钞风景——谢其的系列作品

2017-08-19

程小牧



壹佰 ¥100 100x200cm 布面油画 2013

我相信谢其对于这个世界既定的意义感到厌倦。“玫瑰”从来不只是带刺的植物,它须是爱情之花。“十八岁”这个年龄数,必须指向青春与憧憬,一种令人难堪的亢奋。所指不断引申,凝固,沉积在每个词语之上,如同一层浑浊之物。它们所结成的系统把每一个人强迫性地纳入其中,构建着共同的认知与想象。与此同时,个别的、特殊的敏感日渐凋零。

笔触、线条、颜色、形象……所有与词语相类的符号,无不沉积着浑浊之物。艺术家用它去意指,却被它所意指。他想驯服这劳作的对象,却时时冒着被奴役的危险。他挣扎、扭转,和每一个符号较劲,尝试不同的言说,打上作者的烙印。风格即人,个体必须显现。然而这不断生长的意义系统始终追踪他,围困他,指认、回收他煞费苦心的尝试。一个粗暴的命名,荆浩的皴法,伦勃朗的光,一旦成立,即被收编。他不得不以既有的符号创作,无非捏扁摁圆、加黑提亮、虚化拉远,让那些言未尽意的缝隙透出微光,以稍稍偏离的方式引入那些原本就属于我们感知世界的事物。

这过程多少令人厌倦,它允诺自由,更限定自由。若他没有体会过这种厌倦,就不是艺术家。他或许是教师,政客或商人,却不是艺术家。

厌倦渐浓,幸而他发现那浑浊之物并非符号所固有。符号本是“象”与“意”之偶然结合,约定俗成终成法则,它可以被分解、剥离。沉积之物如同附着的粘液,尽管阻力重重,仍能尽力把它铲除。——还符号以意指的自由,是可能的。比如,“钞票”,除了是所有它所是,本是指一幅画,一幅叠加着前景、中景、后景,多少带有戏剧性的版画。画一张钞票,是临摹、写生另一张画。

在第三人称叙述中,我们使用泛指代词“他”,而我的具体所指是她。好在“他”或“她”在此并不重要。谢其的绘画在我看来,无需注明“女性”去加以阐释。

钱,钞票。人民币。除了一张瑞士法郎。

一个朋友刚看到这批画时,似乎难以接受,又说不清原因,只是坦言道:“干吗画钱呢?”

“不能画钱吗?”谢其答。

这近乎空白的一问一答给我留下深刻的印象。

还有比“钱”被附加了更多意义的对象吗?如同“灵魂”、“劳动”、“性”或“爱”一样,它描述着人的基本存在。纯粹物质符号本身是精神的辩证对立,与之相应的是意志、欲望、梦想或罪恶。 “钱”比其他概念更为确定而具体。它当下的形象是一张纸币,聚满政治与地理标志,意识形态与习俗风尚洋溢其中,文化和语言镌刻其上。钞票,塞满密不透风的意指,烂熟的形象。 玩弄一个涵义过于直白的题材?无论讽刺或象征之意都直白到庸俗不堪。这是提问者的疑虑吗?

回答者的思考似乎漂浮在另一层面,无从交锋。“画钞票”、“画风景”、“画人物”或“画一幅画”相互之间有什么区别?——还钞票以意指的自由,是可能的。

她说,跟这批画直接相关联的,是之前的意大利之行所看到的大量博物馆古典艺术,于是萌发了想画特别充分的画面的想法。“作为对绘画本身的赞美,也是羞辱。”赞美在于手法上的模仿,模仿古典绘画灿烂而神秘的光,表面的迷人美感,由圣洁的天使和庄严的史诗画面烘托的崇高。然而这些手法被用来画粗鄙的钞票。她甚至提到的达 芬奇,这种关联多少令人意外。

“人物和风景都是我喜欢的题材,钞票从一个特殊的角度把这两者结合到了一起。题材上其实没有过渡,气息是延续的。”

拾 ¥10 70x150cm cm 布面油画 2012


拾 ¥10 70x150cm cm 布面油画 2012

神奇之处在于,初看平常的画面,再看会让人跌入意想不到多维空间。桂林山水和长江三峡,被不可思议的光和混沌氤氲截断、笼罩,精细的纹路映透其中,如毛细血管的排布,组织着某种循环和呼吸。流淌的痕迹幻化为体液。隐约的锈迹般的暖色在青灰的调子中显现,“花花绿绿”,切合主题,又如同冷色肌体中的一片淤红。山水与人体混同,与宇宙相接,再次汇入作者强烈的个人风格之中。那是谢其式的性感。在这一点上,那怪诞魅惑的易装癖樊女王(谢其之前创作的以樊其辉为模特的肖像系列)和毛像或许并无差别。

我们每天接触的最熟悉的物件从来没有如此陌生。一种目光起了作用。我似乎理解了她对达 芬奇的兴趣。她总能从更古典的绘画中思考绘画本身。绘画许诺了哪怕到今天都未曾挖掘殆尽的自由。天生的画家对此心领神会。在他们那里,绘画永远不会失去魅力。不必转向纯观念、材料、装置。观念层面的深刻体悟并没有让她放弃架上,因为哪怕像钞票这样棘手的题材,她仍能赋予它绘画的纯粹与美。在她笔下,既有的意义冻结碎落。如同亚当受上帝的旨意给万物命名,命名的乐趣,这是游戏的初始。而重新命名,从已有的意指符号中突围,意味着更为艰难的摧毁与重建。制定自己的规则,去这样使用色彩,特别是她喜爱的各种调子的绿色,在浓浓的油彩中隐没造型,让它随着距离一点点现身。这样一来,自由释放的不只是感觉,还有让画面的每一寸都恰如其分的准确。

自由,我相信这与绘画一样,是谢其最乐于效力的事业。在短暂的自由时刻,她可以成为自己的上帝。

那幅黄紫相接的毛像和五十元的布达拉宫是在一个朋友的画室完成的。乘一个多小时的公交车来到的那间摆满植物,喂养着三只猫的画室。她画得很慢。如果每天去看,几乎看不出画面的变化。隔一段时间再去看,毛像的面容似乎变老了,表情显出更多的痛苦。它暗示着画家的困境。最难的是决定什么时候停下。多和少如何确定,什么时候画完,下一步怎么画 ?具象之像相对容易确定,因为清晰明确,而当对象以独特的混沌手法呈现时则无比困难。

其他时候,她在自己的寓所兼画室工作。十九楼朝西的客厅,如果没有雾霾,能看到夕阳下的西山、地铁和楼群。室内是暗灰的调子,家具不多,有不少古怪的装饰和小玩意。她不需要太大的空间画画,也不会摆出铺张的摊子,画室有一种少有的整洁。重新命名既定的符号,这项工作几乎向着不可能性进发,孤独验证了它的艰苦。独自一人,她能体会其中的分量。她说,一次午睡醒来,觉得压在自己身上的胳膊不是自己的,是谁的胳膊?很沉,抬不起来。

壹佰1 (1) ¥100(1) 50x100cm 布面油画 2014

两只猫无声地出没,让画室显得更加寂静。她曾有一份稳定的艺术院校的教职,后来义无反顾地辞去了。这份工作与画画矛盾吗?或许对她而言是的,如果艺术是基于一种绝对的独立。

她敏感于换喻和游离的意义。不仅是绘画,在思维和情感中,在自身存在的各个方面,都表现出一种摆脱既定意义的勇气,这使得她与一切保持着距离。理解这种距离,才能理解她的冷酷与温暖。

艺术家属于那个最古老的家族,血缘与精神之传承有其隐秘的线索。在任何时代,他们都是罕见的。幸或不幸,谢其是这家族的一员。

Landscapes on Banknotes——Xie Qi and her New Works

2017-08-19

Chen Xiaomu


壹佰 ¥100 100x200cm 布面油画 2013

I think the world’s established system of signification exhausts Xie Qi. A “rose” is not just a prickly plant; it must also be the flower of love. “Eighteen years” is not just a number indicating age; it refers to youth and to looking ahead: a young face beaming with quiet excitement. What is signified is constantly expanding, solidifying, depositing layer upon layer of meaning onto each word like a murky substance. The system forcibly takes each person with it, constructing a unified cognition and imagination, while individualized and specialized sensitivities wither and fade.

Of all the lines, colors, and images—all of the signifiers that bear similarities to words—there is not a single one left that is not attached to this murky sediment. Artists use signs to refer to something, and instead become the referents themselves. An artist wants to tame the object of his labor, but often risks being enslaved by it. He struggles, twists, turns, and battles with each symbol, trying different words and phrasings in a fraught attempt to make his author’s mark. A person is defined by his style; the individual must show through the work. But the ever-growing system of signification nags and strands the artist from the outset: it points out and returns back to him every single one of his painstaking attempts. A crude name, Jing Hao’s cracked brush techniques, Rembrandt’s light: once established, each signifier is incorporated into the system. The artist has no choice but to create with pre-established signs. There is nothing more than pinching the brush flat or pressing it round, adding black or increasing light, blurring the background, revealing in slight glimmers the crevices of life inexpressible through words, using slight deviations from the expected, all to bring out those things that already belong to the world of our perception.

This process is tiresome. It promises freedom, but often it does more to restrict freedom. He who has not experienced this exhaustion first-hand is not an artist. Perhaps he is a teacher, a politician or a businessman, but he is not an artist.

As the artist’s weariness grows heavier, he fortunately discovers that layers of meaning are not in fact inherent in the symbol itself. In its very substance, the symbol is a chance juncture of “image” and “meaning.” Conventional usage, though it does become law over time, can be broken down and peeled away. Layers of signification accumulate like a thick mucous resistant to change, but one can still try one’s best to eradicate them—it is in fact possible to restore symbols to their freedom. For instance, a “banknote” can actually be just a painting: a print that superimposes foreground, middle ground, and background with dramatic sensibility. When an artist paints a banknote, he is actually sketching the likeness of yet another painting.

In third-person abstraction we use the pronoun “he,” but the person I specifically refer to here is a she. Fortunately the question of “he” or “she” here is unimportant. In my opinion, Xie Qi’s paintings do not need to be specified as “female” for us to be able to interpret them.

Money, banknotes. The Chinese yuan. The Swiss franc.

When a friend of the artist’s saw these paintings, he had difficulty accepting them, but he couldn’t explain why. All he could ask, frankly, was “Why are you painting money?”

“Why can’t I paint money?,” Xie Qi replied.

This nearly empty exchange left a deep impression on me.

拾 ¥10 70x150cm cm 布面油画 2012


拾 ¥10 70x150cm cm 布面油画 2012

What sign out there has more significance attached to it than “money”? As with “soul,” “labor,” “sex,” or “love,” it describes something fundamental to human existence. Purely material symbols themselves are in dialectical opposition to the spiritual. They correspond with will, desire, dreams, evil. “Money” is more definite and specific than other concepts. Its image is represented in the immediate present by a bill, which amasses its own host of political and geographical significations. Ideology and custom permeate its presence, culture and language are engraved onto its very surface. Is the banknote, stuffed airtight with signification, overripe with imagery, connoting something too straightforward to play the role of artistic subject matter? It is straightforward to the point of vulgarity, whether it is used ironically or symbolically. Was this the concern of the question asker?

The respondent’s thoughts seemed to float on another level, not deigning to engage in battle. To her, “painting banknotes,” “painting landscapes,” “painting human figures,” “painting a painting:” what’s the difference? —breaking banknotes free from signification is possible.

She says the classical art she saw in museums she visited during her trip to Italy are directly related to these paintings. Her desire to paint especially full canvases was sparked during that trip. “It both honors painting and dishonors painting.” It honors it through the imitation of the technique, through its homage to the mysterious and glorious light of classical paintings: the mesmerizing superficial beauty, the nobility of holy angels and solemn epics. It dishonors it through misappropriation. These techniques have all been misappropriated before, but now the subject of misappropriation is money. She even mentions da Vinci in her references, a surprising connection.

“People and landscapes are both subjects that I like. Banknotes bring these two subjects together from a special angle. The subject matter has not changed; it’s all an extension of the same breath.”

The magic of these works lies in how the viewer sees a regular painting on first glance, but falls suddenly into hyperspace on second glance. The landscapes of Guilin or the Three Gorges of the Yangtze are truncated and enshrouded in brilliant light and confounding mist. Glimmers of brightness shine through meticulous hairline lineaments like a configuration of capillaries, enabling respiration and circulation. Traces of flow magically transform into bodily fluids. Faint, warm rust-like colors emerge through slate-grey tones, “multi-colored” and almost garish—in line with the garish theme—like swaths of red silt on cool-colored skin. Mixing landscapes with the human body, connecting man to the universe: all of it is in the command of the creator’s strong personal style. This is Xie Qi’s sex appeal. There is no difference in this sense between her images of Mao and her portraits of a charming transvestite queen (the series she created prior to this one with Fan Qihui as her model).

The objects we are in contact with every day and with which we are most familiar have never seemed so strange before. A kind of vision plays a role here that helps us understand her draw to da Vinci. She has always considered painting from the classical perspective. Painting promises the freedom of having always more to unearth, even today. Artists born to paint have a tacit understanding of this truth. For them, painting will never lose its magic. They don't need to turn to other media. Conceptual grasp has not made Xie Qi drop the category, because even with a thorny subject like banknotes, she still can continue the discussion she wants to and express herself purely, in the context of pure painting. Her paintbrush chips away at the rigidly frozen rules of signification. As with Adam following God’s decree to name all things, that joy of the first naming is how the game begins. But renaming—breaking out of pre-existing signs—is even more difficult because it is about destruction and rebuilding. Xie Qi makes her own rules, using colors in her own way—especially her many shades of green—to make forms gradually disappear under thick layers of paint, before, with a little distance, emerging again on the painting surface. This sign-free freedom does not just produce an emotional response in us. It gives us a clearer view of the precise rationale to every inch of the painting surface.

Freedom, which I believe to be the same thing as painting, is the “career” to which Xie Qi is most happy to devote herself. In the moment of freedom, she can become her own God.

The purple and yellow image of Mao and the painting of the Potala Palace on the Fifty Yuan note were both completed at a friend’s studio. Xie Qi rode a bus for over an hour to arrive at there. It is a room filled with plants and home to three cats. She painted slowly. If you went to look at the canvas frequently, almost no change could be detected from day to day. But if you came back after a period of time, Mao’s face would seem to grow a bit older, his expression showing a bit more pain. The slowness of the process implied the plight of the artist. The hardest parts: deciding when to stop, deciding if it needs more or less, deciding when the painting is finished, deciding what the next step is. The question of figurative versus abstract was perhaps an easier decision to make; relatively speaking the conditions were more clear-cut. In rendering defined subjects with a uniquely chaotic approach, she is able to raise more questions about painting itself, about perception and psychology.

壹佰1 (1) ¥100(1) 50x100cm 布面油画 2014

For other pieces, she worked at her own apartment, which doubles as a studio. On a day without smog, through the living room’s west-facing nineteenth floor windows, the setting sun is clear behind the mountains and over the subway stations and city buildings. The interior is grey: not much furniture, a few quirky touches and trinkets. Xie Qi does not need too much space, nor does she have an extravagant set up for her work. The studio has a rare tidiness to it. The task of renaming established signs sets her in the direction of impossibility, and the solitude of the artist verifies the difficulty of the task. All on her own, she can feel each component part of the process. She has remarked that one time, during a nap, she woke up and felt as if the arm pressing down on her body was not hers. But whose was it? It was very heavy. She could not lift it up.

Cats silently haunt the room, making the studio seem even more silent. At one point Xie Qi had a stable job at an art college. Later on, feeling bound by duty, she resigned. Was there a conflict between this work and her painting? Perhaps for her there was, if art is to be based on absolute independence.

She is sensitive to the meaning in metonymy and dissociation. Not only in painting but also in thought and feeling—in every aspect of her existence—she has the courage to break away from established definitions. This is what puts her at a certain distance from everything. Only when you understand this distance can you understand the coldness and the warmth that coexist in her.

Artists are descendants of a most ancient human tribe. The blood and spirit of this tribe are passed down in secret clues over the generations. In any era, members of this old family are a rare breed. Fortunately or unfortunately, Xie Qi is one of them.

链接: