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道象:王冬齡書法藝術
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Between Heaven and Earth: Wang Dongling’s Calligraphy exhibition at the Forbidden City in Beijing

道象:王冬齡書法藝術

text:Frank Vigneron/photo:Frank Vigneron/translation: Zoe Song

文:Frank Vigneron/圖:Frank Vigneron/翻譯:宋敏

In any case, Wang Dongling’s calligraphy was powerful enough to make of this exhibition and its surroundings a very satisfying experience.


(Parallel Chinese-English textsChinese follows English. 本文章為中英對照,英文在前,中文在後)

On November 5, 2016, the Forbidden City in Beijing saw the opening of a major exhibition of works by the calligrapher Wang Dongling 王冬齡. Organized by the publication Poetry & Calligraphy & Painting (詩書畫), it took place at the Taimiao Temple Hall (太廟), a venue that is now dedicated to art events. Officially curated by Fan Di’an范迪安, now director of the National Museum of China (中國美術館) and an official occupying many other positions in the official artworld of the Mainland, and Xu Jiang 許江, president of the China Academy of Art (中國美術學院) in Hangzhou, but actually put together by Yan Shanchun 嚴善錞, formerly vice-president of the Shenzhen Fine Art Institute (深圳畫院), the exhibition itself consisted mainly of a large reflective surface, standing in the middle of the hall, where Wang Dongling had written one of his large distinctive calligraphies in white paint. Based on either the cursive script (xingshu 行書) or the even wilder ‘grass’ script (caoshu 草書), Wang Dongling famously created his own style in the form of intertwining the lines of these scripts, thus creating a sense of intense complications that has been coined ‘chaos script’ (luanshu 亂書). Some viewers did not like the idea of exhibiting the main piece of this exhibition on a horizontal wall-like structure that felt like blocking the space of the hall, suggesting that the verticality of these Chinese architectures should have been exploited to better effects. Others also did not like the addition of standing structures that were used for the wall didactics, saying that they interfered with both the art works and the space of the hall. In any case, Wang Dongling’s calligraphy was powerful enough to make of this exhibition and its surroundings a very satisfying experience.

The opening of this exhibition was also the occasion for Wang Dongling to enact one of his public performances in writing calligraphy. Many times, he has done so on extremely large sheets of paper, sometimes larger than fifty feet wide, moving around this space wielding very long brushes. As already mentioned, for this occasion he had done one of his giant calligraphiers using white paint on sheets of metal. But the opening ceremony gave him the occasion to perform simply using water on the stones of the courtyard of the Taimiao Temple, thus commemorating something many people have done as an everyday practice in the parks and gardens of China. Wang Dongling’s performances, designed in the mind of the artist to bring the experience of this age-old art form into the realm of contemporary art practices, immediately beg the question of the participation of the body in the visual arts of China and especially in calligraphy. The engagement of the whole body that Wang Dongling brought into his practice is not always necessary to a lot of other calligraphers working on a smaller scale. In fact, Wang Dongling’s performative choice is not the only possibility for calligraphy, but even in the calmer practice of more traditional calligraphers, the physical gestures are as much part of the work itself as the characters written.

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Wang Dongling’s Calligraphy exhibition site shot at the Forbidden City, image courtesy of Prof. Frank Vigneron

Even though the event of this particular opening only produced a very fleeting presence, since the water used by the artist very quickly evaporated, the works of Wang Dongling are generally ‘exhibitable’ objects and produced during performances that can be compared to those of artists like Jackson Pollock (for whom the term ‘action painting’ was used in the 1950s) or the French painter Georges Mathieu (1921-2012). There are differences between these two artists though: the American one was not too concerned about the performative aspect of his work, being only interested in the final product, whereas the French one did not separate the performance of making from the final product that was the finished painting. For Wang Dongling also, there is a conscious decision to think of the process of making calligraphy a part of the entire artwork. His practice does not separate making, performing and exhibiting and is, at the same time, rooted in the ancient history of calligraphy and the modern understanding of performance and exhibition.

In Asia, it is possible to see in the Japanese movement called Gutai具体other another trend of artists who took their cues from their own ancient culture and the influence of Pollock-style performing. It is obvious that American culture was everywhere to be found in Japan in the years following WWII and the New York abstract expressionist painters were extremely visible in the many exhibitions organized by the US authorities in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, many Japanese artists took from the gestures of calligraphy, but also from their own martial arts tradition, what could be completed by the performative art of Jackson Pollock, thus producing completely original performative art forms that remained fundamentally Japanese. The works of Shiraga Kazuo白髪 一雄 (born 1924) are for example very typical of the visual research and the abstract art of the post-Kaprow era. This artist of the Gutai movement decided to start painting, using heavy oil or acrylic colors, with his feet, dancing and sliding on the surface of the canvas put on the floor. What might have seemed surprising at the time was however no more so than painting with one’s nails or hair, acts that Chinese painters could do as long ago as the eighteenth century and even earlier – in particular高其佩 (1660-1734), whose grandson Gao Bing 高秉 wrote an incredible treatise simply titled About Finger painting (Zhitou Huashuo 指頭畫). In that sense, it gives me some pleasure to think that Wang Dongling’s work, in spite of a conscious effort by the artist to think of his practice as entirely contemporary, would not have shocked the calligraphers and painters of the past in China.

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Wang Dongling’s Calligraphy exhibition site shot at the Forbidden City, image courtesy of Prof. Frank Vigneron

王冬齡的書法藝術:道象

2016年11月6日,第三屆詩書畫年度展——道象·王冬齡書法藝術展覽在北京開幕,展覽設在北京太廟藝術館舉行。現任中國美術館館長及在中國內地藝術界擔任多個要職的范迪安、中國美術學院院長許江和深圳畫院前院長嚴善錞聯合策展。展覽的主體由一個屹立于展廳中央的鏡面構成,鏡面上書王冬齡用白色油漆寫就的大型書法作品。遊走在「行書」與「草書」之間,融合了兩種書法的特點,王冬齡創造出了一種富有強烈張力的書法形式,稱之為「亂書」。有些觀眾並不喜歡主展示區放置這樣的一塊水平鏡面來展示藝術家主要作品的策展方案,覺得這樣的安排攔截了展示空間,他們認為古建築的特殊架構用於書畫展覽理應通過更好的利用方式發揮出更好的展示效果。另一些觀者則詬病多出來的樹立的鏡面裝置,認為這就像是一種「板書」教學,無論是對作品本身還是對展覽空間都具有破壞性。無論如何,王冬齡書法本身的觀賞價值力排眾議,使得參觀這個展覽仍算是令人滿意的體驗。

王冬齡在展覽開幕式上當眾表演了自己的書法藝術。他曾不止一次在超過50尺寬的紙揮舞長筆進行書法表演,這次展覽中也有他用白漆在金屬板上書寫的巨幅作品,但這次的當眾表演是他僅僅用水作為顏料在太廟的石板地上書寫,不由得讓人聯想到中國公園中老百姓每日練習書法的場景。王冬齡的表演將身體作為參與書法表演表演藝術的一部分,算是把一種古老的藝術形式帶入了現代藝術實踐中來。這對於在普通大小的紙上創作的書法家來說當然不必要,但事實上,他的這種選擇所體現的不僅是一種書法表演形式,要知道哪怕是在日常的書法練習中,身體運筆的姿勢也是影響作品的重要因素。

由於地上的水很快蒸發,王冬齡的書法在地上只能呈現片刻。但即使是這樣,他的作品仍然具有「展示性」,並且能讓人聯想到1950年代「行動繪畫」的代表畫家傑克森•波拉克(Jackson Pollock)或是法國畫家喬治·馬修(Georges Mathieu,1921-2012)。這兩個藝術家的區別在於:傑克森並不十分注重創作中的表演部分,他只關注創作最後的呈現。喬治創作時,則會把表演創作過程和作品最終呈現這兩個部分分開,王冬齡同樣如此,他的表演是構成他創作的不可或缺的一環。書寫、表演、和最後的展示對於王冬齡的創作來說是一個整體,其根基在於中國傳統書法技藝的傳承和對現代展覽方式的借鑒。

在亞洲,類似的表現形式可以追溯的日本的具體派運動,將傳統文化與傑克森•波拉克風格的表現形式相結合。二戰後期,美國文化對日本的影響處處可見,二十世紀五、六十年代,由美方策展的紐約抽象派藝術家的展覽在日本數不勝數。所以,許多日本藝術家的書法表演除了受本國書法運筆姿勢的影響外,也受日本傳統功夫文化的影響,又取經於傑克森•波拉克表演藝術,最後自成體系。日本藝術家白髪一雄(生於1924)正是此間,或者說是「后卡普爾時代」的代表人物。這位日本具體派的靈魂人物以身體為畫筆,身沾油彩和丙烯顏料,舞蹈著在油布上作畫,這或許在當時看來是驚世駭俗的創作方式,但中國早在18世紀,乃至更早之前,就有人以指甲和頭髮作畫了,高其佩(1660-1734)的孫子高秉就曾寫過一篇論文《指頭畫說》,專門論述祖父用手指作畫的創作方式。以此說來,王冬齡現在努力實踐的當代藝術創作要是放在古代中國,怕也不至於令多少畫家書法家吃驚。

 

(Article from a.m.post Issue 124 January/February 2017;本文刊載於 a.m.post Issue 124  1/2月 2017)