小鱼儿玄机二站 > 拍卖 > 三个古典主义者的今世探险

原标题:三个古典主义者的今世探险

浏览次数:197 时间:2020-01-01

  时间 2006年11月3日

  地点 陈心懋画室

  采访者 彭莱

  被访者 陈心懋

  陈心懋给人的印象总是不温不火。近年知天命的他沉缓而低调,只有在谈起艺术的时候,才会很自然地流露出严谨而倔强的一面。

  从上世纪80年代以来,陈心懋的创作伴随着中国当代艺术的起起伏伏的历程。在喧嚣的1980年代,他曾是新潮美术的积极实践者,1990年代,他的名字与实验水墨这个词紧紧联系在一起。近二十多年来,抽象艺术、综合材料是人们了解他作品的重要渠道。如今,他又在水墨融合综合媒介的实验中不停地向前行走着

  最初接触陈心懋的人总会对他艺术中的实验性留下深刻的印象。近三十年的艺术生涯,他所尝试的媒介材料和样式语言几乎无所不到。抽象的、具象的形式,平面的、立体的、综合的材料,裱糊、制作、焚烧等各种手段,水墨、丝网拓印,甚至电脑激光打印多种媒介的创作。作为艺术上的一个彻底的实验主义者,他的作品看上去庞杂而多变,以至于评论家们常常为他应该归入当代艺术中的某流某派而大伤脑筋。然而在进一步的交谈接触之后才会发现,这繁杂而多变的实践背后始终只有一个信念在支持,那就是对中国古典艺术的重新认识和全新阐释。从这一点来看陈心懋的艺术,方能理解其中的单纯和坚守。

  有评论者称陈心懋为豁达的古典主义者,我更愿意将他的艺术实践视为一个文化上的古典主义者的探险。

  一、新潮美术是必定的。

  彭:陈心懋老师,你的名字最早是和上世纪80年代中国的新潮美术联系在一起的,让我们从那个时候开始吧。

  陈:是的,80年代。八五新潮那时候我研究生刚刚毕业。我想也许应该把时间推得更早一点,在读研究生之前,应该说,我创作的基调就已经奠定了。

  彭:你读研究生之前的经历,我们还了解不多。

  陈:我们这一代的经历比较特殊。我的经历和陈丹青有类似的地方,他1978年读研究生,我在1978年进了上戏的国画研修班。那个班是当时上海市为培养创作人才而开设的,我在国画班的学习与交流,事实上已经形成了自己后来创作的线索,这个线索一直延续到进南艺读研究生之前。1984年读研究生,我们就开始酝酿所谓的新潮了。

  彭:那么,你也是经历过文革的一代,文革对你们这一代的影响似乎是不可避免的。

  陈:文革时我虽然比较年轻,但已经开始画画了。那时我作为上海美术创作组的成员,是国画组的。当时油画组有陈逸飞、徐纯中,国画组有施大畏、张培成等人。我那时画水墨人物,对这个很痴迷。

  彭:那时的国画,大概是建国以来的新国画,新水墨。

  陈:当时在油画界,苏派的影响遍及全国,在水墨这一块,方增先的新水墨影响比较大。文革当中,我也是沿着这一套方法去作画的。我们这一代,都经历过文革主题性创作的要求,陈逸飞、陈丹青、俞晓夫,包括徐冰,我想,走过那个年代的人都会受其影响,这种影响我觉得至今还以不同的方的方式潜在地存在于我们身上。有些艺术家就不一样,像蔡国强,我想他受到文革主题性绘画的影响不大,所以要甩掉这些,也可以甩得更干净。

  彭:就是说。他可以在艺术的实验中走得更远,更绝对,而你们就不能。

  陈:是。而对我来说,这前因后果,都是看得出来的。

  彭:那么,上戏的那段学习对你来说是非常重要吗?

  陈:是,非常重要。上戏之前,我是画水墨人物,以主题性创作为主,上戏的学习让我领悟,也思考到了什么事真正的艺术。当时上戏的学习气氛非常好,国画班请来了上海一流的艺术家,林风眠、朱屺瞻、程十发、陆俨少,包括方增先,很多人都来给我们授过课。上戏的油画专业,陈钧德、方世聪、李山,在那个时代,脱离政治谈艺术,尤其是现代艺术,有些匪夷所思,但这些人在谈。他们谈到印象派、毕加索、野兽派,包括莫迪里安尼,这些对我来说是非常新鲜的东西,对当时全国的艺术界来说,也是非常新鲜的东西。那时我开始思考艺术的内涵,思考笔墨与当代的关系。

  彭:上戏毕业之后就该是进入80年代了。

  陈:是的,1981年,我在上师大教了一年书。上师大是上海最早办美术本科的,我作为借调的老师,接手了七八级美术本科的教学。在教学过程中,我自己创作上的整个的倾向发生了一些变化。那时我在任伯年、吴昌硕等海派艺术家身上下了很大的工夫来来钻研,也上溯到陈老莲,当时我们已经注意到他跟海上画派的联系。至于林风眠和关良,是我当时特别喜欢的艺术家,他们走的是不同的道路,在传统中国画的当代性这一点上,他们从西方艺术当中吸收营养,是非常具有开拓精神的人。

  彭:我看了你在80年代初的写生稿,的确和传统的海派不太一样,也不大像苏派,似乎是一种经过糅合的东西。

  陈:在1980年前后,我走了很多地方,画了大量写生稿,人物速写、场景速写,回来之后就搞创作。在笔墨上,我开始吸收清以前的一些东西,以及北魏、唐人雕刻的造型。另外虽然我从小练字,但在那时体会到了书画的内在联系,把书法用笔直接用到了画上。我的一些创作被认为很有新意,我觉得这种新意主要来自我用现代的眼光去看待传统,进行的一些尝试。

  彭:70年代末、80年代初上海已经有了一些现代艺术的实践活动。李山、余友涵等人,是比较早的进行这方面尝试的人。

  陈:当然,西方现代派艺术也已经进入我们的视野。记得当时上海美协除了一些日本印行的现代艺术大师的画册,像后印象派、巴黎画派等等。对我影响很大的,还有波士顿美术馆藏画展,我们看到了波洛克的原作。文革刚刚结束,能接触到这些原作,让我们感到十分的兴奋。我们急切地想把西方现代艺术形式吸收进来。这种尝试一直延续到后来,到我读研究生期间,酝酿所谓的新潮,也就是必定的了。

  彭:1984年你就进了南艺读研,那时,正值新潮美术在全国逐渐地传播蔓延之时,南艺也是当时的一个中心。你们那一届,或者当时同在南艺的,出了不少人。你和丁方、李小山也一直是好朋友。

  陈:当时南艺的氛围很好,我和其他专业的研究生经常讨论艺术问题。其他学校,比如浙美的谷文达,我们的追求比较相近,也有过探讨。我们还组织江、浙、沪三地的展览,以及与中央美院的交流,相互都有促进。

  彭:八五新潮,不管今天怎么评价,实际上它是对文革和之前过于单一的审美趣味的一种反思和革命。

  陈:那时我们与西方隔绝太久了,一下子改革开放了,西方的文化、艺术、哲学的思想一下子进来了,令我们受到了不小的冲击。我觉得其实那时对传统、现代,人们并没有真正弄懂,有很多的实践现在看来很粗糙,一方面是古典,另一方面是生涩的现代派,我们面临的就是这样的背景。

  彭:那更多的可能是一种本能的反感,在单一的趣味下压抑太久了。今天看来,那时的批判、张扬,实际上针对性是很含糊的。那么,作为中国画专业的研究生,你当时是怎么去思考这些问题?我注意到,你在研究生阶段的创作面貌已经比较多了。

  陈:读研究生大概对我的创作来说第二个十分重要的时期。我后来的抽象水墨就是从研究生二年级开始尝试的。那时觉得自己过去的东西当代性不够,传统,如何让它变成具有当代意义的艺术,是我常在考虑的。我想更深入地了解中国艺术的传统,读研期间,我到河南、陕西、甘肃、青海、西藏、新疆等各地考察,特别是壁画、雕刻和民间艺术,我觉得这些是被长期忽视的传统,而中国艺术很多根源性的东西恰恰在那里。另一方面,开始主动进行一些现代性的尝试,超现实主义、抽象主义、立体派,很多东西我都在利用。虽然比较生硬,但跟上戏阶段比较起来,深度和广度都不一样了。

  彭:当时除了国画人物,你还有其他方面的创作吗?

  陈:国画人物是一条线,怎么结合笔墨,结合现代的表现方法,是一个方面。研究生毕业,我做了一个小小的个展,在人物画这方面,我画了《西柯河随想组曲》,还有《南京大屠杀五十周年祭》。我同时也展出了一些抽象水墨和风景。我同时也展出了一些意象水墨和风景。有些作品即使现在看来也还是有点意思的。

  彭:我看其中有些作品跟后来你的实验已经有直接的联系了,在笔墨关系上,在母题上。

  陈:但我觉得研究生期间,我还没有完全放开。任何一个地方或一个区域,总是有一种外界的因素会影响到你。研究生一毕业,我很兴奋,当时想,可以自由自在地画自己想画的了。我沿着读研期间风景那条线,画了《无声系列》。这个系列前后延续了有十来年的时间,是按照我在当时考察西北的壁画的心得,包括如何结合笔墨传达,对壁画媒介特性的研究。在1988年到1992年,是专心创作抽象风景系列的阶段,每年都会画,一直到现在。篇幅虽然都不大,但在内涵与形式上的传统与现代的关系上,我下的工夫比较大,比如媒介的特点,壁画的现代效果等等。我记得是1991年,上海做了一个四人画展,是我和萧海春、王天德、朱敏四人,当时方增先馆长非常重视和支持。我展出了《无声系列》的几十张作品,是以宣纸为主,结合其他材料的一些创作。

  二、我关注的始终是中国艺术的问题。

  彭:在你的《综合绘画:材料与媒介》一书中,对综合绘画的定义是运用综合材料、综合技法的绘画,让我们来谈谈你的综合材料创作吧。

  陈:这个系列源自我对中国壁画的研究和心得。许多人以为我这些作品是追随西方的,其实它们来自中国传统,只是在表现方法和媒介上借鉴了当代西方的研究。中国古代一书并不仅仅像许多人所理解的那样只是卷轴画的历史,特别是早期艺术就是综合材料的创作,传达的审美意识是中国的,在媒介材料上是全方位的,比较典型的体现在壁画、漆画等方面,他们是中国艺术的母土。这条线是我一直很看重的,我在研究生阶段主要也是作这方面的研究。

  彭:但我觉得你的综合材料创作中还是在很大程度上能看到西方艺术的因素。

  陈:那是肯定的。当时的中国,对世界艺术文化不是太了解,而且是太不了解。西方的装置艺术、环境艺术,对我都有所启发,西方现代艺术在运用媒介材料来表达自我这一点上是没有限制的。传统艺术要有新的发展,也应该打破媒介的限制。

  彭:在材料上来重新阐释和反思中国画,那个时候可能还很少有人这么做。

  陈:针对当时的环境,显然是有前卫意识的。我一直觉得艺术的创作应该赋予一种自由,这是值得探索的。1988年做《无声系列》的同时,就做了很多材料上的探索,就是《碑系列》、《史书系列》。那是结合民间美术、古代丧葬文化的一些元素创作起来的,但更强调语言上的中国特点。

  彭:你的综合材料的确十分广泛。书籍、碑帖、丙烯、石膏、铁皮、纸灰,建筑材料都用上了,黄沙、石头、油漆,好像还有锄头。

  陈:的确,我尝试过很多材料。当时我已经在华东师范大学,学校有一个园林组,也启发了我对一些材料的运用。

  彭:但你后来的作品似乎又发生了变化,你总在变。

  陈:(笑)是的。《史书系列》延续了十多年。从最初的热情投入到慢慢形成自己的面貌,但最后反而做的少了。也有人问过我为什么。因为我想要解决的始终是中国画在当代的问题,综合材料,针对当时的环境是一种挑战,但后来中国的艺术环境有了很大的变化,这一类的东西搞的人也越来越多,有点鱼龙混杂。而我的问题还是在对中国画的思考上,它在当代的面貌和形态、内涵和媒介的关系,我想尝试其他的方式。

  彭:这就是说,你始终想保持一种实验性,独立性。

  陈:可以这么说吧。所以,在近一些年的创作里,我回到以水墨材料为主体的框架。1996年以后我开始创作《水墨史书》,也结合一些材质,但这些材质不是主要的,宣纸、水墨为主,包括一些抽象的处理,还有文字的系列。

  彭:以宣纸、水墨为主,是否意味着你开始倾向于更多地运用传统媒介?

  陈:运用现代的手段来研究中国传统的审美是我一直所感兴趣的问题,也是研究的重点。我在综合材料这个方面的创作,虽然运用了很多西方现代的手段,但在整体上的中国审美特点,是我一直所追求的。

  彭:可以说这么说,你的实验从根本上来说还是立足于中国艺术的问题。

  陈:不管怎么实验,我想它们都是从不同的角度,用不同的手段表达我对中国审美的理解。虽然在不同的时期,我所运用的方式,所着力的点不一样,但我关注的始终是中国画在当代的问题。

  三、艺术是针对不同的文化环境提出的命题。

  彭:曾经有人评价你的作品说,从传统中国画的立场来看太出格,从当代艺术的角度来评价,又新得不彻底。这是个很有意思的悖论。你的艺术,究竟是出格的中国画,还是保守的现代艺术?

  陈:你这个问题很有意思。有人说我,你可以探索任何东西,也许是好的艺术作品,但你的东西不是中国画。在他们看来,中国画就是宣纸加笔墨。我不这么看。我们的壁画、漆画、年画、版画,在很多年当中,这些都是被遗忘的传统。刚才我已经一再讲过,中国画的早期创作,包括以后长达两千年的创作,不仅仅是宣纸加笔墨。宣纸加笔墨,这个艺术传统固然是优秀的,但如果我们仅仅将中国艺术传统划定在这个圈里,我们实际上把我们自己许多优秀的传统划到外面去了。中国传统绘画的资源是非常广泛的。我关注的始终是中国画的本质。

  彭:你觉得这个本质是什么?

  陈:是中国的审美特点。任何媒介的艺术都是对审美特点的认识,如果你失去了这种认识,那么也就失去了根本。

  彭:我常常觉得你的艺术涉及的范围特别大,看得出对于西方艺术,你也很感兴趣。对各种艺术样式都有运用,这方面你有没有一个底线?或者说,你不觉得你的风格总是在变化,会让人记不住你吗?

  陈:艺术是针对不同时期,不同的文化环境提出的命题。一个艺术家的一生的作品,不应该是一成不变的。我在艺术上的经历走过了几个文化转折点,文革、改革开放,以后的西方艺术的进入、后现代的文化环境在不同的时期,都有其针对性,对当时的环境,艺术应该有所表示。回过头来看我当时搞综合材料,是针对当时中国画的创作环境来讲话的。现在,我又作一些别的探索,时代赋予我们的内涵不一样了,艺术所做出的答案也是不同的。

  彭:李小山说你,心懋在当代性的把握上,总是很独特。你的作品事实上也更多地是出现在各种当代的艺术展览上。

  陈:(笑)在这一点上,他比较理解我。艺术作品一旦生成,每个观者都有他解释的权利。我的作品,当代的艺术展也会被纳入。2002年在广州美术馆的首届三年展上,我送去了《史书错版系列》。对我来讲,这都不是问题。

  彭:水墨画在当代艺术当中,目前的状况变得很边缘。

  陈:水墨画有它的特点,它在直接参与当代人的观念和情感方面是有局限的。但它也有擅长,研究的人要尽量发挥它的擅长的一面。

  彭:我对你说的局限和擅长很感兴趣。

  陈:中国传统艺术,它关注一种永恒的命题,关注生命的本质。它不强调视觉震撼力,甚至要消解它。它的根本目的不是审美的愉悦性,而是灵魂的净化,由此体会人和自然的和谐。西方艺术,更关注人的自我,人与自然环境的对立关系。中国传统绘画在参与当代的解释上,比如,表达对环境的污染,细菌的侵袭、人类的焦虑,这些方面非其所长,但传达人的心灵的净化、永恒的境界,是其他的艺术所替代不了的。

  彭:你在这方面是怎么做的?就是说,如何发挥它的擅长?

  陈:在这方面,除了媒介以外,我过去在视觉上也做过不少努力,对当时的审美规范提出一些不同的看法。另外一方面,跟年龄也有关系,那时想要追求对某种激情的、震撼的表达。现在我觉得那些都不是本质的,现在我想作一些更本质的努力。所以,艺术始终是针对当时的环境提出来的,除了你的目标外,还有它的针对性。比如《史书系列》,把文字与水墨相结合,除了文字之外,运用了更多水墨的元素,结合图片。

  彭:《史书》更像个小型的水墨装置。应该是你艺术风格相对成熟的作品吧?

  陈:应该是的。我最初的感觉,中国的史书,是一座沉重的大山,我们常常以为我们已经理解了它,事实上,却并不知道其中的真相。这个系列也跨越了十几年,但诠释的方法、材质媒介不同,效果在前后也有变化。后来我还做了《错版系列》,是《史书》的发展。包括《有文字的陆地》。

  彭:《有文字的陆地》很有意思,好像是地形图,又像山水画。

  陈:中国古代有一种插图,叫舆图,对地形的解释非常奇特,从古到今,展现的方式一脉相承。我的那个系列,结合了一些材质,做一些文化上的清理。

  四、我从不对我的作品做流派的界定。

  彭:90年代你的这些系列创作,被理论界归为实验水墨。实验水墨在九十年代红红火火地实践了一些年,进入新的世纪,却突然地沉寂了。

  陈:实验水墨,这是一个很好的话题,也是蛮值得讨论的问题。1998年之后,我陆续参加了一些有关的展览,也了解其中的一些情况。

  彭:实验水墨可以看作是当代艺术在本土性与球化的对话当中,一种比较有意义的探索。

  陈:实验水墨作为一种探索和研究,理论和实践都是可以的。将它作为一个流派,被冠以名称,我想是一段时间里的做法。实验水墨的产生,有它的必然性,但我觉得,如果把它冠以流派的话,是比较狭窄的,也不利于它的发展。在那个时候来讲,实验水墨在视觉、媒材上借鉴了很多当代艺术的东西,后来实验水墨中抽象作品增多,它似乎变成了抽象水墨,把它的范围越划越小。

  最近,就是今年吧,刘骁纯做了一个中国水墨文献展,把实验水墨划分为十九个方向。我觉得这个划分体现了一种多元的立场。他划分的对不对,是否合理,这不重要,重要的是他提供了一种思想方法。现在人们更愿意把中国画当作水墨画,我觉得刘骁纯对水墨画的划分它跟九八年以后对实验水墨的一种界定,或者以抽象水墨在实验水墨当中占主流的看法有很大不同。这种划分更适应水墨画在当代的实际状况,包含了各种媒介的探索,这有利于艺术家更加自由地投入,有利于使它走出单一、局限的现状。

  彭:有人说,实验水墨现在应该下课了。这个,在皮道坚和王南溟之间曾经有过争论。王甚至说,在当代艺术中,有没有现代水墨画并不重要。

  陈:我一直说,时间是一个筛子,它不停地在筛选。当代还不能对当代的艺术作出中肯的评价,真正作出确切评价的应该是时间。至于下课不下课,我觉得任何一种探索、研究,都是有针对性的,实验水墨也是有它范围的,它只是当代艺术的一块。当代艺术展览,他们叫上你,是顾全大局,不叫你,也并不能说就因此去否定实验水墨所做出的探索。

  彭:刚才你谈到实验水墨不能被界定在抽象水墨这个范围内,但我觉得你的许多作品也是抽象的,至少运用了大量抽象的表现手法。

  陈:我一直致力于传统审美的当代性的把握上,在不同时期,我的侧重点不一样。但是我从不对我的作品做流派上的界定。并不是说参加抽象画展多了,就是抽象画家了。是综合材料也好,是抽象水墨也好,怎么归纳,评论界怎么看,自有它的一套系统,我是从自己的角度来做出探讨。

  彭:但是很多艺术家都很重视自己要有一个清晰的面貌,或者说有一个鲜明的个人符号,让人记住他。而你的作品面貌庞杂,总是很难让人作出一种界定。

  陈:鲜明的符号,这更多是在现代商业规律下产生的,作为一种商品,要很快占领别人的视觉。我想当代一些青年艺术家会比较在意这个,生活节奏越快,越重视符号,因为人们需要一种轻松直接的东西。但我想这在50年代出生的人身上并不是很明显。我们这一代艺术家,都不太有多么鲜明的符号,因为靠的也不是这个。

  彭:你们这一代,像徐冰、黄永砯、谷文达、陈箴,还有你,更倾向于一种文化的批判。

  陈:这是与我们所经历的文化环境相关的。

  彭:最近在一些年轻艺术家的创作中,中国符号受到了青睐,水墨动画、水墨影像,似乎是一种潮流。

  陈:我觉得中国艺术的符号价值正在受到越来越多的重视,但在文化内涵上却并没有去深究。对于传统的发掘,也有不同的方式。当中国不够强大时,我们关注引进国外的,我们文化上自信了,也就更能接受一些属于母土的东西了。传统是活的。

  五、我一直是不安分的。

  

  彭:在你最近的作品中,你运用了更新的媒介,数码和激光打印。似乎走得更出格了。我也听到了一些质疑,难道运用数码技术,就代表了当代性?

  陈:媒介从来都是关键问题,但是,一个艺术家应该善于驾驭不同的媒介来表达自己对艺术的理解。运用了数码媒介,不一定就是当代了,反过来,运用水墨材料,也不一定就不当代。事实上,我一直在关注新的媒介,电脑数码处理和激光打印也是一个方面,但手段技术不是本质的东西,那只是我在传统美学的当代表达这个命题上的一个尝试。我一直很奇怪,西方的艺术家设计的范围很广泛,他们搞油画、版画、装置,没有人去质疑,在中国,似乎画国画就只能在宣纸上运笔墨,一旦尝试了别的,就觉得出格了。

  彭:对于这些新的媒介,你有信心么?

  陈:在我创作《史书系列》的时候,我运用的手段很多,拼贴、印刷、拓印等等。石头系列一直也是喜爱的题材,1994年我就画过。近一两年的《灵石与倒影》,我增加了数码的手段处理一些局部,我觉得效果还不错。

  彭:《灵石系列》还是体现了文化考古的立场。我看到那些石头上,被添加了太多的文化符号。

  陈:中国人对石头有特殊的感情,《红楼梦》的起因就是一块顽石。(笑)古人说,画山水画在空间上要以大观小,就像人观假山石。假山石包含了中国人对自然的观照。太湖石有它独特的审美内涵,我的角度,就是延续那种审美观照,它承载、积淀了更多的历史与文化的痕迹。

  彭:对于未来的创作,有哪些新的计划?

  陈:《灵石系列》、《水墨史书》这些还会继续做下去。我曾经尝试多种综合材料,但总是觉得对水墨更加偏好,最近我甚至迷恋中国画的笔墨。但不管怎么样,我始终会寻找新的可能性。

  彭:你是个不安分的人。

  陈:是的。在艺术的表达方式上,我始终是不安分的,但对某种东西的总体感觉其实是不变的。当代中国画界,对艺术的潮流缺乏客观的理解,有一种观点很值得忧虑:中国画,只要中国人自己说好就可以了,外国人根本不懂。其实问题远远没有那么简单。我希望通过深入地研究传统之根,来研究它的当代存在问题。这可以说是我一直以来的追求吧。

  彭:你的艺术道路跟你当初在南艺读书时的同学有很大的不同,南京地区的画家,比如周京新,他们对传统的认识上更关注笔墨的延伸性。

  陈:是的。上海是一个在文化上包容性很强的城市,30年代就是这样,50年代以后,林风眠、关良以他们独特的艺术面貌长期存在,对上海的艺术氛围也有深刻的影响。如果当初我留在南京,也许会是另一副面貌。但我觉得上海更适合我在艺术上的兴趣和方向。

  上海师范大学美术学院

  彭莱

  2006年12月

  A Modern Exploration by a Classicist

  An Interview with CHEN Xinmao

  

  3rd, November, 2006

  at CHEN Xinmaos Art Studio

  Conversation of PENG Lai and CHEN Xinmao

  Chen Xinmao always impresses people with his medium. Nearly 60 years old, he is calm and modest, and only when discussing about art does he show his conscientiousness and obstinacy.

  Chen Xinmao has been creating artwork along with the rising and falling of Chinese contemporary art since the 80s. In the unresting 1980s, he was an active experimentalist of Art New Wave. And in the 1990s, his name was closely related to Experimental Chinese Ink Paintings. In recent 20 years, Abstractive Art, Combined Materials are important accesses for people to interpret his works; and today, he is advancing in the experiment of Comprehensive Media of integrated water and ink.

  Those who know Chen Xinmao were all deeply impressed by the Spirit of Experiment in his art works initially. In his art career of nearly 30 years, the media, materials, styles and languages he has tried are almost all-inclusive: abstractive and concrete forms, graphic, three-dimensional and combined materials, mount, fabrication, burning and other various methods, Water Ink Painting, Screen Printing, and even media like Laser Printing. Since he is a revolutionary experimentalist, his works seem to be multifarious and varied, which perplexes the critics to categorize him to any school or group. However, only after a further discussion and communication with him could I find that there is only one belief behind these various practices, which is, to re-cognize and re-interpret Chinese Classical Art. Only from this point of view can we understand the purity and persistence in Chen Xinmaos works.

  Some critics named Chen Xinmao An open-minded classicist, however, I prefer regarding his art practice as a culture exploration by a classicist.

  1. The"Art New Wave"was certain to appear.

  Peng: Your name was initially related to Chinese Art New Wave in the 1980s, so lets begin from that time.

  Chen: Yes, the 1980s. I just graduated at the time of New Wave 1985. Maybe I should make it earlier, that is, before I started my postgraduate study, I would say, the mood of my art works had been settled.

  Peng: Then you also belong to the generation, who experienced Culture Revolution and the influence of Culture Revolution on your generation seem to be inevitable.

  Chen: Although I was young during Culture Revolution, I had already begun painting. At the time I was a member of Art Creation Groups of Shanghai, belonging to traditional Chinese Painting Group. Chen Yifei and Xu Chunzhong were in Oil Painting Group, and Shi Dawei, Zhang Peicheng, Hanshuo and others were in Chinese Painting Group then. I was making Figure Paintings of water ink then, and was really infatuated in it.

  Peng: Then, is the experience in Shanghai Opera Institute very important to you?

  Chen: Yes, very important. Before I went to Shanghai Opera Institute, I created Figure Paintings of Chinese ink, that were mainly theme paintings; and the experience of studying in Shanghai Opera Institute provoked me to understand and think of what was real art. At the time the learning atmosphere in Shanghai Opera Institute was very good. Best artists were invited into Chinese Painting Class, they are Lin Fengmian, Zhu Jizhan, Cheng Shifa, Lu Yanshao and Fang Zengxian, lots of artists conducted courses to us. In the Oil Painting Specialty of Shanghai Opera Institute at the time, it was unthinkable to talk about art, especially modern art, without politics. However people like Kong Boji, Chen Junde, Fang Shicong and Li Shan were discussing. They mentioned Impressionism, Picasso, Fauvism, including Modigliani. These were very new to me and also to art circles all over the country. Then I began to think over what on earth art was.

  Peng: I saw your sketches in the early 1980s; they were indeed neither the same as traditional Shanghai School, nor like Suzhou School, but seemed to be something mixed.

  Chen: Around 1980, I traveled to many places and made lots of sketches, figure sketches and scene sketches. After returning from those places, I began to create works. Regarding brushworks, I began to learn something before Qing Dynasty, and carving forms in Northern Wei and Carvings of Tang Dynasty. Besides, I practiced calligraphy since my childhood, and then learned the internal relation between calligraphy and painting, so I applied brushwork of calligraphy directly onto paintings. Some of my works were considered to be very creative at the time, and I think the creativity mainly lay in my modern view toward tradition and relative experiments.

  Peng: There had been some modern art practices in the later 1970s and the early 1980s. People as Li Shan and Yu Youhan were the early generation who were engaged in these activities.

  Chen: Certainly, western modern art had already appeared into our field of vision. I still remember that Shanghai Artistsユ Association issued some albums of paintings of modern art masters printed in Japan, such as Post-impressionism, Paris School and so on. And the Exhibition of Painting Collection in Boston Art Museum, where we saw original works by Pollock, also brought importance influence on me. The opportunity to see these original works right after Culture Revolution made us quite excited. We were too eager to absorb all these western art forms. The experiments continued afterwards, so naturally I started to plan so-called Art New Wave in my postgraduate study.

  Peng: With regard to New Wave 1985, no matter how we criticize it today, it was actually an introspection and revolution against unduly monotonous aesthetic in and before Culture Revolution.

  Chen: We were too long isolated from western world at the time, so when the reform and opening came suddenly, we were greatly shocked by the tide of western culture, arts and philosophy. I think people in that era didnt really understand tradition and modern, so many practices at the time seemed rather immature from a present point of view. On the one hand there was classicism; on the other hand there was immature modernism; that was the background we were facing then.

  2. What I concern is always questions about Chinese Art.

  Peng: To re-interpret and introspect Chinese Painting in terms of materials, at that time, probably only a few people did this.

  Chen: Considering the situation at that time, it was obviously avant-garde. I always believe that art creation should be given a kind of freedom, which was worthy exploring. So I tried a lot of materials at the same time when I was making Series of Silence in 1988. They were Series of Stele, and Series of Historical Records, which were created with elements of folk arts and ancient funeral traditions, and they emphasized Chinese characteristics through their language.

  Peng: Your Comprehensive Materials were indeed very comprehensive. Books, books of stone rubbings, acrylics, paste, iron sheet, paper ashes, and even building materials were used, like sand, stones, paint, probably hoes.

  Chen: Indeed, I tried a lot of materials. Then I was in East China Normal University, and the garden group of the university also gave me inspirations of using materials.

  Peng: But it seemed that your later works changed again, you always change.

  Chen: (Laugh) Right. I continued to make Series of Historical Record for more than 10 years, from my initial passion to later individual characteristic; however, on the contrary, I created less in later period. Some one asked me why. Because what I really wanted to settle all along was how Chinese Painting could develop at present. Combined materials were useful at the time because they were challenging the circumstance. However Chinese art circumstance changed a lot later, and more and more people began to create this kind of works, which made the whole situation a little bit chaos. But I was still thinking over Chinese Paintings, its present characteristics and forms, the relationship between its implication and media, I was thinking about trying other ways.

  Peng: That is to say, you wanted to keep a spirit of experiment and individuality all the time.

  Chen: You can say that. So in recent years, I turned back to the theme of taking Chinese ink as principle material. After 1996, I began to create Historical Records of Chinese Ink Paintings integrated with some materials. But these materials were not principle; rice papers, Water and ink were. including some other ways to make abstractive effect and also the series of characters.

  Peng: In Biennale 1998, what you exhibited was no other than Historical Records of Chinese Ink, and you tended to simply make use of traditional media and symbols in that kind of works.

  Chen: To study Chinese traditional aesthetic from a modern approach is always my interest, and a key point of my study. The aspect and key point of my study is different in each period. As for creating combined materials, although I used lots of western and modern approaches, the overall Chinese aesthetic has been what I pursued all along.

  Peng: I may say that your experiments were fundamentally based on Chinese Art.

  Chen: No matter what the experiments were, the works were my understanding of Chinese aesthetic from different aspect and with different approach. Although I took different method and emphasized differently in each period, what I concerns is always the contemporary value of Chinese Painting.

  3. Art is a topic in accordance with different culture circumstances

  Peng: What do you think the essence is?

  Chen: it is the characteristic of Chinese aesthetic. Any art of any media can be a perception of a certain aesthetic, and if you loss this perception, you loss the root.

  Peng: Dont you think that our ancient art media didnt have a good tradition? Generally speaking, the best tradition of Chinese art is still Literati Painting.

  Chen: Traditional Chinese art is a unity that has a clear sequence of idea. Although those excellent traditions were ignored later on for a long time, we can still organize them from our point of view. As for the implication of tradition, we should view them differently in different period. The theory and development of Chinese Literati Paintings by Dong Qichang was based on the circumstance of his time and his judgment, thatユs his contribution. But now China is quite different from the era of Dong Qichang, so should we still keep the same view on art?

  Peng:From this point of view, your works still belong to contemporary art. I remember what Li Xiaoshan said about you that Xinmao always handle the Contemporary in a special way. And your works actually appeared more in various contemporary art exhibitions.

  Chen: (Laugh) He understands me in terms of this point. You are talking about if it is contemporary art or not. Once art work is created, everyone has his own right to interpret it. My works is included in contemporary art exhibitions. I send Series of Historical Records, Mixed Version to the first Triennial held by Guangzhou Art Museum in 2002. For me, these are out of question.

  Peng:I am very interested in the limitation and merit you mentioned before.

  Chen: Traditional Chinese art concerns more about eternal themes, like the essence of life and harmony between human-beings and nature. However, western art concerns more about human ego and conflict between human-beings and nature. As for expressing contemporary themes, for example, pollution to our environment, invasion of bacilli and human anxiety, Chinese Ink Painting is not good at it. However, it is irreplaceable in terms of depicting the purification of human mind and eternal state.

  Peng:The visual harmony and balance is its advantage. The appearance of painting is not as sharp, hostile or tensive as those of western art.

  Chen: If traditional Chinese art has any disadvantage, it probably lies in its visual effect. Traditional Chinese art doesnユt emphasize on visual impact, and even tends to avoid it. Its fundamental purpose is not visual satisfaction, but purification of human soul, from which we can feel the harmony between human-beings and nature. However, we also need to take other forms to express peopleユs oppression, conflict and anxiety at present and in real circumstance. Of course, visual impact is only one aspect of visual satisfaction, not all.

  Peng: How did you deal with this? In other words, so-called to exploit its advantages?

  Chen: As for this aspect, except media, I also made much effort on visual effect before and addressed some different opinion on the aesthetic standard of that time. I thought it was necessary. Besides, it also related to my age, I was pursuing some passionate and shocking expression then. Now I dont think those are innate characters, and I want to try something more essential. So art is always brought up according to the circumstance at a certain time. And besides your aim, it has its own target.

  Peng:For example?

  Chen: For example, メSeries of Historical Recordsモ, I combined characters and water ink. Besides characters, I used more elements of Chinese ink, together with illustrations.

  Peng: Historical Records is more like a big installation of Chinese ink.

  Chen: At first, I thought that the historical records of China were like a heavy mountain as a whole; and we always believed that we have understood it, but actually, we didnt know the truth of it at all. I also made this series for more than 10 years, and with different techniques of expression, materials and media, the effects also varied.

  Peng: Were Series of Historical Recordscompleted when your artistic style turned to be relatively mature?

  Chen: Should be. After that I also made Series of Mixed Version, which is a development of Historical Records. It included Lands with Characters.

  Peng:Land with Characters is very interesting, looks like a topographic chart, and also like a Chinese Landscape painting.

  Chen: There was a kind of illustration in ancient China, called Yu Tu, which interpreted topography in a very strange way, from ancient times to the present, the ways of expression could be traced to the same origin.

  4. I never categorize my works into any style.

  Peng:Your works in the 1990s are categorized by critics as Experimental Chinese Ink Paintings. Being practiced actively for some years in the 90s, however, the Experimental Chinese Ink Paintings disappeared suddenly in the new century.

  Chen: Experimental Chinese Ink Painting, it is a very good topic, and quite worth discussing. Shanghai Biennale 1998 exhibited Chinese Ink Paintings mainly, and national and international artists and critics were invited to discuss it thoroughly. After 1998, I continuously attended some relative exhibitions and also knew something about them.

  Peng: Someone said that Experimental Chinese Ink Painting should be suspended. And considering this, there was a discussion between Pi Daojian and Wang Nanming. Wang Nanming said that it was not that important if modern Chinese Ink Paintings existed or not in contemporary arts.

  Chen: I always say that time is a sieve. It never stops sieving. We cannot give appropriate criticism of contemporary art at present; only Time can do this. And as for being suspended or not, I think, any exploration or study is to be directed against something, and experimental Chinese Ink Painting is also limited, it is only one part of contemporary art. If they invite you to a contemporary art exhibition, it means they take the overall situation into consideration; however, if they donユt invite you, it cannot blot out the value of exploration of experimental Chinese Ink Painting.

  Peng: Now it seems that experimental Chinese Ink Paintings are no longer a favorable topic for people to talk about.

  Chen: When it is no longer a topic, it is mature. Experimental Chinese Ink Painting was concerned differently in different period of time; however, it doesnt mean that they are not valuable anymore because they are not concerned. To develop Chinese Paintings at present is certainly limited because of their high standard of aesthetic, perfection of brushworks. Therefore there will be various difficulties to breakthrough. But it will certainly develop, and for this, I have been trying all along.

  Peng:Your generation, like Huang Yongping, Gu Wenda, Chen Zhen and you, tends to criticize culture more.

  Chen: It relates to the cultural circumstance we have experienced.

  5. I am always restless.

  Peng:But I noticed that you made use of newer media, digital technique and laser printing, in your recent works. It seems more Improper. Moreover I also heard some voice of doubting. Could it be said that the usage of digital technique means contemporary?

  Chen: Media have never been the key problem, however, an artist should know well about how to make good use of media so as to express his understanding of art. It is not necessarily contemporary even you use digital media, and on the contrary, it is also not necessarily non-contemporary. In fact I have been always caring about new media, and to create digital graphics with computer and laser printing is also one possibility. I always believe that technique or media is not essential; it is only an attempt to meet the theme of contemporary expression of traditional aesthetic. I am always confused that western artists can take extensive artistic media, and no one has ever questioned if they make oil painting, woodcut, or installations; however in China, it seems that Chinese Painting only means to make brushworks on rice paper, and if you try something different, you exceed what is proper.

  Peng:The Series of Spiritual Stones still shows your standpoint of culture archeology. I saw too many culture symbols added on those stones.

  Chen: Chinese people hold a special feeling towards stones, and the origin of A Dream in Red Mansions was no other than an insensate stone. (Laugh) Our ancestors said, When you create Landscape Paintings, you should see the boundless from the tiny in terms of space, just as how people view rockwork. Rockwork implies Chinese reflection upon nature. Taihu Stone has its specific aesthetic implication, and my point of view is to keep that reflection, because it carries and accumulates more historical and cultural vestiges.

  Peng:You are a restless person.

  Chen: Yes. Regarding technique of art expression, I have been always active, however my general feeling about something never actually changed. Present Chinese Painting critics do not have objective understanding of the trends of contemporary art, and a point of view worries us, that is -- As for Chinese Painting, it is fine as long as Chinese people themselves can appreciate it. Foreigners can never understand it at all.. In fact, it is far more complicated. I hope to study its Contemporary Existence by exploring deeply into the root of tradition. I would say that it has been my pursuit all along.

  Fine Arts College of Shanghai Normal University

  PENG Lai

  December, 2006

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