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美国艺术批评家论姬子

时间:2011-03-27  来源:David Brubaker  作者:David Brubaker

 

On Jizi’s Art of Painting
 
David Brubaker
 
October 2010
 
How may traditional Chinese ink painting be sustained and refreshed? Jizi suggests an answer: continuity and innovation arise from ideas of self and nature offered by the refreshment of traditional Chinese philosophy. He contributes to contemporary art and philosophy, with ink paintings that help us apply philosophical classics to our lives today. His paintings of mountains and mists show absorption of the history of modern art - anti-illusionism, certainty of surface, concrete immediacy. Yet, they do not merely repeat the modern habit of treating immediacy of space as a continuum of objective physical events or as a flux and flow of objects of experience. We find instead an interdependency of self, others, non-objective immediacy, perceptible phenomena of landscape, gaseous galactic events, and finally the cosmic energy of all these co-creating dimensions. These dimensions are sometimes connected by fragments or monads, each manifesting an interior medium, “indefinite and vague,” “with images within it”; a non-objective sensible “suchness” (tathata) that shows one’s true nature; or an observable yet indeterminate “uniqueness” that is a natural root for the self-equilibrium that guides exemplary behavior. Through spatial reversals and gestalts that harmonize these seemingly opposed perspectives, Jizi implies that the actuality of a person’s life can unify diverse perspectives of phenomenalism, materialism, Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. His paintings help us meditate on what is still a mystery or enigma for modern understanding: how the spiritual and the material may find a practical balance within the living place that is evident to each of us.
 
Creative Experiments and Refreshing Style
 
Jizi work is an inspiring example of a willingness to experiment with the technique and styles of traditional ink painting to express the interdependency of human life with nature. His choice of titles signals that his work is inspired by living within nature and Daoism. By creating rhythms that unify earth and sky, imagery of humans on foot, distant monasteries dwarfed by snow mountains, gaseous galactic swirls, planetary events, a kaleidoscope of fragments, each with its own concrete interior, he makes references to Buddhism, recent photography of distant galaxies, the psychology of seeing, and the philosophy of visible existence. We can study work from the 1990‘s through 2010 to appreciate the way Jizi modifies technique and style to accommodate diversity and to achieve cohesion of perspectives.
 
With Song of Nature (1994), we find a narrow panorama of visible movements and recognizable events - swirling waves, flame-like mountains, wispy clouds, distant horizons – that exhibit a pulsating power or energy that is evenly distributed throughout.  In Holy Light (2001), Jizi seems to zoom in to enlarge and inspect one of the distant horizons of earth presented in the earlier painting. This second step consisting of the enlargement of the elements of earth and mist eventually leads to Om-ma-ni-ba-mi-hum 1 through 4 (2002), where the rhythms contained in particular waves and recognizable mountain ridges are now transformed into enormous textured bands of elemental mountain and mist. The bands are repeated and stacked so that they seem interchangeable or co-originating. This second stage also relates the elemental mists and mountains to living animals, the scale of tiny human figures on foot, sacred generations of yak (or buffalo), and monasteries (some clearly Tibetan) perched in remote locations. Taking a third creative step, Jizi pulls back a bit to show us that these huge rhythmic layers of mountains and mists are themselves related to an even wider stellar and cosmic context. For example, in Snowy Moon Afar No. 1 and 2 (2003), peaks and gorges of powerful snow mountains rotate downward and merge into the flow of huge, gaseous nebulae that float with stardust and a moon of planetary presence.
 
New experiments lead to a fourth step, as this mountainous and gaseous cosmos begins to display areas of high contrast, geometrical planetary shapes and disks with interiors that magnify. By transforming some textured mountain ridges and spaces into areas of extremely dense darks or maximally luminous lights, Jizi creates high contrast patterns and shapes, as in Relics of Memory (2007) and Snow Clouds (2007). Uniformity of line and contrasting tones also produce distinct geometric lines, circles and spheres; for example, in Clean World (2007) and Supreme Cosmos (2007), disks transform into transparent optical magnifiers, where each disk is a sharp-edged optical whole (or perhaps eye) that contains its own interior visible image of distant mountains, gorges, waters, or orbiting worlds. Shadow-like disks are noticeable in the earlier Earth and Sky Series (2002), but they appear there as superimposed rings and not as magnifying wholes that display visible patterns corresponding to external and macroscopic surroundings.
 
Jizi faces a compositional challenge, when the more cosmic dimension of swirling mists and mountains meets the areas of intense black and white, the crisp geometry of moon-rises and the disks that magnify. The semi-representational space of textured mountains and gaseous clouds press against the areas of high contrast and the spheres and disks that create a flattening. Pockets of three-dimensional space collide with formless density and geometric edges, as cosmic swirl meets the hard-edge of a planetary segment, disk meets mountain, or disk overlaps disk. With the medium and techniques of traditional Chinese painting, Jizi advances deliberately and powerfully straight to all the choices and compositional problems that have preoccupied modern artists through the twentieth century and up to our own time. How are interests in depicting three-dimensional landscape spaces are to be balanced with the aim of affirming the actuality of concrete existence, which is brought closer to our attention by artworks that emphasize materials or the surface immediacy of the picture plane itself?
 
Ambiguous Edges and Unifying Reversibilities
 
To resolve the problems that arise from such seemingly incompatible systems for symbolizing space and place, Jizi examines edges and areas to find out which compositional differences will create divisions, connections and transitions. His aim, I think, is to find a technical and compositional way to affirm the interrelationships between cosmic swirl, planetary macrocosm and the microcosmic scale of singular human observation, without emphasizing one dimension or domain to the subordination or exclusion of another. The problem is this: how can the whole and interdependency of dimensions be affirmed, without losing diversity and the integrity of each dimension? He succeeds in advancing original solutions in ink, by careful experiments that join such modern phenomena as ambiguous figure perception (as in the duck-rabbit figure) together with the lively balance of form and non-representational immediacy (or of ink and the constitutive void of paper) that is basic to the literati tradition of Chinese landscape painting.
 
Experimentation on edges is notable in Dialogue with Tao No. 1 through No. 6 (2008). With this series of semi-representational studies, Jizi goes closer to inspect the way boundaries and edges work in relation area, place and the relativity of spaces. For the most part, this series contains irregular shapes with interiors that are textured with line and tone, so the vocabulary is less suggestive of objective and measured physical locations, even if a sliver of planetary horizon occasionally peeks through in a way that suggests astronomical space. Heavy external contours play against interior lines, colors, tones and textures. The viewer continually observes the edges by which one shape coheres with or borders upon neighboring shapes and spaces. Jizi chooses distinct, thick, winding, double-lines of white to mark the adjacent areas of toned color, as in No. 6. At other times, neighboring areas seem to meet in cracked or broken edges that cause the adjacent shapes to look more like shattered fragments, as in No. 5. Some contours are continuous, meandering and closed, while others fade due gradations of value and texture that cause adjacent fragments to blur and fuse together. The textures inside the contours of the particular shapes or fragments suggest nature in subtle and open-ended ways: they suggest macroscopic geography, mountain tops, topographical renderings of rivulets or glaciers, clouds seen from high altitude, or perhaps even biological events of muscle, skin or electron microscopy of single cells. The fragment-like shapes, shared edges and internal textures are the setting for Jizi’s experiments on the  relativity of place, volume and space. The results are gestalt-like reversals, advancing and receding surfaces, both between neighboring fragments and within the interior area of individual fragments.
 
First, the spectator observes an ongoing rhythm of figure-ground reversals between different contiguous shapes. This relation of spatial relativity across shapes is clearly evident, when we look again at Dialogue with Tao No. 6.  This painting displays four large vertical fragments, which share contour edges created either by a distinctive use of white or else by contrasts in value. The result is a rhythm in which darker vertical fragments, at far left and center-right, alternate with the lighter and brighter fragments at center-left and far right. Because of the distinct edges produced by thick white lines or contrasting tones, a second rhythm of spatial relativity emerges between neighboring fragments. For example, the vertical white fragment at center-left, sandwiched  between two dark and contrasting fragments of similar value, appears to advance as if it were located over or above a darker supporting background beneath and below. Yet, the darker vertical fragment at center-right is itself squeezed between two neighboring fragments with areas that are lighter and tinted; hence, the contrasting dark fragment appears to advance forward in front of the neighboring lighter fragments, which now appear to recede as parts of a continuous background that is beneath and below. Thus, neighboring fragments with common and well-defined edges participate, each with the other, in relations of optical figure-ground reversals (or gestalts). The three dimensional position in space – above or below -- that a fragment exhibits is relative to the spatial position displayed by the well-defined areas of its neighbors.
 
The second and perhaps even more unusual example of spatial relativity is the rhythm of change between two sorts of space, within the interior area of each individual fragment.  In this case, the relativity is of a different sort: the reversal is between the appearance of an objective, three-dimensional spatial position and an observable immediacy of space that is non-objective and indeterminate. How does this work? Consider again, for example, the case of No. 6. The viewer can see that the tinted fragment of lighter value at center-left has an interior of lines, tones and textures that represent (according to standard conventions) vague or else semi-abstract topographies: there is a hint of distant rivulets, tiny valleys, glaciers, estuaries, clouds floating far below, or even crevices of skin and muscle. Yet, as soon as the viewer reads a thick white line as a closed contour that encloses the interior as a definite shape, the viewer begins to overlook the internal lines and tones suggestive of three-dimension recession and objective position. As a result, the interior as a whole begins to advance forward as an area of non-objective immediacy. Within one and the same area, the perception of three-dimensional depth signaled by tone and texture is disrupted, and the interior advances forward as a whole of singular and immediate presence. Yet, in the next moment, the interested eye is drawn back again to the surface lines and tones that signal the topographies of mountain, cloud, or the textures of bodily surface. The whole area begins to recede and the appearance of three-dimensional depth is again restored. Therefore, within an individual fragment having distinct contour edges, there in a second on-going cycle of spatial reversals. The onlooker perceives the interior lines and tones as signs of three-dimensional space receding behind the picture plane, and then the onlooker notices the same internal area as a whole of immediacy belonging to the surface space of the picture plane or else to some less determinate dimension of its own.
 
Jizi’s creative experiments with the relativity of space are of major significance. They cannot be classified as the mere reiteration of modern lessons concerning visual perception, color relativity, ambiguous figure perception or an honest emphasis of picture plane and surface immediacy over illusions of three-dimensional space. Joseph Albers’ homages to the square are by now classic works of color relativity in modern art.   The perceived color of a pigment is relative to the colors of its neighbors, and this relativity in color can be used to make works of art that exhibit the relativity of spatial position. Albers experiments with gestalt reversals of cube-like figures; but this seems to be a case of two different perceptions of space, each of which consists of a determinate volume positioned in a three dimensional space.  In other works, the material surface of pigment appears as a hinge for gestalts in which transparent planes of color advance and then recede; but this too is very different from Jizi’s reversals with individual fragments, where the cycle of reversal is between a three-dimensional space and an immediacy that spatially non-objective. To consider another familiar case, M.C. Escher seems to use gestalt reversals as a graphic device to helps the viewer with the transition from one representational world to another; however, for the most part, the shifts are between two different imaginary world-dimensions, where each seems to be a consistent perspective of distinctly perceived objects and locations. Escher tends to excise or exclude (or takes no interest in) the study of any ground, space or place that is immediate, indeterminate, and not well-defined.
 
Jizi’s success in reversing three-dimensional space into an immediacy of presence is not simply a reiteration of Clement Greenberg either. Greenberg is well known for advocating an approach to painting that upholds the certainty and authenticity of spatial immediacy against the creation of mere illusions of three-dimensional locations. He seems to favor works that are free from representational conventions and devices, since an absence or a minimum of form seems a favored means of emphasizing the actuality and immediacy of existing space. Greenberg advocates works that present an immediacy that is “a single, indivisible texture,” since he seems to regard the “all-over” approach where every element and area is equivalent as a welcome corrective to hierarchy. But the complete dissolution of the pictorial into an over-all repetition of “apparently sheer sensation” prevents the painter from using differentiated shapes and contrasts to express the interdependency of different dimension, as Jizi seeks to do. Another problem is that Greenberg regards the sheer texture or seamless spread of “the immediate” as a space best described as a “total object” that retains its integrity by coinciding with the picture surface. When the painter treats the picture plane and surface as a total object that imitates or represents “space as a total object,” then the seamlessness of the immediate (which so interests Greenberg) is identified with a literal physical flatness of the painting and the viewer’s awareness of space is ultimately interrupted and eclipsed by a switch to perceiving the three-dimensionality of the painting as a material event. Thus, form reasserts itself during the perception of material reality, even in the method of over-all painting favored by Greenberg. By contrast, since Jizi chooses not to remove or drop all representational elements and references to the subject matter of galaxies, mountains, waters and mists, he is able to take up philosophical issues concerning the interdependency of different dimensions. By creating reversals of space that foreground a dimension of immediacy that is a reversal of three-dimensionality, Jizi’s creates a non-objective immediacy that resists being perceived as a mere imitation of the physical surface plane of the paper he uses, and therefore his paintings are more resistant to being perceived as objectively material and exemplars of three-dimensionality (this time as a matter of actual fact, not by graphic illusion).
 
Given these examples, it is sufficiently clear that Jizi retains a vocabulary that enables him to represent the balance and interdependency of different dimensions. He uses compositional devices that result in a space that is the reversal of three-dimensionality (including the three-dimensionality implied by the flatness of the physical picture surface). Texture and tone—temporarily disregarded  – always remain latent as potential cues for another cycle of the reversal of space (and spatial relativity), so that the three-dimensional appearances turn into a non-objective immediacy that is always co-present during a look at nature. The non-objective immediacy then turns back into a means of perceiving the appearance of deep three-dimensional space. Jizi’s compositions cause distant topographies to transform into an immeasurable concreteness of immediacy that is not perceptually discriminated in the form or any physical position or location.
 
Jizi’s experiments in relativity of space are akin to Bridget Riley’s experiments of the 1960’s. With Shiver (1964), Riley explores the way that alternating gestalts produce the appearance of many different volumes from the same grouping of triangular elements. Her purpose is to disrupt the modern habit of identifying the context of looking entirely with perceptually distinct and determinate forms or events. In effect, she uses the simple compositional elements of modern art (i.e. repetition of Constructivist polygons, lines and circles) against – or to de-construct -- the very modern idea that existence is to be fully explained by our empirical understanding of the relativity of the relationships between objectively determined events. Similarly, Jizi disrupts the illusion of depth displayed by interior contours, by emphasizing closed exterior contour edges that cause to interior areas of individual fragments to advance forward into a whole of immediacy that is objectively indeterminate. The theme of a non-objective, non-relative dimension of observed space – or an immediacy that is pre-physical -- is the subject that Riley explores with the parallel lines of color in Late Morning (1967-68), which she describes as giving rise through color vibration to an atmosphere or “haze” that cannot be clearly identified as any particular determinate color. Although her elements of composition tend to be non-representational, the ovals and contrasting values in Riley’s Deny 2 produce additional cycles of spatial reversals that suggest more parallels with Jizi’s work: the lighter the value of the tinted ovals painted with a hint of blue, the more they advance forward relative to the other ovals covered progressively with a veil of tone. The more the viewer perceives that the veiled ovals are surrounded by a background that is a dark shade of red, the more the dark background advances as a whole and the more the lighter ovals recede into the distance. This is comparable to Jizi’s experiment in reversibility in Dialogue with Tao No. 6, where two vertical fragments cooler in color and lighter in value tend to advance relative to the darker fragments on each side, while the darker vertical fragment containing a background with shades of red tends to advance spatially relative to neighboring fragments on each side that are lighter in value and slightly cooler.
 
Riley rightly remarks that reviewers miss the point and significance of her experiments if they see her paintings only as optical illusions from the psychology of perception. Since Jizi retains cues that represent and refer to life in observable nature, his work is perhaps more resistant to such misinterpretations. By retaining such references, Jizi has a way to leading the viewer to infer that immediacy of space, like three-dimensional space, is a feature of the individual person’s observation of nature (a result clearly intended by Riley, as well). He shares with Riley the quest for a painterly means of presenting a non-objective space constitutive of nature as a person actually observes it, not merely the presentation of a space that is experienced entirely in terms of events. The challenge for Jizi is to affirm the tradition of ink painting and references to the theme of the individual person observing nature, while creating enough novelty with gestalts and spatial reversals so that a new and welcome philosophical content is added and the styles of the “ancients” (such as Shitao himself!) are modified.  
 
To summarize, with the Dialogue with Tao series, many shapes or fragments have a variety of observable dimensions of space that are interrelated and interdependent. The alternation of advancing and receding spaces – shape to shape, fragment to fragment, and within each fragment -- disrupts any perceptual expectations of the art-goer. One definite area placed in the painting can at different moments be a sample that exhibits more than one sort of space. Many individual fragments clearly possess an interior that displays a unique avenue for observing the relativity of space; indeed, each fragment having closed-contours possesses an interior that is divided from the interior of every other fragment.  The singular fragment becomes a unifying place (or vaguely naturalistic medium or context) for a unique and privileged observation of images or appearances of natural phenomena: it is a medium that can present immediacy, imagery of mountain crevices, or signs of planetary constellations. Also, the multiple dimensions -- nebulae, planets, mountains and mist, the microscopic, an indeterminate immediacy – are unified through the pattern of fragments (that fit together exactly through their seams). There is connecting of spaces that would otherwise seem to be incompatible opposites and incapable of union with each other. With the results of these experiments, we can appreciate Jizi’s recent works of 2010.
      
Fragments of Interior Immediacy and Refreshing Philosophy
 
This detailed account of Jizi’s work prepares us to appreciate his recent paintings of 2010, which we can now interpret as examples of a refreshed stylistic vocabulary of ink that conveys refreshing notions of the self as an individual observer of a variety of dimensions of nature. We can make closer connections between his work and classics of Chinese philosophy. We find the new style of interdependent fragments, and the new facility with spatial relativity, in effective use.   
 
The disks that reveal optical images of distant mountains clouds and waters are now transformed into singular fragments, each containing its own visibly presented image of one of the dimensions of the larger accompanying cosmos. There are many fragments containing images of distant three-dimensional space of mountain or remote monastery, They suggest a novel relation between human life and nature and what is outside ourselves. Jizi’s style is neither expressionism, nor the pictorial realism of representing objects. Nor are his artworks merely the presentation of flatness as a medium for exemplifying the physically objective existence of the art work. It is beyond materialism, since each fragment is a point of observation, upon natural objects, that is itself an internal visible whole separated from other fragments. No fragment gives direct observation of the visible image interior to another. Each observes the others through the visible whole within.
 
For me, the fragments suggest two themes: multiple frames of interpretation  that give the idea that the same context or whole can be perceived and experienced authentically from different  perspectives. Second, they suggest that individual persons are analogous to fragments or monads or lozenges, each of whom is a place of observation that makes the whole present. Each fragment is itself an avenue by which some individual person has an avenue of visible observation and an image or picture of the whole in motion. The whole is not presented as an external authority that centralizes the fragments – the whole itself is the motion of the fragments that are co-present with each other. The motion of the whole takes place through the place of each fragment that reveals it. The whole is in evidence from the human point of view only through the fragments. The paintings enable us to observe the limited fragments in relation to each other, in a way that no single fragment can ever show. They remind us that we are ourselves each a fragment through which the motion of the whole takes place.  
 
The existence of the whole is presented or observed nowhere else than in one’s own fragment. And one’s own fragment cannot be reduced to physical events that experiences some other physically located events and motions. On the contrary, it is a sensible whole present for itself that is capable of looking, through a non-objective and immediate dimension of the visible, at the image of particular objects mountains, waters, monasteries.  It is true that how life exists depends on the whole and the rhythmic forces; these forces are not reducible to individual monads of human willing or choosing. But it is through nowhere else that the immediacy of our own lives that we experience awe for the whole; the existence of the whole is evident through the fragments. No fragment outlives the whole; but the forces of the whole are movable in part through each fragment and by the interaction of the fragments. …
 
Tao and yin and yang as two major forces: yin and yang constitute the Tao. it is the place of contact and interaction of the human and the sensible and immediate with the space or whole that is the contextual whole that sustains and sustains the human life and reality. Human perceptual reality must shrink to a dimension with limits, while the whole must be revealed through the fragments. Not to any human directly in itself; and yet its existence depends upon human observation of its presence as a sensible fragment. Buddhismm suchness.       
 
 
Refreshing Confucianism: Comparison with Guo Xi’s Early Spring
 
Jizi’s success in refreshing Chinese philosophy can be assessed by comparison with recent scholarship on Guo Xi’s Early Spring. Stanley Murashige proves us with a most helpful interpretation of Early Spring (Monumenta Serica 43 (1995), 337-364.  
 
There may be a single principle of the universe – but it is never observed except through the principle of living fragments that are persons. Thus, the first and most obvious principle is the intimate evidence of one’s own fragment – the suchness within which the things appear.     
 
Murashige suggests that the appearances of the mountain revealed to human experience are manifestations of something unseen. He references us the Zhongyong: There is nothing more visible than what is hidden and nothing more manifest than what is subtle. I would read the line instead as: The way cannot be separated from the person, and the way is visible and manifest but not in the form of things seen or heard perceptually. The way is a context that is inseparable from observable human life as one observes it for one’s own self, and this enables each of us to become an exemplary person.  
 
     
The message is that there is no existence and reality outside the openness of the individual fragment. Or at least there is no human understanding or human awareness of life any other way. The whole of the universe is not limited to the opaque fragment that one possesses oneself – there is a universe outside oneself; but the life of the universe and its motions and its movements are generated from living individuals (no less than from anywhere else). This notion of the living individual who possesses an observable pre-objective ground or context of interior corporeality that is not reducible to any identifiable properties or relations understood intellectually or by mind, may perhaps be found in the Zhongyong. 
 
Innovative Style and Refreshment of Philosophy  
 
Here the philosophical value of the paintings emerges for me. Traditional Chinese landscape painting surely conveys the limits of intellect and perception of things, as forms and shapes are balanced against indeterminate clouds that are one with the very surface of the artist’s own paper. Jizi’s paintings emphasize the monadic aspect of the individuality of perspective. It is not feeling or complete thoughtlessness that accompanies enlightenment. Enlightenment is awareness that one’s own fragment of living existence is not merely thinking, nor merely a physical condition understood materially. It is awareness of one’s own sensible uniqueness as an embodied place connected with nature
 
to be continued
 
(Dr. David Brubaker, art critic and philosopher, teaches at the Department of Philosophy of New Haven University)