抽象的曙光
文 / 王焜生

台灣的東方與五月畫會、日本的具體派、韓國的單色畫派,代表著戰後亞洲當代藝術在1950年代的開端,時值戰後政治動盪、經濟復甦之際,亞洲國家開啟現代化政策以及檢討西方主義凌駕東方價值的殖民現象,而年輕世代對於自我認同的渴求,在藝術界也掀起波瀾。藝術家不論自發或追隨開創者,皆以呈現自由的精神為目標,面對西方現代藝術思潮,重新省視東方的哲學思想與人文語彙,在審美意識與精神價值上以時代思維再解讀。

超過半世紀的時間,回顧這些藝術家曾經創造的歷史,不僅是傳奇,也是戰後亞洲當代藝術走向抽象繪畫的開端。在西方觀念主導之際提出辯證並試圖融合,重新詮釋自身文化的主體性,這也是由於世界大戰後思潮的轉變,尤其是去殖民化的過程,使主體意識加強。亞洲藝術發展到此時,藉由政治與社會局勢的推波助瀾,藝術家也勇於挑戰傳統,發表各式宣言。在台灣李仲生扮演著關鍵的前導作用,東方畫會與他的淵源最為深遠,他強調「精神性空間」,認為自後期印象派後,繪畫已經成為世界性的,它可包容每一民族的藝術精神。具體畫派藝術協會創始人吉原治良則主張:在具體畫派的藝術中,人類精神和物質相互聯繫又保持距離,物質不會對精神妥協,精神也從不會支配物質。韓國單色畫派雖然沒有提出正式的宣言,由金煥基與李聖子率先將美國與歐洲的純抽象概念轉化為象徵自然的幾何圖案、重複筆觸以及純粹的色彩。雖然在不同國度,台、日、韓三個地區卻都在1950年代末期各自形成對後世影相深遠的當代藝術立論。

1932年出生的霍剛,生命裡最長的時間超過50年在義大利米蘭度過,然而台灣的學院教育與畫室的學習歷程,才是開啟他走向更為純粹抽象的關鍵。藝術家必須往內在探索才能找到自己獨特之處,他的成長歷程與生命流轉在其內心烙印深切的自由。早期從超現實主義的表現,到旅義期間越走向純粹的幾何形狀與色彩,卻不同於西方形式上類似的藝術家。霍剛從東方書法的書寫性,尤其是中文文字的方塊結構,不斷變形,在繪畫過程透過手繪,其畫面上是無數書寫線條的積累。透過作品,他表現的是自在,對於創作他從不解釋,因為當作品完成後就已經交給觀賞者詮釋。

1931年出生的朴栖甫是韓國單色畫運動的始創者之一,早期曾受法國無形式藝術影響,視創作過程為一種修練 ,繪畫是將自我放空,透過無表象來昇華審美意識的行為,以東方水墨書畫為創作本質,創作過程中以最簡潔又反覆的動作型態,消除形式上的意義。透過描法繪畫,朴栖甫透過紙張可變化的特徵作為創作時能夠呈現相較於油畫或壓克力顏料在畫布上無法表現的效果,畫面上不斷重複又單一的色調被創造出來後,藝術家再輕輕地擦拭或壓出痕跡,作品的完成不是結果,而是過程中藉由形同無意識地重複行為,實現自由與解放。

1937年出生的松谷武判,70年代離開日本,至今仍在巴黎生活,從即為具象的傳統日本畫開始學習轉而擁抱抽象藝術,1963年才被接納,成為「具體派」的第二代成員。透過石墨與紙張等材質的運用,他發現黑白才是最基本的元素,而其獨門技法則是在畫布表面透過乙烯基膠潑灑形成類似水球的氣泡,在利用吹風機或吹氣製造出膨脹與爆裂的效果,

突破傳統平面繪畫的侷限。在可控與不可控的情境下,產生可預期與無法預期的畫面,透過「物理性」與「材料性」的存在,具象化靈性的意志,也加強了物質的生命動態。

2017年這三位開創抽象藝術的先鋒,在韓國首爾的一場藝術論壇中首度同台,分享各自的創作歷程;而2022年3月在台北采泥畫廊的展覽,則是三位藝術家的作品首次同台展出。雖然成長經歷各異,創作歷程不同,在戰後亞洲的文化脈絡下,三位都在二次戰後對於社會的衝撞,以藝術來抒發各自內在的吶喊。有趣的是,雖然材質與手法大異其趣,在精神上卻有許多相同之處,其創作雖然反對傳統形式,在精神上卻是更屬於東方的抽象靈性概念,以無為追求純粹的極致,將物質提升到心靈的層次。

有別於西方的極簡主義與簡約美學,更不是藝術史裡以西方為主的抽象繪畫,純粹在形式上著力,霍剛、朴栖甫、松谷武判在藝術創作上都有一種以自我經驗走入以普遍共同情感為依歸的路徑,自我表現不再是他們汲汲營營追求的,創作過程與行為都像是一種修行,自我淨化與了悟,達到心靈清澈的境地。從年輕氣盛的意氣風發,到走過80年後的人生,他們依然敏銳的觀察社會,以客觀存在的身分,像是每一件作品的其中媒材,以抽象性的表現情感,他們的創作不僅是個人的路程,更是戰後亞洲藝術史裡值得一再書寫的光芒。

The Tong Fan Art Group and the Fifth Moon Group in Taiwan, the Gutai group in Japan, and the Dansaekhwa (monochrome painting) in Korea marked the dawn of post-war Asian contemporary art in the 1950s, a period characterized by post-war political tumults and economic rejuvenation. Asian countries launched policies of modernization and re-examined the colonial phenomenon, in which Westernism overtopped Eastern values. In particular, the younger generation was hunger for self-identity, which raised great waves in the art circle. Whether being self-guided or following pioneers, artists pursued the free spirit, and reflected on Eastern philosophical thinking and humanistic vocabularies in the face of Western modern art trends, re-interpreting aesthetic awareness and spiritual value through a lens informed by the zeitgeist.

After more than half a century, when we take a retrospective look at the histories created by these artists, it is quite clear that they are not only legends but also pioneers of abstract painting in the trajectories of Asian contemporary art. During the period when Western ideas dominated the art scene, they have dialectically reflected on and amalgamated these ideas to re-interpret their own cultural subjectivities, which was a result of the changes of thoughts after WWII, especially the processes of de-colonization and the reinforcement of subjective consciousness. During this moment in history, the developments of Asian art were propelled by both socio-political circumstances and the courage of artists, who dared to challenge traditional conventions, for which they made various manifestoes. In Taiwan, Li Chun-Shan played a crucially trailblazing role. Closely associated with the Tong Fan Art Group, Li emphasized on “the spiritual space,” and argued that painting after the Post-Impressionism already became global and was capable of encompassing the artistic spirit of every nation. Yoshihara Jiro, the founder of the Gutai Art Association, asserted that the human spirit and matter were interconnected yet

maintained a certain distance from one another in the art of Gutai. Matter does not compromise with sprit, and spirit does not dominate matter. Although there was no specific manifesto made for the Korean monochrome painting, artists Kim Whan-Ki and Rhee Seund-Ja were the first ones to convert American and European abstraction into geometric patterns that symbolized nature, repeated brushstrokes, and pure colors. Despite geographic differences, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea all formed respectively its own theoretical discourses about contemporary art in the late 1950s, which have had lasting impact on later generations.

HO Kan was born in 1932. Having spent more than half a century of his life in Milan, Italy, the key to his shift to pure abstraction was the experience of learning in Taiwan’s academic education and art studios. An artist must explore deeply within to find his or her own uniqueness. Ho’s experience of growing up and the vicissitudes in life have created a deep longing for freedom in his heart. From his early surrealist expression to the gradual shift towards pure geometric forms and colors during his time in Italy, he has stepped onto a path diverging from Western artists, who created similar works to his in terms of form. Ho draws inspiration from the characteristics of Eastern calligraphy writing, especially the square structure of Chinese characters, which he alters the forms endlessly. During the process of hand-painting, he creates accumulations of countless calligraphic lines in the images. Through his work, he expresses the feeling of being at ease. He never makes explanation of specific works because he leaves the interpretation of his works to the viewers after the paintings are completed.

Born in 1931, PARK Seo-Bo is one of the initiator of the Dansaekhwa (Korean monochrome painting). Influenced by the French art informel in an early stage, he views artistic creation as a form of spiritual practice, in which painting becomes a way of emptying one’s mind and an action of sublimating aesthetic consciousness through non-representation. With Eastern ink calligraphy and painting as the fundamental essence of his work, he prefers to utilize the most succinct and repetitive movement to eliminate any formal implication during the process of artistic creation. Park makes use of characteristic variations of paper to produce artistic effects that cannot be found in oil or acrylic painting on canvas. After monochromatic tones are created in repetition in the image, he then gently crafts markings by wiping or pressing. For the artist, the final result of a work does not lie in its completion but rather the sense of freedom and liberation achieved through the unconscious repetitions performed during the creative process.

MATSUTANI Takesada, born in 1937, left Japan in the 70s, and has lived in Paris ever since. At first, he studied traditional Japanese painting, which was rather figural, and later shifted to abstract art. It was in 1963 that he was accepted into the Gutai Art Association, and became its second-generation member. Through his use of graphite and paper, he has realized that black and white are the most fundamental elements. He is known for his unique technique: the artist would first splash polyvinyl acetate adhesive onto the canvas to create water balloon-like bubbles before producing inflating and bursting effects by using a blow dryer or by blowing air directly.

Such an approach enables him to break through the limitation of traditional two-dimensional painting, and engender predictable as well as unpredictable images in situations that are controllable sometimes and uncontrollable at other times. By highlighting “physical properties” and “materiality,” his work concretizes spiritual will while underpinning the dynamic existence of matter.

In 2017, these three pioneering figures in the abstract art scene appeared on the same stage for the first time in an art forum in Seoul, Korea, where they shared with the public their individual journeys in the world of art. This group exhibition at Chini Gallery in Taipei in March 2022 marks the first time they exhibit together. Although coming from different backgrounds and having stepped onto different creative paths, Ho, Park, and Matsutani have expressed their inner voices through art against the backdrop of the post-WWII Asian cultural context informed by social conflicts and tumults. Intriguingly, even though they have differed greatly in terms of artistic mediums and creative approaches, they share a common denominator in art-making—the three artists have all started with spirituality to formulate their works. Despite their opposition to the conventional form, in spirit, they have created works that embody the Eastern abstract concept of spirituality, through which they pursue the ultimate purity via non-action and by elevating matter into the spiritual dimension.

Departing from Western minimalism and minimalist aesthetics as well as Western-styled abstract painting in art history, they have devoted their art purely to formal exploration. The artistic creation of Ho, Park, and Matsutani begins with personal experiences and unfolds into a path of expressing universal feelings. Whereas self-expression is no longer the subject that the artists are eager to address in their work, their creative processes and actions resemble a form of spiritual practice, which points to a quest of self-transcendence and self-realization that takes them to a state of inner clarity. After turning eighty and having left behind the days of vigorous and impulsive youthfulness, the artists still retain a keenly observant eye to contemplate on the society with an objective presence while expressing their feelings in abstract vocabularies, just like the mediums in each of their works. Their oeuvres are not merely representations of their individual artistic journeys but also rays of radiance in post-war Asian art history that are worth revisiting again and again.