山水變相──擬古與供養的祕境繪製

高千惠 國立臺南藝術大學藝術創作理論研究所博士班客座教授

 

  1. 山水,作為世界觀的圖像

作為一種非西方系統的藝術,水墨的歷史性與當代性如何被討論?針對當代水墨藝術和其論述領域的分裂,水墨界出現四種介於傳統主義和現代主義之間的論見-文化復興論者、媒介保存論者、跨域折衷論者、生存主義論者。而有關水墨藝術「自然觀」的異變,則有玄思山水、話語山水、懷古山水、民族山水、符號山水、圖象山水、隱喻山水等創作與描繪角度。

這些異質空間的風景,從寫生、寫景的現場觀察變成在室仿摹,以致山水的自然觀被迫退位,進入符號世界與圖象學的領域。藝術家未必作實地取景,而是以藝術史概念中的山水元素,在畫面上構圖,製造出重山複水的山水樣態。此發展過程,使水墨成為一種文化語境生產,以及個人精神世界的遨遊圖像。

在主流發展上,戰後台灣水墨發展以年代概分,1950至1960年代是以「抽象水墨」為代表;1970至1980年代乃以「鄉土水墨」為代表;1990年代則以「新文人畫」為代表。之後,水墨藝術家看待水墨的形式、內容、精神之態度,則介入庶民性與日常性的「世俗水墨」疆域。在「反正統」美學下,台灣水墨的「浮世繪現象」,可視為菁英邁向民間的水墨意境實踐。此現象在1980年代,因與民間生活文化展開對話,藝術家一方面在內容上脫離「人與自然」的出世態度,另一方面則從遊觀與幻想中築構出水墨新語境,在多重歷史資料中搭架了傳統與創新的可能過渡橋樑。

與現代水墨中的抽象之境比較,此世俗化與民藝化的水墨空間表現,多由天地之外回縮到天地之間。在「反正統」的行動中,這類水墨作品有兩大特質。一是形式表現不再講究正統筆墨美學,而是以暢所欲為的勾、點、皴、擦等方式作為創新起點,出現層層反覆、綿密沈實的自創筆意與非三遠法的構圖。二是在山水語境上,脫離地理寫實與文人寫意的表現途徑,產生不可名狀的記憶山水幻境。透過「意識空間」、「神遊空間」、「行住空間」、「鏡照空間」的造境,這類藝術家不僅書寫了水墨文化的記憶遷徙,呈現出非純粹文人世界的民間仙道文化,同時也多帶著解構傳統山水的態度,試圖再建構出具有藝術史身影的山水圖象。

在繪製過程,作為文化記憶與世界觀再現的山水,遂具有「圖像學」的研究態度。現代圖像學先驅,德國學者阿比‧瓦爾堡(Abraham Moritz Warburg,1866-1929)即以藝術的表達形式、理論、歷史演變為依據,建立包含各種議題及層次的特殊分類系統,並在晚年提出「記憶地圖」(Atlas Mnemosyne)觀念。他將藝術作品視為人類共同記憶、將文化視為社會成員情感的結合,並利用各種圖像素材,從多元知識背景解釋藝術作品的時代意義。介於傳統與創新之間,當代水墨創作者的研發態度,便多具有這種「圖像學」的概念。非單純後現代式的挪用或並置,他們在仿古、擬古的歷史迴返行動中,形成了一種具歷史典範轉譯的圖像山水類型。

  1. 皴法,作為圖像山水的符號

圖像山水作為自然、歷史的合成肖像,皴法遂成為地貌與時間的共同符號。在筆意隨形與素描成形的概念交錯下,如何創立一種皴法或筆意風格,是筆墨保存論的現代水墨畫家極重要的個人研究。皴法之存在,成為水墨處於傳統主義和現代主義,甚至後現代主義之間的一個重要轉渡符號。

與西方素描的概念不同,皴法是中式山水獨特的點線語彙,是在筆、墨、絹紙三種基材下,得以成立的「以形生象」表現。因山石的地理質地不同,古代畫家在藝術實踐中,因對山川貌體直悟,乃以概括方式創造了不同的皴法。五代巨然的〈秋山問道圖〉用了披麻皴、北宋范寬的〈谿山行旅圖〉用了雨點皴,郭熙的〈早春圖〉用了雲頭皴。元代皴法林立,趙孟頫在〈鵲華秋色〉用解索皴,王蒙在〈秋山草堂〉用牛毛皴,在〈具區林屋〉用骷髏皴,倪雲林在〈小山竹樹〉出現折帶皴。至清代,鄭績的《夢幻居畫學簡明·論皴》已稱「古人寫山水皴分十六家」。此十六家皴法,即十六家山石名目。

山石名目的皴法不僅在於呈現地理山形,在作為一種筆意表現時,更成為一種個人風格的符號。在表現脈絡上,近代黃賓虹(1865-1955)用筆如作篆籀,喜以積墨、潑墨、破墨、宿墨互用,出現 黑、密、厚、重的風格,其筆意不再稱為皴法,而是一種線條表現。傅抱石(1904~1965),以皮纸破筆畫山水,創了散鋒筆法的「抱石皴」。此法被視為南宋李唐「卧筆側鋒」之法的再突破。在方法上,傅抱石不僅用筆尖筆腹作畫,還在運筆時用筆根及散開的筆鋒作畫,其破筆亂皴似粗頭亂服,但又亂而有法,具有亂柴、亂麻、荷葉、拖泥帶水等皴法變化。

台灣二十世紀的水墨脈絡中,維持傳統筆意的水墨藝術家也有不同的皴擦研發。非學院出身的軍旅水墨藝術家余承堯(1898-1993),曾以記憶中的山水印記為泉源,透過其細碎的短線筆法,形繪山壘丘壑,構成出具節奏性的空間部署。不作文人式的陽春留白,他以點繪取代皴法,堆疊出山岩肌理和密實山形。其扎釘般的短筆皴法,曾對台灣一些創作者產生啟發性。張光賓(1915-2017),1987年自故宮退休後,在書畫創作上求新求變,出現以單層排列墨點,取代傳統書畫的層疊渲染,提出「焦墨散點皴」、「焦墨排點皴」等筆法。夏一夫(1927-2016),退休後潛心創作,曾精研北宋畫家的特殊皴法,並轉為枯筆焦墨,以渴筆、繁筆等筆法,皴擦勾勒出山石雲浪。在空間上,藝術家融入西方透視法,以層層反覆筆筆堆疊的工細筆法,重新結構山體、石頭的量感與雲霧、水氣的風韻。對層次推陳的講求,其使作品具有一種深邃、遼闊的空間感。

儘管近代「焦墨」譜系,可從中國黃賓虹到張仃的焦墨傳統作為系統,但這三位渡海的南遷水墨畫家之共同點,在傾於以渴筆、繁筆創作之外,亦善以重複性、堆疊性描繪山石物象;而其山水地貌,多來自記憶文化與藝術史概念的研發。在解讀上,因枯筆與黑度表現,而被視為具有現代性的焦灼感,同時也因為枯筆線條,出現以「素描」取代「書畫」的說詞。原作為皴擦的渴筆與繁筆使用,在當代水墨領域,遂逐漸出現了素描性。

戰後出生的許雨仁(1951-)之「細筆系列」,即是乾墨入筆,以素描感的剛硬細筆畫點與短筆斷線構成。李茂成(1954-)雖偏好傳統山水畫中的皴法,同樣選擇以乾筆描繪出密密麻麻的細微點線,其畫多從小處堆疊,而後形構出紛華蔓生的工整山林空間。在渴筆與繁筆的創作脈絡中,這兩位仍以自然之境為題,維持文人式的地貌語境。相較之下,曾受傳統訓練,但又長期經營過古董文玩的鄧卜君(1957-),在封筆數十年後,再創的「搓點皴」山石畫法,則源自北派山水的皴、擦、點、染、鉤之截釘式的變相表現。

藝術家以重複性的描繪,形成方峻峭硬的山石肌理,回應了傳統山水再生的可能性。在滿佈與超現實似的奇幻空間裡,其山石提供了如建地工程般砌出的量感,以及一種無有之境的魔幻景觀。由於不作留白,在壓迫性的堆壘空間裡,畫家以遠觀似扁平塗法的白雲、青湖、小瀑之泠色調,構築出另一個虛幻縹緲的時空。平塗取代留白空間,而垂直與橫切裁割山水的構圖之出現,亦使其山水富有現代感。上述水墨同儕的脈絡陳述,即在於表述古之皴法在當代水墨中的傳承與變異,並形成不同的水墨圖像研究方向。

  1. 幻境,作為跨時空的想像聯結

雖講究搓皴、線性與平面的共構,鄧卜君的山水既不是北宗的古典山水,也不是南宗的文人世界。他一方面重返了歷代以「仙山樓閣圖」為主題的訪仙譜系,另一方面又以民間清供圖般的形制,將此無何有之鄉形塑成一個圖象學的世界。在圖象誌的基礎上,其山水也蘊含著一種飄渺的世界觀。

水墨意境的普遍概念誕生,可追溯到中國神仙學與中國山水畫的關係。在山水畫誕生之前,有關「物我空間觀」之營造想像,在先秦屈原的〈遠遊〉一詩中已出現具象的、視覺性的、敘事性的描述。〈遠遊〉一詩,寫的是想像中的天上遠遊,表達的是現實人間的理想追求。作為中國山水意境中有關幻遊太虛的文學陳述,〈遠遊〉一文提供了中國山水畫以及晚後水墨意境產生之前,大眾民間信仰文化過渡到文人菁英文化的先期文本。透過「精氣說」的〈遠遊〉,詩人所再現的空間,顯示了當時社會有關信仰、宇宙、主觀意識兼融的空間情境。其視覺性的書寫,可視為水墨意境空間形成之前,一種造化精神的生產過程。

將「奇山幻水」作為一種藝術性的空間信仰,可以在〈遠遊〉中看到山水藝術思想的陳述原型。「奇山幻水」在於追求現實之外的性靈嚮往,乃多藉介於天上與人間的奇幻仙境營造,以及形而上的表徵喻示,試圖打開一個具有東方仙道意識的意境空間。基於此,創作者多在往返於現實與太虛的意識狀態中,架構其入世、出世、避世、甚至離世等處世關係。在現代性瀰漫的當代文化領域,有關訪仙尋道譜系一直未斷裂。在水墨概念的衍替中,台灣當代水墨從文人靜觀的形意世界,更邁向動態的、民間的奇幻之境。這些神佛仙道世界不僅是民間信仰文化的一部份,也成為一種遠離現實的寄養與嚮往。

仙道作為橫向的聯結,此幻異之境的景觀生產,在藝術家之間亦有差異性。在民間仙道文化的領域中,黃致陽(1965-)在1990年代前期即以非線性的繁生方式,展现了傳統道家、民俗萬物有靈的信仰下的有機世界。其〈拜根黨〉以一物象為畫面主題,遠離水墨的意境,出現物化神明、器形崇拜的內容。袁慧莉(1963-)的「太虛世界」所呈現的奇幻山水,亦接近道家仙境的山石花園想像。2010年代,她再以「水」與「火」的物性元素,作為呼吸狀態的墨性辯證。其「火墨」系列屬「焦墨」譜系,並在於展現「燥」的墨性美學。從「枯山水」系列到「火墨」系列,袁慧莉的水墨世界乃傾於一種仙道式的文人視野。居於東台灣的潘信華(1966-),在1990年之後,開始擬仿古代壁畫和賦彩山水,使畫面出現歷史感,另一方面也試著從所處環境取材。他放棄透視原理、視覺慣習邏輯、皴法之必要性,營造出一種如觀古地圖似的平視與對視之空間處理法,並將文物、人物、魚蟲鳥獸、奇花異草、民俗圖樣、自然景觀建物等物象入畫。在怪石與奇樹的環繞中,人是被置放在一個具有仙道青綠山水的滿佈情境裡。另外,其題材貼近日常生活,並賦以「清供圖」或「八仙桌」式的空間佈局,藉此產生介於奇境與風俗畫的符號性與聯想性。

幻境,作為仙徑的聯結。相對於上述三位創作者的水墨世界,鄧卜君的水墨世界則提供了一個有關時間與空間的世界觀。以寫實技法描繪超現實世界,他的「非人間地貌」景觀,如盆栽桌供的山石世界、海綿體的窟窿石塊、浮雲與岐磊的纏繞、太虛幻境的氣流,乃營造了一個漂流於宇宙虛空,以及屬於虛構與變體之後的「魔、仙、幻」三界。在形式上,藝術家延續了軸幅的空間概念,將其奇幻山水置於盆栽式的、平板基地式的清供圖景內,產生「景中有景」的異度空間養殖狀態。這些盆景或框洞之山水風景,便在如此「主體客體化」與「客體主體化」中,提供了複次元的空間參照與觀照。

鄧卜君皴法繁密的主體與平塗如鏡面的景觀,不全然隸屬神仙山水的原因,在於藝術家不全然旨在提供出一個信仰世界,也不全然從宋元明清的山水符號中,經營跨時空的風景空間。這些帶著文化記憶的山水,更似一種數位化、影像化的水墨多寶格之轉動,以戲劇化、圖案化、規範化的和諧章法與格局,秩序地部署出「異而不亂」的太虛幻境。其山、石、王、泉、樹、林均來自自然生態之元素,卻又是現實之外的變相物景。它們以重複性、繁生性、綿延性的生成方式組構而成,從主體空間生出附屬空間,從俯瞰中生出透視之景。這些空間經營,呈現出藝術家以新的年代想像,學理化了其山水的空間部署,而不是單純的遨遊想像。

於是,鄧卜君的畫面仿若是平行時空下的並置場域,出現了非線性的時間縫隙。這些異空間以洞見、以框現、以平板滑動般等方式,共時性地在畫面中形成一種矛盾的「非統一性的統一性」。而有關多維度的切割、介入、並置等空間部署,亦使鄧卜君的山水出現了後置影像式的現代感。非關文人意趣。在台灣當代山水異境的創作群裡,鄧卜君的幻境在夾揉太初混沌、仙境秩序、詭奇空間中,獨得一份遊走時間和空間、非文人式的想像力。

  1. 變相,從造景到鏡照的空間語境

變相,佛教稱之為通過藝術手段,以繪畫、雕塑方式,將神變之相展現出來的樣貌。透過理性邏輯所建構的奇異場域,鄧卜君由青綠山水變造出的奇峰怪石景觀,在邁向了介於原始與未來之間,產生了一個具結構性、裝飾性的山水變相容貌。它們在繪畫性之外,也出現了雕刻性與影像性的表現特質。

傳統山水的繪畫性,多講究筆墨趣味與三遠空間調度。在解決東西方透視觀之餘,鄧卜君生產出了多元散點、兩點透視、俯視壓縮、並置拼貼的幻景世界。在空間營造上,其作品出現層層疊疊的另類透視法,甚至用壓縮式的「三遠法」與西方現代主義的硬邊分離法,使其空間出現蒙太奇的拼貼與並置效果。如北宋古典山水構圖,他的主視覺常置於畫面正中位置,營造出壓迫感與秩序感。此古典的紀律,使其律動的線與靜態的面,在封閉與滿佈的構圖中,形成了詭奇的圖像世界。主題之形貌被安置於正中心的景觀,猶如一種變相山水的肖像。

在工筆技法與裝飾性的表現中,以及圖案畫或設計觀念的介入下,其畫面出現了民間氣質,更接近了大眾所追求的供養與膜拜情感。將日常物之杯瓶化作盆景山水,即來自一種文玩世界的寄情表現。藝術家擺脫了文人品味,流露出藏家看待文物的另一種興味。這些民間嚮往的神界與供物景觀,因繁筆與變相的處理,亦出現浮雕壁畫與版書刻畫的視覺結果。畫面中的雕刻感,即來自硬筆勾劃的線條、模具般的場域設計,以及因結構組合而出現的團塊空間。如此推敲出的異境部署,因工整而維持上昇與掌控的古典美學,也因工整而出現裝飾性的怪誕美學。

鄧卜君的奇幻世界亦具有一種後置處理的影像性。在致力於山水歷史景觀上,其從「藍色境湖」演變出的〈浩磊絮影〉,因將歷代山水風格以小景窗的格狀,鑲置於大幅的堆磊世界,遂使山水景觀與山水歷史並存,產生了的影像處理的效果。這些片斷之景,如被裁割的膠卷,成了斷裂卻又浮現的山水元素。其異形與異質的風景,呼應了導演李安在《少年PI的奇幻漂流》(Life of Pi)一片中的奇景想像。在該影片中,奇幻的海面如一面巨大鏡子,漂流景象不僅是外在世界,也是一種內在自我映照的隱喻。透過鏡像與疊影的隱喻,夢境與現實的交纏,生命觀與世界觀在影像中得以視覺化地顯現。影片後段,主人翁來到一個奇幻之島。此原著中橫向擴延的「藻島」,在電影中被垂直擴延的「榕島」取代。不同於一般樹木往上開枝散葉,榕樹懸浮的氣根持續向下蔓生,與樹幹交融一體。此種雙向生長的特性,使上方自然與下方水影,產生現實與靈性空間的寓意。以平整鏡面作為夢與現實的轉渡空間,電影中出現地洞般的藍色水景,也在意象中形成一個鏡花水月的奇幻生態系統。以此電影景象比對鄧卜君的水墨之境,或可以看到這種類似後製影像的雙重語境。

如是,在太平洋的一個南島,居於水前山後、背山臨海的封閉性東岸,藝術家洄瀾湧現中的紙上桃花源,既如一則則山水變相的流變圖,也似一卷卷山水變相的定妝照。這些變相山水背後,是否也存有「千江有水千江月,萬里無雲萬里天」的天地原澤感念?答案,或許就在藝術家與其案頭尺幅之間。


Landscape in Disguised Form – Painting the Mysterious Realm with Archaistic Imitation and Sacred Offering

KAO Chien-Hui

Visiting Professor, Doctoral Program in Art Creation and Theory, Tainan National University of the Arts

 

  1. Landscape as an Image of the World

As a non-occidental art, how do we discuss the historicity and contemporaneity of “Shuimo” or ink landscape? Regarding contemporary ink landscape and its theoretical division, there have been four theories posited between traditionalism and modernism in the field of ink landscape – the cultural revivalist, the medium preservationist, the interdisciplinary eclectist and the survivalist. Moreover, regarding the changing “view of nature” in ink landscape, there have been a wide range of creations and depictive perspectives, including metaphysical landscape, discursive landscape, archaic landscape, national landscape, symbolic landscape, pictorial landscape and metaphoric landscape.

The landscapes of these heterogeneous spaces evolved from painting from life and delineation of sceneries based on personal observation to indoor imitation; therefore, the view of nature in ink landscape disappeared, and ink landscape entered the world of semiotics and iconography. Artists did not necessarily paint the landscape of real places; instead, they created compositions with landscape elements drawn from art history to produce the myriad forms of landscape with rolling mountains and multiple waters. Such a process of development transformed ink painting into a production of cultural context as well as the image of touring one’s spiritual world.

In terms of the mainstream development, the post-war development of Taiwanese ink painting can be chronologically divided as the following: from the 1950s to the 1960s, the representative style was the “abstract ink”; from the 1970s to the 1980s, the predominant style was the “native ink”; and the 1990s were characterized by the “new literati painting.” Afterwards, the way that ink artist viewed the form, content and spirit of ink painting entered the field of “secular ink” informed by folk and everyday qualities. With “anti-orthodox” aesthetics, the “phenomenon of depicting the floating world” in the Taiwanese ink art scene could be viewed as a shift in ink practice from the elitist to the public. This phenomenon in the 1980s engaged in a dialogue with the folk living culture. On the one hand, content-wise, artists digressed from the otherworldly attitude of “man and nature”; and on the other hand, they constructed a new context of ink painting through visualizing landscape and imaginary fantasy, bridging the traditional and the innovative with multilayered historical materials.

Comparing to the abstraction of modern ink painting, the secular and folk expression of ink space mainly retreated from beyond the sky and the earth back to that of the in-between. In the “anti-orthodox” movement, this type of ink work reveals two major features. One is that its form is no longer confined by orthodox ink aesthetics but instead adopting an innovative starting point comprising freewheeling techniques of drawing, dotting, texturizing and rubbing to create repeatedly layered, dense and solid self-created ink style and composition that are not based on the principle of “three distances.” The other one is that the context of landscape is severed from realistic depiction of geography and the freehand expression commonly adopted by the literati, giving rise to an indescribably illusory realm of memory landscape. Through the construction of “consciousness space,” “imaginary space,” “living space” and “reflection space,” this type of artists not only inscribed the migrating memory of ink culture to represent the Taoist culture that has been part of the folk society and not purely of the literati world, but also manifested an attitude of deconstructing traditional landscape, with an attempt to reconstruct the landscape image informed by art history.

During the painting process, landscape as representation of cultural memories and worldviews consequently developed an aspect of “iconology.” The German scholar and a modern iconology pioneer, Abraham Moritz Warburg (1866-1929), built a unique classification system encompassing various issues and levels based on the expressive forms, theories and historical changes of art, and proposed in his later days the concept of the “Atlas Mnemosyne.” He viewed works of art as the collective memories of humankind and culture as the merged feelings of social members. Using a wide range of icons and images as his materials, he expounded the historical meaning of works of art based on a background of diverse knowledge. Positioned between the traditional and the innovative, the exploration of contemporary ink artists mostly demonstrates this concept of “iconology.” Rather than simple modern appropriation or juxtaposition, their action of revisiting history to copy and imitate the ancient forms has given birth to a new type of image landscape that indicates the translation of historical paradigms.

  1. Texturizing as the Symbol of Image Landscape

As image landscape became a composite portrait of nature and history, texturizing was also turned into the symbol shared by geographic terrain and time. While the concepts of “ink style follows the form” and “the form created from sketching” interwove, an important personal objective for ink preservationist painter has been to create an individualistic texturizing technique or ink style. The existence of texturizing methods then served as a crucial transitional symbol of ink painting between traditionalism, modernism and even post-modernism.

Different from the Western concept of sketching, texturizing is a unique painting vocabulary constituting of line and dot in Chinese ink landscape. It is a type of expression that creates images from forms based on the combination of the three basic material of ink painting – brush, ink and silk or Xuan paper. Due to the geological characteristics of rocks, ancient ink painters in a relatively generalizing way created different texturizing strokes based on their intuitive understanding of mountains and rivers. Seeking the Tao in Autumn Mountains by Ju Ran of the Five Dynasties used hemp-fiber stroke; Travelers Among Mountains and Streams by Fan Kuan of the Northern Song dynasty used raindrop stroke; and Early Spring by Guo Xi used cloud-head stroke. Yuan dynasty witnessed the bourgeoning of different texturizing strokes: Zhao Mengfu used unraveled rope stroke in Autumn Colors on the Qiao and Hua Mountains; Wang Meng used ox-hair stroke in Thatched Cottage in Autumn Mountains and skeleton stroke in Forest Chamber Grotto at Ju’ou; and Ni Zan (also known as Ni Yunlin) used break-belt stroke in Bamboo and Tree. Until the Qing dynasty, Zheng Ji already wrote that “texturing strokes by ancient painters are divided into sixteen methods” in his The Essence of the Painting Technique of the Menghuanju Studio: On Texturing Strokes. The sixteen texturizing methods indeed indicated sixteen types of mountain and rock drawings.

Texturizing methods of depicting mountains and rocks are not only used to portray geographic terrains, they are utilized to formulate personal symbols when serving as a way of stylistic expression. In terms of expression, Huang Bin-Hung (1865-1955) in the early modern period created a brush style that looked like seal characters, and preferred a mixture of amass ink, splash ink, broken ink and over-night ink to visualize a dark, dense, thick and heavy style. His ink style was no longer based on texturizing but a unique way of linear expression. Fu Bao-Shi (1904-1965) painted ink landscapes with mulberry paper and split brush and created the “Bao-Shi stroke” in the split brush style. The specific stroke has been viewed as another breakthrough since the invention of painting with “a horizontal brush and in a sideway manner” invented by Li Tang of the Southern Song dynasty. Method-wise, Fu not only painted with the tip and sides of the brush, but also made use of the root and split tip of the brush. The messy split brush texturing seemed disorderly, but the disorder showed a certain style as well. Moreover, the texturizing method can also be divided into scattered wood stroke, scattered hemp stroke, lotus leaf stroke and rice spot stroke.

In the context of the 20th-century Taiwanese ink painting, there have been ink painting artists who maintained a traditional style while developing different texturizing methods. Yu Cheng-Yao (1898-1993), who was not academically trained and a military veteran, drew his inspiration from his memory of natural landscape and used thin, fragmented short lines to delineate mountains and ravines, creating a rhythmic spatial arrangement. Instead of the simple blankness in literati painting, he replaced texturing strokes with dotting to depict layered texture of rocks and dense mountains. His short-stroke texturing that resembled short nails has inspired some Taiwanese artists as well. After retiring from the National Palace Museum in 1987, Chang Kuang-Pin (1915-2017) had pursued fresh creativities in ink calligraphy and painting, and invented the method of replacing traditional layering and shading with single-layered lines of dots, creating the style of scattered dotting stroke and dot-to-line ink stroke with charred ink. After retirement, Shia Yi-Fu (1927-2016) dived into the world of artistic creation and extensively studied distinctive texturizing methods used by painters of the Northern Song dynasty. He then converted their methods into the techniques of thirsty brush and intricate brush to delineate the texture of mountain rocks and cloud waves with dry brush and charred ink. Space-wise, the artist incorporated the Western concept of the perspective and used repeated layers comprising fine brushstrokes to reconstruct the volume of mountains and rocks as well as elusive clouds and mist. The attention to reinventing the layering technique gave his work a deep, expansive sense of space.

Although the early modern genealogy of “charred ink” is built on the charred ink tradition from Huang Pin-Hung to Chang Ting, the common feature between the three abovementioned ink painters, who migrated southward to Taiwan from China, lies in the fact that they not only primarily used thirsty brush and intricate brush to create their paintings but also delineated rocky mountains with repetitive layering. The landscape and geographic terrains that they depicted chiefly stemmed from cultural memories and art historical concepts. As to the interpretation of their works, due to their expression of dry brush and dark shades of ink, their works are often described to be conveying a sense of modern angst. Meanwhile, because of the lines created with dry brush, the term “sketching” has been used to describe their works instead of “calligraphy painting.” The use of thirsty brush and intricate brush has gradually given rise to a quality of sketching in contemporary ink painting.

Hsu Yu-Jen (1951-) was born after the war. His Thin-brush Ink Painting Series uses dry ink and comprises rigid, thin dots and short, broken lines. Lee Mao-Cheng (1954-), though prefers texturizing methods used in traditional landscape, also uses dry brush to draw small dots and lines in high density. His painting begins with layering details and gradually unfolds an elaborate, spreading space of mountains and forests that look orderly. In the creative context of thirsty brush and intricate brush, the two artists adopt the theme of nature and retain the topographical context of the literati style. In comparison, Teng Pu-Chun (1957-), who received a traditional training and was a dealer of antiques and scholarly playthings, depicts mountains and rocks with the “rolled wrinkle stroke,” a texturizing method created by the artist after having stopped painting for more than a decade and has its root in the variegated texturing expression of rubbing, dotting, shading and delineating found in the Northern-style landscape.

The artist utilizes repetitive delineation to create the rigid, hard texture of rocky mountains in his work as a way to possibly recreating traditional landscape. In his overbrimming and seemingly surreal space of fantasies, the rocky mountains produce a sense of volume like that of a construction project as well as a magical view of a formless realm. Because he does not leave any blankness, in the oppressively layered space, the painter makes use of a cold palette for depicting white clouds, green lakes and trinkling waterfalls, which seem to be painted with the technique of flat application when looking from afar, constructing an illusory, ethereal dimension. Traditional blankness is replaced with space painted with the technique of flat application; and the composition segmented with vertical and horizontal planes also renders his landscape more modern. The review of the creative context of the ink painters mentioned above aims to demonstrate the heritage and variations of ancient texturizing methods in contemporary ink painting as well as the formation of different research directions of ink image.

  1. The Magical Realm as an Imaginative Link that Crosses Time and Space

Although Teng places an emphasis on the co-construction of texturing, linear expression and plane, his landscape is neither the classical landscape of the Northern Song dynasty nor the literati style of the Southern Song dynasty. While revisiting the tradition of searching for immortals epitomized by the theme of “Towers and Pavilions in Mountains of the Immortals” throughout different dynasties, he also employs the form and style of pure offering paintings popular in common households and shapes this imaginary landscape into an iconological world. Building upon the iconographic foundation, his landscape is at the same time embedded with an elusive worldview.

The popular idea of ink artistic conception can be traced back to the relationship between immortal ideology and ink landscape in China. Before the birth of ink landscape, the imagination of the “spatial concept of object and I” was already concretely, visually and descriptively delineated in the poem “Yuan You” (Travel Afar) attributed to Qu Yuan during the Pre-Qin period. In poem, the poet wrote about an imaginary journey in the heavenly realm, which signaled the idealization of the mundane world. As a literary example of touring the ethereal realm related to the artistic conception of Chinese landscape, “Yuan You” provides an early literary text depicting the transition from folk religious culture of the public to elitist culture of the literati before the emergence of Chinese landscape painting and the artistic conception of ink landscape that came afterwards. Through “Yuan You” based on “the theory of spirit,” the poet represented a space of integrating religious belief, the cosmos and subjective consciousness, which was accepted by the society of the time. The visually descriptive writing could be viewed as a process of producing the spirit of creation before the formation of the ink spiritual space.

The archetype of using “fantastic landscape” as a spatial belief of an artistic nature can be found in the artistic thinking of landscape in “Yuan You.” The objective of “fantastic landscape” is to pursue the spiritual space outside of reality. It mainly employs the construction of magical realms in heaven and on earth, along with metaphysical symbolism, to unfold a conceptual space informed by the Taoist ideology. With such approach as a foundation, artists often move between reality and the imagination of the great void to structure their relation to the world, such as being this-worldly, other-worldly, retiring from the world or even departing from the world. In the contemporary cultural domain permeated with modernity, the genealogy of seeking immortals and the Tao has never disappeared. Throughout the derivation and alternation of ink concepts, Taiwanese contemporary ink painting has evolved from the world of forms and imageries observed by literati to a fantastic realm that is dynamic and folk. The Taoist world of deities and immortals is not only a part of the folk religious belief and culture but also a haven and an aspiration that allows one to escape reality.

With the way of the immortals serving as a horizontal link, the landscape production of the fantastic realm still shows differences between artists. Engaging in the folk culture of the immortals, Huang Chih-Yang (1965-) utilizes a non-linear presentation of proliferation to unveil an organic world characteristic of the traditional Taoism and the folk belief of animism. His Phallicism features objective images, stepping away from the artistic conception of ink painting while displaying contents that objectify deities and worship objects. Ambiguous World by Yuan Hui-Li (1963-) reveals a type of fantastic landscape that is closer to the imagination of the Taoist immortal world filled with rocky mountains and gardens. In the 2010s, she also used the material elements of “water” and “fire” to reveal an ink dialectic in the state of breathing. Her Fiery Ink series belongs to the genealogy of “charred ink,” and demonstrates the ink aesthetics of “dryness.” From the Dry Landscape series to the Fiery Ink series, Yuan’s ink world tends to visualize a Taoist vision of the immortal way imagined by the literati. Pan Hsin-Hua (1966-) lives in eastern Taiwan. After the 1990s, he has started imitating ancient murals and colored ink landscape, giving a sense of history to the image; and at the same time, he also draws inspiration from the environment. He gave up the perspective, habitual logic and necessary texturization to create a type of image at the eye level similar to historical maps and an approach to space that directly faces the viewer. Also, his work features cultural relics, figures, animals and insects, rare flowers and plants, folk patterns as well as natural sceneries and architecture. Amidst bizarrely shaped rocks and peculiar-looking trees, human beings are placed in a scenario of verdant landscape echoing the immortal world. Furthermore, his subject matter is taken from the everyday life and depicted in a spatial arrangement similar to the style of the “pure offering painting” or “table of the eight immortals” to produce a symbolic space associated with fantastic realms and genre painting.

The fantastic realm serves as a link to the immortal way. In comparison to the ink worlds created by the aforementioned three artists, Teng’s ink world offers a worldview rooted in time and space. Depicting a surreal world with realistic techniques, his landscape of “otherworldly terrains” – the world of rocky mountains that looks like potted plants and offering tables, the rugged stones that look like perforated sponges, the entwining floating clouds and uneven rocks, the airflows of the ethereal realm – creates the three fictional and metamorphosed worlds of “the underworld, immortals and fantasies” that seemingly float in a cosmic void. As for the form, the artist continues the spatial concept of painting scroll and places his fantastic landscape within the view of the pure offering painting and in the form of potted plants with a horizontal foundation, creating a state of cultivating heterogenous spaces that surfaces as “scenes within scenes.” These potted landscapes or framed landscapes therefore deliver multidimensional spatial references and observations through “the objectification of the subject” and “the subjectification of the object.”

The reason why Teng’s densely texturized subject and flatly painted landscape cannot be entirely typologized as the immortal landscape is because the artist does not one-sidedly produce a world of religious beliefs. Nor does he fabricate a landscape space that crosses different time and space with the symbolisms used in the landscape paintings of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. His landscape stemming from cultural memories, in a manner of a digitized, image-like spinning Wunderkammer of ink paintings, orderly unfolds an ethereal realm of fantasies that is “heterogeneous but not chaotic” with a harmoniously dramatic, pictorial and standardized method and layout. The mountains, rocks, springs, trees and woods are elements from natural ecology but in metamorphosed appearances that do not exist in reality. Formed and joined in a repetitive, proliferating and unending way, they give rise to subsidiary spaces from the space of the depicted subject and generate scenes formed with the perspective from an aerial view. The management of these spaces shows that the artist has employed a new imagination of this era to provide a theoretical base to the spatial arrangement of his landscape rather than the simple wandering through an imaginary realm.

Consequently, Teng’s image surfaces as a site of juxtaposition in a parallel dimension, revealing a non-linear temporal interstice. These heterogenous spaces, in forms of caves, frames or moving tablets, simultaneously create a contradictory “unity of non-unity” in the image. The space arrangement of multi-dimensional segmentation, intersection and juxtaposition also imbues Teng’s landscape with a modern quality of post-editing image, a quality that departs from the literati charm. Among the Taiwanese contemporary ink landscape painters, Teng’s fantastic realm is an amalgamation of the primal chaos, the orderly immortal world and a treacherous, peculiar space informed by his non-literati imaginative power that moves through space and time.

  1. The Disguised Form, A Spatial Context from Landscape Creation to Mirror Reflection

In Buddhism, the disguised form denotes the use of artistic means, such as painting and sculpture, to reveal the forms of divine transformation. Through the spectacular site constructed with rational logic, Teng’s peculiar peaks and curious rocks transformed from emerald mountains and green waters formulates a structural and decorative landscape of metamorphosis in its progress between the primitive and the futuristic. In addition to its painterliness, his work also displays the expressive qualities of sculpture and image.

Traditional ink landscape mainly highlights the charm of ink and brush as well as the spatial arrangement of the three distances. While dissolving Western and Eastern concepts of the perspective, Teng creates a world of illusory scenes characterized by diverse viewpoints, two-perspective, compressed aerial views and juxtaposed collages. As for the construction of space, his work visualizes an alternative perspective with multiple layers, and even employs the compressed “three distances” and the method of hard-edge separation in Western modern painting to create the effect of collaged montage and juxtaposition in the space. Similar to the composition of classical ink landscape paintings of the Northern Song dynasty, his main subject is usually placed at the center of the image, producing a sense of oppressiveness and orderliness. The self-disciplined classical composition, with rhythmic lines and still planes in the enclosed and full composition, forms the treacherously peculiar world of images. The form of the subject, placed at the center of the landscape, is depicted as a portrait of the disguised landscape.

With fine brush techniques, decorative expression as well as the incorporation of pattern drawing or the concept of design, Teng’s image shows a folk quality that comes closer to the sentiment of making offering and worshipping pursued by common people. Transforming everyday objects such as cups and vases into potted landscape is itself an expression of conveying emotions through the world of scholarly playthings. The artist has somehow moved away from the taste of literati and revealed another charming aspect of viewing cultural relics. The landscape of the immortal world and objects of offering longed by common people, delineated with the technique of intricate brush and the disguised form, also displays a visual effect resembling reliefs and etched prints. The quality of carving in the image comes from the lines of hard-pen delineation, the design of modular space and the mass space stemming from the combination of structures. The arrangement of an unusual realm developed from this approach has retained an upward and controlled classic aesthetics as well as the decorative grotesque aesthetics, both of are the result of the neat and fine execution of the work.

Teng’s fantastic world also demonstrates a quality of post-edited image. In terms of incorporating the history of landscape, in his Colossal Mountains in Ethereal Clouds evolved from the “mirror-surfaced blue lake,” Teng embeds various landscape styles from different dynasties in the form of small windows in a vast world of rocky mountains, juxtaposing the scenes of landscape with the history of landscape and producing the effect of image processing. These fragmented scenes are like film rolls cut into frames, surfacing as severed and floating elements of landscape. The strangely formed and heterogenous landscape echoes the imaginary scenes in Ang Lee’s film, Life of Pi. In the movie, the surface of the magical sea looks like a boundless mirror, and the drifting scene is not only in the external world but a metaphor of inner self-reflection. Through the mirror reflection and the metaphor of overlapping images, the realm of dreams and reality become intertwined. The life view and worldview are able to be visualized in the image. In the second half of the movie, the protagonist arrives on a magical island. In the novel, the horizontally expanding “Algae Island” is replaced by the vertically extending “Marabutan Island.” Different from ordinary trees that grow upward and spread out, the aerial roots of the marabutans continuously stretch downwards and become entangled with the tree trunks. The characteristic of growing in two directions becomes a metaphor comprising the nature above and the water below, which serve as the mirroring reflection between reality and the spiritual space. With the flat, smooth mirroring surface as a transitional space between dreams and reality, the blue water that resembles a sink hole in the film also reveals an illusory, fantastic ecosystem. Comparing this scene in the movie to Teng’s ink world, one can see the duo context similar to post-edited images.

Therefore, on the relatively enclosed east coast of this southern island on the Pacific Ocean, facing the boundless sea with rising mountains at the back, the ethereal world emerging from the artist’s incessant ink strokes on paper is like the vicissitudinous images as well as the epitomic pictures of the disguised ink landscape. Are these disguised landscapes the result of the artist’s gratitude towards the blessings of nature conveyed by the verse, “a thousand rivers reflect a thousand moons in the water; a thousand miles without white clouds reveal the unbounded sky”? The answer, perhaps, lies right on the paper between the artist himself and his working desk.