第81期 “社会风景”——中国当代绘画中的“风景叙事”及其文化观念变迁(2013)

第81期 “社会风景”——中国当代绘画中的“风景叙事”及其文化观念变迁(2013年)

学术主持:何桂彦

主题:尚扬 庞茂琨 张小涛 尹朝阳 吕山川 申亮 马文婷 刘芯涛

新作:薛松 曾梵志 古原 李俊峰 梁思衡 黎增辉  李乃蔚 印禅 刘一原

Issue No. 81(2013)

Theme: Social Landscape: The “Landscape Narration” in Chinese Contemporary Painting as well as its Cultural Concept Changes

Academic Host: He Guiyan

A.T: Shang Yang, Pang Maokun, Zhang Xiaotao ,Yin Chaoyang, Lv Shanchuan, Shen Liang, Ma Wenting, Liu Xintao

A.N: Xue Song, Zeng Fanzhi, Gu Yuan, Li Junfeng, Liang Siheng, Li Zhenghui, Li Naiwei, Yin Chan, Liu Yiyuan

81

“社会风景”中国当代绘?中的“风景叙事”及其文化观念变迁

The “Landscape Narration” in Chinese Contemporary Painting as well as its Cultural Concept Changes

 

学术主持:何桂彦  ACADEMIC HOST: HE GUIYAN

 

(七)

2000年以来,一个非常典型的现象是当代艺术开始告别潮流,不再像80年代那样,一个艺术思潮接着另一个思潮,一个现象接着另一个现象,由此形成线性的发展轨迹。就这十年的创作来看,“社会风景”的边界有了进一步的拓展,有后殖民色彩的波普化风景、反思后工业时代的都市风景、反映农村和边缘人群的“底层人文”式的风景、倡导保护自然与社会环境的风景,等等。但本文所要讨论的则是以下三类“社会风景”:体现了“社会主义经验”的风景、景观化的风景以及从传统山水中寻求转变的风景。

从创作观念内在生成的角度讲,“社会主义经验”的思路肇始于1993年12月在四川省美术馆举办的《九十年代的中国美术:“中国经验”画展》。这个展览基本的学术构想,是讨论90年代以来中国当代绘画的走向,按照策展人王林的思路,即是讨论“’89后中国当代艺术”发展的可能性,另一个主要是针对全球化语境下所面临的潜在的后殖民危机。1993年的时候,因为通过“后89中国新艺术展”与“第45届威尼斯双年展”,中国当代艺术在进入全球化的格局中已触及到后殖民问题,并有了文化身份的危机意识。现在看来,“中国经验”展实质是对“政治波普”与“玩世现实主义”的批判,借此来探讨一种新的创作方向。虽然说“政治波普”与“玩世”在90年代初仍有自身的前卫性,但后来的事实证明,这两种潮流化的创作的确掉入了西方人所设定的后殖民陷阱。当代批评家栗宪庭也感叹,来自于中国的当代绘画沦落为“国际拼盘中的春卷”时[1998年在台湾举办的“第一届全球华人策展人大会”的发言中,栗宪庭谈到了中国当代艺术在国际语境下所出现的“春卷”现象。《文化破碎与文化身份的被规定性》一文,《黄河》杂志,1999年,第2期],重新思考当代艺术自身的文化身份已成为一个无法回避的问题。十多年后,批评家邹跃进提出了应重视当代绘画呈现出的“社会主义经验”。不过,从内在学理上看,“社会主义经验”与“中国经验”仍有异曲同工之妙,都是在思考中国当代艺术如何以本土文化的立场参与到全球化的格局中。

就“社会主义经验”这一脉络的创作现象来看,张晓刚无疑最具代表性。1995年前后出现的《大家庭》是艺术家创作的一个重要分水岭。从内省转向批判,从私密个人性转向公众性,艺术家实现了对学院主义和80年代中期的现代主义取向的双重超越。2007年以来,张晓刚开始强化作品中的“社会主义经验”,将注意力转向一些50、60年代以来中国最为日常化的生活场景,艺术家力图通过个人化的视角来言说时代的变迁,通过日常的、微观的场景来唤醒某种共同的集体记忆,并以此传达出中国人在一个特定时期独特的生存体验。

张晓刚、刘小东的作品实质可以形成“社会风景”创作的两极,前者是从个人的、记忆中的、微观的视角切入,后者的叙事更为宏大,艺术家注重对重要事件(三峡移民)、社会现场(青藏铁路)的反映。但它们共同的特征是,均能体现典型的“社会主义经验”。当然,就对“社会主义经验”的思考来说,不同的艺术家侧重点也有变化,有的追求现实主义的呈现,有的基于对历史的反思,有的偏向于全球化语境中的本土文化立场,等等。

(八)

另一种值得关注的现象是“景观化的风景”。“景观”一词原本来源于法国社会学家居伊·德波的“景观社会”。简要地理解,德波的思想受到了马克思关于“商品拜物教”的启发,在他看来,“景观”拜物教是后工业时代的主要特征,其特点是,商品拜物教中人与物的关系颠倒地表现为物与物的关系,发展到“景观”阶段后,就是真实的事物也不存在了,它们由完全虚拟的影像所取代,成为了一种虚幻的图景。所谓“景观化的风景”,在手法上大多侧重于后现代艺术中的“挪用”与“戏拟”,崇尚叙事的片断与偶然、无序与断裂,审美上追求现实与超现实结合中呈现出的“别扭”与荒诞。

庞茂琨的作品很好地诠释了景观化的社会风景这一创作现象。诚如艺术家所言,“我借用了Cosplay易装表演这个概念,将现实中日常的各态人生移植在我的画面舞台之上,同样现实主义的描绘方式却呈现出虚拟的假象,荒诞的、无厘头景象让看到画面的观者无从面对,而终止了原本习以为常的、既定的思考方式,进而对画面中的内容、人物、情节甚至是对于我本人的艺术方式都要进行重新的编码。我不能说自己是在创造一个新的绘画观念,但是我一直试图尝试描绘现实的新视角……我想通过这种异常化的画面去反观我们的现实,揭示我们日益被消费、信息、时尚所蒙蔽的事实本身”[《图像经验:何桂彦与庞茂琨的访谈》,2010年3月,来源于艺术国际网]。同样,李昌龙的作品也具有一种景观化的特征。这种景观的意象不仅来自于虚拟的舞台背景,还来源于那些不同时空与现实中的情节:有战争留下的废墟、异化的风景、孤立的假山石、扭打的人群、惊悚的个体,以及片段化的都市生活……当它们出现在同一个画面时,不仅呈现出一种多义、模糊、混杂的意义系统,而且由于没有明确的上下文关系,其内在叙事也不可避免地带来一些莫名的荒诞感。在《世纪公园》中,蒋华君描绘了一个虚拟的公园,不过,那些由各种动物所构成的景观,仍然不是现实的再现,而是侧重于隐喻与象征。

在讨论“景观化风景”这一现象时,实质还涉及“图像时代”背景下当代绘画创作方法论的转变问题。进入90年代后期,中国社会已进入一个由公共传媒网络所构成的“图像时代”。坦率地讲,当代绘画中的“图像转向”其实就是“照片的转译”或“照片的转向”,亦即是说,“景观化风景”中的场景绝大部分都来自于各种类型的照片与视觉图像,比如何汶玦对经典电影中的画面所进行的转换,吕山川对截取于电视中各种重要事件的图像所进行的再编码,张小涛利用电视监控中的图像来从事创作,等等。在这一类创作中,艺术家并不是对表象世界进行直接的再现,而是来源于对图像时代的各种视觉信息进行“挪用”与“改造”。但是,这种创作方法也会引发出另一个问题,即现实主义在“图像时代”所发生的变异。也就是说,虽然这些照片或图像都来自于现实,但这毕竟是“二手”的现实。“现实”的真相又是什么呢?我们不得而知。既然我们无法追问“现实”的真相,那么,创作的意义就只能体现在艺术家如何对图像进行选择中。于是,选择本身从一开始就弥散出了意义。

(九)

第三类是从传统中寻求形式与风格转化的风景。继批评家吕澎2010年策划“溪山清远——中国新绘画”以来,在短短的两年时间内,美术界掀起了一股回归传统的浪潮。毋庸置疑,回归传统自然有其历史的必然性。今天,“传统”之所以能引起大家的普遍关注,主要还是在全球化的语境下,伴随着国家的强大,中国需要重新去审视一个民族国家应具有的民族文化身份及其文化主体性问题。这也自然会唤起中国当代艺术在文化主体意识上的自觉。更重要的是,它能与新的历史时期国家的文化发展战略契合。但是,这仅仅只是问题的一个方面,当代艺术寻求向传统的回归与转换,其深层次的原因,还在于90年代以来,当代艺术秉承的艺术史叙事话语出现了内在的危机。面对这种危机,一方面我们需要对过去30多年当代艺术的发展进程及其各个时期的文化与艺术诉求进行反思与检审;另一方面,我们要逐渐从过去那种由西方标准和“后殖民”趣味所支配的当代艺术的范式中走出来,重新建构当代艺术的评价尺度与价值标准。作为一名资深的批评家,吕澎是十分敏锐的,他意识到在一个新的历史条件下,中国的当代艺术需要重新去塑造自身的文化主体性。换言之,20世纪80年代以来以西方现代或后现代艺术的形式、语言为先决条件的当代艺术,90年代那种反讽政治,以犬儒主义、媚俗为诉求的当代艺术在今天的文化情景中,已经丧失了自身赖以依存的文化语境和前卫性。因此,当代艺术需要清理自身的文脉,建立新的艺术史书写模式。

但我们也应警惕的是,就目前中国当代绘画的创作而言,“回归传统”完全有可能蜕变为一种新型的艺术策略,其潜在的危害体现为:首先是创作出一批“政治正确”的作品;其次是打“文化的民族主义”牌,文化的民族主义与传统本身就有密切的联系,但是,一旦将“传统”发展成为全球化背景下的一种文化策略,那么这种文化民族主义就无法摆脱自身的狭隘性;第三,是借助于各种传统符号与图式,创作出一批迎合当下艺术市场的作品。在我看来,不是艺术家的作品中具有传统中国画的图式或符号,就证明它们立足传统了,相反这恰恰是一种“伪传统”,一种将传统予以媚俗化的行为……实际上,我们今天看到的所谓“回归传统”的作品,大部分是唯美而缺乏内在文化深度的。因此,我更愿意从文化自觉与当代艺术史演进轨迹的发展的角度去看待“回归传统”的问题,唯其如此,我们才能避免将传统庸俗化,策略化[吕澎主编:《溪山清远:当代艺术展研讨会文集》,何桂彦《回归传统:文化自觉?还是一种艺术策略》一文,第297-304页]。

在当代绘画的阵营中,许多艺术家的作品都受到了传统绘画的启发,但艺术家并没有限囿于表层图式化的表现之中。在《董其昌计划》系列中,尚扬通过对自然的观念化,表达了一个当代艺术家对后工业时代人与自然的关系的自省与批判;借助于视觉的仪式化,艺术家完成了画面形式与个人图像系统的双重建构。同时,画面弥散出的闲淡、清疏、雅致的氛围,不仅使作品具有浓郁的文人气质,也赋予了作品一种潜在的东方文化身份。在吴笛笛创作的《二十四节气》系列作品中,图像无疑成为了意义显现的“索引”。同时,这些图像并不是对自然的再现,而是一些中国人传统观念中的概念性图像,吴迪迪希望将图像与文本信息予以结合,从而使其与传统的文化观念发生联系。这种创作方法多少有点图像考古的意味。和大部分从传统中吸取养分的艺术家不同,申亮并没有将自己的创作重心限定在文人画的审美领域,他更偏向于从少年时代的记忆中去寻找相应的视觉资源,偏爱那些崇高、伟岸,具有宏大叙事或具有革命浪潮主义情怀的风景。张发志的作品同样以崇高、浪漫主义、英雄叙事的风景作为对象,但与申亮不同的是,张发志为作品注入了一种解构主义的色彩,因为那种矫饰的,甚至有点夸张的情绪让画中的风景散发出虚无主义的气息。

一言蔽之,回归传统,从传统中汲取养料,艺术家应该真正去挖掘传统的图式、语言、风格背后积淀的内涵、精神,而不只是停留在视觉层面的对某一时期、某一类型的图式和符号进行简单的挪用,或做陌生化的图像处理。同时,就“社会风景”这一创作现象而言,其重点仍在于,艺术家应立足于当下的文化立场,重新去审视自然被社会化的历史。

(十)

从新中国成立后对“中国画的改造”开始,在过去的60多年中,我们可以看到“社会风景”在形式风格与艺术观念上发生的一系列变化:60年代的“毛泽东的诗意山水”,70年代作为审美现代性的风景(“无名画会”),80年代的“乡土风景”,作为文化现代性诉求的风景(“新潮美术”期间的创作),90年代以来的后工业时代的风景、都市风景、消费化的景观以及2000年以来出现的“社会主义经验的风景”、“景观化的风景”、“从传统中寻求形式与风格转化的风景”,等等。在这些诸多的现象中,即便“社会风景”仍有狭义与广义之分,但“风景”的边界却在不断地向外延伸。当然,“社会风景”在形式风格、审美趣味方面的衍变,仍取决于不同文化话语的推动。譬如,“无名画会”所体现出的“美学前卫”正好是对“文革模式”的反叛,“新潮”期间出现的具有文化现代性诉求的风景,恰恰来源于对现代性的焦虑,以及渴望本土文化的转型,而“社会主义经验的风景”则是中国艺术家对全球化语境的一种回应。不难发现,在中国当代架上领域,“社会风景”始终是一个绕不开的现象,它不但形成了自身的表征系统,还对应着时代文化的变迁,其修辞方式与创作发展均有自身前行的轨迹。

“社会风景”之所以能成为一个独特的现象,还在于它体现了中国当代绘画的一个基本特征:虽然艺术家重视现代的形式表达,但却无法将形式提升到现代主义的高度;虽然艺术家强调观念化的诉求,但无法将其发展成为纯粹的观念艺术。换言之,“社会风景”这一脉络的创作既不可能出现纯粹以审美现代性为追求的风景,也不可能出现观念化的风景,相反,“风景”只是表象,社会学叙事则永远隐藏其间。这也是中国与欧美现当代艺术最大的区别。从19世纪中期开始,西方现代艺术的发展是基于社会现代性与审美现代性的分裂而发展过去的,正是在这个基础上,西方才能出现“为艺术而艺术”的观念,以及建立在“形式自律”之上的现代主义传统。但是,中国的当代绘画依托的是“整一的现代性”,[批评家高名潞认为,和西方“分裂的现代性”相异,所谓“整一”的特征在于,这种文化现代性跟国家意识形态有着直接的关系,它本身并不能独立于政治、经济系统而存在,相反,它必须纳入到整个国家的文化结构中才具有自身的意义。参见高名潞《区域和时代的错位:中国的现代性和前卫性》一文,雅昌艺术网。]所以,艺术家的作品始终需要纳入社会学的叙事才能产生意义。

于是,另一个问题随之出现,既然无法脱离社会学的叙事,也就意味着中国当代绘画将无法摆脱现实主义的创作观念。追溯当代艺术的发展,对“文化大革命”艺术模式的反拨实质是源于两个脉络,批判现实主义与自然主义现实主义的创作。在当时特定的语境下,它们也是当代绘画最为基本的创作方法论。虽然在“新潮”期间,现代主义的浪潮曾压倒了批判现实主义,但是,90年代初,以“新生代”和“玩世”为代表,在反“新潮”宏大叙事的思潮下,现实主义又重新占了上风。不过,此时的“玩世”所带来的是一种变异的现实主义。90年代以来,现实主义的创作观念不但没有削弱,在全球化的语境下反而得以强化,因为只有“社会主义经验”才能充分地体现自身的文化身份。正是从这个角度讲,对于中国的艺术家而言,作为视觉对象与艺术表达的“风景”始终是彰显主体价值的重要通道,而“社会风景”的意义恰恰在于揭示在过去近半个世纪的时间里,中国的艺术家是如何认识自然、社会,如何通过“风景”来表达特定历史时期的文化症候以及个人的文化诉求的。(节选)

 

VII

A very typical phenomenon since 2000 is that the contemporary art has deviated from different thinking trends. Unlike in 80s when the trends and phenomenon emerged one after another, in the new period, a linear development came into being. In these ten years, both post-colonial pop landscapes, urban landscape reflecting on post industrialization, the “bottom humanity” landscape mirroring the countryside and marginalized group as well as natural landscape could be observed. However, three kinds of “landscape” will be discussed in the following parts of the article: “landscape of social experience”, “spectacular landscape” and the landscape resorting to the traditional Chinese landscape painting for transformation.

As for the inner formation of the art concept, the “socialist experience” firstly appeared in 90s China Art: “China Experience” Exhibition in December, 1993, an exhibition held in Sichuan Province Art Museum. This exhibition is to discuss the trend and direction of Chinese contemporary painting since 1990. According to the curator Wang Lin’s idea, it’s to discover the possibility of the Chinese contemporary art being developing after “post-89 art”. Another aim of this exhibition is to point out the post-colonial crisis the Chinese art community faced with under the globalization. In 1993, through the Post-89 New Art from China exhibition and the 45th Venice Biennale, the Chinese contemporary art first met the post-colonial problem after entering the global context, and thus began to rethink its cultural identity. Now it is not difficult to find out that the “China Experience” Exhibition is in essence a criticism on the “Political Pops” and “Cynical Realism” and an exploration for a new art approach. Although the “Political Pops” and “Cynical Realism” were avant-garde in earlier 90s, it turns out that these two trends fell into the western post-colonial traps. Critic Li Xianting also commented that, when the Chinese contemporary art became the “spring roll in the international palate”,[In the speech addressed on the “1st Global Chinese Curators Conference” held in Taiwan in 1998, Li Xianting talked about the “Spring Roll”  phenomenon of Chinese contemporary art against the international context. Refer to the article “Cultural Fragmentation and the Prescription of Cultural Identity”, published in “Yellow River” magazine, 1999, volume 2.] the rethinking of the cultural identity of Chinese contemporary art is an urgent must. More than a decade later, the critic Zou Yuejin proposed that the “socialist experience” in the contemporary art should be greatly underlined. However, from their reasoning, both “socialist experience” and “China experience” are in some degree the same, both concerning how Chinese contemporary art could be involved in the global art community as a local culture.

As for the works with the “socialist experience” clue, Zhang Xiaogang is no doubt the representative. The Big Family series after 1995 could be regarded as a very important turning point in his artistic practice. From the inner reflection to outward criticism, from the intimate private thinking to the public memory, the artist realize the outbreak of the academism and mid 80s modernism inclination. Since 2007, Zhang Xiaogang started reinforce the “socialist experience” and shifted his focus on the most ordinary living scenes since 50s and 60s. The artist tried to narrate the change of the times though a personal angel via micro mundane scenery and thus wake certain public memory of the Chinese living experience in certain period.

The works of Zhang Xiaogang and Liu Xiaodong could be regarded as the two poles of the “social landscape”. The former incepts the reality with individual and micro aspect of the personal memory while the later underscores the reflection of the significant events (migrants from the Three Gorges area) and phenomenon (Qinghai-Tibet Railway) with a grander narrative. But both share the traits of the typical “socialist experience” However, as for the “socialist experience thinking”, different artist’s aspect varies. Some are trying to represent the realism, some base their works on reflection of the past and some are more inclined to the native culture stand in the global context, etc.

VIII

Another phenomenon worth paying attention to is the “spectacular landscape”. The world “spectacle” originated from French sociologist Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. Simply stated, Debord is inspired by Marx’s concept of the “fetishism of the commodity”. For him, the “spectacular” fetishism is the main trait of post industrialization, in which the relationship between people and things is reversely expressed in the way of the relationship between things. In the late stage of the spectacle, even the real things vanish; they are all replaced by the fictitious image and become an illusive landscape. The so called “spectacular landscape” underlined the “appropriation” and “parody” which usually could be seen in the post modern art, the fragmented and inconsistent narration is then advocated. The chaos and the disorder exist together within the aesthetic pursuit of the absurd through the combination of the real and the surreal.

Pang Maokun’s work could be seen as the representative of this of practice focusing on the “spectacular landscape”. As the artist stated, “I borrowed the definition of ‘cosplay’, and transplant different life to my visual stage. The realistic depicting manner renders magnified absurdity and makes the audience stop their fixed way of thinking and start coding and interpreting what I put on the canvas. I can’t say that I create a new painting concept, but I’m always trying on exploring new angle of observing the truth…I want to review our reality through this abnormal way, and reveal the truth that we have been consumed and deceived by the information and fashion around us”.[Image Experiences:An Interview of He Guiyan with Pang Maokun,March 2010,from art intern.net.] Similarly, Li Changlong’s works also share the characteristic of the “spectacular landscape”. The spectacular imagery come not only from the virtual stage, but also from the plots in different space and time: the ruins from the battle dissimilated natural scenes, isolated artificial rocks, fighting crowds and scary individual, and segmented urban life…When being showed together in the same picture, the multi-meaningful, vague and chaotic system along with the non-context brings the audience the feeling of absurd that difficult to describe. In Century Park, Jiang Huajun depicted a fictional park that doesn’t exist in real world. And the spectacular landscape consists of different animals. It emphasizes on the metaphor and symbols rather than just simply repeating the reality.

When we talk about the phenomenon of “spectacular landscape”, another question also needs to be solved, namely the change of creative approach of contemporary painting against the backdrop of “image era”. In late 90s, China society entered the “image era” constituted by media networks. In all honesty, the “image conversion” in the contemporary painting is the “photo conversion” or “photo translation”. That means the scenes of the “spectacular landscape” are mostly from the converted photos and other visual image, for example, He Wenjue processed the classical movie stills into painting, Lv Shanchuan re-encoded the significant events in the television in two dimensional works, Zhang Xiaotao used the image in the CCTV monitor, etc. In this kind of works, the artists are no longer representing the surface of the world; instead, they alter and appropriate the visual images to build up their fictitious real world. But this also gives rise to another question, namely the change of realism in the visual era. That means, though these photos and images come from the reality, but these are “second-handed” truth, then where is the “real” truth? We can’t know. Since we couldn’t know the truth of the reality, the meaning of the creating then lies upon how the artists choose different images. This kind of selection becomes meaningful from the very beginning.

IX

The third type is the landscape which seeks transformation of form and style from traditions. Following “Pure Views: New Painting From China” planned by Lv Peng in 2010, the art circle has set off a wave of returning to tradition in just two years’ time. There is no doubt that returning to tradition naturally has its historical inevitability. Today, the reason why “traditions” have been able to arouse our general concern is mainly because with the nation as it rising power, China needs to examine anew the issues of the national cultural identity which a nation must possess and of its cultural subjectivity in the context of globalization. This will naturally arouse the consciousness of contemporary Chinese art in cultural subjectivity awareness. More importantly, it can tally with the nation’s cultural development strategy in the new historical period. However, in my opinion, this is just one aspect of the problem. The underlying reason for contemporary art to seek returning and converting to tradition also lies in that an inner crisis has occurred in the narrative discourse of art history which has been adhered by contemporary art since the 1990s. Facing with this crisis, on the one hand, we need to rethink and examine the development process of contemporary art in the past 30 years and the cultural and artistic aspirations of various periods; on the other hand, we need to walk out from the patterns of contemporary art which are dominated by Western standards and “postcolonial” taste and reconstruct evaluation criteria and value standards.

As a veteran critic, Lv Peng’s acumen and wisdom lie in that he is well aware that under a new historical condition, contemporary Chinese art needs to reshape its own cultural subjectivity. In other words, the contemporary art with the form and language of Western modern or postmodern art as prerequisites since the 1980s and the politically ironic contemporary art with cynicism and kitsch as aspirations in the 1990s have lost the cultural context and avant-garde which they depend on in today’s cultural situation. Therefore, contemporary art needs to refurbish its own cultural context and establish a new writing mode of art history.

However, we also should remain vigilant that in terms of the creation of contemporary Chinese paintings, “returning to tradition” is entirely possible to be transformed into a new type of art strategy. Its potential hazards are reflected as follows: the first is creating a group of “politically correct” works. The second is playing the card of “cultural nationalism”. Cultural nationalism has close ties with traditions. But once the “traditions” are developed into a cultural strategy under the background of globalization, this kind of cultural nationalism is not able to get rid of its own narrow-mindedness. The third is creating a group of works catering to the current art market by means of a variety of traditional symbols and schemata. In my opinion, the schemata and symbols of traditional Chinese paintings in artist’s works does not prove that they are based on traditions. Instead, I think that this is precisely a kind of “pseudo-tradition”, a pattern of behavior to vulgarize traditions…… In fact, most of the so-called “returning to tradition” works we see today are aesthetic but short of intrinsic cultural depth. Therefore, I prefer to look at the problem of “returning to tradition” form the perspective of cultural awareness and evolutionary trace development of contemporary art history. Only in this way, can we avoid the vulgarization and strategization of traditions. [Refer to He Guiyan’s Return to Tradition:Cultural Awareness or a Kind of Art Strategy?collected in “Pure Views: Contemporary Art Exhibition Seminar Album” chief editor,Lv Peng; ,297-304.]

In the camp of contemporary painting, a great deal of artists’ works are inspired by the traditional painting without being confined by the superficial schemata. In “The Dong Qichang Project” series, Shang Yang expresses an artist’s self-reflection and criticism on the relationship between men and nature in the post-industrial era by conceptualizing the nature. By means of the ritualization of vision, the artist completes the double construction of picture form and personal image system. Meanwhile, the leisurely, aloof and elegant atmosphere diffusing out of the picture endows the work not only the rich literary temperament, but also an underlying oriental cultural identity. In Wu Didi’s “Twenty-four Solar Terms” series, images undoubtedly become the significance-revealing “index”. Moreover, these images are not the reproduction of nature, but some conceptual images in traditional Chinese concepts. Wu Didi hopes to combine images with text information and makes them connect with traditional cultural concepts. This creative approach has somewhat implications of image archeology. Different from most of the artists who absorb nutrients from tradition, Shen Liang doesn’t confine his creation focus in the aesthetic field of literati painting. He prefers to seek the appropriate visual resources from his childhood memories and favors those lofty and great landscapes with grand narrative or revolutionary romanticism feelings. Similarly, Zhang Fazhi’s works also take landscapes of loftiness, romanticism and hero narrative as objects. But the difference is that Zhang Fazhi injects into his work a kind of deconstruction color because the pretentious, even somewhat exaggerated mood makes the landscape in the picture give out a breath of nihilism.

In short, in terms of returning to tradition and absorbing nutrients from tradition, artists should really dig into the sedimental connotation and spirit behind traditional schema, language and style rather than just stay in the visual level to simply embezzle the schemata and symbols of a certain period or a certain type, or process defamiliarized images.  Meanwhile, for the creation phenomenon of “social landscape”, its emphasis still lies in that artists should keep a foothold in the current cultural position to re-examine the socialized natural history.

X

After the founding of new China, the “transformation of Chinese painting” began. In the past 60 years, we can see that a series of changes in form, style and art concept have taken place in “social landscape”: “Mao Zedong’s poetic landscape” in the 1960s, landscape as aesthetic modernism (“Anonymous Painting Group”)in the 1970s, “Local landscape” and landscape as aspiration of cultural modernism (creation in the “New Wave Art” period ) in the 1980s, post-industrial landscape, urban landscape and landscape of consumerization in the 1990s, and “landscape of socialist experience”, “spectacular landscape” and “landscape which seeks the transformation of form and style from tradition” in the 2000s, etc. In these phenomena, although “social landscape” still has been divided into narrow sense and broad sense, the boundary of “landscape” is constantly extending outward. Certainly, the evolution of “social landscape” in form, style and aesthetic taste still depends on the promotion of different cultural discourse. For example, the “aesthetic avant-garde” embodied by “Anonymous Painting Group” is exactly a rebellion against the “Cultural Revolution Mode”; the landscape paintings with aspiration of cultural modernism which appeared in “New Wave” period precisely stem from the anxiety on modernism and the yearning for transformation of native culture; and “landscape of socialist experience” is Chinese artists’ response to the context of globalization. It’s not difficult to find that in the field of contemporary Chinese art, “social landscape” has always been a phenomenon which can not be bypassed. It not only forms its own characterization system, but also has its own forward trajectory of rhetoric method and creation development, corresponding to cultural changes of the times.

The reason why “social landscape” has been able to become a unique phenomenon is also because it reflects a basic feature of contemporary Chinese painting: although artists attach importance to the modern form of expression, they are unable to raise the form to the height of modernism; although artists emphasize conceptualized aspirations, they are unable to develop them into a pure conceptual art. In other words, the creation of the “social landscape” can produce neither the landscape with pure aesthetic modernism as pursuit nor the conceptualized landscape. Instead, “landscape” is just the appearance and the sociological narrative is always hidden in it. This is also the biggest difference between the contemporary art in China and in Europe and America. After the mid-19th century, the development of modern Western art is based on the division between social modernism and aesthetic modernism. It is on this basis that the concept of “art for art’s sake” and the tradition of modernism built on “self-discipline of form”can appear in the West. However, contemporary Chinese painting relies on “the whole of modernity”. [“Total Modernity” is the summary of characters of Chinese modernity by critic Gao Minglu. According to his understanding, different from the “split modernity” of the West, the feature of the so called “total” is that this kind of cultural modernity is directly related with national ideology which cannot be independent from politics and economic system to exist. On the contrary, it must be involved into the cultural structure of the whole country to make sense. Refer to Gao Minglu’s article “Dislocation of Space and Time: Chinese Modernity and Avant-Garde”, from Artron.net.]So, only incorporated into the sociological narrative, can the artists’ works make sense.

Thus, another problem appears. Since it cannot separate from sociological narrative, it also means that contemporary Chinese painting is unable to get rid of the creation concept of realism. Reviewing the development of contemporary art, the backwash against the art mode of “Cultural Revolution” essentially originates from two contexts, the creations of critical realism and realism of naturalism. In the specific context of that time, they are also the most fundamental creation methodology of contemporary art. Although the wave of modernism outmatched critical realism during the “New Wave” period, the realism with “new generation” and “cynical” as representatives had the upper hand once again under the ideological trend of anti-“New Wave” grand narrative in the early 1990s. However, at that time, what the “cynical” brought about is a variant of realism. Since the 1990s, the creation concept of realism has not been weakened. Instead, it has been reinforced in the context of globalization because only “socialist experience” can fully embody its own cultural identity. It is from this perspective that for Chinese artists, the “landscape” as visual object and artistic expression is always an important channel to highlight subject value, and the significance of landscape lies exactly in its revealing of how in the past half century, Chinese artists understand nature and society, and express cultural symptoms and individual cultural aspirations of a specific historical period through “landscape”.

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