「內在體驗」（l’expérience intérieure）在法國哲學家巴代伊（Georges Bataille，1897-1962）的定義裡，包含迷狂、出神與冥想狀態，不屬於宗教，而是更高的神性境界，其所觸及的就是我們的內在經驗，逾越禁忌產生焦慮，但是穿越焦慮以後，禁忌便不存在。鄧卜君探觸了兩個禁忌：一個是傳統水墨的變異，另一個則是面對自己內在需求的道德藩籬，透過他的創作語彙連結到個人的生命經驗。他的作品以當代藝術的詮釋下具有隱含曖昧的情色性，這種情色性就是人天生具有的慾望驅力，可是以傳統筆墨處理如此當代性議題者則不多，其中的直觀性多了幽默、隱含的曖昧性又增加了抒情。在一個看似既傳統又嚴肅的水墨畫中勾勒出現代精神，將神聖與世俗之間的界線拉近，強化出當代特質。〈紫山紙山〉從類似現成物的拼貼，將一幅傳統水墨剪貼在藝術家的新創作上，形成新舊的對比，再以底色的差異製造出空間視覺的混淆，復又在畫面上繪製一方窗口，將視線延伸，打破以二度平面處理三度空間的格局，又令人想到比利時藝術家瑪格利特在畫面中製造出在現實裡的超現實幻境。
Secular Experiences in the Sacred World – Teng Pu-Chun
Curator & Art Critic
Looking back on the development of ink landscape, painters before the Tang dynasty focused on the form of landscape, which gradually matured during the period of the Five Dynasties and the Northern and Southern Song dynasties before entering a period of regular development in the Yuan and Ming dynasties. Afterwards, ink landscape slowly evolved from a simple art form to a complex one and from emphasizing on decorativeness to centering spirituality. As it began with forms and refined into artistic conception, it transcended natural imagery with brush and ink and became an independent aesthetic system. After modernist concepts altered the traditional look of ink creation, contemporary art started challenging the cultural framework of ink landscape. The nature of the genre explored by artists has no longer been limited to the imitation and representation of images. Artists have even liberated the materials and forms, and shifted their focus to conceptual dialectics. In short, ink becomes one of the potential media for artistic creation rather than a necessary one. The ink creation in contemporary art has produced two completely different routes: one is to use ink painting to convey criticism and thoughts about sociocultural phenomena; and the other is to demonstrate the artist’s personal interpretation and development of the traditional and collective awareness. Teng’s work, in this case, falls into the latter and shows his understanding and exploration of ink art.
Teng’s ink painting comprises the basic elements of mountain, water, tree and rock. The panoramic view of the landscape characterized by mountains ranges with steep cliffs, which allows us to “observe the small from the large,” demonstrates a majestic momentum. While delineating nature in an objective and comprehensive manner, his expression is not confined by concept, implication and sentiment; instead, it reveals a polysemic and selfless realm. The bold and revolutionary depiction of landscape, neither realistic nor lyrical, is already severed from real sceneries. Although his images show mountains, rivers, woods and lakes, they look realistic yet dreamlike at the same time, allowing one to imaginatively wander and dwell in them. However, as the path takes a turn, another dimension unfurls, showing a theatrical stage or a change of sets like that in sci-fi novels or movies. A multidimensional universe, which can never appear in reality, suddenly surfaces on paper. First of all, Teng’s overall arrangement of the image creates two entirely different views: the overall image is occupied by a highly referential subject, such as the microscopic composition of an offering table, a potted plant or a mirror surface. When the viewer’s perspective, like the camera lens, zooms into the image, a macroscopic landscape dramatically appears, which reverts the biological rule of moving from the macroscopic to the microscopic in our visual experience.
In The Record of the Classification of Old Painters, Hsieh Ho proposed the “six principles” of painting: “spirit resonance,” “bone method,” “correspondence to the object,” “suitability to type,” “division and planning” and “transmission by copying.” The six principles are indeed suitable criteria for examining Teng’s ink painting. It can be said that his brushwork and techniques continue the traditional techniques of dotting, shading, texturizing and rubbing as well as the varying shades of ink. Yet, the colored background and the balanced visual effect created with elaborate layering is different from the traditional method of leaving blankness in the image. His thin, dense and overlapping rolled wrinkled strokes produce the dynamic momentum of rocky mountains with continuous, repeated spiraling lines. In addition to the traditional inking, he also boldly applies color ink to the background while frequently applying an indigo purple blue in his image. This vat dye that has more than three thousand years of history is considered an intellectual color that conveys hopes for the future, the longing for challenge and creativeness. In recent years, he also adds more saturated colors, such as yellow, green and purple, to render the image visually richer. Landscape with Six Pines and Strange Rocks Amidst Clouds show a colored background in indigo blue with multiple layering, and convey a sense of aristocratic mysteriousness, producing an ethereal and spiritual balance with the secular theme of trees or rocks; Blue Mountain, Green Specks and Vermillion Rock with Blue Specks are brimming with splendid colors; and the layered emerald peaks in Basalts on a Verdant Blanket extends the view to a distant point along the central axis.
The way Teng lays out the image structure brings to mind the painting approach of trees, mountain rocks, mist and the overall composition and layout found in the paintings of the Northern Song dynasty. One can see the concentrated force and accumulated pressure in the brushwork of Guo Xi’s Early Spring, demonstrating power and dynamic rhythm. Fan Kuan’s majestic representation of rocky mountains can also be seen in Teng’s work. The ink landscape by Wang Meng from the Yuan dynasty preferred to fill up the entire image, and creates unending layers of rising mountains on vertical scrolls to form strong twists and momentum. This characteristic can also be observed in Teng’s composition and layout. When closely viewing Teng’s landscape, details similar to the elegant technique epitomizing the “tender yet desolate” quality produced by Ni Zhan’s “folded-sash stroke” can also be detected.
The artist’s approach of first presenting close-up, enlarged images before constructing details in the form of distant views to create visual misplacement can be found in Water-ending Rock with the mirroring water, in Altar of Heaven and Earth with the single-legged table, in The Change of a Table Mountain with the four-legged square table surface, and Rock of Fortune with the potted plant. He utilizes a vehicle to present traditional literati landscape that was used to convey one’s patriotic sentiments, and instantly converts the landscape into a scholarly plaything for cultivating inner tranquility. Contrasting majestic natural landscape and one’s fondness of artificial landscape, the approach completely reverts the images and their meanings, exuding a contemporary sense of humor. Here, Teng starts to subvert the long-lasting responsibility shouldered by the ink landscape tradition – the binding burden that learned literati should always “have substance in their words.”
The mesmerizing effect of Teng’s image is not only shown through the details. He uses traditional ink techniques but creates variations in traditional ink images, producing a much more intense contrast. One of the most notable differences between ink painting and Western painting is that the former adopts multi-perspectives to formulate an image. In Teng’s work, he repeatedly applies multi-perspectives to the delineation of details. The change he makes is switching between the background and the foreground. For instance, the viewing logic dictates that the distant view or the landscape of mountains and rivers is supposed to be presented first in an image before the spectator sees further to find the corresponding bridges, pavilions, tables and chairs. However, Teng would first reveal an image that is a small object seemingly tactile before the magnificent mountain view is revealed. Yet, when traversing through the mountains, another unrealistic space would again come into view. Therefore, Teng’s image unfolds the multiple substitution of space and deviation from the principle of life experience. In his painting, viewers become residents of a multidimensional cosmos that is the summation of energy, spirituality and wisdom. In this cosmos, all existence is enveloped in invisible energy, spirituality and wisdom, merging as one with what is known as the origin of divinity.
Virtuality in Solitude portrays the infinity of the primal universe. The mysteriousness of Phantasmagoric Rocks surpasses human comprehension. A Flower of Ball-shaped Clouds and A Comet Encircling in Brightness, instead of depicting the beginning of life, unveil the genesis of the universe – from the great void emerges the world, and the world gives birth to all things. This is the formation of all existence, and between the great void and all things is the place we inhabit. In Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu states that the Tao is great and lies in the silent voice. The beginning of Tsao Hsueh-Chin’s Dream of the Red Chamber talks about Nuwa’s mending of the firmament, the oath between the plant and the rock, as well as the illusory realm of the ethereal void. The author uses the art form of novel to answer the three ultimate questions about life: “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” and “Where am I going?” With the ink representation of the great void and the mesmerizing cosmos, Teng once again poses the questions of modern people. Nevertheless, the contemporary artist’s questioning about the human life does not stop at confusion; in fact, it seems that he already has his own answer. He creates illusory dreams with a clear understanding of human emotions, seemingly seeing through the world and realizing that life is a dream. Eventually, he chooses to wake up from the dream. The world in Competing Wonders in a Delicate Realm brings us back to the mundane world. When Nature Calls (Female) and When Nature Calls (Male) are inspired by the artist’s life experience of submerging in the secular world. A Strip of Bloody Mary is undoubtedly a representation of the hedonistic life of the contemporary era.
The definition of “l’expérience intérieure” (inner experience) by the French philosopher Georges Bataille (1897-1962) includes the states of ecstasy, trance and meditation, which transcend the religious domain and reach a higher state of divinity. The inner experience discussed by the philosopher surpasses taboos and causes anxieties; however, when anxieties subside, the taboos exist no more. Teng engages in two taboos in his work: one is his alteration of traditional ink painting; and the other is that he faces the moral boundary of his inner needs and connects them with his personal life experience through his creative vocabularies. Using the creation of contemporary art, he interprets the implicit and ambiguous eroticism, which denotes human being’s innate drives. There are not many artists who engage in contemporary issues with the traditional medium of ink, and Teng’s intuitive expression has added a sense of humor while the implicit ambiguity also increases the lyricalness of his work. Delineating the modern spirit with the traditional and serious-minded ink landscape, Teng bridges the gap between the sacred and the secular, reinforcing the contemporary characteristics of his work. In Purple Mountain, Paper Mountain, Teng uses the collage of semi-readymades and pastes a traditional ink landscape onto his new painting, forming a contrast between the old and the new. Then, he produces a confusing visual space with the differences of the background colors before painting a window in the image to extend the line of sight to formulate a three-dimensional layout on the two-dimensional plane. Such approach brings to mind the Belgium artist René Magritte, who is known to fabricate surreal spaces with realistic setting in his work.
Teng’s work is charged with a strong quality of “postmodernity.” Nowadays, the pervasiveness of the discursive cultural forms is more important than any heroic discourses. In his work, Teng moves from sacred forms to the common and pervasive connotations, which is his way to maximize, with moderating principles, the inner freedom shared by himself and his audience.