另類自我寫照 ——談陳承衛油畫的當代性

文/金影村

陳承衛近期的《大民國》系列作品給人以耳目一新的感覺:手法分明還是那精緻的古典寫實,視覺上卻呈現出某種荒誕、超現實、陌生化的審美特質。他將一幕幕想像中的民國歷史片段搬上畫布,營造出布萊希特式的舞臺效果,同時融入了若干觀念攝影的元素。尤為引人注目的是,畫家本人也參與到了這出年代大戲中。畫面中的他手持電筒,時而化身巡捕房的警察,時而裝扮成翩翩君子,時而又帶著幾分花花公子的意味。背景似乎總是茫茫的夜色,唯有電筒照射出的光線掌控了局面,如舞臺上的聚光燈,時刻將觀者的視線引向唯美神秘之處,製造出強烈的心理張力。《大民國》系列的畫面端莊肅穆,但因畫家活躍的自我介入,又顯得充滿趣味性與戲謔性。通過挑逗觀眾的視覺神經,畫家想要與我們展開的卻是一場思維的遊戲。陳承衛用自我扮演介入到作品創作中,已經與傳統意義上的自畫像大相徑庭。而細細體味其中的意象,卻處處能尋見畫家個人的影子。這就引出了一個有趣的話題:藝術家的自我,有多少直接呈現的可能?

縱觀藝術史,不難發現諸多古典大師也已厭倦了中規中矩的自畫像,和觀眾玩起了類似捉迷藏的新花樣:追溯到文藝復興盛期,意大利畫壇巨匠拉斐爾便在其史詩巨作《雅典學院》中插入了一個耐人尋味的細節——仔細觀察畫面右下方處,便會發現畫家本人也站在眾多古希臘哲人與思想家群體中,目光直視觀者,仿佛是在聲明,這前無古人後無來者的思想盛宴,我拉斐爾就算穿越過去也不能缺席啊!北方文藝復興巨擎揚·凡·艾克(Jan van Eyck)更是奇思妙想,在《阿爾諾菲爾婚禮》一畫中,為了證明自己作為畫家兼證婚人的形象,他將自己畫在了房間牆壁上一面硬幣尺寸大小的鏡子中,並在顯眼的位置寫上拉丁文“Johannes de eyck fuit hic”,意即揚·凡·代克在場。而巴洛克時期西班牙宮廷畫家委拉茲凱支,則在《宮娥》(Las Meninas)一作中將自己正在畫國王和王后的形象如實記錄下來,在畫與被畫、看與被看之間實現了微妙的轉化……

這些別出心裁的自我介入,無外乎兩重意圖,一為實現畫家參與畫面敘事的願望,二為自傳式的紀實強調。然而,陳承衛的作品,體現出了前兩者之外的第三重意圖——通過自我扮演來實現個人敘事。扮演,是畫家脫離自身身份的創造,同時又是觀念化的自我寫照,因而,在這一層面上,《大民國》系列顯示出了其內在獨有的當代性。

這樣的嘗試蘊含著某種超越時空的前衛性和實驗性。舉個例子,早在中國清代,畫工們便創作了一套享譽盛名的《雍正行樂圖》。在其中,雍正作為帝王的形象被最大限度地弱化。相反,他在圖中化身為多種承載了滿、漢文化符號的角色:山中撫琴的高士、書齋中手不釋卷的士大夫、賞荷觀梅的文人騷客、仙風道骨的隱者,還有漁夫、喇嘛、獵人、道士……不少人看到這些豐富多彩的形象,便認為此作反映了雍正皇帝廣泛的業餘愛好。而事實上,作為一名勤於政務的帝王,這套作品並不一定是雍正真實生活的寫照,而更似一種個人的文化想像。文武並用,德才兼舉,作為滿族君王的雍正試圖宣告自己在文化上兼容並蓄的姿態,政治性與趣味性並存,或許才是這套作品的用意所在。

而在西方當代藝術中,自我扮演則更是比比皆是。其中,女藝術家辛迪·舍曼(Cindy Sherman)的觀念攝影尤能體現自我扮演的魅力。辛迪·舍曼一路自拍,將自己裝扮成電影演員、童話人物、歷史肖像以及美國社會的典型公共形象,以此嘲弄消費社會的欺騙性與幻覺性。她的作品指向群體而非個體,卻僅憑一己之力,超越了普通的攝影作品,直達觀念藝術。

一中一西,一古一今,以上所舉的兩個例子雖在媒介與意圖上毫無關聯,但放在當代藝術的觀念領域討論,卻實現了辯證統一。雍正為了建構自我、強化自我,扮演成各式各樣的典型人物,而所有的角色都附屬于皇帝本人的身份;辛迪·舍曼解構自我,將自我變成了純粹的道具,反過來證明了她的藝術家身份。舉這兩個例子,是為了樹立自我扮演的兩條路徑與其中的典型。反觀陳承衛的作品,仿若這二者之間的調和。畫中的“自我”,既身處其中,又置身室外。畫家將個人情感帶入到作品中,或憂傷掙扎,或纏綿悱惻,或坦然釋懷。與此同時,作品始終維持著舞臺與觀眾之間的距離感。這假作真時真亦假的思維轉換,釋放出奇妙的藝術效果。

畫家早期開始創作的《自傳體》系列便流露出了這種傾向。在這批自畫像中,他將自己打扮成武士、西方貴族、留絡腮鬍子的男子、長髮少年、民國公子、情意綿綿的紳士等等,甚至原封不動地將倫勃朗《自畫像》中的場景嫁接到自己身上。這其中當然有自傳的成分,但更多的還是戲擬。然而,他的戲擬竟是如此認真虔誠,仿佛將身心都放在了那遙想的夢境之中,轉化成了藝術創作的精神紀實。在《兒時夢想之武士》一畫中,畫家身著一身盔甲,嚴陣以待,目光如炬,真真切切地還原了一個勇武士兵的形象。少時的幻想天真爛漫,成年後的他用藝術延續了這種幻想,將其莊重地定格在畫布上。在另一幅畫中,他出現在了倫勃朗1660年自畫像的佈景中。當年倫勃朗創作這幅自畫像時,正值命運的巔峰,那意氣風發、恃才傲物的神態,被畫家模仿得惟妙惟肖。陳承衛以這樣的方式向大師致敬,同時帶著幾分挑戰大師的盛氣與傲骨。畫中這位雄姿英發的後生,就是這樣坦率無畏。但是,又有誰能猜測,他私底下在用怎樣的勤奮和努力,來為那傲視群雄的怒放做著準備呢?除此之外,陳承衛也用這種方式啟發我們重審經典。時至今日,當我們將文藝復興、巴洛克時期的古典油畫大師之作奉為經典時,也包含了另一重潛臺詞,那便是認為它們已經過時了。時空的隔離,常常令純正的古典趣味淪為扭捏的附庸風雅。然而,陳承衛的《自傳體》系列打破了這樣的隔離,直接從古典大師的作品中汲取養分,並以自畫像的新形式重建了經典在當代語境中的意義空間。

畫家曾坦言,他要窮其一生將這種自畫像持續下去。如此記錄自己的生命軌跡,如同撰寫一部浪漫的腳本,背後蘊含的是畫家優雅多姿的情態與對自我內心莫大的忠誠。如夢如戲的人生用陳承衛的《自傳體》來詮釋,初看荒謬,細想卻最適合不過:人來到世間走一遭,雖“趣舍萬殊,靜躁不同”,各自演繹各自的人生,卻都逃不脫生老病死,殊途同歸,真不如大夢一場!

如果說《自傳體》系列虛構得恰到好處,那麼《大民國》系列,則脫離了自畫像模式,景幕分明,情境交融,彰顯出畫家日臻成熟視覺語言。作為《自傳體》系列的延伸,《大民國》系列除了當代感十足的觀念寫實手法之外,或許還有兩點難能可貴之處:

其一,“民國”作為一種文化記憶,在商品經濟驅使下的當代社會已經被廣泛地消費:從充斥銀屏的民國年代戲到低級廉價的時尚Cosplay,布衣、旗袍、長衫、馬褂、氊帽都變成了供現代人狂歡的歷史符號。然而,在《大民國》系列中,卻極少出現以上提及的消費痕跡,而更多地體現出畫家的個人情結與歷史夢境,是一種自省式的情感世界的自我構建。正如陳承衛自己所談到的那樣:“大民國系列並非再現歷史,仔細觀察細節會發現這是一種屬這個時代才會有的一種解讀,畫面有某種歲月感和未來感,它甚至是一種歷史的鏡像,某些細節還有暗示語指向性,如人物的人狀投影,如伸入畫面的某帶有力量的雙手,再如手電筒映射出的黨徽等等,作品整體都微微散著一絲獨特的繪畫情愫,這種情愫其實也就是我所要帶進畫面的觀念。”

在《月下影》中,才子美人相對而立,案前的燭臺首飾散發出微光,似乎暗示著離別的悲戚;《紅玫瑰》與《白玫瑰》兩幅作品,借女作家張愛玲的小說名稱,講述了兩個愛情的寓言;《迷霧》中警察逮捕女學生的戲劇時刻,畫家卻處理得異常冷靜,仿佛那曾經的壓迫與反抗、柔弱與強勢、文雅與魯莽,都在歲月的煙雲中褪了色,只留下淡淡的印記;《暗夜箴言》中,光線照亮女學生舉起的纖纖玉手,頓時強化了事件的緊張感,從手法上鮮明地致敬古典大師倫勃朗……在這些作品中,情緒與事件、手法與觀念融為一體,它們並不遵循時代的邏輯,而反過來投射當下的心理狀態,寫照自我的同時,也在寫照每個觀者。

其二,他的作品始終堅持美,沒有因為刻意追求當代感而背離美的原則。自1917年杜尚將簽了名的小便器放入美術館開始,當代藝術反美學的浪潮從未平息,似乎藝術作品越是醜陋得離經叛道,就越能體現出當代屬性。然而,隨著當代身體美學、顯現美學、氣氛美學等的興起,當代藝術也開始呈現出回歸在場經驗的趨勢,作為視覺愉悅的審美經驗被重新納入到創作當中。《大民國》系列通過藝術家的扮演來強化在場的觀念,又通過古典寫實的手法保留了藝術作品的審美特質。正如畫家自己所認同的那樣:“我希望作品無論是古典的還是前衛的終究應該帶給人以美的享受,而非醜陋空洞的形式主義和令人作嘔的荒唐之舉。”在探索的道路上,陳承衛沒有盲目迎合,而始終保持對美的一顆敬畏之心,他的藝術品質也隨之得到昇華。

陳承衛的自我寫照,既包含了《雍正行樂圖》式的自傳式表達,又融匯了辛迪·舍曼式的當代藝術觀念。他將洞見隱藏在唯美而怪誕的虛構畫面中,一本正經地再現幻覺。他筆下的人物定格在莫可名狀的戲劇瞬間,製造出了某種直抵人心的紀念碑性。畫家本人既是創作的主體,又是畫中的形象,隱喻的手法喚起觀眾的無限遐想。自我的形象無處不在,又尋之不得——或許每一個形象都是他本人的寫照,又或許他誰都不是,而僅僅是詭譎地藏匿於作品的背後,成為那個最超脫的旁觀者。《大民國》系列猶如一出宏大的實驗戲劇,畫家同時充當了導演、演員、道具師、燈光師、佈景師等各個舞臺行當。在其中,歷史充當了想像的標本,一幕幕鋪陳開來,唯美、直觀、強烈,讓人過目難忘。或許也正因為這樣,我們面對著陳承衛的油畫,即便明知是夢囈,也同樣會為之著迷。

Self-Portraiture of a Different Nature –On the Modernity of Chen Chengwei’s Oil Painting

By Jin Yingcun

The recent Republic of China series of Chen Chengwei presents a refreshing feeling to the eyes: some absurd, surreal, and unfamiliar aesthetic qualities are presented visually with still the exquisite method of classical realism. The scenes of historical fragments during the Republic Period are moved onto the canvas to integrate with some elements of conceptual photography for creating the stage effect in the style of Bertolt Brecht. It is very striking that the artist also participated in the great show of that period himself. Holding a flashlight, the painter sometimes turns the policeman from the police station, sometimes dresses up as a noble gentleman, and sometimes shows kind of the style of a playboy. With the darkness of night as the background, the situation is controlled merely by the beam of the flashlight. Like the spotlight on the stage, the beam guides the eyes of the audiences to the beauty of mystery and creates a strong psychological tension. The scenes of the Republic of China series are generally dignified and solemn, yet the active participation of the artist adds an air of humor and jocosity to them. By challenging the visual nerves of the audiences, the artist is playing a game of the mind with us. The participation of the artist the creation of the works is totally different from the self-portraiture in the traditional sense. Through careful reflection on the images in the pictures, the trace of the artist could be found everywhere. This brings out an interesting topic: what is the possibility of the direct presentation of the artists themselves?

After taking a panoramic view of the history of art, it can be easily found that many classical masters were tired of the ordinary self-portraiture, so they played the new tricks of hide and seek with the audiences.Tracing back to the prime time of the Renaissance, Raphael, the great Italian master of painting, added a thought-provoking detail his epic masterpiece School of Athens. It can be found that the artist is also standing among the ancient Greek philosophers and thinkers after careful observation of the lower right corner of the work. He is looking directly the eyes of the audiences as if he is making a statement that I, Raphael, should travel through the history to participate in the unprecedented gathering of the great minds. Jan van Eyck, the great master of northern Europe during the Renaissance, made a more imaginative move. In order to prove that he is the painter who witnessed the marriage, he put his self-portraiture a mirror of the size of a coin on the wall in the room in the picture and added the note “Johannes de eyck fuit hic” in Latin at a prominent place which means “in the presence of Jan van Eyck”. Diego Velázquez, the Spanish court painter in the Baroque period, recorded the scene that he is painting the King and the Queen in the work Las Meninas, realizing the subtle transformation between painting and being painted and between looking and being looked…

The ingenious participation of the artists in the picture reveals nothing more than two intentions. One is to realize the wish of the artist for participating in the narration of the picture and the other is for the autobiographical documentary emphasis. However, Chen Chengwei shows a third intention in his works, namely, to realize personal narration with self-portraiture of different styles. The different styles demonstrate the creation of the artist for getting out his identity as a painter. Meanwhile, they are the conceptual self-portraiture. Therefore, Republic of China series displays a unique intrinsic modernity in this sense.

Such attempt implies the characteristics of avantgarde and experimental fashion beyond time and space. For example, painters created a renowned set of painting titled Amusement of Emperor Yongzheng in as early as Qing Dynasty. In the works, the image of Yongzhong as the emperor was greatly weakened. On the contrary, he acted as different characters bearing the symbols of Manchurian and Chinese culture in the pictures, like the hermit playing zither in the mountains, the scholar reading books in his study, the literati appreciating lotus and plum blossom, the recluse with the demeanor of a transcendent being, fisherman, lama, hunter, Taoist… After watching the great diversity of images, many people think that the works reflect a wide range of hobbies of Emperor Yongzheng. In fact, the works is not necessarily the real portrayal of Yongzheng who was busy with the governance of the country. It is more likely that they show personal cultural imagination. As the emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, Yongzheng tried to show his inclusive attitude towards different cultures by emphasizing civil and military factors and highlighting morality and talent. Perhaps the real intention of the works is to make the serious political statement more amusing.

Self-portraiture is also very popular in modern western art. Among them, the charm of self-portraiture is reflected especially in the conceptual photography of Cindy Sherman. She has taken a lot of photos of herself dressed up as film actresses, fairy tale characters, historical portraits, and typical public images of the society in the US to mock at the deception and illusion of the consumption society. Aiming at different groups rather than individuals, she has created the works of conceptual art that surpass the ordinary photography all on her own.

One is in ancient China and the other is in the west of modern times. The two examples mentioned above are irrelevant to each other in terms of the media and intention, yet they achieved dialectical unity. Yongzheng constructed and highlighted the new identities by acting as a variety of typical characters, yet all the identities were affiliated to the real identity of him as an Emperor. Cindy Sherman turned herself purely props through deconstruction of her identity, yet it proved her identity as an artist in turn. The two examples reveal two paths of self-portraiture and typical features therein. Looking back at Chen Chengwei’s works, it seems that they are integrated versions of the two. The “self” in the picture is linking the virtual with reality. The works show the personal feelings of the artist. Sometimes he is distressed, sometimes sentimental, and sometimes relieved. Meanwhile, the works have always maintained the sense of distance between the stage and the audiences. Truth becomes fiction when the fiction is truth. The conversion of thoughts releases amazing artistic effects.

This tendency had been shown in the early autobiographical series of the artist. He dressed himself as a warrior, a western noble, a bearded man, a youth with long hair, a playboy in the republic period, an affectionate gentleman, and so on, in the self-portraitures. He even applied the original scenes in the self-portraitures of Rembrandt directly his own self-portraitures. This is more of a parody than a self-portraiture. However, he was so earnest and pious in the parody that it seems that he was wholeheartedly immersed in the dreamland and transformed the spiritual documentary of the artistic creation. In the painting Childhood Dream, the artist is dressed up in armor, ready to fight, with his eyes blazing, which truly restores the image of a valiant soldier. It used to be the innocent fantasy of his childhood. When he grew up, he continued the fantasy with art and solemnly captured it on canvas. In another picture, he appeared in the scene of Rembrandt’s self-portraiture in 1660. Rembrandt was at the peak of his life when he completed the self-portraiture. He was in high spirits and showed an arrogant manner, which was vividly imitated by Chen. Chen hoped to pay his tribute to the great master in this way. Meanwhile, he tried to challenge the master to a certain extent with arrogance and pride. The ambitious young man in the picture is just so frank and fearless. However, who could have guessed how diligent and arduous he has been behind the picture to prepare for the commanding burst bloom. Besides, the artist intended to inspire us to review the classic works in this way. Today, when we regard the oil painting masterpieces during the Renaissance and Baroque period as classics, the subtext is that they are out of date. The separation of time and space would often turn the classical taste awkward imitation. However, the Autobiography series of the artist have broken through such isolation by absorbing the essence from the works of old masters directly and reconstructing the meaning space of the classics within contemporary context in a new form of self-portraiture.

The artist frankly indicated that he would devote his whole life to this kind of self-portraiture. Recording his life track in this way is just like writing a romantic film script which embodies the artist’s elegant spirit and great loyalty to his inner self. It seems ridiculous to illustrate the dramatic life with the Autobiography of Chen Chengwei at first thought, yet we will find that there couldn’t be any better choice if we ponder over this. Though people with diversified interests and characteristics have different life experience, none of them can be immortal. Different paths lead to the same destination, which is just like a dream.

While the Autobiography series are of the right level of fiction, the Republic of China series, however, demonstrate the increasingly mature visual language of the artist with the feeling and setting naturally blended under the background of distinctive features, which is completely different from the mode of self-portraiture. As the extension of the Autobiography series, there are two valuable points in addition to the modern realistic conceptual method in the Republic of China series.

Firstly, as a kind of cultural memory, the “Republic of China” has been widely illustrated in the modern society driven by commodity economy. From the TV series flooding the screen to the cheap fashion cosplay, cotton clothes, cheongsam, long gown, Chinese jacket and felt hat are all turned historical symbols for the carnival of modern people. However, the previously mentioned signs of consumption could hardly be found in the Republic of China series which reflect mostly the personal feelings and historical perceptions of the artist. It constructs the emotional world in an introspective manner. According to Chen Chengwei himself, “the Republic of China series is not a representation of the history. After careful observation of the details, you can find that it is an interpretation exclusive to the current times. The pictures show a certain sense of both the history and the future, which can even be considered as mirror images of the history. They also suggest that something are hidden behind certain details such as the human shaped shadow of the character, the powerful hands stretching the picture, the Party emblem reflected in the beam of the flashlight. The whole series reveal a trace of unique sentiment of painting which is actually the concept I want to bring in the pictures”.

In 《Moonlight Shadow》, a talented scholar and a lovely lady are standing face to face in the faint gleam of the candlestick and jewelry on the table, which seems indicate the grief of departure. In the two works of Red Rose and White Rose, the artist tells two fables of love with the titles of the novels written by female writer Zhang Ailing. As for Mysterious Fog, the female student is extremely calm under the brush of the artist at the dramatic moment of her being captured by the policeman. It seems that the conflict of rudeness and elegant, as well as oppression and resistance have already faded away with the passing of time, leaving only a faint imprint. As is expressed in Maxim of Darkness, the slender hands of the girl raising up high is highlighted by the ray of light which immediately enhances the tension of the incident. The method clearly shows the artist’s respect for the old master Rembrandt…All these works show the combination of emotion and event, with the integration of method and concept. The artist didn’t follow the logic of that time. On the contrary, he projected the current psychological state his works. It is the portrayal of not only himself but also every viewer.

Secondly, the artist never gives up the pursuit of beauty. He hasn’t sacrificed the principle of beauty for the deliberate emphasis on modernity. Since Duchamp put a urinal with his signature an art gallery in 1917, the anti-aesthetics tide of modern art has never subsided. It seems as if the uglier an art work is, the stronger sense of modernity it reflects. However, with the rising of somaesthetics, appearance aesthetics, and atmosphere aesthetics, modern art is beginning to show the tendency of returning to the real-time experience, and the aesthetic experience which pleases the eyes is included the artistic creation again. In the Republic of China series, the participation of the artist in the scene has strengthened the concept of real-time presence. Meanwhile, the aesthetic quality of the art work has been maintained due to the classical realistic method. In the words of the artist, “I hope that artistic work should bring viewers the enjoyment of beauty rather than ugly and empty formalism and disgusting absurdism no matter it is a classical piece or an avant-garde creation”. On the path of exploration, Chen Chengwei hasn’t drifted with the tide blindly. With a persistent reverence for the aesthetic value, the artistic quality of his work has been greatly promoted.

The self-portraiture of Chen Chengwei not only covers the autobiographical expression in Amusement of Emperor Yongzheng, but also integrates the concept of Cindy Sherman-esque modernity. He hides the insight behind the beautiful and grotesque picture of imagination and reproduces the illusion in a solemn manner. The characters are frozen at a subtle but dramatic moment, creating a monumentality which touches the soul of the viewers. The artist is the subject and the character of the creation at the same time. The technique of metaphor provides the viewers an extensive space for imagination. His image could be found everywhere yet his true self could hardly be reached. Perhaps every image of him is the real portrayal or maybe has no connection to him, while he is just the mysterious detached observer hiding behind the works. The Republic of China series seems like a grand experimental drama with the artist serving as the director, actor, prop master, lighting technician, set designer, and all other roles related to the stage. In the series, imagination is set off from history to be portrayed in different scenes. The beautiful and intuitive pictures of strong contrast are really impressive. Perhaps it is the reason why people are still fascinated by the oil paintings of Chen Chengwei knowing clearly that they are pure fantasy.