樸方異境─鄧卜君的水墨藝想

蕭瓊瑞 美術史學家、國立成功大學歷史系名譽教授

2008年八月,花蓮松園邀請鄧卜君個展,是鄧卜君自國立藝專(今國立臺灣藝術大學)畢業二十四年以後的事。這二十四年間,鄧卜君曾經封筆十年,不再作畫;直到1996年才重拾畫筆,並成立「莫名堂」,也在1999年發表《空間山水─石情畫意》,當中包括:水墨、石畫,和篆刻的作品。不過,這種在自己的畫廊空間中的小型發表,到底未能引發社會、特別是藝壇的注目;而「引發注目」似乎也不是鄧卜君最在意的事,既然有所創作、也就有所發表,那是一種「莫名堂」中的生活日常而已。依鄧卜君自己的描述:「一切無事,生活無憂,性孤癖,少與人交,等退休。」

2008年,終於退休;但「人不老,健康得不得了。」在松園的力邀下,在這個歷史景點的藝文空間,推出了首次較正式的個展。個展結束隔年(2009),他以自拍、自編的手工方式,製作了十本作品集,內容正是此前十餘年間創作的總結。

這個自製手工畫冊的舉動,看似平常,卻已無形中展現了鄧卜君藝術生命中的某些本質:一個文人的心境,一雙職人的手藝。

2010年,是鄧卜君作品較正式被藝壇看見的一年。這年四月,在同為水墨畫家彭康隆(1962-)的策劃下,作品離開後山,回到年少時期求學的台北,和年高九十六歲的前輩畫家張光賓(1915-2016)聯展,老先生「人書俱老、率性自成」的筆觸和意境,也深深地震撼了這位從「石情」中走出「畫意」的職人藝術家的心靈,那是隔代相傳的兩位傳統文人的相遇。

1957年出身花蓮的鄧卜君,1981年進入位在板橋的國立臺灣藝專,那是一段他自稱「如魚得水」的日子;而1984年自藝專畢業的那一年,也是台灣第一座現代美術館「臺北市立美術館」開館、正式營運的一年。

臺北市立美術館開館時期,重要的雙年展之一,便是「水墨創新展」;「現代水墨」與「傳統水墨」之間的拉扯、爭論,也成為當年藝壇的話題與焦點之一。

鄧卜君在這波論爭中,是否有所直接參與,尚待考證;但他在藝專畢業的三年之後,便「停筆」不再作畫,顯然和當年這波「傳統」與「現代」間的爭論有關。多年後,他回憶說:

「『國畫』是中國畫特有名詞,它像包袱,也如魔咒般地揮之不去。十九、二十世紀才有水墨、彩墨等名稱出現。中國畫學習過程是個奇怪師承關係,『臨摹』是個固定方式,很少人問『為什麼?』。學校畢業後,我自修再從唐、宋、元、明、清入手,去找出中國畫的觀念和筆墨的原理。發現:中國繪畫問題,也就是教育養成有問題;尤其是在元、明文人畫興起後,由文人主導的繪畫觀,其中把繪畫變成符號、相互模仿,導致酸味、腐味四起,終變醬缸一醰。民國後,雖有些大家聞名於世,但還是在文人思想筆墨下匍匐前進。1957年,隨著齊白石過世,在台灣五月畫會成立,當時劉國松先生是成員之一。三十年後,九零年代他提出革『中鋒』之命,成為現代水墨之父、當代大師;在那年代,做革命家是恭逢其時,政冶也趨民主,大刀闊斧,是必須的。而後,台灣水墨也變多樣化了。但我發覺,很多的水墨創作都是從西方的觀念或構圖來呈現,而中國特有的筆墨韻味卻弱了。停了很久的筆,蠢蠢欲動,一直在思考,如何用最傳統的筆墨,走入當代水墨之域。」(《墨幻搖滾》,2017)

就在這種「現代」與「傳統」的衝突、難解中,鄧卜君暫時停筆,但未曾停止思考;「如何用最傳統的筆墨,走入當代水墨之域?」始終是他懸念於心的課題。

停筆期間,故鄉的「石頭」成了他關懷、賞玩、寄託的對象。

「花蓮」,一個美麗又深邃如蓮花的地名,其實是來自「迴瀾」的當地古名。位在台灣島嶼「後山」偏北的區域,是中部橫貫公路的出口太魯閣所在,也是多條東部大河,如:花蓮溪、秀姑巒溪等流入太平洋的區域,海水在此形成「迴瀾」的奇景,山海交界,也蘊育了最豐富的天然資源;從山裡的「大理石」,到海邊的各式海石,尤其是榮民大理石工廠由於楊英風的協助,奠定了日後「花蓮石雕節」的基礎,而奇石、盆景的收集、賞玩,也塑成當地特殊的雅士活動與藝文產業。

鄧卜君或許和當地這些「賞石」、「玩石」團體或人士,並沒有直接的交集,但在地的藝文風潮,應也對他有著一定的啟發或影響。不過,由於從事「古文物」的介紹、買賣,倒是讓他有機會接觸許多以往在學校中未曾觸及的古銅器、古印石,和古書畫;甚至前往中國大陸,開拓了眼界,特別是對明清以來的水墨創作,有了較深廣的認識,包括像清初龔賢(1618-1689)這些所謂的「變形主義」畫家的作品。

鄧卜君將近十年的「停筆」,表象上看,是走上了創作的歧路;如今看來,則是回到了山水創作的原點,重新在山石、自然之間,汲取養分,積澱能量;而讓他重拾畫筆的接點,則是從所謂的「石畫」開始。1996年間,他開始嘗試在一些搜集來的石頭表面,順著自然的凹、凸變化,進行一些水墨山水的立體構成;這樣的媒材及作法,讓他曾經潛心自學的一些唐、宋、元、明、清古畫知能,開始跳脫已然制式化了的構圖及觀念,形成一種不由自主、卻又必須隨機而變的「空間轉換」思維。

接著,他將這樣的空間,挪移到紙面,也就形成了最早的一批《盆景奇石》系列;在不同的筆墨技巧牽引下,不分現代、傳統,穿梭於立體山水之間,幾近於360度的環場或循環,鄧卜君式的魔幻空間、魔幻山水,也就此成型;更成為他日後創作中,運用最多的題材與手法。

鄧卜君的魔幻山水,很快地就在台灣當代水墨畫壇,獲得高度的注目與肯定;特別是多次代表台灣畫廊參加「北京國際藝術博覽會」,展現台灣當代藝術家在水墨創作上的殊異成果與創發。

2021年在台北采泥藝術的個展,是近五年創作的回顧展,取名《樸方異境》,旨在突顯藝術家身處素樸秘境,卻展現奇異藝境的創作特質。

鄧卜君,人如其名,畫如其人,在看似「不求聞達」的處世態度中,其實蘊含著深刻的人文反思與生命尊嚴;卜居看似邊陲的地域,卻心懷文化發展的終極關懷;文化沒有邊陲,藝術在哪裡,中心就在哪裡。鄧卜君的創作,以結合傳統與現代的筆墨、技法,展開出一個超越「現代」的「後現代」風貌;誠如藝評家的形容,那是「墨幻的搖滾」(王焜生語),顛覆卻不棄絕、傳承卻不沿襲,徹底映現筆墨應有的時代性。

《樸方異境》收錄鄧卜君2014年至2020年間的作品,也可看成是畫家近七年作品的一個總回顧。如果從2008年花蓮松園的首次個展起算到2013年,視為藝術家創作第一階段,那麼2014年則可視為第二階段的展開。

第二階段的創作,鄧卜君顯在既有的風格上,找到了更大的自信與發揮,從原本較盆景式的山水,或海灘、河谷的石陣,開始拓展為一種更為遼闊、宏大的視野,如:2014年的〈應山合水〉,視點整個地提升,猶如空拍的鏡頭,山巒的連緜、起伏,也如傳統地理上的「龍脈」。這樣的突破,或許和當年受邀參展紐約蘇富比精選十六位畫家推出的《水墨:夢幻仙境》特展有關,藝術家獲得了更多的鼓舞與激勵;打破原本較規律、對稱的構圖,成為一種山巒起伏、海石散布的開朗。類似的構圖,又有2015年的〈屺雲錯〉系列,以及2020年的〈青陽山之歌〉、〈青山雲錯〉等。

第二階段創作的第二個特點,則是大膽色彩的運用,在第一階段的作品中,雖然也有青綠、朱紅等色面的出現,但到底仍以墨色為主;但第二階段的創作中,大膽且強烈對比的色面運用,讓原本已經帶有「非現實」的畫面,更增添了「現代魔幻」的感受;如:2014年的〈霞暈(彼岸系列)〉、2015年的〈雲藏〉,特別是2020年的〈秀門競奇〉、〈紅岩青雲〉,乃至〈冷墨琉光〉等,均可窺見創作者的心境與改變。

此外,第二階段的作品中,鄧卜君開始運用了大量造形上的支點、透視的反差,乃至幾何視窗的加入。前者如:2015年的〈霞雲〉和2020年〈石間秀痕〉中那些巨石間的支撐小石,以及2020年〈石窗日記〉和〈有海藍寶的石窗〉等作,那些方窗中石頭造型的相互支撐等;至於透視的反差,包括:2016年〈種石〉畫面中方格的看似前凸卻又後凹的矛盾,以及2020年〈桌山之變〉下方那個看似深入、卻又並無深入的覆缽形空間等,在在讓人產生視覺上的錯亂與顛覆。

最後,則是宗教性神聖空間的出現,這種並無具體指涉的宗教性意涵,讓鄧卜君的作品,更加深了人文思維的深度,不再只是一種意境或視覺的魔幻,而是思維的提升與深化,如:2020年的〈天地供桌〉和〈桌山之變〉等。

總之,國立藝專畢業後便長期匿居花蓮的鄧卜君,以近二十年的時間,在山、石、樹、雲之間,觀照自我、對話自然,形成了台灣當代水墨的「後山傳奇」,而最近七年的創作,更展現他強勁、無可限量的創作強度。

如果說:1960年代啟動的中國現代水墨運動,是以背離傳統「國畫」筆法的自動性技法,開創出一片嶄新的創作天地,也造就了戰後台灣現代藝術史的豐美篇章;但1957年出生的鄧卜君,卻以緜密、多樣的「筆法」,創造出另一番似古又今、似今又古的魔幻山水,讓後山曬影、方天水境,成為台灣當代水墨的樸方異境,也是「後現代」水墨的重要代表。

鄧卜君的作品,以素樸、深邃的手法,展現一種天光雲影共徘徊的奇麗境象;又以扭轉變形、無限繁衍的造形元素,讓人聯想起當代科幻電影中不可捉摸的外星世界。但鄧卜君的作品,不在著意創生駭人的虛景,而是在乎內在世界與宇宙洪荒的深沈對話與融和,帶著一份佛理、幾分詩意。

鄧卜君是近年浮現藝壇的一項驚艷,就如「花蓮」地名的充滿玄機,「花蓮」、「蓮花」、「洄瀾」、「水漾」,這樣的地方,成就了這樣的藝術;這樣的藝術,也成就了這樣的藝術家,既是在地化的,更是全球性的。樸方.異境.一卜君,不容忽視,更值得期待。


A Simple yet Unusual Realm – Teng Pu-Chun’s Ink Fantasy

HSIAO Chong-Ray

Art Historian & Emeritus Professor, Department of History, National Cheng Kung University

In August 2008, Hualien’s Pine Garden invited Teng Pu-Chun to hold a solo exhibition, an exhibition that was presented twenty-four years after Teng graduated from the National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts). During this period of twenty-four years, the artist had once set down his brush and stopped painting for a decade. It was not until 1996 that he picked up his brush again and founded “Mo Ming Hall,” where he presented Space Landscape – Painting for the Love of Rocks, an exhibition featuring his ink and stone paintings as well as works of seal carving. Such a small-scale event taking place at his own gallery space understandably did not generate much buzz in society, particularly in the art circle. Nevertheless, “generating buzz” has not been what Teng cares most. For him, as he paints, it is only natural that he makes some of his works known to the public. This is simply part of the everyday life at Mo Ming Hall. Teng describes himself as “leading an uneventful, worry-free life, being withdrawn from society without making many friends, and waiting for retirement.”

In 2008, he finally retired; but he “does not feel old and is incredibly healthy.” With the invitation from Pine Garden, he presented a more formal solo exhibition at the art space that was also a historic spot. The next year (2009) after the solo exhibition, he handcrafted ten artwork albums, with images photographed and contents edited by himself, which served as a conclusion of his creative work over a course of more than a decade.

The action of making a self-produced, handcrafted painting album might seem ordinary, but has imperceptibly revealed some of the inherent qualities of Teng’s artistic life: the state of mind of a literatus and the talent of a craftsman.

The year of 2010 was the year that Teng’s work was seen by the art world in a more formal manner. In April of the year, in a joint exhibition curated by another ink painter Peng Kang-Long (1962-), Teng’s works left Hualien and returned to Taipei, where Teng was once a student. The joint exhibition featured Teng and the ninety-six-year-old revered painter Chang Kuang-Pin (1915-2016), whose brushstroke and artistic conception, which demonstrated his “mature personality and work in an unfettered and individualistic way,” had a profound impact on the mind of the craftsman-artist that got his “painting inspiration” from “his passion for stones.” This encounter was also an encounter of two traditional literati from different generations.

Born in Hualien in 1957, Teng got into the National Taiwan Academy of Arts in Banciao in 1981. It was a period when he felt like he was in his element. The year of 1984 was the year he graduated from the academy as well as the inauguration and official opening of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), the first modern art museum in Taiwan.

During this initial period after the museum’s inauguration, one of its major biennials was the exhibition of “new ink painting.” The tug-of-war and contention between “modern ink” and “traditional ink” also became a hot topic and focal point in the art scene that year.

It remains a question whether Teng had directly joined the debate. However, three years after graduating from the National Taiwan Academy of Arts, he had “set down his brush” and stopped painting, which was clearly related to the contention between “the traditional” and “the modern.” Years later, he reminisced about those days and stated,

“National painting” was a specific term that referred to traditional Chinese painting. It was like a burden of a cast spell that could not be undone. The names of ink and color ink did not appear until the 19th and 20th century. The teaching and learning of traditional Chinese painting was conducted through the peculiar master-pupil system, and the pupils always started with “copying” the works of past art masters without really asking why. After graduation, I taught myself by studying paintings from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, through which I explored the concepts of Chinese painting and the principles of using ink and brush. I realized that the problem of Chinese painting had its root in the problematic system of education. In particular, after the literati painting became the mainstream in the Yuan and Ming dynasties, literati dominated the theoretical discourse of painting. They filled it with symbols and copied each other, causing the deterioration of the art and the eventual loss of its vitality. After entering the Republic Era, although there were renowned masters, they still followed the concept of the literati painting to create their art. In 1957, Chi Pai-Shi passed away, and the May Art Group was founded in Taiwan, of which Mr. Liu Kuo-Sung was one of its members. Thirty years later, Liu proposed the idea of revolutionizing the genre by altering its use of the “medium-sized brush,” turning himself into the father of modern ink painting and a contemporary master. At that time, Liu’s status as a revolutionary figure was the result and making of a changing world, in which the political climate also moved towards democracy. Therefore, drastic measures and changes were necessary. Afterwards, Taiwanese ink painting became diversified. However, I found that many ink paintings were created under Western concepts or with Western compositions, and lost the characteristic charm of Chinese ink. I stopped for a long time, preparing myself while pondering on the question of how to create contemporary ink painting with the most traditional ink and brush. (Rock the Dream, Spirit of Ink, 2017)

It was amidst the conflicting and unsolvable contention between “the modern” and “the tradition” that Teng had put down his brush temporarily; however, he was always pondering on “how to create contemporary ink painting with the most traditional ink and brush.”

During this suspension of painting, the “stones” from his hometown became the subject of his aspiration, appreciation and spiritual dependence.

“Hualien,” a name that is beautiful and profound, evoking the flower “lotus” (pronounced “lian hua” in Mandarin), evolves from Hualien’s historical name “Huelan” (literally “surging currents”). It is in the north of Taiwan’s eastern region that is traditionally known as “Ho Shan” (literally “back of the mountains”). It is where Taroko, the exit of the Central Cross-lsland Highway, is located, as well as where several great rivers in eastern Taiwan, such as Hualien River and Siouguluan River, enter the Pacific Ocean, creating notable surging currents (hence, the name “Huelan”). This is a place where the mountains meet the ocean, and has produced the most abundant natural resources, ranging from “marble” excavated from the mountains to variegated marine stones found by the seaside. In particular, the Re­tired Servicemen’s Engineering Agency (RSEA) Marble Factory, with Yang Ying-Feng’s assistance, had built the foundation for what would later be known as the Hualien Stone Sculpture Festival. Moreover, the collection and appreciation of peculiar rocks and bonsais (potted landscape) have also become a unique activity for local enthusiasts and cultural industry in Hualien.

Teng perhaps had no direct association with these local “stone appreciating” or “stone treasuring” groups or individuals, but the local arts and cultural trends might inspire or influence him to a certain extent. On the other hand, his business of dealing with “antiques” provided him ample opportunities to see ancient bronze ware, seals, calligraphies and paintings that he had not had a chance to study in school. He even traveled to China, where his vision was widened. Particularly, he gained a deeper understanding of ink works from the Ming and Qing dynasties, including works by artists known for their “transformed style,” such as Gong Xian (1618-1689) from the early Qing dynasty.

From the appearance, Teng’s decade-long suspension of painting seems to suggest a digression from artistic creation; today, in retrospect, it has brought him to the origin of ink landscape, where he has absorbed inspiration from mountain rocks and nature to accumulate artistic energy. The moment he picked up the brush again was when he started his “stone painting.” In 1996, he began experimenting with creating three-dimensional ink landscape following the natural texture with dents and bumps on the surface of stones he had collected. The medium and creative approach freed him from the knowledge about the ancient paintings from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties that he had devotedly studied, enabling him to leave behind standardized composition and concepts to form an involuntary yet improvisational thinking based on “spatial conversion.”

His next step was to transfer such space unto paper, which created the earliest group of his Potted Landscape with Weird Rocks series. Led by both modern and traditional ink painting techniques, he wandered through three-dimensional landscape and created surrounding or cyclic scenes that were nearly three hundred and sixty degrees – this became the genesis of Teng’s fantastic space and magical landscape. The subject matter and approach have become the most seen in his later works.

Teng’s magical landscape soon swept Taiwan’s contemporary ink art scene and garnered much attention and recognition. Especially, he has repeatedly represented Taiwanese art galleries to participate in the International Art Exposition Beijing, and demonstrated Taiwanese contemporary artists’ unique achievement and creativity in the field of ink creation.

The solo exhibition at Chini Gallery in Taipei in 2021 is an exhibition that reviews his work in the recent five years. Titled A Simple yet Unusual Realm, the exhibition aims to highlight the artist’s creative feature of unfolding an artistic realm of fantasy while living in an uncomplicated, secluded place.

Teng’s character is fully indicated by his name, and his painting also reflects his character. With a clear attitude of “renouncing the pursuit of fame and reputation,” both his name and his work convey profound cultural contemplation and the dignity of life. While he chooses to reside in a relatively peripheral region, he has always harbored the ultimate concern for cultural development – indeed, there is no periphery in culture; and the center is where art is. His work integrates both traditional and modern ink brushwork and techniques to unveil a “post-modern” look that transcends the so-called “modern.” Like an art critic once described, his work is the “dream-rocking ink” (words of Emerson Wang). It is subversive but unsevered from the past; and it continues the legacy but does not simply imitate. It completely reflects the characteristics of the times that brush and ink should embody.

A Simple yet Unusual Realm features Teng’s works created between 2014 and 2020; in a way, it is a general review of the artist’s work over the span of seven years. If the period from his first solo exhibition at Pine Garden in 2008 to 2013 is viewed as the first stage of his creative work, the year of 2014 then marks the commencement of the second stage.

Teng’s work created during the second stage, with his existing style as the foundation, has revealed more confidence and mastery, and the previous subject matters, such as potted landscape and stone fields by the sea or in ravines, have developed into a more expansive and grander view. For example, in Landscape of Mountains and Water of 2014, the overall viewpoint is elevated to that of an aerial view, and the unending, rolling mountains also recall what is traditionally known as the “dragon vein” in geography. Such breakthrough is perhaps related to the invitation to as well as the inspiration and encouragement from Shuimo / Water Ink: Enchanted Landscapes, a group exhibition that showcased finely selected works from sixteen painters and presented by the Sotheby’s New York. Teng moves away from a more regular, symmetrical compositional style and embraces a sense of openness characterized by rolling mountains and scattered sea boulders. A similar composition can also be found in the series of Leaping the Cloud of 2015, as well as Song to Rising Emerald Peaks and Lush Mountains in a Sea of Clouds of 2020.

The second creative feature in the second stage is his bold use of colors. Although colors planes in green, vermillion and other colors are found in the works from the first stage, he has primarily used ink color. However, in the works from the second stage, the use of bold and intensely contrasting color planes adds a feeling that is “modern and magical” in the already “unrealistic” images. The artist’s state of mind and its changes can be detected in various examples, including Sunset Glow (Other Shore Series) of 2014, Hidden Cloud of 2015, and particularly from Competing Wonders in a Delicate Realm, Red Rock under a Cobalt Sky to Cold Ink and Glowing Light.

Furthermore, Teng starts extensively using differences in fulcrums and perspectives of forms as well as adds geometric windows. Examples of the former include the small supporting stones between large boulders in Red Clouds of 2015 and Elegant Rifts Between Rocks of 2020, as well as the mutually supporting rocks within the square windows in Day and Night Outside a Stone Window and Stone Window with an Aquamarine of 2020. In terms of differences in perspective, there are the contradicting squares and rectangles that seem to be simultaneously protruding forward and receding backward in Growing Stones of 2016, and the space of a capsized bowl that seems to be pulling away but actually remaining still in the lower part of The Change of a Table Mountain of 2020, which all produce visual confusion and disruption.

The final feature is the emergence of a sacred space, which does not convey any religious connotations but renders Teng’s work more profound in terms of its humanistic thinking. Instead of simply delivering a certain type of artistical conception or magical visuality, it beckons the elevation and deepening of thoughts, such as Altar of Heaven and Earth and The Change of a Table Mountain of 2020.

Teng Pu-Chun, has led a hermit-esque life in Hualien for nearly twenty years after graduating from National Taiwan Academy of Arts, immersing himself in self-observation and dialogues with mountains, rocks, trees and clouds in nature. His works created during the latest seven years further embody his powerful, unlimited creative strength.

If the Chinese modern ink painting movement launched in the 1960s emphasized on creating new forms of ink painting with automatic techniques vastly different from traditional brushwork of the so-called “national painting,” it also ushered in a new and rich chapter in Taiwan’s modern art history in the post-war era. Contrarily, born in 1957, Teng has utilized dense and diversified “brushstrokes” to create his magical landscape that mixes ancient and modern styles to transform Hualien’s natural beauty as well as its sky and water into a simple yet unusual realm and render himself a representative figure of the “post-modern” ink painting in Taiwan’s contemporary ink art scene.

Teng is known for using unadorned, mesmerizing techniques to produce a splendidly magical realm characterized by a tapestry of interweaving daylight and rolling clouds. At the same time, he adds twistingly metamorphosing and endlessly replicating formal elements in his work, bringing to mind the unpredictable extraterrestrial world in contemporary sci-fi movie. However, Teng’s work does not focus on constructing terrifying fictional scenes but centering on deep dialogues and purposeful integration of the inner world and the boundless cosmos, exuding a sense of Buddhist wisdom and poetic beauty.

He has been a stunning case in the art scene in recent years. The name of “Hualien” – an intriguing place also called “Lienhua” (lotus), “Huelan” (surging currents) and “Shuiyang” (brimming water) – conveys much mysteriousness, and it is such a place that has nurtured the artist and given birth to his art, which is as much localized as it is global – this simple yet unusual realm created by Teng will always be captivating and anticipated.