段建宇:岁月的泡沫

Duan Jianyu: The Foam of Days

 

 

形象的爱与被爱
——关于段建宇近作的笔记

 

我们不必仅仅考虑形象的意义,还要考虑形象的沉默、缄默、野性和不可理喻的顽固。
我们不仅要考虑形象的权力,还要考虑它们的无力、无能和卑贱。
——W.J.T.米歇尔
艺术是最高的养生法,不但足以养中华民族,且能养成全人类的福祉寿考也。
——黄宾虹

 

段建宇,田螺姑娘 No.2,2021,布面油画,丙烯,油性笔,200 × 150 cm
Duan Jianyu, The River Snail Maiden No.2, 2021, oil, acrylic and oil-based marker on canvas, 200 × 150 cm

 

        在段建宇笔下,传说中的“田螺姑娘”是裸体的、微胖、憨朴的,这似乎回应了段建宇在绘画中对形象的生成如何给予,而非欲求。这儿,黄宾虹的焦墨山水、傅抱石的仕女——集体审美遗产——再次成为画面的生态,得以让田螺姑娘无知无识、无忧无虑地置身其中,而她所卧的桌子,就像是观赏另一种生命表演的舞台。
        黄宾虹的“艺术养生论”,不断将我们拉回到中国近现代文化危机中所面对的生命经验和造型变革之间关系的拉锯战,而关于现代意义上的造型冲击在何种意义上形塑了中国艺术的命运,这样的问题还在持续。曾经,“中国的画境,有自然必有生命,有生命必有自然”[1],生命似乎可以全然安放在艺术境界中,乃至于人生成为艺术,“则其心既安且乐,亦仁亦寿”[2],恰如中国人所钟爱的亭台院落、池柳春燕、花鸟虫草、瓶瓶罐罐——而这些,都曾出现在段建宇的绘画中,带来一丝隐秘的、可疑和疏离的愉悦
        一旦段建宇的画笔触及了几代人的集体记忆,她的色彩结构就开始应和着深植于我们身体内部的欲望结构,日积月累,总是召唤着,不是作为远方,不是作为乡愁,而很有可能是作为“流变”的土壤。

 

段建宇,浮萍,2020,布面油画,丙烯,油性笔,铅笔180 × 250 cm
Duan Jianyu, Duckweed, 2020, oil, acrylic, oil-based marker and pencil on canvas, 180 × 250 cm

 

         “浮萍”:一种漂泊的意象,一种“无根”的动力,也许从另一个层面和“流变”呼应。
        《浮萍》(2020)画面的平面感将人从感知的深度中解救出来,仔细体察,它铺展开一种浩渺的、星空般的景观。在这流动的世界的一角,是青少年的群像,它把我们引向了些许青涩的“青苹果乐园”,一首规训与反规训、略带伤感和骄傲的青春之歌。
        段建宇曾以《杀,杀,杀马特》这一大型系列(2014-2016)探索由错位的生命力而产生的形象的再生和置换,而艺术家自身未尝不就是“杀马特”的同伴——那“时代错置者”?问题在于:绘画中的形象与生命经验之间的关系,在何种意义上才是可以真正相互信任的?  
        《青苹果乐园》系列(2020-2021)从形象上暗示了和“杀马特”的某种延续,他/她们也许从抖音和媒体文化中汲取了自身的养分而并不在意那些养成他/她们集体审美的潜在结构:园林、花窗、戏水的鸳鸯;他/她们本身也是那么渴望投入时代的舞台,而段建宇的绘画恰恰发生在这看似不可逾越的生活界限交叉之处——爱的不可获得之处;段建宇的绘画恰恰来到这样一种难以诉说之处:施予不可能之爱以形象,以及形象所能返还给我们的、沉默吁请的被爱。
        呼应段建宇近作中所展开的场景、体态、“画中画”的引用和转换、“画中物”的设置以及空间结构的多重性,在欲望与无欲之间、叙事的潜能和绘画语言之间、形象的表演性和绘画本身的行为性之间,段建宇持有高度自觉的意识。她时刻让我们在虚构性和现实、肉身经验之间游移,使得绘画不再轻意可以成为实现欲望或唤起欲望的工具,这也意味着,这些形象和我们最终建立有可能是某种深刻的“无欲无求”的关系,因而朝着个体各自深层的渴求展开生命的交流。在这样富有辩证性的绘画运动中,绘画展开的不再仅仅是关于现实问题的直接揭露,而是在造型语言、图像空间和观者肉身经验之间形成相互角逐的动态关系,敞开了共存所应有的包容,此时,生存内在的基本条件和本原状态有可能如顿悟般浮现出来。

 

段建宇,餐桌(正面),2021,布面油画,丙烯,喷漆,彩色油性笔,铅笔,180 × 200 cm
Duan Jianyu, Dining Table (Front), 2021, oil, acrylic, spray paint, oil-based marker and pencil on canvas, 180 × 200 cm

 

        段建宇饱含兴趣,像巴尔扎克那样塑造着当代的《人间喜剧》[3],迎接着那尘世中充满了人与非人边界的游民,以及各种形态的生命。这儿,绘画的造型过程,将一如尘世中各种相异的生命,摸索和探求着相互之间如何安置、共处。
        在此意义上,“田螺姑娘”的“螺丝壳里做道场”,和《春江花夜月》系列(2017-2018)中的“月光下的广场”并非全然相异的空间,它们都可以成为今天“诸众”生命信息的存载场所。绘画,这人类试图凝固生机的活动,不乏欲望的超越、理智的控制、知觉的调整、文化、历史、社会、生物学意义上的各种牵绊;绘画,这人类艺术家族中的游子,在这个尘世已历经无数个被放逐的白天和黑夜,枯竭过,重生过——始终试图顽强地返回其野生的根源,始终试图发掘造型与生命之间的全部可能性——在场景和叙述、灵魂与抽象,肉身与形象,以及形象的爱与被爱之间——似乎只有在这之间,生命的秘密才悄然栖居。

 

(本文为同名文章的精简版,经作者授权发表。)

 

文字:仁语
段建宇作品©艺术家
图片惠允:艺术家和维他命艺术空间

 

 

The Capacity of Imagery to Be Loving and Be Loved
-Notes on Recent Work by Duan Jianyu

 

We need to reckon with not just the meaning of images but their silence, their reticence, their wildness and nonsensical obduracy. We need to account for not just the power of images but their powerlessness, their impotence, their abjection.[4]
——W.J.T. Mitchell
Art is the highest method of nourishing life. It’s not only sufficient to nourish the Chinese people; it can also nourish the wellbeing and longevity of all humankind.
——Huang Binhong (1865–1955)

 

        In Duan Jianyu’s rendering of another Chinese folk tradition, the “River Snail Maiden” (in River Snail Maiden (2022)) is nude, plump, and plain. This interpretation is representative of the ways in which the images in the artist’s paintings are gifts—not objects of desire. Here, Huang Binhong’s burnt ink landscapes and Fu Baoshi’s portraits of feminine beauty—a collective aesthetic inheritance—once again form the ecology of Duan Jianyu’s canvas. The river snail maiden finds herself unwittingly and uncaringly in their midst, and the table on which she reclines seems to be yet another stage where a performance of life can be viewed.
        Huang Binyong’s theory of using art to cultivate one’s life pulls us into the tug-of-war between lived experience and formal experimentation that characterized the cultural crises of China’s modern history. After all, a debate still persists over the extent to which formal ruptures have shaped the modern destiny of Chinese art. It has been said that “in the world of Chinese painting, nature is essential to human life, and human life is essential to nature.”[5] According to this way of thinking, life can be entirely invested within the boundaries of art, to the point that we are born for the purpose of art: “it renders the heart happy and peaceful, bringing one benevolence and longevity.”[6] Thus do Chinese people adore gardens and courtyards, birds and flowers , vases and bottles—all motifs that appear in the paintings of Duan Jianyu, with connotations of hidden, distant, and uncertain delight.[7]
        When Duan Jianyu’s paintbrush touches upon the collective memory of generations, her color palette and composition resonate with structures of desire deep within our bodies. These structures, built over long periods of time, are always calling upon us. They are not distant places or sources of nostalgia; rather, they are, quite possibly, the soil in which “evolution” can take root.
        “Duckweed”: a symbol (in Chinese culture) of aimless drifting, a suggestion of motion without limit—a creative concept that perhaps corresponds to “evolution” on a different level.
        The flatness of the picture plane in Duckweed (2020) releases us from our perceptions of depth. As we look more closely at this canvas, we discover a vista something like a vast starry sky. The hairstyles in Duckweed: one corner of this painting’s fluid world is what appears to be a composite photo of rebellious youngsters, still seeking to define the boundaries of their selves. The photo recalls a certain boy band and their song “Green Apple Paradise”, a song about following rules and breaking them, blending the sentimentality and mischievousness of budding youth.
        In the large-scale series Sharp Sharp Smart (2014-2016), Duan Jianyu strenuously explored the displacement and rebirth of imagery generated by the vitality of juxtaposition. Indeed, could we not posit the artist to be a confederate of “smart” culture[8], those acolytes of anachronism? The key question is this: in what sense can we truly trust an authentic correspondence between the imagery in the painting and the lived experience of the artist?
        The imagery in the series Green Apple Paradise (2020-2021) suggests a further exploration of smart subculture. The participants in this subculture likely derive their cultural inspiration from Douyin (TikTok) and other forms of social media, remaining unaware of the latent structures that have contributed to their collective aesthetic: Chinese gardens, patterned screen windows, and mandarin ducks at play in the pond. Perhaps these youths also long to throw themselves onto the stage of their times, even if that means being ruthlessly relegated to the cultural fringe. Duan Jianyu’s paintings occur precisely at this apparently impassable intersection of life’s boundaries, where love cannot be attained; they arrive precisely at the indescribable place where the imagery of impossible love is bestowed, and where one’s image presents the silent plea to be loved in return.
        There is a correspondence within Duan Jianyu’s recent work between settings, postures, allusions and transformations of paintings within paintings, the arrangement of objects within paintings, and the multiplicity suggested within spatial structures: between desire and its absence, between the potentiality of narrative and the language of poetry, between the performativity of imagery and the agency of the painting itself, Duan Jianyu maintains a highly circumspect perspective. She suspends us between fiction and corporeal reality, such that the painting can no longer easily become a tool of realizing or awakening desire. This also implies that the imagery of these paintings ultimately establishes a profound relationship of “not-requesting and not-desiring” with us, thereby creating the possibility of vital exchange at our deepest levels of need. In this richly dialectical approach to painting, the artwork goes beyond the mere exposition of reality’s nuances to form a dynamic reciprocity between its own visual language and the bodily experience of the viewer. These works of art express the due inclusivity of coexistence, which facilitates the potentially epiphanic emergence of the basic conditions of life on a primeval and elemental level.
        Duan Jianyu’s work is diversely interesting. Like Balzac, she portrays a contemporary Comédie humaine,[9] engaging with all forms of life within the mortal world, as well as the refugees who traverse the boundaries between the human and the inhuman. Here, the formal process of painting echoes the diversity of life within the universe, fumbling about in search of togetherness.
        In this sense, the meditative microcosm of the river snail maiden is not completely unrelated to the abovementioned “moonlit public space”: they can both be seen as metaphorical settings of contemporary experience. Painting, as an attempt to encapsulate human life and activity, has long been characterized by excesses of desire, restrictions of reason, adjustments of perception, and various constrictions of culture, history, society, and biology. Painting is the sojourning offspring of the art family, having endured countless exiles and banishments. Painting has withered, been reborn, and been domesticated—only to tenaciously return to its wild origins. Painting never ceases its excavations of the possibilities between life and form: between setting and narrative, between spirituality and abstraction, between the corporeal and the ethereal, and between imagery’s capacity to be loving and be loved. Indeed, it is only within the liminal spaces—in the betweens—that the secrets of life quietly dwell.

 

Essay: Ren Yu
All works of art by Duan Jianyu ©the Artist
Courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

 

___________________________
[1] 钱穆:《中国文化中理想之人的生活》,收录于《中国文化十二讲》,贵州人民出版社,2019年,第55页。
[2] 同上,第54页。
[3] “在创作中,我尝试学习从生活中吸取一切能量,百无禁忌,我喜欢百科全书式的绘画,它无所不包。一个具有能量和容量的绘画作品,呈现的方式可能很单纯。” 见段建宇与彼得·帕克什的通信,收录于《段建宇,彼得·帕克什:自动写作-自动阅读》,观心亭,2020,中英双语,第16页。
[4] Mitchell, W.J.T. What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images. University of Chicago Press (2006), p. 10.
[5] Qian Mu, “Zhongguo wenhua zhong lixiang zhi ren de shenghuo, (ideal life in Chinese culture)” collected in Zhongguo wenhua shi’er jiang (Twelve speeches on Chinese culture), Guizhou People’s Press (2019), p. 55.
[6] Ibid, p. 54.
[7] This surge of reflective delight reminds me of a statement by the artist regarding the many dualities of painting: “Paintings are not merely some product for leisurely amusement, nor some ‘useful’ tool wielded for condemnation. If we regard paintings as a medium with energy and capaciousness, they can act as amusing products or useful tools, and yet a good painting does not stop there.” see Duan Jianyu and Peter Pakesch: Automatic Writing, Automatic Understanding, The Pavilion (2020), Chinese-English bilingual version, p. 8.
[8] Sha Ma Te (杀马特) is the Chinese translation of “smart” culture, a retro punk subculture originating in the late 2000s that was influenced by Japanese visualrock and British glam rock.
[9] “I’m learning to absorb every kind of energy out of life during the working process. Nothing is taboo. I like encyclopedic paintings; they don’t leave anything out. A painting that is both energetically powerful and capacious might in fact be visually simple.” ibid, p. 16