrinth within virtual time, they have found something to follow within their own cultural roots. What separates them from previous contemporary artists who superficially employed the symbols of traditional culture is that the works of these painters have internally assimilated the spirit of these cultural roots, so that these elements are naturally melding and growing with the painter’s reality and the artistic language. Does this emphasis on complexity and hand crafted qualities in contemporary art have some relationship with the plurality and crafted qualities of Xu Bing’s ‘80’s work Heavenly Tome – Xi Shi Jian? Is there also a similarity to the “Japaneseness” and “Easternness” in Japanese modern art proposed by the Mono-Ha artists of 1960’s Japan?

Li Huasheng is an ink artist who became famous in the 1980’s, and was influenced early on by Chen Zizhuang. In the mid ‘90’s, in a long process of revision, he completed a major transformation. After removing all forms, symbols, people and events, he only retained unitary and orderly lines and markings, mundanely repeated and strictly controlled. He turned the process into the daily work of a Buddhist disciple, ceaselessly carrying it out like a Lama chanting scripture. This “diary of thought” had no concrete narrative, only the process. Those repetitive lines constructed a labyrinth of lines, or in his own view, the removal of all images and meaning. He named his works by time, and the marks of time stopped beneath his pen. But what lay beneath these lines? Was it cloudy mountains and misty seas? Was it landscapes? Or was it a stack of dislocated times and spaces? Or was it a broken code?

Zhou Yangming was a “northern floater” who came to Beijing from Zhejiang in the ‘90’s. In his paintings he constructed a kind of visual illusion which was linked to his heart. He attempted to create a path and bridge for an interaction between the illusion and his heart. Through a formidable “path-cutting path”, he found free breath and silent observation, giving himself a release. Through repetition and interweaving, he wove a complex code. “It was like densely packed lines of volcanoes erupting, which later calmed down and became track after track of orderly lines.” (Zhou Yangming’s memoirs) The countless paths created a tranquil and profound deep blue like the night sky. Were those countless paths turbulent fabrications, or were they nirvana, or were they the crystallization of endlessly extending fragments of time?

Wang Guangle’s works display a shocking determination and tenacity. Almost like an ascetic monk undergoing a long journey by foot, he uses large amounts of time reproducing and magnifying the patterns of terrazzo flooring. On a giant wall, the results of this tedious handiwork appear utterly meaningless, even “boring”. Through time, he absurdly turns the microscopic fragmented world into a paradoxical space. What looks to be a cold and routine job, when put onto this giant wall, transforms into a different dislocated space. We have no way of judging whether the wall has become a floor, or the floor has become a wall, and this job appears to have become a visual play on the paradoxes of space. Through his painstaking efforts, he has transfixed and extended the concepts of time and space in painting.

On-The-Scene Experience and Distortion of the Narrative

Shu Yang has summed up the phenomenon of so many Chinese artists using painting to express photography in the late ‘90’s as “Chinese Photographic Painting”, combing the lines of contemporary art in an era that is overflowing with images, and organizing the academic foundations of the visual experience, cultural aspects and painting aspects of photographic painting in the context of contemporary art. Maybe photography is just a pretext or an excuse, just an illusion or surface feature of the phenomena in contemporary society. The image era is visually contagious, and is different from the past where images were customarily explained through the methods of literature, philosophy and sociology; the texture of photography has a high level of visual illusion and contagiousness. Painting has returned to the visual, and maybe the methodology and roots behind the image are the true core issue.

Li Dafang’s early works placed images and text together, using the text to mislead the viewers about their understanding towards the images, creating a severe dislocation of indicator and reference. From this we can see his prejudice against image rhetoric. These images of unclear provenance give us feelings of dislocation, distortion and absurdity towards the painting experience and aesthetic judgment. His Broad Daylight created the spectacle of “ruins of the ruins”. Against the backdrop of a vast, expansive waste, the image has a thick feel of dust and an ugly realistic feel. There is an unclear connection between the deliberately disfigured people in the image and the lonely, ugly reality. The normal logic and lines of thought have been overturned, and suddenly, people are digging a ditch, searching. Is this mistreatment or self abuse? All of the atmospherics are confusing like untitled movie photos. Dafang’s images conceal metaphors, and all of the contradictory and absurd narratives weave a post-destruction image of a comedy about truth and lies. These images are a foggy labyrinth about the scene, and what unfolds before the viewer is an unknown realm. These allegories have revealed a simple and real power. These recollections or recordings of the ruins are not amusing rips but the feeling of tranquility and helplessness that comes after pain…

Since 2002, Zhang Xiaotao has been magnifying his experiences of the continuing chaotic accident scene that is Beijing. He has always been changing between all kinds of microscopic images, like dead rats, molding cakes, cluttered dining tables, abandoned trucks, rotting strawberries, busy ants and medical waste. He uses a dense painting language to turn these microscopic images into macroscopic scenes, and he tries to create a “visualized anti-logic” behind the image and become a “creator of images”. On one side he “misleads” the reader into all kinds of sociological meanings on the surface and behind the image, and on the other side he pulls the reader back into the trap of painting language, creating a paradox between image and language. He emphasizes the methodology behind the image. From the explanation of the image to the live experience and the ontological painting language, it is not hard to see his doubts and contradictions. Five Flower Sea and Gift From Heaven Two seem like coordinated accidents or sketch plans of installation works. “This article has always revolved around the theme of the double nature of images. Just as a pile of stinking, rotting garbage can be heaven for microscopic creatures, a rotting strawberry can be a landscape painting. The differences between beauty and ugliness, large and small are always hard to determine in his paintings, and the forms on the verge of collapse face the conundrum of entering or retreating. This skepticism that is cultivated in his paintings has also penetrated into his imaginings about the future.”

Shi Xinning’s image rhetoric method comes from Mark Tansey’s “painting about painting”. “Mark Tansey uses his own paintings as a medium for carrying out reflection on painting art itself as a cultural phenomenon. Structure and rebuilding, modern and postmodern, theory and practice, text and image, history and reality, concrete and abstract, games and seriousness, ridiculous and seriousness, all realms of contrast exist as one. His works have a latent pathway that constructs all of this into an orderly unit. That is the parody combination method.”  “Shi Xinning’s works place the image of Mao into all kinds of news photos from China and abroad, concocting the realistic feel of the news. Another thing he does is he mixes classical scenes from art history with contemporary sights. Shi Xinning’s works use highly realistic illusions to project all of the fantasies and changes that an entire generation has experienced in the visual world, full of a wise and grieving sentiment.” Shi Xinning’s works lie between a constructed history and reality, searching for the connection and passage between modern Chinese history and reality. He is deeply pondering and searching for the critical point between contemporary images and the historical script, those absurd and mysterious misunderstandings and chance meetings. How could the intense change happening in today’s China not compel each and every person to produce ravings and subjective ideas?

This is a visualized era where information, networks, digits and film are multiplying and spreading out like cells. Visualized reading has already become the basic method of perceiving the world for a new generation. Early psychology used the interpretation and analysis of dreams to diagnose the patient’s psychological ills, and then contemporary psychology began to use the interpretation and analysis of images to interact with the patient. Through the change from the “interpretation of dreams” to the “interpretation of images”, we can see that images are the most direct and broad tools for the spread and exchange of information in the world. “Photography is the recreation and duplication of sights. This is an appearance or whole set of appearances that have become completely separated from the time and space that originally emerged and were saved. Having been saved for anywhere up to a hundred years, all images present a method of viewing”. The pixel image has changed our understanding of the real world. The image paradox is about the change in the viewing and reading of paintings. In the image world of British contemporary painter Glenn Brown, Frank Auerbach’s expressionist paintings have been flattened and in a cold, photographically realistic method, been accurately and absurdly transfixed. Whether we move far back or up close, we all sink into this giant illusionary visual hoax. He slightly warped Salvador Dali’s Civil War so that we couldn’t tell which work was the original. Targeted reproduction subverted a classic. Is this a joke or a deconstruction? This is a visual reading about the re-observation of paintings, a change in the way we “observe” paintings, where “looking” has become a contradictory paradox and reality. These “original reproductions” have seriously changed our spatial experience of viewing paintings. He has given art more characteristics of entertainment, games and subversion.

Li Songsong’s paintings are a rereading and composition about historical memories and daily experiences. He uses thick oil brushstrokes in a manner reminiscent of calligraphy studies, breaking up images piece by piece, even intentionally misreading. He calls this visual rereading “a trace copying another trace”. Could he be setting another visual trap? On the one hand we are attracted by the old historical photos, and when the viewer thinks hard about his connection to these old photos, he is then tricked by the expressionist painting language. These murky traces are perplexing. He is using traces to restore traces. His paintings are about the games and paradoxes between the reproduction of images and the language of painting. They are normalized historical photos, and they are also a visual experience covered, revised, magnified and given a low pixilated texture by the traces of expressionist language.

Fu Xiaodong’s Mechanical Life series is a fragmented magnification of what lies behind the ruins of the West Rail industrial district in Shenyang. She tries to use a traditional life studies method to reproduce the dilapidation and forlornness of this old heavy industry center that has lost the shine of legendary status in brush and ink. She is documenting and magnifying the microscopic world of this industrial refuse. This image work resembles pieces of an archeological survey. She uses immense paintings to express those tangled wires and pipes, the details of this sharp industrial refuse. The picture is full of listless nostalgia. This is about memories of forgotten ruins. This is the true spectacle of the ruins left behind after the fall of prosperity and the wastelands of the spirit. All forms appear as if in water and in fog. In the tangled lines of those cloudy mountains and foggy seas lies the rust stained industrial refuse, like the sickly yet beautiful scars of the poppy flower…maybe as time stretches out all forms will subside, leaving nothing but faint clouds…

Li Qing’s Let’s Find the Difference was inspired by a classic game of visual training and reflection. His doubts about painting in the era of the multiplying image are wise and sober. These observation methods from games give new potential to painting. On the many grounds of time, traces, illusions and crafting, he uses handcrafted marks to mock the paradoxical reality and paradoxical image. Maybe what’s most important is not the difference or connection between the two images, but that he uses a process that stacks the time and space of smeared painting. They allow painting to take on a completely different definition, bringing painting back to the daily game experience from the deep and murky grammar and complex image interpretations. The surface of painting is also becoming unknown like these chaotic times. Maybe it’s just a joke, a closed, cyclical visual pit, because we have no way of finding any reliable clues or answers in the tiny traces of the image.

The flattening tendencies of the internet, games, cartoons and comics

“Culture positively connects with a people or a nation; there is a difference between us and them, often carrying a certain amount of xenophobia, and at this point culture becomes an identity issue. Culture becomes a stage where all manner of political ideologies are competing for power, and then it is no longer a peaceful realm, but a battlefield.”

The mass culture of American sixties pop art widely influenced political pop for a time. In the mid and late ‘90’s, following the wholesale arrival of commercialism and the market economy and the drastic urbanization and modernization of Chinese society, mass popular culture became an important cultural resource in contemporary art. The term “cartoon generation” began with artists Huang Yihan, Jiang Heng and Xiang Ding in mid nineties Guangzhou, maybe filtered out of the domestic mainstream dialogue. When the cartoonization phenomenon truly emerged in the art market in 2005, it rolled out like a wave. “Have you cartooned?” became a fashionable tag. The popular culture that followed on the heels of economic globalization and the growth of commercialized society naturally grew in harmony with the new generation that grew up in this economy. Games and cartoons, cartoonish images became an important cultural resource and “collective unconsciousness” for the “children of the eighties”. These material elements, beautiful and full of desire, became their most natural linguistic resource. They would no longer follow the injured and critical cultural elite mentality, instead randomly playing with their tastes. They are trying to subvert the established aesthetic structure and visual experience through a networked and playful attitude. “Cheap, coquettish, naïve and posing” became the marks of the unconventional youth in the new era, such as the doubts that Bao Dong has about telling the difference between new cartoons and “primal” cartoons. Especially while the cultural war of animation aesthetics for dissemination by Japanese and national machinery is taking place between “old and new cartoons”, where is our own cartoon culture and cartoon aesthetic? For instance, when the “Ukiyo-e” prints of Japan’s Edo Period enters into the historical traces of Murakami Takashi and Yoshitomo Nara, how much can we really understand of cultural strategies against the backdrop of the spread of Japanese animation and globalization? Maybe cartoon and manga painting need more universal connections to historical roots and today’s realistic spirit, especially a connection to our own cultural visual elements.

Xiong Lijun’s Express Weekend Edition and Dada, Dada series deftly use elements of pop art, bright colors, a deep, flattened arrangement and the visual aggression of mass popular culture to subvert the traditional visual experience in painting. Those dizzyingly strong colors are about the artistic entertainment and revelry of the era of consumer materialism, and have a leaning towards “rococo”. This is a visual fairytale about beauty and flash, giving her works the brightness, freedom and sheen of “super girls” permeated with a youthful and outgoing vitality. The youth is being squandered and burned out, “getting my fill on QQ and BBS, having received the daily requirement of information explosions, I go off satisfied.” (Xiong Lijun’s notes) In between the internet and reality, the “new new humans” go to enjoy the instantaneous gratification and illusion in a virtual life.

Chen Fei’s early works used meat, animal organs and plastic paper to create a toy fairytale. This alienated toy fairytale appeared brutal and beautiful. These experiments in language and material had a profound effect on the cartoon painting language of his recent works Sea of Passion and Arousal. The abrupt pink background, fleshy red lips and yolk-yellow flesh colors have created a visualized metropolis of desire. The diarrheic meat balls, gaping mouths, toys shooting guns, sparkling pearls, subjective sexual organs, meat balls in intercourse, extravagant necklaces and ruthless tugging matches all seem like the violence, oddity, ruthlessness and humor of games. His work is to use toy fairytales to express the limitations of individual tolerance in China’s transforming society, and the alienation and damage caused to us by material desire.

Like a director, Tu Hongtao brings together the toys, violent scenes, materialistic women, sexual images and ridiculous rumors from the internet, games and cartoons to make a seductive yet realistic stage. The massive urbanized scenery becomes the backdrop for Dream Theatre. He uses the full-scene stage to create a magnanimous visualized fable about material desire and spiritual conflict. He uses repetitive handcrafted language to turn his back on the fashionable and mainstream flattened arrangement, and uses a surrealist and absurd narrative to cast off the new symbolizing trends in cartoon painting. Are these “fictionalized methods to cut into the essence” of images, these soap opera fables about youth and desire disillusionment or revelry? He has turned the macroscopic world into microscopic theatre fables that present our hard to express experiences of destruction, complexity, chaos, hope and sorrow.

Feng Zhengquan’s My Landscape puts together Chinese traditional landscapes, materialistic consumer products from a contemporary society of material desire and cartoon toys. The cartoon characters, plants and cosmetics construct an absurd narrative space as the traditional literati landscape has been turned into a consumable landscape. Within the two contradictory images he has expressed his doubts and thoughts on contemporary material society. Those collapsing traditional roots are now but the stuff of old dreams, and shiny consumer products seduce our material desire and spirit. He has recently made use of pop techniques, turning these pretty products into cheap wallpaper through airbrushing, pasted all over the walls of the gallery, which turns these bright and beautiful artworks into viewable and appreciable objects. This is truly a cyclical farce.

Li Yajuan’s Temporary Storage is a revision of the meaningless fragmentary language by a new generation of female artists. With the combination of image relationships of multiple lines and dull monotonous sounds, her works have an international artistic quality. There is only repetitive sight and sound, removed of narrative meaning, which through film language presents a diverse and chaotic working state, with rough sounds stimulating our physiological and psychological reflections. What is it they seem to be hinting at? The extravagant colors in her painting Kingdom of Dairy Cows can be sweet food and also pets and little beautiful people. They are stacked double identities. Are the dairy cow little beautiful people, Audi’s and BMW’s in Luxury Goods accompanying daydreams or reality? We have no way of decoding the complete information in her fragmented images. We may be able to see the superficial connections and logical relationships between the different media she uses, but somewhere in the middle of this transformation she has gained the expansiveness and uncertainty of new visual elements and language, leaving us with a lot of hope for her future work.

Is it a Malignancy or a Rebirth?

History is a problematic fog, and art history is no exception…(14)

Just like the complexity and chaos in late Ming Dynasty painting as described in Gao Juhan’s Mountain Beyond Mountain, today’s reality is also a mix of fog and doubt. “Aside from creating many really interesting works outside of their normal realm, Ming painters also established their relationship with traditional painting through very complex methods, and dabbled in art and literary theories, creating a complex interrelationship, which became the cultural game of that period. The rationalization of late Ming painting, and its high level of self-consciousness, created a rare set of circumstances for various forms of art.” The imitation and reinterpretation of tradition in the late Ming was because of the Philosophy of Mind from the Southern Song Dynasty and the later Neo-Confucianism, especially the theories developed by Wang Yangming (1472-1520), which placed importance of inner and outer unity, the “harmony of knowledge and action”. The deep doubts and questions towards tradition in the philosophy of the late Ming had an unobtrusive influence on the painters of the time, or maybe it was a confluence. “Follow the ancients, follow heaven” became a stylized maxim, but they slowly lost their talented and subversive nature. The late Ming painters Xiang Shengmo and Zhang Hong were both creative masters with naturalist visual experience who slipped through the cracks of orthodox literati painting history, but the lofty position of Dong Qichang wiped out all of the other types of artists from that era. Maybe the contemporary setting is a foggy labyrinth, and the dust of history has already settled. Among that, there definitely lies a universal experience and methodology.

In this transformative and transitional social reality, everyone inside is anxious like ants on a flaming pot. This giant stage is full of a nervous air, always with the premonition that something big is going to happen, the smell of gunpowder about to go off…is it foggier now, or clearer? Is it market demand? Is it too much “drugs”, or has painting produced an antibody? Is it a benign genetic mutation, or is it malignant? We cannot predict the future, but painting has definitely returned. We can see that today’s new painting has cast off the old methods of so-called “conceptual painting”, and maybe painting subverting painting is a bit of a novice idea; too many points and ideas have turned painting into a simple task. Those so-called paintings can be independently filled in “discoveries” as long as the assistant follows the formula. It could be just be a simple method that’s been massed produced because of a market need. The abandonment of painting’, s linguistic characteristics appears today to be simplification. Not choosing the medium of painting is the subversion of painting. Painting has returned to the ontology of the language, returned to “craftsmanship”, using “craftsmanship” and “labor” to express new techniques and new concepts. New painting has absorbed the visual elements and new aesthetic characteristics of other media and the language and grammar of new painting are extending into new conceptual methods. Maybe these changing genes have enhanced the painting antibody. Is this the opening or extension of the boundaries of painting? Has painting been reborn?

 Duan Shuangxi, “Dazhong Wenhua yu Weiguan Zhengzhi” (Mass culture and microscopic politics), Yishu yu Shehui, Hunan Meishu Chubanshe, 285.

 Gao Minglu, Linglei Xiandai Linglei Fangfa (Alternative Modernity Alternative Methods), Shanghai Shuhua Chubanshe, 19

 Li Xianting’s notes from curating the Beads and Brushstrokes exhibition, Nianzhu yu Bichu, Beijing Tokyo Art Project, 5.

 Mono-Ha was an artistic movement that took place in 1960’s Japan. It had an indirect relationship with minimalism, as an anti-formism that was based on material objects. The works often used installations to express the state or level of material objects (Mono). The meaning of the term Mono is quite vast, and lacking for a proper English term, it can be understood as “object” or “material”. From “Wupai” Yundong yu Riben Xiandai Yishu de Weiji (The Mono-Ha movement and the crisis in Japanese modern art), Meishuguan, Jiantian Zhe (Japan).

 Shu Yang, Zhongguo Yingxiang Huihua (Chinese photographic painting), Xianggang Wenhua Zhongguo Chubanshe, 2003.

 Qiu Zhijie, Weilai Kaoguxue (Future archaeology), Hubei Meishu Chubanshe.

 Duan Lian, Shiji Mo de Yishu Fanxiang  Xifang Houxiandai Zhuyi yu Zhongguo Dangdai Meishu de Wenhua Bijiao (Rethinking millenarian art – a cultural comparison of Western postmodern art and Chinese fine arts), Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, 58.

 Shu Yang, 798, Timezone 8 Books, 116.

 John Bogle, Guankan zhi Dao (About looking), Guangxi Shifan Daxue Chubanshe.

 Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism.

 Fu Xiaodong, Bu Kaopu de Yishu Qingnian de Quwei Zhuanxiang  Tan 70 Yidai Jingshen Zhenghou Tezheng de Yishu Chengxian, Hua Kan, 2006, 4. Can be found at http://www.art218.com/culture/criticism/200601/812.html

 Bao Dong, Katong You Zenmeyang? (So what if it is cartoon?), Arttom, http://arts.tom.com/1004/200599-23183.html.

 Lu Hong, Yi Xunihua de Fangshi Qieru Benzhi (Cutting into the essence through a virtual method), Tuxiang de Tuxiang, Guangxi Meishu Chubanshe.

 Lü Peng, 20 Shiji Zhongguo Yishushi, Hunan Meishu Chubanshe

 Gao Juhan, “Shanwai Shan, Wanming Huihua (1570-1644) (“Shanwai Shan, painting of the late Ming Dynasty, 1570-1644), Shanghai Shuhua Chubanshe, 1.

 

A version of this article appeared in Yishu Dangdai magazine, 2006, 3