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【英文资讯】Natural Expression, Self-expression and Symbolic Expression: Comment on the Remarks about Du Yongqiao

2013-05-24 14:33:43 来源:艺术家提供作者:
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  In the early 20th century, a legion of young oil painters sprung up in Sichuan province. Not all of them were directly instructed by Du Yongqiao, yet all have been influenced by him considerably. No matter which direction their later artistic courses develop towards, they always regard him as their teacher. Suffering a frustrating life, Du Yongqiao had not been able to hold his individual exhibitions respectively in Chengdu and Chongqing until his twilight years thanks to his students’ vigorous support and assistance. The last retrospective exhibition held in haste right before his death was so amazing and astonishing as to be counted as an unprecedented milestone in Sichuan art community. Apart from his reverential personalities, moral quality, professional ethics and the longtime unfairness he received in the art world, his artistic achievements were particularly a defining factor for him to attract the public gaze. His thorough apprehension of the form and spirit of his works, sharp sense of natural light and colors and skillful application of oil painting materials and tools were sure to place him among the top both in Sichuan and among all contemporary painters throughout the country, especially among the so-called “the second-generation painters in China” in the 1950s. During the exhibitions, we found people reached a consensus on the evaluation on his artistic achievements in the interviews with numerous contemporary artists and in the panel discussions of the corresponding exhibitions.

  Nevertheless, I still feel there is a great pity with regard to the comments on him from others, including his students. Earlier before in the interview with the media, I already expressed my point of view: When people compliment Du Yongqiao, they always attach such determiners as “historic era” or “the second-generation painters” ahead, which actually indicates that he was a quintessence only in the era of realistic painting or the painting system of the Soviet Union, the mainstream of that time. Apparently, people are, consciously or unconsciously, averting from judging whether or not his artistic works are contemporary or modern.

  Mr. Lin Mu, a weighty critic who has an in-depth understanding of Du Yongqiao, has noticed that at a time when the ultimate goal of art was to imitate the reality, Mr. Du, not confined to the portrayal of natural features or inclined to realistic vulgar materialism, had continuously expressed his inner feelings while capturing the intrinsic spirit of the scenery. Moreover, Du incisively realized the unique expressiveness of colors and brushstrokes out of his intuition and further enriched and intensified them by the study of the brushwork of traditional Chinese painting.

  Mr. Lin Mu, whose analysis hits the nail on the head, has put forward three points in response to people’s doubt about the “modernity” in Du Yongqiao’s artistic works. As I have witnessed Du Yongqiao’s artistic experiences, from each transitional period to the confusion period and then finally embarked on the road of modern art, I’m fully aware that it is exactly through the process from the natural expression of emotion to the self expression and then to the semiotic expression can he surpass the realistic tradition of the western Beaux Arts and step into modernity. In spite of Lin Mu’s penetrating interpretation of Du Yongqiao’s works, I believe it is still necessary for me to add more comments in this regard to supplement the general opinions.

  (此处空行)

  The “subject consciousness” and “ontology consciousness” of art are two important indicators to tell whether an artist is classical or modern. Although natural expression, self-expression and symbolic expression are different in nature and degree, an artist’s subject consciousness will awaken on condition that his art enters the field of “expression” without the confinement to the form and coloring of the subject. In this way, the artist’s ontology consciousness, namely, the consciousness of the artistic symbols is strengthened and then his art falls into the category of modern art. Accordingly, it seems to be well-reasoned that the word “expression” is in the norm these days. Almost all the artists bear in mind constantly that they are “expressing”: Some are those who virtually paint without emotions, and others are those who still follow the steps of imitating the realistic painting. Are these works really endowed with expressive nature? If so, does it mean their expression is successful and profound? Thus, it is imperative to further probe into the so-called “expression”.

  “Expressiveness” is a concept of modern aesthetics, which specifically refers to the external manifestation of internal emotions. However, if we scrutinize it, a great discrepancy can be found in its connotation, which correspondingly reflects diverse expressional levels.

  The foremost discrepancy lies in the cognition about the expressiveness of the visual styles.

  Scholars before the birth of contemporary psychology, such as G. Berkeley and C. R. Darwin, all assumed that the natural features themselves were emotionless, and the expressiveness of the nature was the outcome of the “empathy” and “personification” implemented by people through transplanting their feelings into sceneries and also the “objectification of the essential power of man (Marx)”. However, Chinese philosophy entertains a contrary idea that all things on the earth are intelligential. Extensive research in modern Gestalt psychology has testified the existence of “expressiveness” in natural visual styles which is caused by the movement of the natural features’ tension force: since the force is structurally different, natural features tend to show various emotional characteristics themselves, like rise and fall, advancement and recession, weakness and strength, etc. Therefore, a scene can stir up our feelings while we can embed our emotions in the object. That’s why we feel gloomy at the sight of the willow branches feebly dropping off and why we appreciate the noble and virtuous characters in face of the successively rise of bamboo.

  One of the major contributions the contemporary psychology makes to the modern art rests in its impartation of the knowledge that the nature of the perceptive object or the natural object actually consists of three inherent building blocks: form, color, and expressiveness. Among the three features, man’s perception of the expressiveness of the perceptive object is the most essential and paramount feature due to the activeness of all the perceptive patterns. Thereupon, expressiveness possesses a dominant position in the visual perception process. Some artists, who have no idea of the expressive feature of an object, would uphold the realistic painting which emphasizes “the imitation of nature” and would spare no effort to observe, analyze and measure the form of an object in a scientific way. The Czeskachov (Павел Петрοвич Чистяков) system, a more mechanical, rational, and impassive system than the French Beaux Arts introduced by Xu Beihong, ruled the entire art education throughout China in the mid-1950s. As a realism that pushed the practice of imitation ahead to the extreme and sacrificed art for skill crafts, the system took “shaping ability” as its core theory. In 1999 when I returned to China to hold a “Ten-year Retrospective Exhibition”, I was really delighted to hear Du Yongqiao, a master of shaping, prudently mention to me that since the 1990s, he had begun to question the so-called value of “shaping ability” that was deemed as the basic capability of an artist all the time. And I told him that the concept of “morphology” in Chinese should be given more attention among such concepts as shaping, shape and form, as the notion of “morphology”, or mood, state and dynamism, all reflects the expressive feature of the object with both the visual identification and the psychological sensation. However, shaping and other concepts are akin to the walking dead as they merely contain the former feature, i.e. the visual identification. What is really needed in art is the capability of emotional expression and creativity rather than the ability to shape the object.

  In the eyes of Susanne K. Langer, “concept” is the primary need for our thoughts and the starting point of cognition. Thus what artistic concept we choose or establish is the requisite to entrench aesthetic ideas. Du Yongqiao was not an artist conditioned to theoretical thinking, but with his subtle intuition, he still showed his talent by managing the form and coloring of the object, and in the meantime realizing the nature its own expressive tendency. He expressed his deep humanistic concern for the living environment and gradually established some new aesthetic ideas accordingly. His oil paintings then not only precede those of the contemporary painters in technical aspects, but surpass the Czeskachov system in terms of the mastery of the expressive feature. In fact, we can find in his numerous works in the 1980s, such as Wild flowers, Street Entrance, Old Street in the Southern Town, etc., that the shaping nature of forms has given way to the expressiveness of spirit. In this sense, he has already been well ahead of other painters who are still caged in “shaping”.

  However, to achieve the expressiveness in way of natural features is still a way of re-presentation and belongs to the category of “natural expression” as the basic level (yet not a low level) of expression, no matter it aims to express the spirit of the nature itself or integrates the artist’s inner feelings, such as “a scene which arouses mixed memories”, “unity of form and spirit”, and “transplanting of one's feelings into sceneries”. On the one hand, all human emotions are the results of the state of their existence, and the natural expression is only a part of all emotional expressions. Even the self-expression, symbolic expression and pure geometrical or abstract expression all depend on the intuitive expression of the natural features. On the other hand, the natural expression is the beginning of all expressions. Though the subject consciousness is awakened, it is still subjected to the nature, not able to thoroughly reveal itself and unlikely to show people’s intricate inner feelings to the fullest. Any attempt to convey the artist’s individual feelings by means of a certain natural feature can only be found simple, primitive or even naïve, and in no way can it transfer the delicacy, richness, transience and variability embedded in the inner feelings, not to mention the complex structure in them.

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