魔幻視界 – 鄧卜君水墨的空間改寫
畫中的風景不存在於真實的生活情境，也無從發現，藝術家營造了似真如幻的虛擬人間，彷彿存在人世，細看卻又充滿幻覺，如同魔幻境界。「魔幻寫實主義」 最早出現於德國藝術評論家佛朗次羅（Franz Roh） 於1925年出版的書《後期表現派：魔幻寫實主義，當前歐洲繪畫的若干問題》。當時德國盛行後表現派運動(Post-expressionist Movement)， 引發羅撰寫此書動機。然而魔幻寫實文學作家在小說中創造「新的現實」(New Reality)， 或用不同於1930年代社會寫實主義的觀點，來看已存的事實卻更具備鮮明的特質，比起視覺藝術也更為世人熟悉。
鄧卜君超寫實的畫作具有非常清晰的焦點 （Ultrasharp Focus） ，不同於一般繪畫的方式依據視覺焦點，逐漸將較接近遠方的物體，以模糊的方式呈現，他則不分遠近的物體，都畫得相對清晰，因而在視覺上產生奇特的效果；構圖上強烈的客觀性 （Objectivity），以及對物體的興趣，減少主觀的情感投射，因此讓觀者與作品之間的聯繫更為直接而不受創作者所牽引；同時冷淡的 （Coldness） 經營畫面，呈現缺乏情緒的氛圍，以「理智」（Intellect）而非「感情」為訴求，使得近處和遠處的視野以向心性的 （Close and Far View：Centripetal)）處理方式，讓觀畫者被魔幻寫實刺激引發「理智」的反應，近處的視野與注意力被遠方景物分散。超大尺幅的盆栽宛如寫實一般，卻在景中發現不斷延伸的風景，遠處風景又似乎近在咫尺，這些不斷變幻的視覺曖昧，成了鄧卜君作品的迷人之處。
Magical Vision—Re-inscribing Space in TENG Pu-Chun’s Ink Painting
Text by Emerson Wang (Art critic and curator of Rock the Dream, Spirit of Ink)
Art has existed and evolved for over thousands of years. Eastern and Western arts have progressed from being distinctively different to being integrated within the context of globalization; moreover, media have been continuously improved as well. Oil painting has been introduced from the West to the East and become a commonly used medium. However, ink painting has largely remained a unique art form in the field of the East Asian art. Over the past two decades, contemporary ink has been widely discussed. From its form to its content, artists and art critics have been searching for new approaches, attempting to reverse the disadvantage and degradation of the art form under Western influences. In truth, the use of the term “contemporary” is only to distinguish their works from those of the traditional style; in terms of the nature of artistic creation, each artist creates his or her unique works due to individual temperament.
In the Eastern Jin dynasty in the 4th century, ink painting had already acquired its independent form; but the delineation of figures and Buddhist imageries still focused on landscape and scenery. In the Northern and Southern dynasties (420-589), Gu Kaizhi, Zong Bing and Wang Wei organized and introduced the spatial expression in painting. The first painting that embodied the characteristics of Chinese ink landscape was Gu’s Viewing Wulao Mountain from a Snow-covered Cottage, and the first official theorization of ink painting was Zong’s Essay on Painted Landscape. These two masters created the ink landscape informed with Chinese cultural connotations. In addition, Master Huei Yuan of Donglin Temple in Lushan from the Eastern Jin dynasty introduced the concept of artistic charm into the art form. Together these masters co-created the tradition of Chinese ink landscape. In the Tang dynasty, the use of ink became common and popular due to ink landscape. In Song dynasty, Chinese ink landscape reached a mature stage. Painters from the Northern Song dynasty, including Li Cheng, Guo Xi, Fan Kuan and Mi Fu, demonstrated the new realm of ink coloring, combining calligraphic line and color; painters from the Southern Song dynasty, such as Liu Songnian, Li Tang, Ma Yuan and Xia Gui employed texturing techniques as their theoretical basis, creating a tremendous impact on ink painting. Ink is, indeed, color. As the Tang painter, Zhan Yanyuan, once stated that “the use of ink demonstrates five colors.” This period also marked the golden age of Chinese ink landscape painting. After the Yuan dynasty, ink painting gradually moved from landscape to literati painting due to the influence of nationalist ideology in the Ming dynasty. Painters departed from reality and used ink painting to express their ideals. According to art historian James Cahill, ink painting became a “game of art” among cultural elites in the late Ming dynasty (1570-1644); as people communicated through ink painting, it became a formalistic practice at the time. It was not until the end of Ming dynasty and the beginning of the Qing dynasty that Shitao reformed this practice and introduced new ideas by saying that “brush and ink should follow the time.”
One does not necessarily have to begin with history when discussing contemporary ink painting; however, when viewing Teng Pu-Chun’s work, a retrospective examination on the evolution and development of ink painting provides a vivid context as well as a clear path. Traditional Chinese landscape has repeatedly appeared in Teng’s work. From his painting on paper, his brushwork and inking method, his freewheeling design of composition and layout, his texturing method in depicting mountain rocks, his ink coloring and brush style, it goes without saying that Teng has inherited the historical legacies from his predecessors. Contemporary art is considered to be fully intervening into reality with its humanistic ideas and concerns; it does not insist on an otherworldly, detached attitude that might separate itself from the world. It enters the horizon of the audience. Conceptual ink, abstract ink and expressionist ink have formed the so-called “avant-garde ink art” in the contemporary art scene. This discussion involves the issue of how ink art moves from “modern” to “contemporary.” Experimental ink painters believe that ink painting can be equivalent to Chinese culture, but they seek to reform and remove the non-modern, classical connotations and forms in ink painting by replacing them with “modern” forms. Therefore, “anti-tradition” becomes a priority for “modern ink” painters. On the other hand, Teng’s art and inspiration does not come from such line of thinking and approaches. In his work, from the selection of paper, the use of ink, to the movement of brush, one can detect the classical aesthetics and rhythm with the sentiments of the literati style. Naturally, throughout the vicissitudes of time, ink painting no longer aims to express one’s emotions and sentiments through landscape or to seek consolation for one’s unsuccess by living a secluded life in nature. Instead, the goal is to accumulate and cultivate the modern spirit on the foundation of the tradition.
Art critics generally consider that ink painters noticed by the Western art circle have mostly adopted either of the following approaches. The first approach is to reform the art form of national painting with Western techniques and elements; the second approach is to embrace Western art and use ink as a medium to create works that are inherently Western. Such theoretical approaches might be able to explain the context and development of Chinese contemporary ink; however, they are not applicable to the situation in Taiwan. First of all, Taiwanese artists did not experience the destruction of traditional culture and the loss of history. Therefore, they did not need to intentionally create symbols and totems. Second of all, Taiwanese contemporary ink artists are not compelled to criticize the past or feel the need to negate the tradition in a way reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution. Therefore, artistic creations by Taiwanese ink artists have vividly conveyed unbroken cultural legacy and vocabularies of ink painting. This also contributes to the humanism and emotions felt by spectators viewing Teng’s works. In terms of material, ink is unlike oil painting that possesses a certain contemporary quality; neither is it like the new media art that stems from new media invented by our time and assimilated by artists as part of their work. Ink painting is a historical tradition, and its form changes as each artist’s personality varies. Therefore, instead of talking about its contemporary quality, one should focus on how ink painting is created with a personalized style. For this reason, I contend that one does not need to discuss the issue of the so-called contemporary ink painting, but should discuss the artistic style and spirituality created by ink painters. In a way, any kind of traditional media can produce qualities that are contemporary.
Teng’s composition makes a great feature of his works, which displays a distinctively individual style. The unique principles of traditional ink painting are “subject and object,” “void and concreteness,” “sparsity and density,” “elaborateness and simpleness,” “ink and blankness,” “thickness of ink,” “interlacing,” “momentum” and “opening up and closing down.” These traditional principles of ink painting allow artists to master the elaborate image and present a unifying tone. In The Record of the Classification of Old Painters, art critic Xie He from the Southern Qi dynasty proposed the “six principles of Chinese painting.” They are “spirit resonance,” “bone method,” “correspondence to the object,” “suitability to type,” “division and planning” and “transmission by copying.” The principles confirm the importance of observing and copying the form of the object while emphasizing the key to grasp its inner qualities. In addition, ink and brush are combined to serve as a way to express the object. The “six principles of Chinese painting” establish the preliminary framework of ink painting theorization. They touch upon the inner spirit of the delineated object, the artist’s depiction of feelings towards and evaluation of the object, the portrayal of the external form, structure and colors through brushwork as well as the construction of a balanced and complete composition. Viewing Teng’s works from these principles, one can easily enter and immerse oneself in his creative world. This world is not created with his observation of the East coast shoreline or the forests and mountain rocks; it is his imagination that goes beyond real life. Therefore, composition and landscape form a crucial feature to identify his works.
The scenery in Teng’s paintings is not of the real life; it is not to be discovered in reality. Contrarily, the artist creates an illusory yet realistic world that seems to exist in this world but is informed with fantasies; it is a magical realm. The term “magical realism” first appeared in After Expressionism: Magical Realism: Problems of the Newest European Painting published by German art critic Franz Roh in 1925. The book was inspired by the Post-expressionist Movement that was popular in Germany. Literary writers of magical realism created the “new reality” in their novels or adopted viewpoints unlike the social realist perspective in the 1930s to examine the existing facts, representing more vivid qualities. Comparing to visual arts at that time, people might be more familiar with these literary works.
As the creation of ink painting enters the contemporary era and searches for new approaches and expressive forms, the term “contemporary ink” also appears in the theoretical discourse, which is used to distinguish the new type of ink painting from the traditional one. What remains unchanged is the fact that ink painting has been and will always be different from other media in terms of materials used in the creative process; and the uniqueness that sets it apart from others lies in the inner spirit and artistic interpretation of the artists.
Teng’s does not follow the path of traditional literati in expressing their sentiments through ink painting; nor does he pursue interdisciplinary abstract expression within the context of globalization. Although he opposes banal ideas and concepts, he is still drawn to the profound depth and emotions manifested by tradition. Therefore, he has taught himself to become an expert in antiques, which benefits him to formulate the quality of connecting the past and the present and transcending the limit of time in his work. He has also re-imagined the universal value of ink painting and gained new understandings. The understated unrestraint and provocation in his work are not aimed to rebel but to delineate a state of mind that is open, a state that achieves the goal by doing nothing while all impossible becomes possible. He does not abandon the tradition; from his use of ink to his brushwork and texturing techniques, he has embraced and found freedom in the tradition. His solid and superb skills and understanding of the art form free him from its existing framework. The composition and spatial arrangement is one of the outstanding and remarkable features in Teng’s work. In addition to employing multiple perspectives that many ink painters have used since the ancient time, Teng has integrated reality and imagination and represented them in his painting at the same time. Distance and the dimension of his paintings are transformed into reality in the surreal realm he has created. In his work, one can always detect the irreplaceable charm and elegance in traditional ink painting. However, Teng also incorporates his personal, subjective view into his work, especially his approach to remove historical and regional differences. This does not mean that he is against tradition; contrarily, he embraces it. The truth is what he seeks in artistic creation cannot be satisfied by reality, tradition or history. Revisiting history or depicting realistic existences in life does not match the vast, infinite realm of imagination in his mind. Therefore, we see a potted landscape transformed into a scene of landscape enshrouded in cloud. In fact, such a mystical realm hidden in the misty mountains is only his inspired, ingenious spatial recreation; his surreal, magical realm has also added a slight sense of humor into the genre of literati painting.
Teng’s highly realistic paintings are created with an “ultrasharp focus,” which differs from the visual focus adopted in ordinary painting that represents objects in farther distance with gradual blurriness. In Teng’s work, all objects, near or far, are painted vividly and clearly; this method creates a visually spectacular effect. In composition, the intense objectivity and his interest in painted objects reduce subjective projection of emotions, allowing a more direct and less interfered connection between the spectator and the artwork. The coldness of the image removes an affecting emotional atmosphere and appeals to the “intellect” rather than “feelings.” The close and far views are rendered in a centripetal way, prompting the spectator’s “intellectual” response from the magical realism in the work. The close view and the spectator’s attention are drawn to the far view and distant objects. Although the gigantic potted landscape is delineated in a realistic manner, the landscape simultaneously reveals an unending scene as the distant scenery seems near at the same time. Such continuously changing and ambiguous visual representation has made Teng’s work incredibly fascinating.
Viewing Teng Pu-Chun’s work, one can see that both his choice and use of material and his brushstroke and techniques embody the charm and spirit of Chinese ink painting. It is said that “it is hard to wield the brush but harder to make use of the ink.” The brush and the ink are two sides of the same thing and are mutually complementing. However, ink itself does not possess a possibility to create a new visual mechanism and perceptive order. Only an artist is able to convert ink into diverse visual representations. The surreal context is what makes Teng’s work unique. He creates the fantastic and multifaceted look of his work with multiple perspectives and spaces. His work reveals a secluded and independent realm with the attitude of taking delight in one’s own way, and is posited between the mundane world and an illusory dreamland. The aesthetics of literati ink painting is removed of its spiritual sanctity but incorporated with the spirit of rock from this world.