Articles and Reviews
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Splinters of Jade: A Postscript/ Professor Dr. Sthaneshwar Timalsina

玉屑集 · 跋 / Sthaneshwar Timalsina教授

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Manchas Taoístas​ / Rubén Pose

道之荫翳/ 鲁本·波塞

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Mengyun Han: In Between Islands / Jonathan Goodman

无定/ 乔纳森˙古德曼

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Whence things have their origin:​The meaning of abstract painting and In Between Islands / Chong Fu

但萬物由它產生——抽象繪畫的意義與《無定》/ 傅翀

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Elegies for Emptiness/ Jonathan Goodman

无之挽歌/ 乔纳森˙古德曼

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L’EXPOSITION PERSONNELLE DE MENGYUN HAN/ Helina Bastais

Elegies for Emptiness


 by Jonathan Goodman



In contemporary art, in painting in particular, many viewers feel that they are witnessing a crisis of faith. Painting has so often been said to have died, many no longer take the genre seriously. This crisis—it is not an overstatement to call it that---has been made more complex by the global movements of young painters across art centers of the world—New York and London and Berlin, and in Asia, Beijing. As might be expected, the injection of foreign esthetics, media, and philosophies has created a situation in which artists may eclectically appropriate imageries that do not belong to their particular legacy. This causes problems in attribution and raises doubts about the artists’ good faith. Perhaps the best-known example is the affiliation of Asian artists with the New York school tradition of abstract expressionism, whose painterly considerations may seem to mimic aspects of Chinese ink painting from far earlier, say, the Tang Dynasty. This has become a truism, however—one that turns back upon itself, making the insight difficult to support. Its usefulness is outlived in the sense that not only is it facile to characterize such different cultures and epochs as similar, it also presupposes—wrongly!—that the melding of opposites will result in a perception enabling us to pocket the foreign artist’s works as our own.


The situation has gone on for some time, perhaps as long as a generation. The problem persists despite the fact that the fundamental perception, namely, the proximity of styles being seen as evidence of similar thinking, is clearly a misreading of the differences in painting traditions. This is particularly true when we compare the Chinese legacy of ink painting to the explosive moment of Western modernist abstraction, most especially in New York in the mid-20th century. Even today in American art school critiques, as this writer has witnessed, the identification of the two heritages shows that the practice of citing influences dies hard, even if it is true that those influences have not affected the artist’s work. Of course, the effects are usually understood to travel in one direction— Western modernism trumps all other expressions (at least in the West!). This is not to deny the awareness on the part of Chinese painters that it is possible to establish a dialogue with Western abstraction; however, it is a matter of concern because the conversation tends to lose its effectiveness in the face of clichéd perceptions of iconographic similarity. In fact, it doesn’t take much for someone to think about the problem before the sense of an actual likeness falls apart in one’s hands. Why must the Chinese practitioner of abstract painting necessarily imitate American post-war abstract painting, even if the picture seems to resemble American art?


Why indeed? It is said that oil painting has been part of Chinese culture for one hundred years; and it is also said that there hasn’t been a good idea in Chinese ink painting for one hundred years. One of the more difficult aspects of modern and contemporary Chinese culture, for the Westerner especially, is its reliance on oils as a painting material. Because oils are still relatively new in Chinese painting, what we have is an exploration of the medium that, freed of its Occidental legacy, can be used relatively neutrally—that is, without the immediate interpretation that Western art is being copied. Globalization of the art world does not always result in the establishment of like motives; it is possible, I think, for an artist to take on the trappings of another culture while being true to her own background. This is not just a matter of visual semantics; the problem runs deeper—to the point where the Chinese artist may embrace stylistic change in an attempt not to copy but to demonstrate her ability to remain Chinese, even when she is working out a style that does consciously appropriate that of another culture. So much has been said about the confluence between abstract expressionism and Chinese contemporary abstract painting that the insight has become a caricature of itself. Yet, at the same time, it takes a highly motivated and independent artist to divest herself, formally and thematically, of the implications of likemindedness.


It may not be possible to push the argument any further. Still, it remains highly interesting to explore the persistence of an artist’s first culture in art that looks as though it has been exposed to several other cultures. Part of the insistence of Chinese painters that they are not taking on Western painting as their guide may result from a certain rebelliousness toward Occidental dominance—it is clear by now that the American Century is finished, and that in art it may not have been as monolithic as has been thought, even at its best moments (the point has been made by British critic Edward Lucie Smith that abstract expressionism may have meant more to America for reasons of social dominance rather than for esthetic ones). In the case of Mengyun Han, the artist whose work I will address, the question comes to mind whether her American education, first at Bard College in New York and then at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has resulted in the hybridization of her paintings. Still in her early twenties, she has directed her energies toward the use of oil in abstract inventions that usually would be perceived as a mixture of cultural effects. But the point is that this mixture may be called into question, primarily because influence across so wide a gap as there is between Asian and Western art is not easily justified.


Or at least it would seem so. The Western romance with Chinese painting and culture has by now a history, just as the Chinese development of Western art ideas has a history. Often, the insights are problematic, with misunderstandings gaining the upper hand. One doesn’t necessarily comprehend cultural differences in a short time; instead, what seems to happen is a cursory overall evaluation that is short in both detail and depth. Part of the problem has to do with fashion; there is currently a superficial hunger in the States for Chinese culture that is based on the recognition that China is becoming more dominant in world affairs. This is not only a political but also a romantic reading being picked up by the artists themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter which country they come from. I mean by this that young artists are in fact appropriating visual styles as if they were the latest fashions, and applying several kinds of imagery onto a single composition. The results are often striking, but mainly in a superficial sense; in such work, there is little or no internalization of the other culture’s depth, which is key to understanding its differences. Inevitably, there is the problem of attaining true discernment and letting it inform the artist’s sensibility: it is one thing to juggle symbols and another to understand them. Although elements of Chinese ink painting and flourishes in abstract expressionism can look astonishingly alike, that does not inevitably mean the thought that went into them is equally similar.


I have discussed these issues of cultural similarity, theoretical misunderstanding, and superficial eclecticism because they come to a point in the comprehension of Han’s paintings. The artist has been educated in America, yet she maintains ties to both America and China in both a physical and metaphysical sense. Her education in the United States has given her the tools with which to consciously adapt to influences from both sides of the world. Han considers herself someone who is skilled at combining both experiences, although it is also true that she has become more critical of her choices due to a deeper understanding of her original and adopted cultures in a globalized world. Adding to the complexity of her vision is the response of her audience, which may not be in a position to adequately understand the mix of issues that constitute Han’s esthetic. Often the understanding is superficial, especially when Han’s work exists in dialogue with the legacy of the Chinese ink tradition, to the point where she uses ink in her own paintings. Perhaps Han’s achievement lies in her refusal to serve any one particular culture, so that the blend of Asian and Western styles actually constitutes a perception that declines to bow to a particular background. This is, I think, an issue that will come more and more into recognition as artists travel and are abroad in foreign countries.


As Han has explained to me, the heart of her work has to do with adumbrating a sense of mystery, which she feels lies in the center of nature. This mystery is quite tragically constrained by the damage done by people and their associated industries, yet her feelings remain inclined to celebrate the essential enigma of nature, an action which proves to be a path of the highest potential—if only we were to pay attention to its signs and signals. Indeed, Han’s respect for what we might call the “otherness” of nature—its essentially inexplicable center—moves beyond an inclination to represent toward a desire to praise, or at least assert, the beauty of the landscape. It is by no means a matter of inscrutability; rather, Han’s choice relegates creativity to a secondary role, faced as she is with the massive presence of the outside world. Perhaps the imagery would be best understood as essentially spiritual in nature, to be noted without fully being understood. It is also true that her vision is deeply affected by Daoism and Chinese philosophy, whose understanding has help Han remain connected to an intuitive intellectual process, one nearly as interesting as her art. In its charged realism, Daoism strengthens her position as an artist, enabling her to proceed with the recognition that emptiness precedes all being.


Han’s imagery tends toward cloudy, amorphous, and billowing dark color—not to obscure so much as to embody the unknown. In this sense, hers is a serious, searching art. Yet one feels instinctively that the art is not about her—if it were, it would be easier to link it to the abstract expressionists’ egotistical sublime—but about the subject matter that has all of us, artist and audience, in its grip: the loss of habitat, flora and fauna. At the same time, it brilliantly reflects the nearly unspoken insight used in Chinese philosophy, in particular Daoism, which posits a visionary acceptance of the world as it is, proceeding from the void. Yet the language of Daoism, much like the imagery of Han’s own paintings, belongs to a metaphorical intelligence that can be said to lie at the center of Chinese art and intellectualization. Actually, Han is concerned with the way Chinese literati painters use the landscape as a way of expressing their complicated feelings about the fall of their country and their fate. It may be said that this concern is just as important, if not more so, as the experience of the natural forms being painted. Daoism posits a path that is essentially unknowable without the help of intuition; the same may be said of Han’s artistic work. Additionally, she is paying homage to her past—the way the literati painters create a style with reveals a social stance.


Daoism is central to Han’s thinking. Daoism enables the world to take place, although the whys and hows of its workings are relatively mysterious. If the mystery of Daoism is a romantic one, and as a result concentrates not only on reality but also the mystical truth behind it, we can reply that current realism in art has more or less completely failed in its reading of the landscape, primarily because of its emphasis on form alone. Looking at the core values of Han’s work, we see a virtuous refusal to interpret nature on her terms—as opposed to accepting the more difficult, but also more rewarding view of nature on its terms. Doing so may not be possible in an absolute sense, but the effort by itself maintains the hope of responsible actions, in the face of civilization’s decay. Sadly, the decline in culture is due in fact to specific changes in global society: they are, specifically, the current triumph of capitalism and the ongoing Americanization of culture nearly everywhere. And we are no longer in a position of choice—either we confront what we have done, or the damages will become permanent, if they have not already done so. Han’s art speaks to a deep-seated dissatisfaction seen in many intellectuals, who feel that their awareness merely underscores their powerlessness to effect change. On the other hand, it is likely naïve to assume that art can effect change on a massive level, although it is clear that art is capable of affecting individuals’ ideas and feelings. Perhaps it is best if we acknowledge the problem in all its destructive truth. This is something that Han does, but whatever we do, we must remember that the problem is not going to go away. Indeed, the difficulty looms ever larger, with capitalism exploiting and alienating large numbers of working people, and with American popular culture replacing indigenous forms of art. It is a continuation of a process going back more than a few generations. There is a crisis in world culture, in which the gap between high and low cultural forms is so great as to deny any possibility of bridging the chasm between the two.


Han’s commitment to a philosophically aware and transcendental treatment of art can be seen in all her work. But perhaps her vision of nature is especially clear in the five-part work Letting 1. Highly ambitious in its presentation, the painting demonstrates an unusually thorough understanding of organic abstraction, while at the same time bringing to the fore an imagery suggestive of forests and trees. The two end paintings are painted a tan color, while the two much darker panels set between the lighter ones are very dark, their imagery muted yet nonetheless indicative of tree trunks and branches and attendant foliage. Interestingly, each of the panels is of a different width; this tends to jar the viewer into paying attention to their claims, and helps emphasize the paintings’ individual bodies of imagery. The left-end panel is likely the most abstract, with relatively little imagery indicative of nature, but the two black panels and the right- end panel can be read relatively easily as referencing woodlands. The large panel on the middle left is dense with vertical trunks that eerily echo a dark forest. The middle-right panel is painted almost entirely black except for the top, which resembles underbrush; and the far-right panel looks like it is portraying evergreens. But, ironically, Han explains that the work turned out to resemble nature after it was done. The imagery was not consciously designed. So she was thinking about philosophy as much as nature.


And in addition, Han remains unsure whether she wants the interpretation to center on the depiction of nature alone. In fact, she comments, it was T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets that influenced her. “Burnt Norton,” the first of the four quartets, concerns time and eternity. In a structure corresponding with the poem, Han arranged the panels of the painting to give her viewers a sense of time as they walked past the four separate imageries. In this way, the experience of seeing her work resembles the experience of looking at a Chinese horizontal scroll painting. Han has installed the four works so that the two on the left meet the two on the right in a corner, intimating that one might turn around and walk back to the beginning. She is representing not only imagery but also time via the actions of her audience; the reexamination corresponds to the Eliot’s line in “Burnt Norton”: “In the beginning is my end, in my end is my beginning.” In this work Han asks, quite rightly, certain questions that remain unanswerable even in the face of art: How does one know which is the beginning and which is the end? Are we even certain that our linear path is from left to right? Finally, how do we understand time in a scroll, or a circular path, as a whole?


Han does not see the panels as belonging to a set installation. She feels that the form can be reversed, and that the panels can be shown individually as works of art. Putting the four paintings together allows for a dialogue between them. She tends to trust her first impulse in painting, wanting, as she says, “to maintain the freshness of certain ideas.” In Chinese painting, rice paper and ink are materials that do not allow editing; consequently, the artist must fully concentrate on the task at hand. Han asserts that one work she did was finished in five minutes, but she adds pointedly that she was following her instincts—the imagery had been carried in her mind for some time. A Chinese axiom explains it well: “When one draws bamboo, it is already traced in his heart.” One must be in the right moment to put down something that is precise, fresh, and to the point. Instincts are meant to be followed because the artist knows what she intends to accomplish before she begins. This is possible because she has already explored the world and knows the image because she bears it within him. She doesn’t need to know the tree or rock or flower in a detailed manner. In fact, Han rejects scientific precision in favor of an intuited reality that does not entirely depend on actual observation.


There is something else that Letting 1 offers. It concerns the representation of something like a forest’s energy, which most people would at best consider abstract and beyond any painter’s likeness. How can the energies that lie at the core of the forest be described, especially if that core is a construct of people’s imagination rather than possessing a recognizable form? Even if this were possible to do, how do we know that Han is attempting just such a portrait? Finally, what is the purpose of such a portrayal? In conversation, Han talks of the mystery one finds in nature, and acknowledges the idea that she is painting abstractly in order to bring into view a nearly palpable expression of pure energy—the forest’s chi, one might say. Her approach is consequently necessarily abstract since she is detailing spiritual realities in addition to the forest proper. This is not so different from one’s experience with Western abstraction—for example, the calligraphic paintings of Mark Tobey or the muted forms of William Baziotes, American artists both. Yet there is a difference, too: Han roots her mystery in the tangible reality of the forest, with images that do in fact look like trees and underbrush. At the same time, abstraction is key to her art, for it allows Han to paint an essence much more effectively than rendering easily recognizable natural forms. This essence in turn belongs to Daoist philosophical beliefs. Emptiness exists before being, but once the latter takes place, the manifestations of its reality, in the form of nature, can be addressed in painting.


Yet painting is a cultural activity with precedents, not an outpouring of nature. Although Han means to paint the ineffable by way of suggesting natural forms, they result more from looking at Chinese painting than walking in a forest (something the artist does not in fact do). This seems fair enough, for without the experience of Chinese painting we are left in a poorly imagined environment—one not specific enough to support Han’s suggestive metaphysics. So, instead of relying on rhetoric whose support is largely invisible, the artist bases her intimations on nature, a physical reality that cannot be gainsaid. This is likely the best that can be done to outline so spiritual a concept as the mystery of nature or, for that matter, the void in Daoism. We know, however, that this is Han’s intention not only because she tells us so in conversation, but also because the imagery we can make out is at once implicit abstraction and explicit figuration; the trees determine the implications of her rhetorical argument. Finally, we need to address her paintings’ purpose or motivation: why would an artist devote herself to so abstruse a concept as the characterization of something we can intuit but do not necessarily see? It is impossible to know from the paintings alone what Han’s purposes are, but there remains the fact that her images body forth forms recognizable in nature. Thus, that would be her platform for expressiveness that addresses the intangible. The implications of the painting intimate a sharp concern with the future of nature or, sadly, its current state.


If we cannot keep the forms of the forest alive in actuality, we must continue to envision its presence in lyric—that is to say, imaginative—terms. If it is accepted that nature can contain forces beyond our understanding, then we might be able to stop its exploitation out of respect for its spiritual existence. It is impossible to say that such an insight is the property of Chinese intellectuals and artists alone. Yet we can claim that the Chinese understanding of nature, as evidenced in its ink paintings, has a force and a comprehensiveness that give it great strength. Daoism’s notion of emptiness lies at the heart of her art. This makes Chinese culture stand out with regard to other traditions, and I think this is what lies at the base of Han’s efforts in general, and what animates the painting series Letting. The concept of the efflorescence of nature is surely not Chinese alone, yet Han has seen fit to place her sensitivity within a Chinese framework. She does so, not so much because she has spent five years studying painting in America, but because her experience in the United States helped her understand her own culture better: she has been able to contrast and compare her experiences in China and America. Her decision to emphasize her Chinese legacy is on one level an alternative response to her Western education, mostly because she has felt the need to reach for something deeper, something more connected to who she is as an artist.


In the painting series Wandering Mind, we have a situation whereby Han’s independence from abstract expressionism might be questioned. These paintings are black and white with heavy overlays of black. Both are thoroughly expressionist in their formation and end result; one can almost see Han’s process develop on the canvas. The relation between white and black, or it might be said, between emptiness and being, is sharply defined in both paintings. For Western viewers, it would be hard to see these works as only Chinese in nature, mostly because they connect so well with American paintings of the mid-20th century. Han herself would acknowledge some influence; however, it is also true that she paints according to the Daoist principles we have mentioned. We talk in English about issues being black and white, but we lose the subtlety of the interaction between them by doing so. In the case of Han’s two works, there is a real explosiveness between the two tones, but it is just as easy to see them as defining a position between the void and its real-life consequences in form. Nature doesn’t really exist here, but abstract forces do, and they delineate what amounts to a struggle between form and its origins.


The two paintings Samsara 1 (2013) and Samsara 2 (2013) are set up so that the edge of the first work sits atop the second, which leans against the wall at an angle. As a viewing experience, the installation of the two painting brings the viewer’s eyes upward, as if he were scanning heaven. Samsara 1 shows us a darkened work that involves layers of black, with bits of white poking through. We remember that in Chinese painting the notion of emptiness is brought into view as an engendering form of being, not as the final stop of an endgame, which is much more Western in outlook. In this painting, the black doesn’t hide so much from the white as it issues from it, confirming the Daoist position that the world’s origins are essentially beyond our cognizance, even if on some level we recognize those origins as coherent.


In Samsara 2 (2013), we find a densely painted body of imagery that relates to the idea in the title: the Buddhist cycle of death and rebirth that we find in the real world. Undertones of moss green are seen through the mostly black painting; there is a notable lyricism that connects the viewer to the concept of a regularly repeating reality, bringing into mind the five-panel painting Letting 1 described above. By extension, we can posit the cyclic nature of cultural achievement and national power. The forms in Samsara 2 are mixed and hidden, likely commenting on the decay of culture in China, with its embrace of money and popular culture. On the other hand, the image is wondrous and mysterious, presenting us with being as best as it can be understood by the human mind. We must remember, though, that Daoism presents emptiness as a positive as a positive and affirmative force, from which the forms of the world are generated. So the philosophy brings hope, despite our tattered circumstances.


Inevitably, it proves mistaken to conduct a comparison of cultures in Han’s case. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine to what extent she has been affected by her Chinese upbringing and her American education. Still, she has consciously decided to return to her cultural beginnings. At a time when so many artists have studied throughout the world and have seen fit to make art reflective of cultural eclecticism, it is interesting to see a young painter like Han claim her origins as her greatest influence. Doing so does not make her ineluctably closer to nature. Yet the painting tradition in China is such that the argument can be made in favor of its extraordinary accomplishments in rendering wildlife, mountains, and trees. Its art possesses great insight into both the forms and energies of natural phenomena. It seems right to me that Han would favor this tradition—even if only to support an account of nature that is personal and that refers to the ongoing damage inflicted by the industrialization of China itself, which results from the country’s wholesale embrace of capitalism. If nature is in significant difficulty—and it is—a protective strategy in art might well include the attempt to present our inability to grasp its essential mysteriousness. This would place a correct responsibility upon us in regard to harming the landscape, and, at the same time, it would allow nature to remain other, that is, different from ourselves. But it is also important to note that here that Daoism strongly affects Han’s outlook; she approaches the task of painting with a visionary point of view. By taking on such a view, the artist is able to suggest questions having to do with abstraction and figuration and how they relate to Daoist philosophical concepts.


Han makes this clear in much of her work. In In Succession 1, we see two smaller vertical panels —the orientation of the panels affirms the artist’s commitment to Chinese art, specifically scroll painting. On the left is a painting that is densely black, but which allows for some inchoate forms to be seen. On the right we see a panel that consists of amorphic shapes against a white ground. Combined, the two narrow strips of wood would seem perfectly abstract—if it were not for the intimations of organic form in both. Not only artists but also nature devises its own abstractions, and these can be understood as having evolved in pursuit of the continuation of the species. We can document the way this happens, but not the reason why it happens. This is, I think, the central point Han is alluding to. She indicates that these paintings are about photograph representation and the idea of illusion—the way the eye often tricks the mind. The panels defy easy interpretation, perhaps because they derive their inspiration from photography. We know that photography mimics experience, while paintings embody it. Illusions seem more real than reality. Still, a riddle, having to do with the philosophical understanding of nature, remains. We cannot solve the crux of nature, but we can describe it. There are limits to our knowledge, but we can make educated, that is to say Daoist, guesses and hope that our intuition is right. By remaining mysterious in her paintings, Han shows us how important it is to allow the mystery to survive.


In In Succession 2, Han seems to turn to painting itself as an example of nature. The work is a diptych, consisting of a heavily impastoed, greenish-black canvas on the left and a more lightly handled, tannish-brown canvas on the right. There is no conceivable reference to external nature in either of the paintings, with the result that we must turn to the very material of the pigment (oil) itself, as a reference to nature. One of the more important developments brought about by American painters in the mid-twentieth century was the recognition that paint did not need always to be in the service of representation or perspective; instead, it might be appreciated in its own right, simply as a material. The intellectual consequences of this perception are striking, for they suggest that paint might become its own subject—as though it were part of nature! One cannot be sure, but maybe this is just what Han has done in the diptych. Perhaps she is asserting that paint may reference its place in the world when she concentrates on the act of painting alone. The viscous, fluid quality of her Western materials is no longer treated as a means but as an end in itself. It is here that Han diverges from the past she has chosen, referring instead to the recent tradition of abstract painting per se.


Yet doing so on her part does not necessarily mean that she has given up her conception of nature as a mysterious entity. If in fact she is treating paint itself as a subject, it is part of the perceivable world—and by extension, the natural world. A tentative bridge has been made between nature and culture, ensuring that the dialogue between the two remains part of what sustains us—not only as artist and audience but also as inhabitants of the world. This is extremely important as an accomplishment because as long as the dialogue remains, we have reason to hope that it will intensify our desire to save what we can of nature. Art seems to be the tie that joins inner to outer states, even when that outer state remains other and beyond our comprehension. Identification with the particulars of a culture gives us a path to follow; in Han’s case, it is reassuringly the path of early experience. This is the means—the conduit—by which one approaches the real world. But it does not happen that the approach transforms itself into complete cognizance; instead, it enables us to guess at the essence of nature. As we know, we see the world but guessingly; our sense of form, as a conveyor of meaning, is incomplete, as is our comprehension of where or why those forms exist. In the case of Han, these guesses have genuine weight, in part because she is technically gifted, and in part because the Chinese tradition she has chosen enables her to advance upon extraordinary achievement. Both her skills and her affiliation allow her to represent nature as something larger than our comprehension can make sense of, something grander and more complex. It should be remembered that her alignment with Chinese culture does not inevitably constitute a rejection of her Western training. It means, instead, that she has used her American education to make a decision about where she stands. Certainly, there is a tradition of mysticism regarding nature in American art—one immediately thinks of the Hudson River School and modernists such as Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keefe. But the implications of such artists remain permanently different from the Chinese legacy. Ink painting—and we now recall that Han consistently uses ink in her own paintings—cannot be subsumed under a worldview, much less under the aegis of anything Western. It is its own crowning achievement. Han’s esthetic intelligence is such that she chooses to remember alternatively from what she has been taught in the United States. This alternative memory allows her to pick up on a visionary approach to nature that does not analyze or dissect its energies. Instead, she moves forward in the best sense: she leaves nature the ways she found it—eloquent, of endless interest, and impenetrable beyond our limited understanding.


Published on Fronterad, 09/2013


Jonathan Goodman is an art writer based in New York. For more than thirty years he has written about contemporary art–for such publications as Art in America, Sculpture, and fronterad (an Internet publication based in Madrid). His special interests have been the new art of Mainland China and sculpture. He currently teaches contemporary art writing and thesis essay writing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.






无之挽歌


乔纳森˙古德曼


许多评者认为,现代艺术,以绘画艺术为甚,正经历着一场信仰危机。“绘画艺术已死”的说法屡闻不鲜,流派之说也已为明日黄花。而这场并未言过其实的危机,因着全世界各地艺术中心,包括纽约、伦敦、柏林、北京在内的年轻人的推动,也变得更为错综复杂。正如人所期,随着异域美学、传媒与哲学观念的入住,艺术家们可能会“兼收并蓄”地将别国文化艺术遗产归入自家门下。如此一来,艺术流派的划分就成了问题,艺术家的信仰也相应发生动摇。其中最典型的例子则是:纽约抽象表现主义传统学院派画家认为亚洲水墨画应当归属于自家门下,但其实前者才有模仿后者之嫌,毕竟中国水墨画历史悠久,渊源于唐朝。因此,这种陈词滥调几乎是无依据可言的,也常被嗤为不经之说。要知道,将如此不同的文化和时代定义为相似的东西谈何容易?更何况,这种说法还作出了一种错误的假设——对立两方流派的融合一定会催生一种理念,使得我们不自觉地将外国艺术作品的元素纳入自己“囊中”的此类情形由来大约已有一代之久。 “不同流派存在相近的内容则证明它们蕴含的思维方式也相似”的基本认知显而易见是对绘画传统差异的一种误读,但这个问题却仍然一直存在。尤其在比较中国传统瑰宝——水墨画和西方现代抽象主义(于20世纪中期在纽约迎来了它的快速发展阶段)时,这个问题更是愈发的突出。就笔者观察,美国艺术学院派时至今日的评论导向仍是积习难改:在讨论中西这两种文化产物流派归属时,依然强调“影响”,尽管有时候,这些画家的作品创作确实未受另外一方艺术流派影响。当然,在现今全球背景下,人们往往认为这种影响是单向的——换言之,是西方现代主义在对其他表现主义施加影响(至少在西方如此)。不过,这并不是要否定中国画家也期望主动与西方抽象主义谋求对话、介绍和输出自身特点的事实。不过“图像相似就意味着流派一致”的谬论长期的存在,往往让这种对话失去其应有的效果,所以这也是一个值得关注的议题。实际上,不需多少工夫人们就能明白中国水墨画和西方抽象表现主义是否存在真正的相似性。不过就算中国抽象画画家的作品与美国的抽象画具有相似性,但这本就是中国画由来已久的历史传统,他们有何理由一定要模仿战后才兴起的美国抽象派绘画呢?


   为何会出现这样的状况呢?众所周知,油画引入中国已有100多年,而此期间,中国水墨画的发展乏善可陈。中国现当代绘画文化之所以处于这进退维谷的困境,一重要原因就是世界主流绘画创作过度依赖油彩作为绘画材料,这点对于西方画家表现得尤为明显。不过这也事出有因,毕竟油彩在中国绘画界还属新生事物。因此,我们现在的首要任务就是积极探索一种没有“西方”标签、能自如为我们使用的绘画材料,以避免绘制出的作品被简单粗暴地解读为——模仿、甚至是抄袭西方绘画。艺术全球化也并不总是造成不同绘画流派间相似的动机,我的观点是:一位艺术家是可能在汲取其他文化特性的同时保持其对自身母文化的坚守的。这已超乎视觉语义学的概念,是一个极具深刻意义的问题,特别是在讨论韩梦云的绘画创作时。尽管韩梦云确实是有意识地汲取了异域文化的特性,进行了绘画风格的调整,但她仍然希望能够尽量在非“复制”的前提下,保证对于自身母文化的坚守。总而言之,西方抽象表现主义和中国当代抽象绘画之间有重合之处已是老生常谈,陈词滥调。然而此时,能够出现一位目标高度明确、自我意识极强的艺术家,奋力让自身的作品在形式和内容上摆脱“相似模式”的影响,这不由得让人眼前一亮。


    上述关于相似性的讨论已无继续展开的可能性。但是,去探索在多元文化影响下产生的作品中,创作者母文化的影响比重仍是相当有趣的。部分中国画家一直以来对“西方文化主导”的状态怀有抵触情绪,因而坚持不愿以西方绘画作为模板去学习,效仿。不过,如今我们可以明确的一点是,“美国世纪”已成过去式。而且其实就算是在美国艺术的鼎盛时期,艺术界中也从来没有如人们认为的“一家独大”的局势。(此观点来自于英国评论家爱德华·路希·史密斯,他认为,抽象表现主义之于美国的社会影响超过其美学意义)。在欣赏韩梦云的画作时(详细评论见后文),一个问题不由在我脑中浮出,那就是她先后在纽约巴德学院和新泽西州罗格斯大学的求学经历是不是她作品具有“混血”特质的原因。韩梦云现在不过才20多岁的年纪,却已将大多精力投入到油彩抽象画的创作上,这常常被视为是文化混合影响的产物。不过因为这种影响超乎常理地跨越了中西方文化之间巨大的“鸿沟”,所以混合的产物往往又会让人心生疑问。


    或者乍眼看去是这样。西方对中国绘画与文化的兴趣,以及中国对西方绘画理念的发展,都由来已久。不过通常情况下,其中的观点却因为错误的理解而存在问题。因为在短期内人们不一定能够完全理解文化差异;就算能理解,大多也只是粗浅的认识,浮光掠影,细节粗糙,缺乏深度。当然,此问题还是归咎于潮流所趋。现如今,中国在全球事务中发挥的作用越来越重要、国际地位不断提高,因此在美国兴起了一股对中国文化的追求热潮。当然,不仅仅是政治因素在推动这股浪潮,艺术家们自己的艺术浪漫追求也是重要原因。不管是来自何国的视觉流派和风格,年轻的艺术家们都一股脑地吸收,将多种不同的意象融合在一副作品中,并视之为最新式的时尚。这样的作品往往非比寻常,但也半间不界。因为在其中很难看到他们所吸收的异域文化蕴含着的深层次的内涵,然而这往往又是理解文化差异性的关键。总而言之,艺术家们要想获得真知灼见并洞察其底蕴绝非易事。流于形式地堆积、混合多种文化符号与真正理解它们的内涵是两码事。尽管中国水墨画的诸多元素与抽象表现主义的兴盛有着惊人的联系,但这并不意味着二者背后所蕴含的思想全然相同。


    我在上文中论述了文化相似性、理论误解和肤浅折中主义,因为他们三者对于理解韩梦云的作品至关重要。这位画家,曾求学美国,但她在形而上和形而下层面同时依赖于中美两方的文化。在美的求学背景使得韩梦云得以在两方文化中游刃有余。不过同时,在全球化背景下对于母文化和后来文化更深入的理解也使得她对于自己的选择更具批判精神。同时,尽管观者们也许并不能完全理解韩梦云交织混合的美学概念,但他们的反馈同样也增益了她观点的复杂与深度。在通常情况下,观者的理解流于表面,特别是对于韩梦云那些使用笔墨作画、蕴含了中国水墨画传统理念的作品,更是不得其解。韩梦云的卓越成就很大一部分归因于她拒绝归属在某个单一文化的框架内,中西流派的交织混合更让她不屈从于任何一种特定的背景。这一点,我相信将为越来越多旅居海外的艺术家所认可。


    根据韩梦云的阐述,她的作品旨在勾勒出居于自然之中的神秘性的轮廓。然而由于人类的过度开发和工业的破坏,这种神秘感被严重破坏。不过她仍倾心于这自然本质上不可解的密语,当然如果我们都能注意它的痕迹和信号,就会发现它通向最高的潜能。确切言之,对自然不可言说的核心,我们会称之为自然的“他者”,但韩梦云对它却心存敬畏,这份敬畏超越了意欲赞扬,或者至少去肯定自然景观之美的对具象的再现。这绝非什么难以理解的事情;相反,当韩梦云面对外部世界的宏伟存在时,她选择将个人的创意下降到了次席。对她画中意象的最佳理解可能是——自然中的灵性,对它我们可以察觉却无法参透。同时,韩梦云的绘画理念深受道家和中国哲学的影响,这有助于她遵从一种直觉性的智识进程,这种进程与她的艺术作品本身一样意趣十足、值得探寻。道家富于情怀的现实主义思想让韩梦云形成了自己独具一格的艺术风格,让她能够带着“无先于万物”的智慧进行创作。


    韩梦云画中的意象倾向于阴沉、隐约、缥缈的暗色调,但却也不至于模糊到不能辨别、感知的地步。从这个层面可以看出,她的艺术作品具有严谨、深刻的特性。同时,观者也能直观地感受到一个事实——韩梦云的艺术作品并不是反应她本人的状态和情感,而是在展现一个与每个人息息相关的自然主题:土地的流失、动植物的濒危。若非如此,那她与那些强调表现个人的抽象表现主义画家也并无二致了。同时,她的作品以图像的方式将世界如其所是的予以接收,这卓越地反映了中国哲学、特别是道家思想中的难以言明的洞见——一切皆来自于虚无、归于虚无。然而,道家的哲学语言如同韩梦云画中的意象一般,都是一种隐喻的智慧,这也是中国艺术与哲思的核心所在。实际上,韩梦云也十分关注中国文人画家在面对国运多舛和各人飘零时借景来抒发自己复杂情感的方式。这份关注与对所绘制出的自然诸形态的体验,在重要性上难分高低。总而言之,道家的思想内涵若非凭借直觉感知,则基本上无法把握,韩梦云的艺术作品也是如此。而且,她也是在向古代文人以“风”教化邦国的文体致敬。


道家思想是韩梦云思考的核心。道生万物,尽管其生的原因和方式还相当神秘。如果道家的神秘可以被理解为一种浪漫式的,那么相应的,这种神秘不仅关注现实,同时还要着眼于现实背后的奥义,据此,我们可以说,现如今艺术中的现实主义,因为其对形式的单纯强调,已几近无力解读自然景观。细看居于韩梦云作品内核之中的价值观,就会发现她以良知拒绝了一种以自我为中心想当然地去解读自然的方式,相反,她采用的是还自然以自然的视角,虽然相较而言这样呈现自然会更难以理解,但也更值得尝试。不过这种做法可能无法在绝对意义上实现,但在文明衰落的今天,这种努力本身延续和保留了对于自然、文化的责任勇于担当的希望火种。不过可悲的是,文明的衰落实际很大程度上归咎于全球社会里种种特定的变革,比如:资本主义的高奏凯歌、文化美国化的大行其道。我们别无选择,要么直面我们的所造的孽,要么坐等这些罪孽变成永恒的伤口,或者它们其实早已不可磨灭了。韩梦云的艺术作品所蕴含的情感内涵与许多知识分子由来已久的对人类社会现状的不满情绪遥呼相应,不过这些知识分子也深感心有余而力不足,要改变此境况任重而道远。另一方面,尽管艺术确实可以影响个人的思想和情感,但要寄希望于艺术带来翻天覆地的改变也不免过于天真。我们最好承认这个问题所具有的全部毁灭性,这也是韩梦云所做的;然后要谨记:无论如何,这些问题不会凭空消失。实际上,解决这个问题的难度还在暗中增大,这是由于资本主义对劳动人民的剥削与异化,以及美国流行文化对本土艺术形式的取代。这个问题经过了几代持续恶化,呈现到我们面前时已是相当严重。世界文化正经历一场浩劫,所谓的“高端”和“低级”文化形式之间的差距逐渐演变成了一条无法弥合的鸿沟。


韩梦云所有的作品都体现了她对艺术的哲学领悟与超验对待。而她关于自然的观点可能在《在宥》系列的5幅作品中表现得尤为明确、清晰。该系列作品以极强的表现力证明了她对于有机抽象非比寻常的理解和掌握,同时这一系列画作中还突出了一个暗示着森林与树木的意象。两端的画板上被绘以棕褐色,然而与浅色画板相交放置的深色画板颜色比这个棕褐色更深。画上的图像虽然有些晦涩,不过却可以依稀辨出那是树干与枝叶。有趣的是,每个画板的宽度不一,这使得观者能够注意到每幅画各自所倾诉的内涵,也有助于突出每幅画单独的意象。最左边画板上的画作抽象意味最浓,几乎难以辨别出暗示的自然意象,而两块深色和最右端画板上呈现的对照之物是森林就相对来说更容易看出来一些。位于中间靠左的大幅画板上布满了密密的垂直树干,一片黑暗森林的神秘景象。中间靠右的板面除了顶部外,其余部分几乎全黑,仿佛是一片茂密的灌木丛。而靠右的画板则像是在描画常青树。不过,很讽刺意义的是,韩梦云解释说这些意象并非是刻意设计出来的,她也是在作品在完成后才发现其与自然事物的相像之处。可以说,她的创作思想兼顾了哲学和自然。


此外,韩梦云并不确定自己是否希望对这组作品的解读重点仅仅落在自然上。她坦言,这幅作品是受以“时间和永恒”为主题的诗篇《烧毁的诺顿》的启发,这是T·S·艾略特的作品《四个四重奏》的首章。为与这首诗的结构相呼应,韩梦云将四幅画作进行了精心的布局摆放,以让观者在经过浏览时,也感受到时间的流动。所以,就观赏这组作品的体验来说,与观赏中国传统绘画中的横卷有着异曲同工之妙。韩梦云巧妙地将四副画两两分别放置角落的两侧,这样,当观者从一个方向看完转身时,会发现自己又置身于第一板画前。这样,不仅画上的意象得到了展现,并且还借助了观者自身的动作演示了时间的往复循环。“转身即回到开始”的这个观画体验遥相呼应了艾略特《四个四重奏》第二章《东科克》中的诗句:“在我的开始中是我的结束/在我的结束中是我的开始”。在这幅作品中,韩梦云还适时提出了几个甚至在艺术界至今无解的问题:那就是何为始?何为终?何以要肯定直线路径一定是从左向右延伸?以及,最后,我们如何在一副横卷或者环形路径中理解时间整体的概念?


韩梦云并不认为这一系列作品中的画作必须按照固定的模式或者顺序摆放和排列。她觉得把现在的顺序反过来抑或是将每幅画分开独立展出都未尝不可。而将四幅画放置在一块,是为了让它们之间能够互相对话。在绘画中,韩梦云倾向于相信自己的第一直觉和冲动,她称:“要维持灵感和想法的新鲜度”。而中国画的绘制因使用的材料是宣纸和墨水,所以修改是不被允许的。因此,画家在作画过程中必须全神贯注、一气呵成。韩梦云称,其中一幅作品的完成只用了5分钟的时间,不过她也明确地表示在此过程她一直遵循着在自己脑中成形了一阵子的直觉和想法。中国文豪苏轼曾言:“故画竹,必先得成竹于胸中”。这就是韩梦云作画时的状态。只有画家们在作画前对成品就已了然于胸,才能在时机成熟时一气呵成地绘下准确、鲜活与切中要害的形象。韩梦云在作画前已经探索过外部世界、采集了诸多实物原型、并将其铭记在心,为自己的构思提供了充足的素材,所以她这样凭借自己的第一直觉和冲动作画是行得通的。在绘画中,她不需要太精确地掌握大树、石头的细节部分。实际上,在作画过程中,韩梦云很抗拒那种科学般精准无误,而青睐展示感知的事实,再现事物的本真。


除上述内容外,《在宥》还反映了一个内容——那就是森林中的能量。这在大多数人看来不过是一个抽象的概念,也从未有任何画家贸然涉足去展现。因为具化描述这种处于森林核心的能量谈何容易?特别是这种能量还是人们凭借自身的想象构筑出来的,而非拥有一个可以感知的形式。不过,就算这是行得通的,那我们又如何得知韩梦云尝试表现的就是这样的形式呢?最后,描述这种能量的意义何在?在与韩梦云的交谈中,她谈及了人类对自然神秘性的,并承认她是刻意在用抽象的绘画方式来将森林纯粹能量——也就是“气”——化成我们肉眼可察的图像。因为描画之物不仅仅是森林中可见的实景,还有精神能量的存在与流动,所以她必须采用抽象的表现方式。而这与西方抽象画的理念大体相似——比如马克·托贝的书法绘画、威廉·巴齐奥蒂的抽象暗喻,他们两位都是美国抽象派画家。然而,韩梦云于他们之间也不尽然相同,因为她所描绘的神秘性与能量还是借助于森林中的实物来展现,它画中的树林、灌木丛还示依稀可辨的。不过,抽象主义也确实是她绘画的关键因素,是抽象让她得以摆脱实物具体形态的束缚,自如地描绘出道家哲学理念的精粹:虚无先于万物存在,万物生于虚无之中。这样,万物的自然形态与能量才可通过绘画展现。


不过也要强调:绘画,是创作者自发自觉的文化活动,而并非自然的完全重现。尽管韩梦云确实是通过暗示自然形态来展现出其中难以明喻的内涵和精神,但她之所以能成功的做到这些,并非是单单通过在森林中漫步采风就完成的(一般而言画家也不会如此),而是从中国绘画中获取了灵感。中国画是文化的瑰宝,大多是借实景、实物明志抒情的,若是没有中国绘画的存在,我们所处艺术环境又是另外一番难以想象的景象。而这种影响表现在韩梦云的画作中就是:没有让她选择过于抽象的风格,以致观者无法理解其中形而上的暗示性内容。所以,韩梦云创作基本上都是依据自然实物具体形态进行的,因为这些客观存在众人皆知、不会否定。这应该也是描述“自然神秘”这个如此精神层面的概念的最佳做法了。当然在韩梦云的作品受道家影响,“自然的神秘”也对应道家的“虚无”。我们一方面是通过交谈才了解到韩梦云的这种理念和想法,另一方面画中难以言喻的抽象与相对清晰可辨的实物、已经诸如树木之类的意象所蕴含的意义交织也对此有所反映。最后,我们要探究的是韩梦云绘画的目的或者动力:到底是何种原因使得韩梦云笃爱这种只能凭直觉感知、却不一定能以肉察觉的抽象概念?仅仅从韩梦云的画,我们无法全然求解。不过要肯定的她画作中的形象确实还是来自自然界中可辨的实物的,也正是这些实物承载和表现了她画中不可言明的精神内涵。她的这种理念和方式解决了抽象主义原有的问题,那就是:让人难以理解。同时,韩梦云的作品还揭示了她对当今和未来自然状态的担忧。


如果在现实世界中我们无力保全森林的完整存在,那么,我们就只得继续在艺术作品中以想象的方式完成这个目标。如果世人能普遍认可大自然是拥有超出我们理解范围的神秘力量的,那么其实尚且可以凭借他们对于自然神秘的敬畏之心来阻止自然的过度开采和破坏。不过,如果说只有中国的智者和画家拥有这样的情怀,那未免有些不客观。但是我们却不得不承认,中国人对于自然的理解,是相当深入、全面的,水墨画就是一大佐证。韩梦云创作的核心是道家“虚无”的概念,其也是让中国文化在众多文明中脱颖而出的重要原因。我相信道家的理念不仅是韩梦云所有努力尝试的来源和动力,也为她的作品《在宥》赋予了不凡的灵性。对自然神秘的敬畏并不是中国一国所有,然而韩梦云却能够融入自己的理解和感受,完美加之利用。她之所以能成功做到这些,并不单单因为她曾在美国求学5年;而是那段异国经历让她能够更好地对比中美文化的异同,从而对自己的母文化有了更深入的理解。在中西两方文化背景中,她还是选择突出中国文化,这在某种层面也是对她所受西方教育的一种回应。韩梦云之所以倾向中国文化的原因是,她感受到作为一名画家探求与理解绘画背后深刻意蕴的重要性。


《游心》系列作品中的色彩是非黑即白,黑色着色尤重。无论是画面亦或是呈现出的效果,都完全符合抽象表现主义的定义,观者几乎可以通过墨迹看到韩梦云行笔的过程。因此,可能会让人不禁质疑韩梦云是否像她说得那样独立于西方抽象表现主义。按照她的诠释,画中的黑与白,根据道家的思想,分别代表了“实”与“虚”,二者辩证共存,界限分明。然而,在熟悉抽象表现主义的西方观者看来,这系列作品与20世纪中期的美国绘画有着千丝万缕的联系,他们估计很难赞同这系列画作仅仅包含了中国元素。而韩梦云自身也承认,确实有一些西方影响存在。但她确实是在根据道家的理念作画。英语中概念, “黑”与“白”只是两种色彩而已,并没有中国文化中的深意。不过,这样一来,二者间的精妙联系与相互作用也就随之丧失。在韩梦云的两幅《游心》系列作品中, “虚”与“实”两种元素辩证共存,交织碰撞。画中不存在自然具象,但却有一股抽象的力量,描绘着形式和起源之间的纠葛。


《洗心1》和《洗心2》这两幅画的摆放方式别出心裁,一幅斜靠着墙放在地下,另一幅则垒其上,紧贴墙面。这样的摆放方式使得观者在看画时须抬头向上,仿佛观览天空一般。《洗心1》铺陈了多层黑色颜料,着色很暗,但也零星分布着些许白色。但上文有提到,中国画中的“留白”与西方人所理解的“尾声”不同,它是一切事物的起源。在这幅画中,黑色颜料并未将白色完全遮盖住,因为“黑”由“白”而生,这也呼应了道家的理念——万物生于虚无。


《洗心2》(2013)中绘制的意象与其主题紧密相连,那即是现实中佛家的死亡与重生的循环。《洗心2》,入眼则是几乎被黑褐色铺满的画面,其中又透出苔绿的底色。此画是通过抽象的方式引发观者对于现实的联想,与上文中《在宥》的绘画表达方式几乎相反、却也相得益彰。此画还引申了一个观念——一国文化成就和其国力强大程度呈反相关关系。《洗心2》中的图案相互交织、隐隐绰绰,仿佛影射现今中国国内崇尚金钱、追求流行,以致文化衰落的境况。在另一方面,这些图案形象也是充满奇妙和神秘的,呈现除了人们最好理解的事物。不过,我们须谨记,道家认为虚无是一股积极、正面的力量,万物皆生于其中。因此尽管中国文化现在式微、处于窘境,但未来也是不乏希望的。


比较韩梦云作品里中西文化的比重其实无甚必要,要确定中国的成长背景与美国的后天教育哪方对她影响也不太可能。不过可以确定的是,她一直在有意识地选择回归母文化。在这个时代很多于异国求学的画家大多接受了文化折衷主义的观念,所以看到像韩梦云这样的年轻画家依然坚称自己受母文化影响更多,是一件很有意思的事。不过,韩梦云虽说是倾向于中国绘画,但她的风格也并未完全如中国绘画一般接近自然写实。根据中国的绘画传统,情感和志趣皆可通过野生生物、山川、树木来表达,其在自然景物的形式和能量上也拥有独特的见地。那么韩梦云选择倾向自己的母文化也就顺理成章了。就算仅仅是想表达个人志趣或是揭露中国现行资本主义生产方式带来的负面影响,这种思想和理念都是机具借鉴价值的。自然,正处于困境当中,艺术应发挥其积极的作用,呼吁大家拯救和维护正在逐渐消失的自然神秘性和能量。像韩梦云这样的作品能够引起大家保护自然的责任意识,从而让自然得以保持其原有的神秘和独特性。但同时,我们也要注意,虽然道家的“虚无”思想在很大程度上影响了韩梦云的观念,但她还是通过具体的实物意象来表达作品的内涵理念的。韩梦云独具一格的绘画理念和方式,不禁让我们思考抽象和物象二者间的关系,以及它们与道家哲学概念的联系。


她的很多作品都充分地表现了这些思想和理念。《代序1》由两个相对较小的垂直方向画板组成,这个方向再次彰显了韩梦云对于中国艺术,特别是卷轴画的致敬。左侧画上一片墨色,但也隐约能辨出一些图形;右侧的画是白色的底色纸上着笔勾勒出了几个隐约的形状。如果没有暗示任何有机形态的话,这两个窄窄的画板合在一起可以说是完美地表现了抽象主义。不过抽象不仅仅人类艺术家的专利,自然本身也会表现抽象主义,这种现象被理解为一种为延续物种的进化。我们可以记载自然抽象运作的过程,却无法明了它背后的原因。我想,这也是韩梦云一直在暗示阐述的中心思想!她还指出,这一系列作品是关于现实景象再现和个人想象创造。因为眼睛所见经常具有欺骗性,所以个人的想象此时需要发挥作用,有时,感知想象甚至可能比事实本身更加真实明晰。有可能是因这系列作品的灵感来源于摄影作品,所以简单直接的解读行不通。我们知道,摄影是还原实景,绘画却是承载景物中的内涵。最后,关于这幅画自然哲学的理解谜团还是未被解开。不过,虽然我们无法解开,但描述还是可能的;我们的所知有限,但却可以如同道家所说,通过不断地学习、预测和保证敏锐的觉察来慢慢探求。通过自己画作,韩梦云向我们阐释了保存神秘性的重要意义。


   《代序2》,似乎被韩梦云处理成了一幅展现自然的画作。这件作品是一幅双联画,风格非常的田园,左边着以绿、黑色,右边则是相对较浅的棕褐色。这两幅画在自然现实中都没有可与之对应的意象,因此我们必须将视线转向此画使用的材料——油彩,因为油彩本身也引申自然。 20世纪中期的美国画家在艺术界发起的一项重要观念变革就是:绘画作品并不一定必须蕴含某种思想内涵。它被创作出来的目可能就是为了被观赏而已。其实这个新观念极具智慧的,它使得画作本身成为自然中的一个主体,而不是再现某个主体的载体。不过我们也不敢肯定,韩梦云的这副双联画是否属于该情况,还是说这幅画在现实世界中其实有对应的意象,只是她在创作时过于专注而未注意到。绘制过程中所使用的油彩——这种黏滑的西方液体颜料——此时已不再仅仅被视为一种绘画工具,而是其自身的一种载体。这幅画与韩梦云大多数作品的风格不同,更多采用与参照了近代抽象画的理念和内涵。


韩梦云在此处让绘画本身成为可感知世界中的一个主体,然而这样做,并不意味着她摒弃了自己以往以“自然神秘”为核心的理念和创作风格。实际上,自然和文化分别满足了人类不可或缺的物质和精神需求,她如此处理也是为了尝试将这二者连接起来,保证它们之间的沟通和对话。因为只有当这种对话存在,我们才有理由充满希望地相信自身能够尽己所能去拯救自然,所以说韩梦云的这种尝试是极为不凡的举措。


艺术好似连接内部和外部世界的纽带,不管外部世界如何奇异诡谲、难以理解,只要明晓了文化的特殊性,一切也就会逐渐明了了在韩梦云的作品即是吸取和掌握了中西两方的艺术、哲学内涵,为我们提供了解现实世界的媒介。但是这种艺术的媒介只能展现自然外在,其核心的内涵与神秘还是要让我们自己去感知和猜想,不过要想达到完全认知却是几无可能的。我们带着猜疑观察世界,我们对事物感知并不完全,比如:自然界的事物来自何处又为何存在?这些疑问猜想一律在韩梦云的作品中占有比重。这一方面归因于她过人智慧和天赋,另一方面则是得益于中国文化哲学给予了她相应的支持。她扎实的艺术功底和深厚的文化背景使其能够展现出超出常人理解范围的、宏大而复杂的自然核心。不过也须知,中国文化背景并没有让她拒绝接受西方的艺术训练。反而正是美国的教育,她才对母文化有了更深入的了解,才有可能在二者中选择取舍。当然,她致力于表现的“自然神秘”理念也是美国艺术的一个传统主题。谈及此处,就不得不提起哈德逊河派、以及德夫欧基芙这样的现代主义画家。但是,这些艺术流派和画家所带来的影响与中国水墨画家又是全然不同的。总而言之,水墨ç

Elegies for Emptiness/ Jonathan Goodman

无之挽歌/ 乔纳森˙古德曼