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色線畫

By 陳傳興


線條。承彩的線條,敷彩的線條,染彩的線條,彩線。線色。 經緯。垂直,水平,斜錯,交織穿梭難以勝數的來回行走軌跡。 輿圖。界畫,棋盤,槅欞,漏明牆,冰裂瓷紋,文錦,座標格栅。肖像畫,風景,靜物,類型繪畫。 為何是色線作為繪畫的單元?它來自何處?為什麼要重新單元化繪畫,當繪畫經歷數次瓦解,判死又再生不知幾次之後,新的繪畫單元,色線,被重新召喚,其意義何在? 畫家本人的經歷,從自由潑灑遊走抽象華麗色彩轉變成謹微量筆近乎素樸純淨具像繪畫。捨棄高度自戀色彩的想像位置,讓自由放逸的自我再次面對物體、他者與世界的碰撞,讓類型繪畫的規定去消減不斷漫延擴張的侵占性質筆觸。色線,細微的倫理要求,寧靜的懷想。繁華落盡後的疲倦。 肖像,靜物,風景,三種塵埃彌漫的類型繪畫。〝肖像〞在當下畫壇貌似被重視,到處可見,實則在〝怪誕〞的修辭主導之下,形存實亡,離怪之遠不下於樣板再製的皮殼死物。〝風景〞,雖猶有一二文人畫家遺風,揉雜東西筆意再吹微波,然則時青不屑再顧。而〝靜物〞更一如其法文原名,不能再生的死物。此時重彈舊調,畫這些類型,必然會遭致保守復古之譏諷。復古或再生?那麼顯然要看畫家如何重新定義這些類型繪畫。最流行當道的操作手法,新瓶舊酒,就是套上敍事內容,大量的歷史敍事與怪誕劇場化變成一個萬靈丹。如此手法根本談不上重新定義,更看不到身體和景像。空間、顏色、光的元素僅只是配方而不再是問題。運用色線作為繪畫單元,捨棄填充內容,回到繪畫的本質,重走一趟西方繪畫,印象派以降的摸索提問。〝色線〞顫動漂浮的光隙,色差交錯互融,羞澀地重新學習色彩與光線;將色〝線〞單元化,有意無意地又將康丁斯基的〝點、線、面〞構成理論實踐演練一番。徹底自問,大膽剝落身與手上知識技藝,像新入門學徒,一筆筆描過,重學於揚棄過程而孕生出這些線畫特殊素樸且近乎幼拙的特徵;每一幅畫,不,每一筆都是練習,學習的開啟。基於這個學習的姿態才應生出類型繪畫的必要性,回到課本,即使是陳舊不堪,了無生氣的課本,像學徒,像描紅習字童蒙,俯首謹微逐章畫過一遍再一遍。 為何是色線?它來自何處?一再單調重複的色線,同樣的基色(雖不是純色)規則地劃過又劃過,不帶任何情緒的交錯又分離,像低限單音反複迴盪的音樂,像大城街頭日夜錯身而過的陌生群眾,聚散不定。耐心堅持的畫家,日夜守在線上,期待某一些線的彩度會突然撞上不同彩度的互補色、反差色,誰知道,而突然閃爍片刻的明亮就這麼黯淡深陷在線與線之間的無盡隙孔,還來不及張口驚叫,那光就消逝在下一條線還沒終止之前。或是相反地,某個色在沒預期的地方失控擴散掩了其它彩度的同色塊。每一條線總是一個意外,甚至一個奇蹟,畫家只能無措地說,我不會畫。但不是絕望黑色的口吻,黑色只有在哥雅那裡才被推到水墨畫一般的至上位置,那之後就每況愈下到最後被印象派畫家從調色盤裡放逐出去,畫家用的是温馴的中間色系,認命但愉悅地繼續畫線學習。就像一個織網捕蝶的幼童,等待。等待肖像,荒謬的說法,違背真實。傳統肖像畫的創作過程,不都是被畫者受磨難地枯坐不動,等待畫家施恩暫停而得喘息。更令人不解地,畫家畫的對象是他極為熟悉不過的家人親友,常時共處的親密關係,怎可能生出離異差距,陌生到等待肖像的生成?這個身體,顏貌,起伏轉折的肌肉髮膚,不需任何外光映照,內化直覺,超出任何解剖知識。那麼一線一線的建構,色色互映閃錯,摸索地用意就不就是為了模擬逼真再現身體?因為,疏密交織之間的途徑鬆散不定,線凝聚不成面,而面與面之間更是碎裂交疊不出球、柱等真正三度塊狀空間,甚至曲面轉變也非圓轉曲線。只有直線,這種線畫構成的空間和其色彩、光線共生在一個虛擬的光學空間,漂浮在畫面之外,中介於畫家與觀察者之間的某處,一如點描派秀拉的繪畫空間。色線畫的空間正是此種去材質化(或說去實體化)的空間,其肖像所提供再現的人物形像,歸結來說,既非古典繪畫的理想軀體(不論是雄渾或優雅),更不是寫實主義追求的真實再現軀體,也不像印象派透過色彩對比互補凝聚在畫面上的片刻光影身體。這種種軀體都具有一定量體(油彩與其空間構成)和居停,色線畫肖像幾乎全然沒有這些要素,身體、顏貌不停地陷落瓦解在線與線的孔隙之間;伴隨光線、色彩(彩度、明度等等)閃爍生成微波溢出畫面之外;畫家一而再地修補、添增線畫,表面上想讓肖像更逼近對象,然而暗地,却反複捕捉開啟更大的等待,未完成的等待共體分享。陌生分享。分享陌生。畫家的拙稚學畫姿態,即使在面對熟悉親密家人,他每一線的撫摸都不自覺地呼應那位猶太哲學家所說的,每次的愛撫只會讓手底下的肌膚不斷消逝不再。每次的愛撫帶來的不是喜悅,而是追悔與等待。用色線畫肖像,圖像量體流漏,圓轉立體難以構成,形狀輪廓更是處於開閤不定的暫時狀態;畫家不再填充、進駐、佔領畫幅,他與對象(物)的面對面鄰近倫理距離,折曲主動與被動關係,畫家更謹慎敬微地從畫面中,線隙間,退出畫外,他只有等待共享的位置。無他。中性、純淨素色的界畫直線取消任何可能的個人記號,沒有筆觸,也沒有特殊色塊面,不容許情感雜音暈染。肖像畫巨作中常出現的猛烈抗爭場景,用畫刀、畫筆和對象、自我,和作品搏鬥,近代最具代表的例子:佛洛依德、培根;畫家用一筆筆交織的色線、光影薄幕微細濾過殘酷劇場,在破碎、傷痕累累的現代軀體敷上纖細彩紗,讓尚未癒合的傷口嵌綴絲隙綻放微光。 為何是色線?它來自何處?來自白描人物的流動輪廓線條,來自山水畫裡的鉤、皴、擦染和界畫,來自這些書畫同體的墨線—彩線?它來自何處?

〝西洋畫工細求酷肖,賦色真與天生無異,細細觀之,純以皴染烘托而成,所以分出陰陽,立見凹凸,不知底蘊,則喜其功妙,其實板板無奇 ,但能明乎陰陽起伏,則洋畫無餘蘊矣。中國作畫,專講筆墨鈎勒,全體以氣運成,形態既肖,神自滿足。古人畫人物則取故事,畫山水則取 真境,無空作畫圖觀者,西洋畫皆取真境,尚有古意在也。〞(《頤園論畫》—松年 1897)

蒙古鑲紅旗畫家,松年,身處19世紀末西潮洪流襲捲中土時期,猶然堅持以中國書畫觀點評比西洋人物畫之不足。不能明確得知他所指的西畫究竟是一般西方學院畫風的肖像畫,還是更為前鋒的印象派、甚且新印象派,若是後者,那麼他以〝皴染烘托〞去類比光影、人體構成,所謂〝分出陰陽,立見凹凸〞的繪畫手法就更令人深思,筆墨鈎勒線條的簡略省筆線性畫面和著重圓轉立體視覺再現光影身體色彩的透視繪畫空間的差異比較將會開展出什麼樣的可能性?當然,在強調神氣至上的主觀意識主導下,這種可能性會被抑制而不得展開。另一點,值得注意的說法,他指出人物畫和敍事(〝故事〞)的聯繫關係,時至今日尤然方興正熾,未因西畫—國畫之界域異質性而遭到任何改變。松年在這篇文章後面反複強調〝逼真〞並非評斷人物畫的最高準則,也不能從這原則去貶低中國傳統人物畫的工細、寫真能力,同時,所謂工筆—寫真的硬性區分對他而言只是託詞藉口。 他舉了一個戴嵩所畫的〝百牛圖〞作例子,畫裡牛眼纖細再現牛傍牧童的面貌,絲毫不差。令人震驚的例子,牛眼中的童顏,其傳遞的不僅只是中國筆墨鈎勒的寫真能力之精準技術,它其實讓我們不期而遇的撞見15世紀文藝復興時期尼德蘭的室內家庭景像,范艾克(Jan Van Eyck)的阿諾菲尼肖像(Arnolfini Portrait)(1434),突然錯位出現在中國農村風景畫中。歐洲北部市鎮商人的婚禮見證場景倒映在鏡內的影像被轉譯成東方田園牧歌。這段隱藏的無意識鏡像文本穿透松年畫論裡的意向河流,激盪出東西繪畫碰撞的漣漪波紋。不論是清楚意識到,或者毫無意識,松年的說法代表了當時甚多中國畫家的疑惑與困擾,面對西方傳教士輸入的技法與新的透視法則所構成繪畫空間,遍佈出現在大量輸入的西畫中,松年堅持中國傳統繪畫的筆墨美學,並不表示他的保守與漠視新事物,用退縮對抗西畫的繪畫空間;毋寧說,他採取的是折衷協商的作法,並未全然否定,但更堅持線畫,將筆墨繪畫空間的有效性與必然性放置在一種較為經驗性、直接觀察與比較的基礎上。在他另一篇短畫論中談到人體繪畫學習的途徑與歧路時,《頤園論畫人物》(1897),極其坦然的舖陳出當時欠缺人體解剖知識(認識論與醫學技術)困境,如同文藝復興初期時的畫家秘密竊取屍體研究學習,中國畫家只能擺盪在死亡與肉慾兩端點去摸索、練習、自學人體認識,骷髏與肉體:

〝古人初學畫人物先從骷髏畫起,骨格既立,再生血肉,然後穿衣。高矮肥瘦,正背旁側,皆有尺寸,規矩準繩,不容少錯。畫秘戲亦係學畫 身體之法,非圖娛目賞心之用。凡匠畫無不工於秘戲,文人墨士不屑為此。〞

文後道德訓誡口吻,大加責怪秘戲圖敗風害俗(〝引誘童年男女〞),傷身致病等等,皆不過是遁詞,所以結語〝但能不畫,積德大多〞的自嘲,無非強調上述那種對人體認識之企需而不得的困窘,當然,倒錯情慾慾望也是其中不可缺少的動因。松年的短文裡很簡略但精確點出人體繪畫所需的解剖學認識:骨架,比例,肌肉,衣服摺紋,運動表現等。松年的畫論,折衷東西繪畫空間與論述的矛盾,作為清末面對西學東漸的中國畫家他是否意識到同一時間西方正發生激變的繪畫革命運動,這可能是個無解疑問,但作為過渡人物,上承乾嘉下啟二十世紀的新中國繪畫的位置讓我們看到西方繪畫論述與空間的滲透路程是曲折多歧路並分的冗長共同工作。對於人體,肖像繪畫的開拓,折衷採取直接經驗觀察的不完整人體認識,混雜一知半解的西方新知與技術,想調和中國書畫同體的筆畫美學操作;如此龐雜困惑重重的工作並非由當時的主流仕子和文人畫家主導進行,相反地,却是由一羣被視為工匠末流的寫真畫家在推動;他們同時在思想論述與實踐上深入工作。 今天可以讀到,丁皋的《寫真秘訣》(1800)巨細靡遺地從人體比例,臉部表情神態,到材料配方,色彩,畫室的光綫(光源、色温等等)無一不具。在關於畫室章節裡,〝擇室論〞,他對光線與顏色的分析在某種程度上其實已逼近當時的光學認識極限,比如,光會隨時辰不同產生色温、角度變化,而某些段落更是標準的印象派光學宣言,瞬間景像,互補色,反差色的〝光喧〞說充足表現印象派畫家的視覺經驗:

〝畫景方中,顏色自然各別;日輪微轉,神情便不相同。取象模糊,端為參差映;吮毫閃爍,定因先後光喧。〞

他羅列數個因為反射光,互補色干擾的光喧現象,像白牆環繞只會產生白光,在樹下就會因為樹蔭而將人臉染上青綠;但他並不是一個真正的印象派畫家走到戶外繪畫捕捉光影;他鼓吹的是一種典型歐洲大陸畫家的北向恒定光源畫室(〝方隅有定,却宜向北之房〞),所以戶外,甚至四面敞開沒有牆去作反射的建築,會讓他束手無策,四散擾射的光無從畫起(〝園亭四面全空,無從著筆〞)。除了逃避戶外擾射光源,他也拒斥強光,像過多白牆的室內,他只選擇彩度較穩定的,明度低的微暗陰淡光線(〝消息最真,只在微陰之候〞)。如果說,稍遲的同一時期,法國Michel-Eugène Chevreul在巴黎國家織造局尋求染絲的純色而研究出新的色彩學,1839年發表的〝對比色規律〞引發了之後重大的繪畫革命運動。丁皋的光學原則相較之下沒那麼實證科學,直覺的經驗原則當然局限其實用與擴散,除了這個個人主觀性的缺陷,和外在的社會階級差異(末流畫匠),以及,肖像畫被視為是次要類型繪畫;這種種負面因素是不是主要阻力抑制這個論述去開創新繪畫空間的可能。還是,因為全篇畫論的主要論述場域與焦點並不在這之上,而仍然滯停在書畫同體的意識型態上,纏繞在種種筆法分類與衍生的虛假美學命題中。簡單的說,丁皋的新繪畫光學原則,不但未得到開展,它甚至被書寫的線畫所感染,自行耗費掉原有的動能。從這個角度去看,才能理解近百年後的松年所面對的類似認識論矛盾與困窘,逃進骷髏與肉體的懷抱並不能解決人體認識不足的繪畫空間構成問題,然而這却可以提供一個存否,否否的視而不見境域,確保鉤、皴、擦、染的筆畫、畫線不會受到威脅破壞。松年重複,強制性重複畫下同樣筆跡,線畫,像丁皋,像乾隆時期與丁皋同時代的沈宗騫這位寫真畫家的論述,《芥舟學畫編》(1781),他比松年更貼近人體觀察,不僅談肌理、骨骼、皮層衣紋,而且是從生命變化,具體時間過程去描繪人體生老病死各種變貌設色;然而如此精準的光學觀察,也是一樣逃脫不了〝傳神〞論述原則的主宰:

〝又今人於陰陽明晦之間,太為著相,於是就日光所映有光處為白,背光處為黑,遂有西洋法一派。此則泥於用墨而非吾所以為用墨之道也。 夫傳神,非有神奇,不過能使墨耳。用墨秘妙非有神奇,不過能以墨隨筆,且以助筆意之所不能到耳。蓋筆者墨之帥也,墨者筆之充也。〞

所以,寫真畫家先天命定地要落處在他所謂的〝取神〞與〝約形〞的矛盾困境,筆畫被牽制在逼真邊緣,顏貌上水平垂直交錯的筆跡描形的意向其實是為了彰顯自己,不為了肖像的再現。線畫不透明,不會消逝溶解在肌膚皮層之下;沈宗騫的〝皮縷〞、〝皴紋〞說:

〝又面上皮縷及皴紋,皆應顯其筆跡,凡下筆必依其橫堅。如額之縷橫,故紋之粗細隱顯不齊而總皆橫覆。至眉上則縷又堅,〜〜〜。寫紋當 以勾筆取之,寫縷當以皴筆取之,故之寫照惟用筆。〞

線畫,寫意傳神的線,墨線、彩線維繫形將碎解的東方軀體,在西方身體與繪畫空間與論述沖擊下;社會邊緣底層的寫真畫家捨棄界畫的中性幾何畫線,堅持固守書寫線條作為貫串繪畫空間與光學經驗的唯一原則;聯結不同繪畫類型。〝牛眼裡的童顏〞,〝骷髏與肉體〞,書寫線畫留給我們的最後隱喻。 為何是色線?它來自何處?畫家穿梭編織的色線網絡,片面不完整地重織了印象派理論奠基者Michel-Eugène Chevreul編織更純色彩的絲氈歷史。從染色色素實驗挫敗後,他才發現顏色,純色絲線並不真實存在,純色是靠不同絲線的反差互補產生的光學視覺經驗。純色素自身並沒有真正的物質實體。從絲線染色開始,光學解放顏色的材質束縛,同時帶入新的繪畫空間革命。染色絲線,交織並比,替換生成種種彩度、明度差異的顏色,據說連E. Delacroix晚年在創作教堂大壁畫時,手中不時玩弄不同色澤的毛線交錯去推敲實驗新的色調與顏色。顏色、光綫與空間的革命,來自染色絲線,來自色線的編織。線,特別是有顏色的色線,從那一刻開始釋放出動能。康丁斯基從構圖,點線之關係上如此定義〝線〞:

〝幾何線是一個不可見事物。它是點的運動軌跡產物。它來自運動,而這是透過將點的至上不動性取消。由此產生了靜態轉向動態的跳躍。 線是繪畫原元素,點,的最大對比反差。事實上,線可以被視為是次級元素。〞(《點、線、面》)

幾何線的不可見,沒有自身實體,隱然遙指了那塊源始織氈不可能存在的純色絲線,純色。至於〝線〞來自於〝點〞的運動激變,那不正是秀拉的色點與色點彼此相隔離未真實接觸,但却在視覺光學裡相互破撞融合產生新的顏色(彩度、明度等等)。光學效應轉換色點成為動態光子,穿梭軌道交織色線與面的軌跡。對比或互補的顏色,康丁斯基轉譯成,兩線的力量彼此可能交替或同步。直線被賦於最簡單的運動,會產生張力與方向。而至於水平線與垂直線,康丁斯基很直截地引入顏色,冷色與暖色,水平線就變成冷運動,垂直線相對於此就是熱運動。而斜線就並具冷暖兩種運動的傾向可能。互相交錯直線可能是四散,也可能是向心,端看它們是否有共同中心。沒有中心的四散交錯直線擁有特殊的產生鮮明(彩度高?)顏色能力,從黑與白自行區分開。此種沒有共同中心的四散交錯自由直線,康丁斯基認為,它們很難形成面,甚至它們還會穿透平面,破壞它。借用康丁斯基的理論分析畫家的線畫;那兩項特質,鮮明彩度顏色和破壞平面構成,代表隨意交錯沒有核心力場的自由線運動的高張力爆炸亂流夾雜喧嘩劇場音響。這種形色音同位對稱的想像繪畫空間秩序,似乎不太符應色線畫所呈現的現象,除了穿透、破壞平面這點之外,自由直線隨意交錯運動並沒爆發出明亮色彩和高昂噪音;相反地這些線反映出的却是較接近點描繪畫所特有的低明度迷濛不定的灰階調性。實質的顏色互補、對比關係決定最後畫面的光學效應,否定康丁斯基這套理想象徵空間的有效性。很顯然地,畫家的自由直線、自由色線不是也不同於康丁斯基的自由線,雖然兩者都是由普遍的垂直、水平幾何直線任意交錯構成,抽象的理想系統的線和畫家的畫線兩者間的距離不可衡量。結論,為何是色線?它來自何處?在今天這個數位影像無所不在的年代,當19世紀色彩光學理論和實踐被轉換成色像畫素與噴墨點時,我們看到的是虛擬微細色點的錯覺而不是視覺的主動光學參與;更巨大的否定是被誇大的明度與彩度,還有那個久已被放逐在外的黑色,又堂而皇之的被迎接歌頌:多少影像輸出設備,液晶螢幕與投影機都競相吹噓自己的不可能完成的理想純黑。哥雅的時代,魔獸與瘋狂、變態橫流的怪誕時代;巧合嗎,那些CG運算軟體(Maya以降)不正是使用X、Y軸運算的格栅去數化模擬人體,去運算生成新物種,催生各種魔獸從格栅之間緩緩湧起降臨人間。此刻,畫家拙稚素樸的破碎色線織網,重新學習繪畫的姿態,微光的等待寓言。最後的風景,靜物。色線畫,斑爛碎錦格栅經緯,層層敷蓋身體,透漏遠處山林,綻放菓時;它們像畫家遺忘,留在畫上的透視方格,明室繪圖器具遺蹟殘餘。色線畫,某種忘了擦拭的粉本底稿,還是考古工作者的未盡工作。透視法則、技術,色彩光學律則,沾染滲透身體、物質、世界形成實體轉換的共體碎片。理性和世界互滲,還是世界絲錦波光誘惑,吞食理性。穿梭交織的絲線纏繞欲想遁走而不得的無形思維,網戶透漏。


 


Painting with Color Lines

By Tsun-Shing Chen



Lines. Lines bearing colors; lines applied with colors; lines dyed with colors; colored lines. Lined colors. The warp and the woof. Vertical, horizontal, oblique lines weave to and fro and form numberless traces of treading back and forth. Maps. Ruled-line paintings, chessboard, window panes, hollow brick walls, thin cracks in the porcelain glaze, patterns, coordinate grids. Portraits, landscapes, still life, and genre paintings. Why is a color line taken as the minimal unit of painting? Where does it originate from? What is the point of reemphasizing the element of painting when painting itself has undergone several times of collapses? Now that painting shows obstinate resurrections when its death has been pronounced time after time, what is the significance of a new painting unit—color lines—being invocated again? Jeng Jundian himself started out as a painter that pours and drips paint, exploring the world of splendid abstract colors. He then shifted to plain and neat concrete paintings featuring minimal brushes. Abandoning the imaginary position of highly narcissistic colors, he makes the uncontrolled self once again face the clashes among the object, the other and the world. And he allows the rules for genre painting to eliminate the extending and encroaching strokes. Color lines, a minute ethical demand, is a yearning for tranquility as well as a fatigue after the hustle and bustle dies down. Portrait, still life, and landscape are the three genre paintings that have traveled far and wide in history. “Portrait,” with its phenomenal visibility, seems to win a new recognition in the contemporary art world. However, as it falls under the spell of “grotesque” rhetoric, its very existence has been hollowed out; the form is there but the content is gone. Portrait, going way too far to the extreme of the grotesque, is no better than the lifeless reproductions of mannerism. As for “landscape,” there are inheritors: one or two literary artists maintain this tradition--with a hybrid style drawing together the East and the West, they did create something new. However, it simply fell out of the younger generation’s favor. As the French word for still life “Nature morte” has indicated, it is nothing but dead things that cannot come alive. Artists of the here and now should not follow well-trodden paths; otherwise, they would lay themselves open to ridicule with a blind insistence on these genre paintings. Is this restoring the old or bringing the new? Obviously, it would depend on how artists choose to redefine these genre paintings. Pouring the old wine in a new bottle is probably one of the most common and dominant ways to maneuver, i.e., applying narrative to genre paintings. Vast amounts of historical narrative and theatre of the absurd are turned into a panacea. Nonetheless, this is far from a redefinition of genre paintings, and there is no way to see any torso and scenery. Elements like space, color and light are not the problem anymore, for they are now formulae only. By employing color lines as a painting element and abandoning the filling-in contents, Jeng manages to return to the essence of painting. He retraces the history of Western paintings, and inquires into the art explorations since the Impressionism. “Color lines” exhibit shivering floating light beams, shades of colors interlacing and melting into each other. Jeng, bashfully learning colors and lights anew, turns color “lines” into a unit, and practices Kandinsky’s form creation constituted by point, line, and plane, knowingly or unknowingly. Posing radical questions, baldly ridding himself of the already acquired knowledge and techniques, like a young apprentice, he draws stroke by stroke. Relearning lies in the process of unlearning, and thereby the plain and innocent features unique to the line paintings are able to come into being. So every single painting, no, even every single stroke is a practice, or the preparation for learning. The necessity of genre paintings can never arise until such a gesture is taken: going back to the textbook, even though it is old and torn, dry and tedious. Like an apprentice, like a young pupil learning words by copying stroke order, he goes through chapter by chapter and practices over and over again carefully and humbly with his head down. But why color lines? Where do they originate from? Monotonously repeated color lines, with same primary colors (though not pure color), are regularly drawn and drawn over. They crisscross and part, without any emotions involved. They are like a piece of monotone music that repeats with minimal tunes or the multitude of strangers on city streets that walk by day and night, assembling and parting simply take place without apparent cause. Day in and day out, this patient and resolute painter keeps working on the lines in the hope that the chrome of certain lines would clash into that of its complementary colors and contrasting colors. Who knows? Maybe the sudden glistening momentary brightness will shine through the endless narrow cracks between lines. It happens all too soon for one to exclaim in surprise, and that light fades away even before the next line ends. Or on the contrary, a certain color could spread to cover the color field of a different chrome uncontrollably in the least expected place. Every line is always an accident, or a miracle. The painter can only say confoundedly, “I am unable to draw.” But this is never expressed in a desperate dark tone. The color dark black only enjoyed the highest level of prestige as in ink paintings in Goya’s art. It diminished in importance to the point that the Impressionist painters banished it out of their palette. Here the painter uses the tame intermediate colors, continuing his learning by practicing line paintings resignedly but delightedly. He is like a young child, who waves a net in the wind to catch butterflies and who is waiting. But it would be ridiculous and untrue to say that he is waiting for a portrait. As in a conventional creation process of a portrait, isn’t the model sitting motionless, suffering and waiting for the painter to bestow him the favor of allowing him or her to take a break. But what is even more puzzling is that the people painted are very often family members, relatives and friends whom the painter is best familiar with, spending time together, and sharing intimate relationships with. How is it possible then for the feeling of alienation to breed or how can the painter be so detached that the work of a portrait is being waited and expected? This body, face, or the skin and hair rising and falling do not need any exterior lighting. Internalized intuitions transcend anatomical knowledge. Isn’t the purpose of trying with the construction of lines and reflections of colors to lend verisimilitude to the representation of the human body? Because the paths contoured by loose and dense lines are indefinite, lines do not form planes, and these planes are way too fragmentary to overlap into a real three-dimensional space like a sphere or a cylinder would. And even the folding and unfolding of a curved surface is never a complete curve, either. Only linear lines. The space constructed by such lines coexists with its colors and light in a virtual optical space, floating outside the picture, mediating between the artist and the viewers, like the representation of space in Seurat’s Pointillist paintings. The space in Jeng’s color line paintings is exactly such a de-material (or de-concrete) space. And the human figures rendered in his portraits, briefly put, is neither an ideal body in classic paintings (regardless of being heroic or graceful), nor a body that the realism aims at. Moreover, it is not a body that appears in a sunlight flickering moment crystallized by the impressionists with contrasting and complementary colors. All these bodies contain certain quantity (constituted by its oil paint and the space) and retention, whereas portraits of color lines do away with almost all of these elements. The body or the face keeps falling in the lacunae between lines, flickering with the light and colors (chroma, value, etc.) to form ripples that flow over the picture. The painter revamps and adds lines again and again. It looks as if he is trying to make the portrait closer to the object; however, it secretly catches and opens up for more waiting, waiting for a sharing that would involve more people. Strangeness sharing. Sharing the strangeness. With an apprentice-like learning attitude, even when the model is his most intimate family members, the painter’s every single line creates a stroke which unconsciously echoes what the Jewish philosopher once said: each and every caress would only make the skin under the palm die away. What is brought up by the caress is not joy, but regret and waiting. In the portrait painted with color lines, the picture itself is like a dripping volume of water. A three-dimensional solid can be hardly constituted. The shape and contour is in an unstable status that is constantly folding, unfolding and refolding. The painter does not fill in, enter or occupy the picture. Instead, he keeps a fact-to-face adjacent ethical distance. Making change to the active and passive relationship with the object, he carefully and humbly recedes from the picture and stays beyond the lines with respect. He only awaits a position that is available to all. Nothing else. Straight lines of neutral, pure plain colors offset against any possible personal marks. There are neither brushstrokes, nor specific color fields; thus no emotional noise is to be heard. The violent fighting scenes most commonly seen in portrait masterpieces are that of using painting knife and brush to wage a flight against the object, self, and the work itself. The best examples of all in modern time are Freud and Bacon. Here the artist uses the weaving color lines and the thin screen of light and shade to filter out the theatre of cruelty; to lay a piece of delicately colored lint on the torn and scarred body of modern time so that the unhealed wound is able to send out microbeam from the crevice between thin lines. But why color lines? Where do they originate from? They come from the flowing contour of outline drawing of human figure; they come from the hook, crack, scrub, dyeing and boundary drawing; they come from these ink lines out the convergence of painting and writing—color lines? Where do they come from?

Western painting techniques require hard factualism, and the colors applied are true to the real object. With a scrutiny, one would find that the painting is simply done by upright brush, dyeing, and setting off by contrast; therefore, it exhibits a clear distinction of yin and yang as well as an apparent concave-convex difference. Those who do not know these details like these paintings for being neat and delicate. But in reality, there is nothing exciting or surprising. If one has the knowledge of contrast between dark and bright, then one would find that Western paintings fail to give forth a pleasant, lingering impression or affection. Chinese paintings, in contrary, place emphasis on a harmonious combination of stroke, ink, and outlining. The painting as a united entity rendered in an air of unity and coherence—catering to the representation of both form and characteristics—enjoys a state of consummation. Our ancestors oriented figure paintings to the stories, and landscape paintings to the real artistic conception. They never painted to achieve lifelikeness only. In Western conventions, both figure paintings and landscape paintings are oriented to sheer artistic conception. This somehow bears a certain antique taste. (Essays on Paintings by Yi-Yuan *,1897) *Yi-Yuan is Song Nian’s pseudonym

Song Nian, the Mongol Bordered Red Banner artist, lived in the late 19th century when the transmission of Western practice into China was in its full swing. He insisted on basing his comment of the Western portrait drawbacks on the conventions of Chinese calligraphy and painting. It is not clear whether his generalization of Western paintings has specific reference or not. Does he refer to the portraits in the Academic art fashion or that of the more revolutionary Impressionism or even the Neo Impressionism? If it is the latter, then here Song Nian is making an analogy between Chinese techniques of “upright brush, dyeing, and setting off by contrast” and that of light, shade or body constitution from a very different tradition. If that is the case, his description of Western painting techniques to make “a clear distinction of yin and yang as well as an apparent concave-convex difference” would give us some food for thought. What kind of possibilities may unfold from such comparison and contrast between a linear picture and that with a fixed-point perspective? Whereas the former is done by more simple, succinct ink strokes of outlining, the latter represents light, shade and physical colors through 3D visual effects. Certainly, under the dominance of subjective consciousness which deems air or energy as the top priority, such possibility may be suppressed in the very beginning. One more thing worth noting, Song Nian indicates that there is a close link between figure painting and narrative (“the stories”). This view is still prevailing in the here and now, being unchanged in spite of the East and the West division. In the latter part of the writing, Song Nian reiterates that “verisimilitude” is never the highest standard to judge a figure painting. Nor can one use it to belittle the capacity of traditional Chinese figure painting in its truthful representation of reality. Moreover, for him, the so-called arbitrary brush stroke-verisimilitude distinction is no more than an empty pretext. He further uses Dai Song’s work One Hundred Oxen as an example to expound his views. This painting features a fine delicacy. The representation of the shepherd boy’s face in the ox’s eyeball shows amazing precision. This astounding example, a reflection of a child’s face in the ox’s eyes, not only exemplifies the representational verisimilitude of Chinese painting techniques, but unexpectedly reminds us of the matter-of-fact domestic scenes in the Netherlands paintings of the 15th century Renaissance. All of a sudden, Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait seems to appear in the wrong context of Chinese landscape and peasant painting. The witness of a North European entrepreneur’s wedding ceremony, which is reflected in the mirror, is translated into the idyllic pastoral songs of the East. This hidden unconscious mirror text infiltrates through the intention stream in Song Nian’s essay, bringing forth the ripples and circles because of the clash between the East and West painting. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, or whether or not unconsciously, Song Nian had expressed the confusions and troubles of his contemporary Chinese artists, who are faced with a painting space created by the new techniques and perspective introduced by Western missionaries. Such technique and manner, widespread in Western paintings, were imported to China on a large scale. Even though he chose to insist on the aesthetics of traditional Chinese painting, it does not mean Song Nian is so conservative and ignorant of new development that he opposes the Western painting by falling back to his own conventions. Rather, he allows compromise and negotiation, without a total negation of the space in Western painting but with an even stronger insistence on a line picture. He places the validity and necessity of the space created by a brush-and-ink painting on a basis of experience, direct observation and comparison. In another short essay on painting, Essays on Figure Paintings by Yi-Yuan (1897), Song Nian discusses the paths and forked roads of acquiring human body paintings. He frankly points out a lack of human anatomy knowledge (epistemology and medical technology) at that time. Like the early Renaissance artists who studied the human body from secretly obtained corpses, Chinese artists explored, practiced, and taught themselves about human bodies with human skeleton and flesh. And such learning is confined by the two poles of death and sensual desire:

In the early days, artists started their figure painting from drawing skeletons. After the skeleton was reproduced, then flesh was added in, and finally, the clothes were put on. There is a set of rules to govern the representation of various figures: tall, short, plump, thin; the front, back, sides or profiles. Mistakes are not allowed. Drawing “private play pictures” is also one way to familiarize oneself with the skills of representing the human body. Painters did it not for sheer pleasure. Very often a craftsman was good at drawing such pictures; however, intellectuals regarded such paintings despicable and would not do it.

The apparent language of morals and pedantry in the latter part of the writing blames the “private play pictures” for being not only harmful to the social customs (“by seducing young boys and girls”) but also to people’s physical health. But this is no more than a quibble. That is why the concluding remark that “hopefully we can call a halt to drawing such paintings so as to accumulate virtue” sounds very much like a self-mockery. The underlying emphasis is still the embarrassing situation that a longing for the knowledge of human body cannot be satisfied. Certainly, a displacement of erotic desire is also one of the indispensable motivations. Song Nian’s short essay briefly but correctly points out an anatomic knowledge is required for human body painting in order to improve details like skeleton, proportion, muscle, folds of garments, movement, etc. Song Nian’s essay on paintings attempts to reach a compromise between the East and West with regard to their differences in painting space and aesthetic theory. Did Song Nian, as a late-Qing Chinese painter who witnessed the spread of Western knowledge to the East, realize that at the same time a radical reform of art was also taking place in the West? We do not know it for sure. But as an artist living in an age of transition, Song Nian had connected the art conventions during the Qianlong and Jiaching reigns and that of the new paintings of the 20th century. Such special position in art history shows us that the Western art theory and painting space had taken a long and winding path with many crossroads on its way to infiltrate into the host culture. To explore the truth of the human body and to improve portrait painting, eclecticism combines the incomplete knowledge of the human body based on observations of direct experience and a partial understanding of Western knowledge and technology. In so doing, it manages to modulate the aesthetic practice of calligraphy and painting homology. However, such a complex and daunting task was not conducted by contemporary intellectuals and literary artists from the mainstream. Instead, it was launched by a group of realist artists who were deemed as craftsmen of a lower rank. They engaged themselves in the exploration in both theory and practice. Ding Gao’s Tips for Realist Representation (1800) discusses a wide variety of details ranging from human body proportion, facial expressions, materials, formula, colors to the light in the studio (like the source of light and the color temperature, etc.). In the chapter “On Choosing a Studio,” Ding’s analysis of light and color to a certain extent reached the limit of optics knowledge of that time. For instance, he pointed out that light showed differences in color temperature and angle according to the passage of time. And some passages read so much like a standard Impressionist manifesto of optics: transitory scenes and images, complimentary colors, the color scattering effect of contrast color stimuli. These fully express the visual experience of Impressionist artists.

In the process of drawing a scene, one would find every color is different. When the sun moves slightly, the appearance of things differs a little bit too. The impressions are blurred, while differences are reflected. The flickering of light originates in the brightness at different time sequence.

Ding Gao enumerates several light scattering phenomena caused by reflecting light and contrast color stimuli. For instance, if a man stands against white walls, there is only white light produced in his surroundings. Yet if he stands under trees, the green color of the leafy shade would be reflected upon his face. However, Ding Gao was never a real Impressionist painter who paints outdoor to capture the interplay between light and shadow. What he had promoted was a typical and traditional Continental north light studio (“Direction and location of a room may be fixed, but as far as a studio is concerned, it had better be a room facing the north”). Therefore, the outdoor or even a building that has no walls for reflection would put him at a loss as the light would scatter all over the place. (“A pavilion has no walls. That made me not knowing how to draw.”) In addition to avoiding outdoor light scattering effect, he also rejected strong light. For example, a room with many white walls would not be an ideal place for drawing. He’d only choose a dimly lighted place with a consistent color hue and low brightness. (“The most true-to-life delivery is produced only when the lights are dimmed.) Only little later, Michel-Eugène Chevreul came up with a whole new color science in his search for pure silk dyes at the National Textile and Apparel Bureau in Paris. “The Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colors” published in 1839 had led to a huge painting reform afterwards. Ding’s optical principles, comparatively, are less positively scientific. His intuitional experiential principles are certainly confined in practice to a narrow range. In addition to this drawback of being too subjective, the external factors such as social class discrimination (as a craftsman of a lower rank) and portrait painting deemed as a genre painting of secondary importance could restrain the possibilities of new painting space exploration. Or is it because Ding Gao’s painting theory doesn’t center on a new painting space, but remains concerned with the ideology of calligraphy and painting homology? He directs his focus on the classification of strokes and its derivative empty aesthetic statements. Simply put, Ding Gao’s new optical principles had not been fully elaborated. What is worse, it was influenced by the line-painting originated in calligraphy, so the momentum that it had gained turned out to be consumed by itself in the end. Only observing from this angle can we come to understand why nearly a century later Song Nian still faced similar epistemological contradictions and dilemma. An escape into the world of skeleton and flesh can never really solve the problem of painting space due to a lack of human body knowledge. However, this provides an indistinct realm in which Chinese painting techniques of hook, dry and wet strokes, dye or line-painting would not be threatened to extinction. Song Nian had reiterated a compulsive repetition of the same script or line-painting. This is in a similar vein with what Ding Gao had supported. Or like Ding Gao’s contemporary Sheng Zongqian, a realist painter active during Qianlong’s reign, his work Study on Painting by Jie Dan (1781) presses even closer to human body observation than Song Nian. Sheng discusses over muscle texture, skeleton, skin details, and bases his discussion on the different stages of life: how to illustrate and color a human body in its different life phases from the cradle to the grave. However, such precise optical observation once again fails to rid itself from the dominance of “lifelike” standard.

Nowadays, artists attach their representation much to a contrast of yin and yang or light and shade. Thus, places where the sunlight reflects upon are colored as white, and where in shade dark. This forms the Western school. However, the way of ink use is so much limited and very different from my understanding of a proper use of it. There is no magic with a lifelike representation; the key lies in how to apply ink. And the secret to it is nothing mystical, either. A good rule of thumb is that one should make the ink closely follow the strokes and help with whatever the strokes cannot reach. Therefore, stroke is the commander of ink, whereas the ink is the supplement of stroke.

As a result, a realist painter is destined to be in a dilemma of choosing “essence” or “appearance”. Brush and stroke is pinned down on the verge of verisimilitude. The intention under the interwoven horizontal and vertical lines to illustrate the appearance, however, is to manifest the artist himself rather than represent the portrait. The line-painting is not transparent, being unable to disappear under the skin. Let us sample Sheng Zongqian’s theory of “skin details” and “dry lines”:

The brush touch should be made apparent when one draws the skin curves and dry lines on the face. Every stroke should be in accordance with the hard horizontal lines, such as that on the forehead. Or the variant veins or lines different in thickness and visibility are all horizontal cross lines. And the place above the eyebrows should be drawn by both curves and hard lines, like〜〜〜. The skin lines should be represented by hook strokes, while skin curves by dry lines. Thus, the key of depiction lies in the differences of strokes.

Line-painting contains lines that catch the spirit and depicts the form. Ink lines and color lines prop up the human body of the East whose form is on the verge of breaking to pieces under the impact of the Western human body and theory. The realist painters on the social margin abandoned neutral geological lines of ruled line paintings. They insisted on the script lines as the only standard for linking painting space and optical experience and for connecting different kinds of painting. “Shepherd boy’s face in the ox’s eye” and “skeleton and flesh” are the last metaphors that script-line painting provides us. But why color lines? Where do they originate from? The network of color lines woven by the artist partially reproduces the history of dyed silk written by Michel-Eugène Chevreul, the founder of Impressionism theory. Only after the failure of dye and pigment experiments did he discover that colors or pure color lines do not really exist. Pure color is merely an optical visual experience produced by the complex contrast and complementary relation of color threads. Pure pigment itself is not a physical substance. Since dyes were applied to silk threads, optics has liberated the material confinement of colors. And it also ushers in a revolution of painting space. Dyed silk threads, interwoven and juxtaposed, create a wide variety of colors different in chroma and brightness. It is said that even the great artist Eugène Delacroix, when producing the fresco in the cathedral at his old age, fondled wool threads of different color hues so as to infer or experiment with new tones and colors. The revolution of color, light, and space originated from dyed silk threads and from the weaving of color lines. Lines, especially colored lines have released its kinetic energy from that moment on. Based on composition and the relationship between points and lines, Kandinsky defines “lines” as follows:

Geometrical lines are something invisible. It is a product of the movement track of a point. It originates from movement. However, this is realized by canceling the utmost motionlessness of the point. A leap from a motionless state to the movement is thus created. A line is the primary element of painting, and the largest contrast to a point. In fact, a line can be seen as a secondary element. (Point and Line to Plane)

The invisibility of geometrical lines, lines of no substance, faintly refers to pure colors, the original tapestry interwoven by the impossibly existent silk threads of pure colors. Pure colors. “Line” comes from the radical movement change of “point”. Doesn’t it reveal the fact that there exists actual space between Georges Seurat’s dabs of color? They form new colors (chroma and brightness, etc.) in the optical process of crashing and fusing together. Optical effects turn points of colors into photons in movement that shuttle between different tracks and interweave the traces of color lines and surfaces. Kandinsky translates contrast or complementary colors into the exchangeable and consecutive strength emanating from two threads. Straight lines are endowed with the simplest motion, producing tension and direction. As for horizontal lines and vertical lines, Kandinsky directly introduces colors to them: cold colors and warm colors. Horizontal lines are in cold movement; and vertical lines, on the contrary, in warm movement. And an oblique line has the potentiality to exercise both cold and warm movement. Intersecting straight lines can be either centrifugal or centripetal. It depends on whether there is a center or not. Intersecting straight lines without a center that spread outward have a particular capacity of producing bright colors (of higher brightness?); these lines separate from each other into black and white. Kandinsky considers that it is hard for such free spreading intersecting straight lines without a center to form a surface. They even pierce through and destroy surfaces. If one borrows Kandinsky’s theory to analyze this artist’s line painting, one would find that the two requirements may not be satisfied: the appearance of bright colors and the difficulty of surface formation. These two features refer to a high tension of free line movement that has no central field of force; thus, such tension explodes and brings turbulences mixed up with uproar of theatrical acoustics. Such imaginary painting space order in which shape, color and sound are appositive and corresponding doesn’t seem to tally with the phenomenon displayed by color line painting. In addition to piercing and destructing surface, the staggering movement of free straight lines doesn’t flare up bright colors and loud noise. Instead, these lines reflect misty hues of a grey scale of low brightness closer to the characteristics of pointillism. Substantial color complementary and contrast relation decides the ultimate optical effect of the picture. It rejects the validity of Kandinsky’s theory of an ideal symbolic space. Obviously, here the artist’s free straight line and free color line do not equal to and are different from Kandinsky’s free line. Although both are composed by randomly interweaving of universal vertical and horizontal geometrical straight lines, the difference between lines of abstract ideal system and the artist’ lines are beyond measure. To conclude, why color lines? Where do they originate from? Now in an age when digital images are omnipresent, when the 19th-century optical theory and practice are changed into pixels and ink jet points, what we see is an illusion of virtual tiny color dots instead of visually active participation in the working of optics. What is worse is the overly exaggerated brightness and chroma, and the color black that has long been expelled is now being highly welcomed and celebrated: see how the print-out facilities, LCD monitors and projectors boast the ability to generate the impossible ideal pure black. When one looks back at Goya’s time, an age of monsters and mania, when metamorphosis and absurdity were dominant, one may find that it bears a resemblance to our own age. Is it a pure coincidence? Aren’t those computer-generated computing software (since Maya) using the X and Y-axis defined grids to digitalize and simulate human body, to generate new species, or to give birth to various monsters to fall upon the world? Now, the artist brings a pure, plain and holed web of color lines before our eyes, taking a gesture of learning to draw a picture anew. We come to recognize a parable that awaits. The last landscape, and a still life. Color line paintings—a grid of colorful refined brocade constituted by the warp and the woof—cover the human body layer after layer and leak out of the woods at a distance bursting into bloom. They are like the perspective grid forgotten and left on the picture by the artist; they are the historical remains and residues of drafting and charting equipment in an illuminated chamber. Color line painting is a working draft that one has forgotten to wipe away or an archeologist’s undone task. Rules and techniques of perspective and the laws of color optics taint and infilter a collective body of broken pieces formed by human body, materials and the world. Do rationality and the world infilter each other? Or does the seduction of the world’s beautiful silk brocade fabrics devour rationality? The interwoven silk threads entwine the invisible thought that makes a vain wish to flee. The scenery leaks out of a meshed window.

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