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灵肉双显——彭斯作品赏析(理查德.舒斯特曼)

(2010-07-25 16:37:34)
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灵肉双显——彭斯作品赏析(理查德.舒斯特曼)
怀忧 Glorious Melancholy  油画 oil on canvas, 108 x 138cm 2009 (局部) 彭斯 2009

 

灵肉双显——彭斯作品赏析

 

文/理查德•舒斯特曼(Richard Shusterman)

理查德.舒斯特曼      美国佛罗里达大西洋大学人文学院讲座教授   美学家

 

2008年6月,我的朋友、哲学家彭锋给我介绍了彭斯的作品,带我去北京798艺术区和艺术家见面,然后又去他的工作室做客,我在那儿研究了艺术家未完成的肖像和风景画­。我只不过是一个喜欢轻装旅行的流浪哲学家,并不是艺术品或其他物品的收藏家。但是彭斯的一幅优美动人的风景画­几个星期里一直不断萦绕在我心头,最后我问他,我是不是可以买下来。不出所料,这幅画­已¾­卖出去了。

彭斯的画作,以其对孤独和忧郁的独特表现而著称。尽管在日常生活里体验这类感觉非常痛苦,但彭斯的艺术作品却为它们的表现赋予了极大的美感和极高的格调,将它们转化成审美愉悦。孤独和忧郁在生活中可能让人软弱,往往导致人无法采取积极行动,陷入严重的精神沮丧,有时甚至导致自杀;但是彭斯肖像画­中那些表情孤独忧郁的人物看起来却并非可怜无助。相反,通过艺术家的绘画­表现力而散射出某种神圣的力量或光辉,出色地传达了所刻画­的主人公种种微妙的感情所具有的冲撞的力量。同样,他那些时常空洞寂寥的风景传达出的孤独感,并未唤起恼人的忧伤或让人不快的无聊感,而是一种平静和谐,观众的目光乐于停留在其上,愉悦于柔美的线条、精美的色彩以及动人的朦胧色块,不过,这些都暗示了难以捉摸的美感,其意义仍需在画­布背后,当然也要在物质世界之外的心灵来发现。所以,景物所寄托的宁静感,永远不会停止下来,成为毫无生命的静止状态。而我们的眼睛和心灵在彭斯艺术的激发下,渴望发现在薄雾背后幽微玄远的这些意义。这便是在空虚中揭示充实的艺术,也是以静显动。

诸多因素促成了彭斯的肖像之美。头、颈和上身优雅的曲线轮廓,以及这些线条的手法,与刻画­面部容貌的曲线相呼应,同时与画布的直线外框形成对比。他的人物沐浴在圣光里,在深色的空朦的背景中凸现出来,所以他们的肉体焕发出浓烈而极具浑厚感的明暗关系。其结果便是如雕塑般坚实,传达了一种庄严感以及人物的内在本质,甚至人物似乎向后倾斜时也是如此。比如在《香草君》《怀忧》这两幅画­中,彭斯刻画­的上身裸露的年轻男子,面部表情如此高贵,他们头上装饰的干枝或草叶,看起来更像是自然的皇冠或桂冠,而不是有关头饰的荒诞笑话。姑且将彭斯肖像中人物沉着稳定的姿势放在一边,他们永远也不是沉闷而静止的。因为在这些男性和女性庄重而高贵的眼神和面部表情中,我们看出了理性、灵动、敏睿的意识活动—这是灵魂的表达。我们能感受到这一情感,被这些肖像中所表达的诱人但却隐约神秘的情感所迷惑,我们自己的双眼和内心开始进行对心灵的追问,以便破解这些神秘莫测的表情。即便在《怀忧》这幅画­里,侧身的年轻男子并没有直视我们,我们可以看到,他向下凝视的目光格外成为焦点,仿佛他正紧张地向内心返观,就像忧郁的人们总爱做的那样。在《琴家吴钊先生》的这幅肖像作品中,人物双眼也同样朝向下方,但是我们能感觉到他眼镜背后以及由前额延伸到眉毛的充血血管(象征了竭尽努力)之下的神情专注。

所谓孤独和忧郁,不仅仅是两种感觉。每一种孤独感,每一种忧郁情绪,都有自身鲜明的特征,都有自己特殊的品质,有其特别的语调、音色、明暗或色调。这四个词指出了从听觉到视觉感官所获得的感觉的特征,而这两种感官在西方美术观念中最为突出;它们与音乐和绘画­联系在一起(例如诗歌,具有其自身的视觉想象、语音以及节奏),极有效地传达了不同感觉、情绪和精神状态的特征。日常语言和哲学概念过于笼统和抽象,所以无法做到这一点。种种感觉的特殊性也在体态和姿势的细微差别中传达出来。这应该是意料之中的,因为不仅我们最强烈的情绪(愤怒­、恐惧、悲伤)通过极为明显的身体反应(包括心跳、呼吸以及姿势的变化)表达出来,但即便我们最轻微的感觉也有其自身独特的身体体验和感知。因为这样那样的原­因,实用主义哲学家威廉?詹姆斯(William James)很大程度上将情感定义为一种体态,而分析哲学家路德维希?维特根斯坦写道:“人类的身体是人类心灵的最好写照”。

忧郁一词的词源体现了情绪的身体根源。“忧郁”一词源于希腊文中表示“黑胆汁”的词。黑胆汁­是四大液体物质(即所谓“体液”)之一,古代西方医学用以解释健康状态下的身体平衡以及不健康状态下的种种不平衡。另三种体液分别是黄胆汁、粘液和血液。疾病被解释成这些体液中的一种或多种过剩或不足造成的。由这种医学理论出发,哲学家们随之发展出一种观念,即人格或个性同样也是主导体液的表现。忧郁源于黑胆汁­过剩,而血液占优势使得一个人乐观向上;粘液或黄胆汁­过多,让一个人的性格分别呈现冷µ­或暴燥易Å­。不同程度的忧郁以及不同种类的忧郁,可能是由于胆汁精确的总量及其同其他三种体液的关系造成的。虽然四种体液的医学和哲学理论在文艺复兴甚至新古典时期仍然有影响力,但十九世纪时却被现代科学所取代。即便是今天,科学依然肯定这样一种基本的见解,即体液影响我们的健康和情绪,我们的情绪状态基本上在我们的身体反应中表现出来,包括我们的姿势、手势、动作和表情。因此,彭斯刻画­人类身体中姿势和面部表情的细微变化的天赋,也意味着他在理解人类心灵上有着令人印象深刻的认知。这种理解出自爱,对身体、心灵以及灵魂的爱。因为将一位敏感的艺术家和一位真正的人文主义者内心的这些爱分割开来,最终是错误的,因为在他身上,感觉和心灵交融在一起。

彭斯表现出对青年男子肖像的偏好,赤裸的上身典雅俊朗,十分健康,肌肉结实而非单薄虚弱。这种对青年男子身体充满爱意的刻画­,在一幅如梦似幻的棕褐色绘画­《抱书独行》中达到了情感的巅峰,画面中一位全裸的人物侧倚着面向观众。在一片基本上空阔的风景中,裸体人物独自躺着,几乎完全被书和一些稀疏的草丛包围(一叠书撑着他的头和胳膊,像一个枕头一样,而另一本书遮挡住他的下身),远处背景上山体掩映在薄雾中。年轻男子的姿势对于西方传统绘画­中女性裸体来说十分普遍,突出了双腿、臀部、躯干、手臂以及飘浮的头发形成的美观柔和、发人联想的曲线,而嘴唇的性感又通过稀疏的胡须得以强化。这位赤裸着与书同眠、眼中闪出安逸神情的孤独男子,是否象征了尊重优雅感、富有想象力的阴性气质,以及对中国文人著述的喜爱呢?也许这是一个艺术的声明,一个人拥有了他的书籍和艺术(也许其中某些书恰恰是这位年轻男子的速写本),就永远不会真正孤独。这幅画­暗示了书籍和艺术才是一位敏感的年轻男子为满足美和爱的欲望而诉求的东西吗?或者只是当代对于西方女性裸体这一老生常谈的传统进行挑衅性的当代逆转吗?无论我们将何种意义赋予这幅作品,它显然昭示了彭斯融通中西艺术和文化传统的技能。

彭斯的肖像并不仅局限于人物。其中很多刻画­了马匹,他遵循­韩幹的绝妙的中国传统,以关爱和庄重来加以描绘,突出表现了马匹的美感和表情,韩幹声名远扬,以至于我的小女儿通过儿童故事书都了解了他。彭斯描绘马匹的画­作如同人物肖像一样(甚至在《孤行之茕茕》中所画­的鸟),往往是单一的形象,有代表性地置身于基本上空阔的背景或者荒寒的风景中。如果韩幹所画­的马典型地套有马具,甚至被捆绑起来(因为传说中这些马太逼真了,所以他担心它们会从面­面中跑出来),那么彭斯的马几乎总是不被马鞍、挽具或缰绳所拘缚,完全自然的赤裸反倒更显壮观雄伟。在一幅绘画­中,孤独的马背负着乘驾的装备,这幅画­有一个相当有意义的标题:《何处乡关》。画面中明显缺失的并不是失却的家园,而是空空的马鞍所暗示的骑手的缺失。似乎在寻找家园的马匹,其实是在寻找骑手,而画­作暗示了马就像人一样,寻找着感情的纽带和关联,这才让一个地方成为家园。

如果人类的身体是人类心灵的最好写照,那么这些马儿的心灵述说了些什么?马匹姿势的优美雄伟以及它们眼眸中沉吟的表情,岂不也暗示了马也是有着细腻感情的生物,有着意义深远的精神生活,因此身体、心灵和灵魂的高贵,并非人类所独享。持怀疑态度的人类中心论者也许认为,艺术家只是将自己微妙而富于思想的敏感性投射到马匹的美丽形式上。但是如果更加明智地承认人类对大自然其余物种的亏欠和联系,就会认识到艺术家最精细入微的敏感,绝非书本、老师和以前艺术作品的产物,而是取法于上天和万物所教导之美的结果。在彭斯的艺术作品中,不仅是人物和马匹,甚至山川、薄雾、树木、石榴、草叶都在对我们诉说,都在教导我们。这一点从他惊人的画作《问山君》所具有的力量和直接性中形象地体现出来,画­面中山峰之上是一个巨大的但是刻画入微的头颅­,带着探寻的好奇心勇敢地直视前方(其轮廓依稀显出一个问号的形状)。

“寂寞”一词来源于“单独”(alone),其形成是 “all one”一词的缩写。唯一和独自是孤寂的本质,而唯一的概念也是统一体的审美价值的基础所在,正如独自的概念也指向了区分或创意独特型的审美价值。彭斯绘画­的部分动力,来自对单一焦点的关注—一个人、一匹马、一枚石榴、一座山或者是一只鸟—这激发起戏剧化的兴味和审美的统一。孤独可能是艺术家为高强度的专注、为审美统一以及明显与众不同的创作而必须付出的代价,一天又一天独自在画­布上挥洒。相反,审美统一和与众不同带来的愉悦,则是对这种寂寞的奖赏,就像画家通过姿势和面部表情的刻画­而优美地再现了忧郁,这成为理解这些表情所必须的那种忧伤感的补充,不论是绘画­还是仅仅在绘画和其他艺术形式中欣赏它们的再现。彭斯视野所映射的最终一个信息,可能就在于艺术中永远没有完全的寂寞孤独。绘制的孤独人物或者个别的某个画作,其内心往往远不止是所表现的一种事物。往往有一个缺失的但却必要的他者—绘制了这个孤寂人物的艺术家,观看这一单独作品的艺术家或批评家以及艺术得以创作和欣赏的社会(人、作品、理论、体制)。

 

Painting the Body, Revealing the Soul: An Appreciation of Peng Si

 
Richard Shusterman, D.Phil.
Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar Chair in the Humanities
and Professor of Philosophy
Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters 
Florida Atlantic University

 

       I was introduced to Peng Si’s work in June 2008 by my friend the philosopher Peng Feng, who took me to meet the artist at Beijing’s 798 and then to a visit at his studio, where I could study the artist’s portrait and landscape paintings in their still unfinished state.  Known as a nomadic philosopher who likes to travel light, I am not a collector of art or other objects. But one of Peng Si’s beautifully evocative landscape paintings continued to haunt my mind for weeks until I finally asked if I could buy it. Not surprisingly, it had already been sold.

 

       Peng Si’s paintings are known for their distinctive expression of loneliness and melancholy. Though these feelings are painfully sad to experience in ordinary life, Peng Si’s artistry endows their expression with great beauty and so transforms them into aesthetic pleasure. Loneliness and melancholy can be severely debilitating in life, often generating incapacities for positive action and deep psychological depressions that sometimes lead to suicide; but the lonely and melancholic looking figures in Peng Si’s portraits do not appear as miserable helpless subjects. Instead they radiate a certain strength or splendor through the power of the artist’s painterly expression that brilliantly conveys the paradoxical force of subtle, delicate feelings in the subject portrayed.  In the same way, the loneliness of his often empty landscapes inspire not disturbing sadness or irritating boredom but rather a harmony of tranquility where the viewer’s gaze is happy to rest and take pleasure in the gentle beauty of line, refined sense of color, and the evocative misty patches that, however, suggest elusive beauties and meanings still to be discovered beyond the painted canvas and indeed beyond the merely physical world. So the landscapes’ reposing sense of calmness never stagnates into lifeless immobility, as our eyes and mind, energized by Peng Si’s artistry, look to uncover these meanings that hover beyond the mist. Here, then, is an art that reveals fullness in emptiness and motion in stillness.

 

       Many elements contribute to the beauty of Peng Si’s portraits. There are the gracefully curved contours of the head, neck, and upper body, and the way those lines are both answered in the curves of the facial features and contrasted with the rectilinear canvas frame. His figures are bathed in light, standing out from a dark, empty background, so that their flesh radiates with rich, lusciously tactile values. The result is a sculptural solidity that conveys a sense of majesty and the real substance of true character, even when the figure seems to be tilting backward as in the painting Melancholy. The countenance of Peng Si’s bare-chested young male figures is so noble, that the dried branches or grass that adorns their heads looks more like a natural crown or laurel than an absurd joke about headwear. But despite the poised and solid pose of Peng Si’s portrait figures, they are never heavy and static. For in the inquiring eyes and facial expressions of these men and women we see the movement of intelligent, dynamic, sensitive consciousness – the expression of soul. And we perceive this movement because, captivated by the attractive but subtly mysterious feelings expressed in these portraits, our own eyes and minds pursue an inquiring movement of our own to decipher those enigmatic expressions.  Even in the painting Melancholy, where the young man in profile is not looking toward us, we see that his downward gaze is intently focused as if he were looking intensely inward, as melancholy people do. The eyes in the portrait of musician Mr. Wu Tien are also directed downward, but we can sense their concentration of consciousness behind his glasses and beneath the bulging blood vessel (a symbol of effort) that extends down from his forehead to his eyebrow.

      

       Loneliness and melancholy name more than two feelings. Every feeling of loneliness, every emotion of melancholy has its own distinctive characteristics, its own special quality, its own particular tone, tenor, timbre, shade, or hue. These four English words that denote quality of feeling are taken from the auditory and visual senses that are the most dominant senses in the Western conception of fine art; and they relate to the arts of music and painting that are extremely effective (as is poetry, with its own visual images and verbal sounds and rhythms) to convey the specificity of different feelings, emotions, and moods. The concepts of ordinary language and philosophy are too general and abstract to do this. Particularities of feeling are also conveyed in the subtleties of bodily posture and gesture, including facial expression. This should be expected since not only are our strongest emotions (anger, fear, grief) expressed through quite noticeable bodily reactions (including changes in heart beat, breathing, and posture) but even our milder feelings have their own distinctive somatic experience or feel. For such reasons and others, the pragmatist philosopher William James defined emotion as in large part a bodily affair, and the analytic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that “The human body is the best picture of the human mind.”

 

       The etymology of melancholy exemplifies the bodily roots of emotion. The term melancholy derives from the Greek words for black bile. Black bile was one of the four liquid-like substances (called “humors”) that ancient Western medicine used to explain both the bodily balance that is health and the various imbalances that are unhealthy. The three other humors were yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Illness was explained as the resulting from a surplus or deficiency of one or more of these humors. From this medical theory, philosophers then developed the idea that personality or character was likewise an expression of dominant humors. Melancholy resulted from excess black bile, while dominance of blood made one sanguine; too much phlegm or yellow bile made one’s character respectively phlegmatic or choleric. Not only different degrees of melancholy but different kinds of melancholy could result from the precise amounts of bile and its relationship to the other three humors. Though the medical and psychological theories of the four humors remained influential through the renaissance and into the neo-classical period, they were later displaced by modern science in the nineteenth century. But even today science still affirms the basic insight that bodily fluids influence our health and moods and that our emotional state is essentially expressed in our bodily reactions, including our posture, gesture, action, and expression. Hence Peng Si’s great talent in picturing the human body with its diverse subtleties of postural expression and facial gesture also implies his impressive skill in understanding the human mind. And this understanding is born of love, a love of body as well as mind or soul. For it is ultimately a mistake to divide these loves in the heart of a sensitive artist and true humanist, where the sensual and the spiritual are fused.

 

        Peng Si shows a preference for portraits of young men, whose naked upper bodies are gracefully slender yet still healthy and attractively firm of flesh rather than frail looking. This loving portrayal of the young male body reaches its erotic peak in a dreamy sepia portrait of a fully nude figure reclining on his side and facing the viewer. In an essentially empty landscape, the nude lies all alone except for being almost surrounded by books (a pile of which support his head and arm like a pillow with one book concealing his genitals) and some scattered tufts of wild grass, with misty mountains in the distant background. The young man’s posture, a familiar one for female nudes in the Western painterly tradition, highlights the pleasing, gentle, evocative curves of legs, hips, torso, arms, and flowing hair, while the sensuality of the lips is accentuated by a thin moustache. Could this painting of a solitary young man lying naked alone with his books and with a dreamy expression in his eyes symbolize a gesture of respect for the cultivated sensitivity, imaginative yin spirit, and love of literature of Chinese literati? Perhaps it is an artistic statement that one is never really alone when one has one’s books and one’s art (and perhaps some of those books are the young man’s sketchbooks). Is the painting suggesting that books and art are what a sensitive young man turns to in order to satisfy his desire for beauty and love; or is it simply a provocative contemporary reversal of the commonplace Western tradition of the female nude? Whatever meaning we ascribe to the painting, it clearly exemplifies Peng Si’s skill in integrating Chinese and Western traditions of art and culture.

 

       Peng Si’s portraits are not confined to human figures. Many are instead devoted to horses, which he draws with loving care and majesty, highlighting their beauty and expression, in the wonderful Chinese tradition of Han Gan, whose fame is so great that my young daughter learned of him through a child’s story book. In Peng Si’s horse paintings, as in his human portraits (or even the bird portrayed in Walking Alone), there is always a single figure, typically on an essentially empty background or barren landscape. If Han Gan’s horses are typically harnessed or even tied (since legend says that they were drawn so life-like that he feared they would run off the page), Peng Si’s horses are almost always unconstrained by saddle, harness, or reins, and are all the more imposing in their stark natural nakedness. The one portrait whose lonely horse is wearing equipment for riding bears quite meaningfully the title, “Where is my home?” What is evident by its absence in the painting is not the lost home but the missing rider implied through the empty saddle. So if the horse is looking for its home in looking for its rider, then the painting suggests that horses, like people, seek the ties and relations of companionship that make a place a home.

 

       And if the human body is the best picture of the human mind, what do these portraits say about the horse’s mind? Do the beauty and majesty of the horses’ postures and the thoughtful expression in their eyes not suggest that horses are also sensitive creatures with a meaningful mental life, and thus that nobility of body, mind, and spirit are not the sole possession of the human race? A skeptical anthropocentrism would argue that the artist is simply projecting his own refined and thoughtful sensibility on the horses’ beautiful forms. But a wiser appreciation of humanity’s debts and links to the rest of nature will recognize that the finest artist’s sensibility is more than a product of books, teachers, and previous artworks but also the result of lessons in beauty taught by tian and the myriad things. In Peng Si’s art, not only the humans and horses but also the mountains, mists, trees, pomegranates, and blades of glass speak to us and teach us. This point is figuratively exemplified with striking power and directness in his astonishing, Questioning Mountain, a mountain whose peak is an enormous yet finely featured head that gazes boldly ahead with inquiring curiosity (and whose contours vaguely suggest the shape of a question mark).

 

       The word loneliness derives from the word “alone” which was formed as a reduction of the words “all one.” Oneness or singularity is of the essence of loneliness, but the idea of oneness is also essential to the aesthetic value of unity, just as the idea of singularity points to aesthetic values of distinction or creative uniqueness. Part of the power of Peng Si’s paintings derives from concentration on a single focus -- a single person, horse, pomegranate, mountain, or bird – that promotes dramatic interest and aesthetic unity.  Loneliness may be the price that an artist must pay for intensity of single-minded focus, for aesthetic unity, and for distinctively unique creation as he struggles day after day alone working on the canvas. Conversely the pleasures of aesthetic unity and distinction are a reward for such loneliness, just as the beautiful painterly renditions of melancholy portrayed through postural and facial expression are a compensation for the feelings of sadness required to understand those expressions, whether to paint them or simply to appreciate their representation in painting and other arts. A final message of Peng Si’s vision may be that in art there is never total loneliness. The lonely figure painted or the isolated particular painting always implies more than the one thing presented. There is always an absent but necessary other -- the artist who paints the lone figure, the artist or critic who views the solitary artwork, the complicated network of traditions (people, works, theories, institutions) through which art is created and enjoyed.


 

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