自我形象演繹中的成長

文/高鵬 博士

今日美術館 館長

在西方藝術史中,有一個門類的繪畫常常被人忽視,這個門類對於藝術家來說又是至關重要,它們是藝術家自己的鏡子,證明著自己的存在。這就是自畫像。對於藝術家來說,自畫像遠不是練習作品那麼簡單。1000多年前,藝術家的簽名出現在藝術品上。藝術家從此不再是手藝人,而成為“大家”被人尊重,被歷史記錄下來。相同的,自畫像的存在無疑代表著藝術家地位的提升,他們不再是沉默的記錄者,反而走上主角的位置,用自己的筆傳遞著自己獨一無二的個性和生命故事。在沒有攝影技術的時代,這種對於自身的記錄,是藝術家們獨有的天賦。對於這些以圖像為生存工具的藝術家來說,他們對於圖形的敏感遠遠超過文字。所以與其去寫傳記,他們不如使用自己的特權,讓不同階段的自己永久保存下來。穿越了時空,忠實的記錄自己的內心。

對於人類如何認識自己這一深奧的哲學問題,大部分藝術家也沒有具體的答案。陳承衛大約也是如此。梵谷給弟弟特奧的信中曾經寫道“雖然不易,但如果有一天我能畫好自己的肖像,那我就能輕鬆畫出這世間其他紅男綠女的肖像了。”人們想要描繪自己是不易的,因為誰也不能看清自己。而自畫像的練習不僅有助於畫家練習造型與色彩,還可通過自我觀察,深入探索形象的精神氣質與心理活動的外在顯現。當藝術家能夠通過描繪自己抓住自己隱藏的心理時,他們便能夠真正的抓住“這世間其他紅男綠女”微翹的嘴角,含羞的眼波或者略帶憂愁的眉角了。這大概也是陳承衛一直以來堅持畫自己的形象的原因之一,這是一種練習,同時也是一種審視。用眼睛品讀世界的藝術家們總是用畫畫的方式審視自己的內心,我常常認為這樣的藝術家都是勇敢的。他們通過作畫,勇敢的尋找著內心。也許在這個時候,時間和腦海才能真正的安靜下來,讓他們充滿創造力的腦海集中精力。

陳承衛就是一個勇敢的人,一直堅持不懈的描繪著自己。無論是“自傳體”系列或者是“大民國”系列中藝術家穿插在畫作中扮演的各種形象,都是藝術家對於自我寫照的不斷探索。

西方藝術史中,對於藝術家自我形象的認識也經歷了漫長的過程,有趣的是這個過程在陳承衛的作品中則是逆向進行的。藝術史上很早以前藝術家們就開始將自己的形象拐彎抹角的隱藏在作品之中,最著名的無過於委拉斯蓋茲《侍女》鏡中倒影的藝術家本人,是戲謔也是一種對於自己身份的認可。藝術家們不再甘願為貴族王室作畫,而是驕傲的將自己的形象也置於架上,這種半惡作劇的傳統可以被視作自畫像的前身。到後來乾脆直接為自己作畫,驕傲的告訴世人,我就是我。揚•凡•艾克1433年就在自己的自畫像《戴紅頭巾的男子》頂部寫下“盡我所能”。畫的底部,還戲謔性的寫下了一句“揚•凡•艾克描繪了我,1433年10月21日”。畢加索這位藝術巨匠也在去世前將全部心力用到自畫像創作上來。自畫像從開始對於藝術家職業價值的認識,最終成為藝術家展示個性和自身生命故事的演變。

作為一位年輕的藝術家,陳承衛的早期作品反倒是比較直接的自我展示。大概是因為出生在這個時代,藝術家已經能夠非常自信的面對自己的價值。相信他對於林布蘭的喜愛可能也是原因之一,“自傳體”系列明顯是對於這位巴洛克時期大師的致敬。善以概括手法表現人物的性格特徵的林布蘭精於心理描寫的肖像畫和自畫像作品,他集大成的“明暗對比法”被譽為“用黑暗繪就光明”。“自傳體”系列中,來自林布蘭的明暗對比光影使用、戲劇色彩、以及四分之三側臉肖像的構圖特點清晰可見。陳承衛對於林布蘭式用光的使用已經非常嫻熟而靈活。光線僅照亮臉部的四分之三,在主要形象臉部的任意一側呈現出倒三角形的亮區。看上去將臉部一分為二,又使臉部的兩側看上去各不相同。將光線集中在主要部分,讓其餘部分隱藏於黑褐色或淺橄欖色的背景之中。強化畫中的主要部分,也讓暗部去弱化和消融次要因素。給人以穩定莊重華麗的感覺,更讓“自傳體”系列帶上了巴洛克時代的神秘感,魔術般的點亮了原本平實的主題中戲劇性色彩。

林布蘭的一生中共有61幅自畫像,在這一系列的自畫像中,我們可以看到林布蘭始終不屈不撓的性格,他傾盡一生都在描繪自己的皮膚、頭髮和紋理,勇敢的記錄自己的痛苦、哀傷、不羈與快樂,這種描繪與自我分析在林布蘭的生命中已經被視為尊嚴。於陳承衛的作品中也是如此。他總是在畫面中直視外面的世界,帶著笑意,無論帶上弄臣的帽子還是裝成貴族。看著他的自畫像能夠感受到一種強烈的信心,只要他還能繼續作畫、創作,他的尊嚴就不會泯滅。

另一方面,戲劇性在陳承衛的作品中也佔據了很重要的地位,尤其是“大民國”系列中藝術家對於大民國時期富有符號性的演繹。藝術家如前文提到的委拉斯蓋茲,將自己穿插在大民國的各個場景之中,在壓抑中自我尋找,體驗不同的情境不同的生活。用自己純熟的畫工,將寫實主義與中國當今的古典主義審美完美結合,並將自己的想像融入在作品之中。分散在各個作品中的紅色綢緞,具有政治寓意性,又有傳統婚姻對於女性枷鎖的隱喻。另一方面,作為一名年輕的藝術家,難得的是我們通過陳承衛藝術表現的成長過程,看到得是越來越複雜的藝術表現與思考,而非因為審美趨同及利益驅使,走向媚俗與平庸的流程化創作,這一點十分可貴。最明顯看到藝術家成長既是對於張愛玲名作《紅玫瑰與白玫瑰》的演繹。豐富的符號隱藏在作品當中,將男主角振保的心理狀態表現的淋漓盡致。“也許每一個男子全都有過這樣的兩個女人,至少兩個。娶了紅玫瑰,久而久之,紅的變了牆上的一抹蚊子血,白的還是”床前明月光”;娶了白玫瑰,白的便是衣服上沾的一粒飯黏子,紅的卻是心口上一顆朱砂痣。” 作品“紅玫瑰”中,男子的帽子雖是紅色,卻身著白衣。紅玫瑰是振保心中的一顆“朱砂痣”,即使穿著應與白玫瑰結合的白衣,卻急迫地將象徵心與火熱的紅玫瑰送給紅衣女郎。只是這朵玫瑰已經開始凋零亦或者從未完全開放,就如小說中後續的故事,在紅玫瑰終於回過身認真的面對與振保的關係時,振保選擇了懦弱的離開。而作品“白玫瑰”就像前作的續寫,大紅色的綢花前,白色衣著的二人目視前方,毫無表情更無激情。一朵白玫瑰擋在白色肚兜暗示心與熱情的紅色花紋前,男子則防禦性的雙手相交。這或許便是傳統意義上相敬如賓的夫妻,兩人雖站在一起卻如相隔千里。然而另一隻手卻從畫面外伸向女子的肩頭,暗示振保最終發現妻子與裁縫保持曖昧的未來。

所以在我眼中,陳承衛一直在自我形象的演繹中不斷成長。通過繪畫,他試圖在不同時空中尋找另一個自己。

Making Progresses Through the Exploration of Self-portrait Painting

Dr. Gao Peng(Director of Today Art Museum)

There is a category of paintings usually ignored in western art history, which, however, matters a lot to artists, for it is their mirror and proves their existence. It is self-portrait. For artists, painting self-portraits is in no way as simple as practicing drawing. Artists’ signatures began to appear on artworks 1,000 year ago. Since then, artists have no longer been called craftsmen but “masters” respected by people and recorded by history. Likewise, the emergence of self-portraits symbolizes undoubtedly the rising status of artists, that is, artists are no longer silent recorders but protagonists that depict their own unique personalities and life stories with their brushes. In an era without photographic techniques, such kind of self-portrayal can be achieved only by artists with their unique expertise. Those artists who earn a living by painting are much more sensitive about drawings than words. Consequently, they would rather use their privileges to record themselves of different phases than write autobiographies, faithfully depicting their inner feelings across time and space.

Most artists have no concrete answers to the profound philosophical question of how we as human beings getting to know ourselves. I think there is no exception to Chen Chengwei for the same question. Vincent Willem van Gogh once said to his brother Theo in a letter that “If one day I can paint my self-portrait well although it’s hard, then I can paint easily portraits of the other men and women in the world.” It is not easy for people to paint themselves, for no one can see themselves clearly. But self-portrait practice can help painters not only practice modeling and colors, but also probe spiritual temperament of images and external manifestation of mental activities through self-observation. When artists are able to seize their hidden mentality through depicting themselves, they can really capture the lips curving slightly, shy light in the eyes or eyebrow with slight gloom of “the other men and women in the world”. And that might be one of the reasons that Chen Chengwei has been insisting on painting self-portraits, which is a practice as well as an observation. Artists reading the world with eyes can always inspect their hearts by means of painting and I think these artists are brave. They are pursuing their hearts bravely through painting. Maybe it is at that moment that time and mind can really fall silent to enable their brain filled with creativity to concentrate.
Chen Chengwei is just that kind of brave man, persistently painting himself all the time. No matter what various interspersing images played by this artist in the “Autobiography” series or the “Republic of China” series, they are all his constant self-explorations.

In western art history, artists went through a long time to recognize their self-images. What’s interesting is that Chen’s works show that his self-perception process is just reverse. In the art history, artists began to display their images in their works in an indirect way long time ago, and the most famous example is, of course, the reflection of the painter himself in the mirror in the painting of Velazquez’s Las Meninas. This reflection is his banter as well as recognition of his identity. Artists were no longer willing to only paint for royal families, but were proud to put their images on the easels. This half-joke tradition can be regarded as the predecessor of the self-portraits. Finally, they just directly painted for themselves, proudly telling the world that they are who they are. In 1433, Jan van Eyck wrote down “Try My Best” on the top of his self-portrait, Portrait of a Man in a Turban, and jokingly wrote down a sentence “Jan van Eyck painted me on October 21, 1433.” The art giant, Picasso, also devoted himself to the creation of his self-portraits before he died. Self-portraits finally develop a platform for artists to display their personalities and life stories from the recognition of professional value of artists at the beginning.

Instead, as a young artist, Chen ’s early works depicted a direct self-display. It’s probably because he was born in an era when artists are very confident about their own values. Another reason, I believe, may be his fondness for Rembrandt, for the “Autobiography” series are obviously his salute to this master in the Baroque Period. Rembrandt, adept at expressing characters’ personalities and features through generalization technique, is skillful in mental description in portraits and self-portraits, and thus, his excellent technique of contrasting light and shade is honored as “depicting light with shade”. Rembrandt’ composition features are seen clearly in the “Autobiography” series, such as the use of contrasting light and shade, drama features and 3/4 profile portrait. Chen has been quite skillful in the use of light of Rembrandt-type but with great flexibility. The light only shines 3/4 of the face, manifesting inverted triangular bright area in any side of the main character’s face, which seems to divide the face two parts while making the two sides of the face look quite different. He focuses the light on the main part and lets the rest be hidden in the background of black brown or light olive. He highlights the main part of the painting and weakens the dark part, and eliminates the secondary factors, making people feel stable, solemn and gorgeous, endowing the “Autobiography” series with a mystique of the Baroque era and lightening up the dramatic colors in plain subjects.

Rembrandt painted 61 self-portraits in his whole life. And in this series of self-portraits, we can tell Rembrandt’s unyielding character. He devoted himself to the painting of his skin, hair and texture, bravely recording his sorrow, sadness, freedom and happiness and such depictions and self-analysis were viewed as dignity in his life. The same is true with the works of Chen Chengwei. He always looks straight at the outside world inside the painting, smiling, no matter he wears a hat looking like a jester or dresses like an aristocrat. Watching his self-portraits, you can feel a strong sense of confidence that as long as he keeps on painting, his dignity will never cease.

Besides, dramatic features also play an important role in Chen’s works, especially the depiction of symbolic nature in the era of the Republic of China in the “Republic of China” series. Like the above-mentioned Velazquez, this artist put himself in interspersing in various scenes of the Republic of China, seeking himself in depression and experiencing various scenes and various lives. He perfectly combined realism with the current classical aesthetics in China and integrated his imagination his works with his mature painting skills. Red silks and satin scattering in each work have political implications and are a metaphor of women suffering under the yoke of traditional marriage. On the other hand, what is striking and precious is that although Chen Chengwei is a young artist, we can see from the progress of his artistic expressions an increasingly complicated artistic expressions and thinking instead of pulp and plain streamlining creation due to aesthetic convergence or interests. The most prominent work that shows the growth of this artist is the depiction of Red Rose and White Rose, the masterpiece of Ms. Eileen Chang. Rich symbols are hidden in the work, depicting incisively and vividly the mentality of Zhenbao, the male protagonist in the novel. “Perhaps each man had such two women, at least two. After marrying Red Rose, as times passed, the Red became a touch of mosquito blood on the wall while the White was still a ray of moonlight in front of the bed; after marrying White Rose, the White became a grain of rice clinging to the clothes while the Red was still a cinnabar mole on the man’s heart.” In Red Rose, the man wears a red hat but cloth in white. The Red Rose is a cinnabar mole in the heart of Zhenbao, even though he is wearing white wedding suits to marry White Rose, he is still anxious to send the red rose symbolizing heart and enthusiasm to the lady in red, but this rose has already begun withering or has never been in full blossom, just like the subsequent stories in the novel, that is, when the Red Rose finally turns around and sincerely faces the relationship with Zhenbao, Zhenbao chooses to leave cowardly. And White Rose is like a sequel to the former work. In front of the red satin flowers, the couple in white look at each other without facial expression or passion. A white rose on the white bellyband is in front of the red decorative pattern symbolizing heart and passion while the man crosses his hands defensively. This, perhaps, is the traditional couple who are always courteous to each other, but there is an invisible thousand-mile barrier between them although they are standing together; however, another hand from outside the painting reaches the shoulder of the lady, implying that in the future Zhenbao will finally discover the affair between his wife and the tailor.

I believe, therefore, Chen has kept making progresses through his explorations of self-portrait painting. He has been trying to find another self in different space and time by painting.