质素·遐心:张天幕的绘画

Caliber — Withdrawal: the Paintings of Zhang Tianmu


/魏祥奇

 

 

张天幕专注于纸本蛋彩画创作,从最早作为儿童读本插图的水彩画,到后来将铅笔与蛋彩融合表现出更细腻的视觉肌理的综合材料性绘画,再到今天愈发敏感于“水墨性”的色泽和质感,其性情之中的温和与自在被这些绘画再现为一种色彩斑斓的梦境,与“超现实主义”的图像样式之间有诸多相近之处,带有很多孩童尤其是女孩的视觉意象被构置在一起,眼睛的神色描述出一种孤独和忧伤的情绪,如同我们在很多童话故事中所读到的那样,这是一个近乎被遗弃者的梦境奇遇记。事实上我们在翻看张天幕这几年出版的画集中,就能读到很多在绘画间隙被记录下来的短文或词句,大多与其瞬间的所思所想有关,我们很难分辨这些稍纵即逝的感触是来自于画面,还是因为这些流动的思绪才有了这些绘画,但无疑张天幕还是很清晰地区分了现实生活与绘画创作之间的差异。抑或者说,张天幕用绘画的方式塑造了一种带有“文学化”特征的“情境”,虽然我并不认为这些绘画与其童年时代的某些记忆有着必然联系,但这些具有寓言色彩的绘画还是展露出某种敏感和不安的心迹,欲言又止。尽管如此,张天幕的绘画都没有一个预设一个叙事的逻辑和场景,而是所有形象如意识流般随性生发而出,以至于在不同的空间、时间、思绪和心境中,甚至是受到某种莫可名状的因素的影响诸如天气、温度或者是匆匆一瞥的遇见,都会为创作带来变动的灵感,在盛葳看来这是一种“自动主义”的绘画经验,但我想在这里的心灵自由是一种很感性的心和手的判断,其并非直接在画面上描述一种现场感的影像,而是将这些私密的情绪隐匿在由花朵、玩偶、虫鱼和怪兽组构的画面之内,以至于很快这些即逝的、不经意的感知在倏忽间便无从知晓了。

 

从“知道和不知道”、“幻游记”、“梦幻交织”、“浮生若梦”,到“自游”和“不自知”,张天幕都在尝试用绘画去捕捉自己内心深处的“小悲伤”和“小忧郁”,这种复杂而又经常突如其来的困惑体验实在难以言说,以至于其只能用断断续续的、模模糊糊的词语来形容和描述,在语句的修辞中甚至带有一种自嘲的形态,怀疑这些带有荒诞意味的感受似乎更多只是一种无厘头的臆想。我们也会注意到,张天幕总会为画集撰写诗文、短语或俳句,这些极富画面感的文字大多与这一阶段自己在绘画创作过程中的体验相关,或者可以理解为其对绘画言说方式意犹未尽的补充和延伸。知觉远比视觉更直接和不确定。那么,我们在考察张天幕的绘画的时候,就应该注意到其作为一种外在的视觉和视像,与其内在之中心性的呼应关系:是近乎完全摒除心性以外的自由驰骋,抑或是诉诸心性境界精神超越的逍遥游。显然,张天幕的绘画并不是要通过“再现”猫头鹰、猫、花草和虫鱼的另外一种真实,而是要在绘画的过程中“忘我”,从而进入一种神秘的沉思和冥想的状态:尽管仍在用画笔勾描和晕染诡秘奇异的形象,但在“绘画”这样一种心手相应的行为过程中,其的确找到一种感受自我的方式,这个过程是单纯的、微妙的、善意的,也是超越世俗生活羁绊、内心愉悦的时间体验,是抚慰心灵的行为过程。在这个意义上而言,将其绘画解读为与童年生活记忆相关的逻辑是很有意思的,张天幕并没有用绘画去介入一种社会学意义的价值批判,而是将自我置身于绘画的过程之中,自然而然地面对绘画与自我的关系、面对自我与社会生活的关系,同时,我们作为他者的“观看”,也就转换为一种关系的隐喻:张天幕的绘画构建了一座闭合内心世界的桃花源境。

 

当然,“当代艺术”创作更为注重个体的文化和思想经验,以一种深沉的基调探究人性和政治、社会生活的权力关系,反思人的存在的荒谬感和虚无感,以及人在现实思想生活中的匮乏,还有人性的凶残和自我毁灭。虽然我们很难在张天幕的绘画中直接看到这样一种视觉景观,但在我看来这些绘画恰是构成一个保护自我的“壳”,以至于我们难以触及其的内心深处面对现实世界的真实反应。张天幕对于“当代艺术”的基本语言和观念特征并不陌生,或者是秉性之中的自觉使其难以完全认同“当代艺术”的行为方式,或者说其难以在“当代艺术”的复杂空间和现场语境中感受到自我的情感维度,其更愿意将自己关闭在工作室之中用画笔去感受自己的呼吸、感受自己身体的律动、感受刹那间的灵光闪现。这种工作和生活的状态,使张天幕的绘画带有一种自我想象和自我演绎的风格化特征,与“当代艺术”的语言和图式之间相距甚远,也使其绘画难以被归入“当代艺术”的理论范畴而引发更多的讨论。也就是在近两年的时间里,学界关于“新水墨”绘画语言与观念的理论梳理日渐推重,张天幕的纸本蛋彩绘画也被归入到其中作为一种图像的样本得以被重新认识。“新水墨”的概念是相对开放和宽泛的,尽管张天幕的绘画中很少直接使用到水墨,但其蛋彩绘画中还是引入了“水墨性”的语言方法,以至于相关研究者更为注重这种“外延”的特别意义。值得注意的是,“新水墨”绘画中有相当一部分艺术家都是在描绘“梦境”和“异象”,相较于此前水墨画中固有的语言图式,这些“梦境”和“异象”都表现出更为私密性的绘画经验,其所关注和回应的并非是“当代艺术”的观念的问题,而是在思考水墨绘画语言与图像的转换的问题。张天幕在“新水墨”绘画的理论推助下的确重新发现了自我,其近期以“填词”为题的创作中,给予了八大山人花鸟画和山水画中的“形体”以新的“面目”,这些带有“视觉考古”意味的新绘画,揭开的将远非是中国传统绘画知识体系的“心印”,新的阐发也必将更为偶然和多义。“质素”和“遐心”,仍将是张天幕绘画中最内在的精神气质。

 

20155月于北京东城胡同)


by Wei Xiangqi

 

Zhang Tianmu focuses on tempera paintings on paper. From her earliest watercolor illustrations in children’s books, to the later mixed-media paintings evincing a finer degree of visual patterning through the fusion of pencil and tempera, and then to today’s greater sensitivity to the color, sheen, and textures in “ink”, her mild and carefree temperament is represented by these paintings as a variegated dreamscape. There are numerous similarities with the visual schema of Surrealism in the juxtaposition of visual imagery of children, especially of girls: the spirit of the eyes portrays a lonely and hurt mood—just as we read in many childhood stories, that dreamland adventures of someone almost abandoned. In actual fact, when we look back on Zhang Tianmu’s catalogues in the last few years, we can read many short texts or phrases recorded between the “cracks” of paintings, most of which are related to fleeting thoughts. It is hard for us to distinguish whether these effervescent feelings originated in the paintings or whether these paintings resulted from such fugitive moods. Yet without a doubt, Zhang Tianmu still very clearly distinguishes between real life and painting. Or else one can say that through the means of painting, Zhang Tianmu has forged a “scene” with “literary” characteristics. Though I do not believe that these paintings have a necessary relationship with specific memories of a certain childhood, still, these paintings with their fabular color still display traces of sensitivity and unease—of holding one’s tongue. Despite this, Zhang Tianmu’s paintings do not presuppose a narrative logic and setting but rather allow all the images to form and be let out spontaneously like a stream of consciousness—to the point where different spaces, times, thoughts, and feelings, or even the elements beyond description such as the weather, temperature, or even a rushed glance of an encounter, all bring about evanescent inspirations for the work. For Sheng Wei, this is an “automatic” painting experience; yet I believe that the spiritual freedom here is the judgment of a very sensible set of hands and heart, not directly portraying on the picture plane a projection of feelings but rather concealing these secret sentiments within the picture plane composed of flowers, dolls, insects, fish, and beasts—to the point where very quickly, these aleatory, inattentive perceptions swiftly become lost to awareness.

 

From “Know and Unknow” [sic], “Journey of Fantasy”, “Dream Intertwined”, “Life is But a Dream”, “Liberty” and “Unknown Self”, Zhang Tianmu has been attempting to use painting to capture the “minor sorrow” and “minor dejection” deep within herself. Such complex and yet frequent, sudden bursts of bewilderment are hard to express—expressible only with fragmentary and fuzzy words in description and depiction. In the rhetoric of the phrase, there is even a certain self-mockery, a suspicion that these sensations tinged with the absurd might appear to be nothing more than inane, nonsensical notions. We will also notice that Zhang Tianmu would always compose poems, short phrases, or haikus. These highly painterly texts mostly have to do with her experiences in the process of creating the works, or else could be understood as a supplement and continuing extension of the expressible unexhausted by the mode of expression in painting. Perception is far more direct and uncertain than vision. Then, when we observe Zhang Tianmu’s paintings, we ought to notice the resonant relationship between their being external visuality and visual images on the one hand and being an internal centrality on the other: this verges on a completely unbridled freedom beyond dismissing the psychological, or else relates the carefree wonders of the spiritual transcendence of all states of the mind. Clearly, Zhang Tianmu’s painting does not have to be “represented” through a reality beyond owls, cats, flowers, insects and fish, but rather a “forgetting of the self” in the process of painting, thereby entering a mysterious state of deep reflection and meditation. Even though she still uses brushwork to delineate and daub eerie and bizarre images, in this process of the action—“painting”—of coordinating the heart and the hand, she has indeed found a means of feeling herself. This process is simple, subtle, gentle, and also a temporal experience which transcends the shackles of worldly life and inner happiness; it is an action of soothing the soul. In terms of such signification, it is very meaningful to interpret her paintings as a logic connected to the memory of her childhood life. Zhang Tianmu has not used painting to intervene into a sociological critique of values, but rather placed herself within the process of painting, naturally and spontaneously facing the relationship between painting and the self, and that between the self and social life. At the same time, as an Other “viewing”, we have also been transformed into a relational metaphor: Zhang Tianmu’s painting constructs a “peach blossom springs” [a traditional rustic utopia in Chinese literature] of a closed inner world.

 

Certainly, works of “contemporary art” are more focused on individual cultural and conceptual experiences, exploring in depth humanity and power relations in political and social life and reflecting on the sense of absurdity and emptiness in human existence—as well as lacks and deficiencies in the reality of our thinking lives, not to mention the cruelty and self-destructiveness in human nature. Though we will have difficulty directly seeing such a visual spectacle in Zhang Tianmu’s painting, in my perspective, these paintings happen to form a “shell” protecting the shelf, to the point where we find it hard to get in touch with her inner heart’s true reactions deep down vis-à-vis the real world. Zhang Tianmu is not unfamiliar with the basic language and conceptual characteristics of “contemporary art”. Perhaps from her temperament, she self-consciously realizes that she has a hard time completely agreeing with the modes of action in “contemporary art”, or else perhaps it is difficult for her to feel an emotional dimension within the complex spaces and specific contexts of “contemporary art”. So she is more willing to shut herself in her studio, using the brush to sense her breath, to sense the rhythmic movements of her body, to sense that flash of spirit at that instant. Such conditions of working and living have imbued Zhang Tianmu’s paintings with that stylized nature of the imagination and development of the self, which is quite distant from the language and schema of “contemporary art”—which also makes it hard for her paintings to be incorporated within the field of “contemporary art” and from there on spark further discussion. In the last two years, the academic world has steadily progressed with sorting through the language and theoretical ideas of “New Ink” paintings; Zhang Tianmu’s tempera on paper paintings have also been incorporated as an exemplar of such images and therefore recognized anew. The concept of “New Ink” is relatively open and broad. Even though Zhang Tianmu’s paintings rarely directly employ ink and watercolor, her tempera paintings have nevertheless brought in the language and methods of “ink”, so much so that relevant researchers have become more interested in the special significance of this “extension”. What is worth noting is that within “New Ink” painting, a considerable number of artists are portraying “dreamscapes” and “peculiar images”; in contrast to the inherent language and schema of previous ink paintings, these “dreamscapes” and “peculiar images” express the greater secretive experience of painting. Its concerns and reactions are not the conceptual issues of “contemporary art” but rather a question of thinking through the transformation of the language and imagery of ink paintings. Under the impulse of theories of “New Ink” paintings, Zhang Tianmu has indeed rediscovered herself. In her recent works where the theme is “filling the lyrics to fit a tune”, she has conferred a new “visage” to the “forms and structures” [xingti] in Bada Shanren’s bird-and-flower paintings and landscape paintings. What these new paintings imbued with “visual archaeology” will reveal are far from that spiritual “imprint of the heart” within the knowledge systems of traditional Chinese paintings; the new elucidations will certainly be more random and plural in meaning. “Caliber” and “withdrawal” are still the innermost spiritual qualities in Zhang Tianmu’s paintings.

 

May 2015 in a hutong in Dongcheng, Beijing