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【评论】朱青生 巩潇蔓:尚扬风格研究初稿——兼论第三抽象

Research on Shang Yang's Style& The Third Type of Abstract Art

2012-04-23 13:43:05 来源:艺术家提供作者:朱青生 巩潇蔓
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  第一

  1998年尚扬的风格转变已经透出端倪,当时作为美术文献的推荐词,我们写下了如下的评述:

  “尚扬先生欲相倾听的是我与他不完全相同艺术观念。我认为,如果不把尚扬先生当‘油画家’,就更能看出他在中国美术历史上的作用。艺术品的价值,从来不能以画种作为先决条件来评判高低。历史上达芬奇画的不是油画(而用他自己调出来的一种调合剂),沃霍尔画的也不是油画。油画是15世纪到20世纪初欧洲艺术观念(或称文艺复兴绘画观念)的承担者。这个观念的核心是再现与象征,再现必须有制幻技术,将一个平白的表面根据视错觉原理涂绘成一个窗洞;象征必须有实像,借助与生活现象的联系,可以勾起人们直接和间接的经验,这些经验因各人的文化背景和心理状态不同而会产生特别的解释,这个解释是人生,也是社会,更是文明的痕迹。所以一部造型艺术的历史,是以象天法地,征情证心。截至19世纪末,制幻技术逐渐由摄影和后期的电影电视承担;象征深化为对人性的肉身、社会和理想的全面反省和探究,用一切可能的技术、手段和材质来表现和传达这种反省和探究。绘画是手段之一,油画只是材质之一。该用就用,该不用就不用。尚扬先生如是油画家,听了这番浅论定会大不以为然,但是后来他改做“壶”和“胸片”装置了,是不是也早就理清了美术史这段公案”

  目前尚扬的风格已经在“董其昌计划”中完成。根据尚扬的艺术风格转变的历史,他从1994年开始尝试在《大风景》系列中运用董其昌的图式;2002年开始创作第一张“董其昌计划”,被命名为“二”,为了将1994年的第一次尝试记为“一”(出自艺术家本人的自述)。因此1998年的评述虽然是未与艺术家进行直接的对证,却也可以看成是一个风格变迁过程的观察笔记。

  第二

  尚扬的风格是“第三种抽象”。“第三抽象”与“笔墨”发生的关系是尚扬风格的典型特征。

  从笔墨中间生发出来的“第三抽象”的“抽象”不纯粹是一个形式问题,同时是一个对于艺术的观念问题,也就是说它要重新解释什么是艺术。

  我们要在历史上找到“第三抽象”的位置,实际上这个历史的位置有两个含义:

  第一,时间意味上的含义,即我们今天做的抽象与过去有何不同?

  第二,空间意味上的含义,在文化意味上,我们今天做的这种抽象和其它文化中的人,同样时代的人做的抽象有何差异?

  因为只有差异才有价值,艺术上只有差异才有保存的可能,这个差异还不能太小。

  第一抽象,就是指的康(定斯基)/蒙(德里安)的类型,这种抽象是把已有的物品简化成几何形状,抽取出来,这是从塞尚到毕加索,再到康定斯基/蒙德里安一脉相承。只不过他们正好代表着两个方面:康定斯基简化的是外在的物象,抽象是一个形状;而蒙德里安简化的是外在的物象之间的关系,抽象的是一个结构。所以,一个是绝对地冷静和细致;一个是可以在抽象的物体中间获得较为普遍的自由和转变。

  第一抽象发展到一定的时候,必然的局限就显现出来了。康/蒙抽象观念想要把抽象变成一套新的解说世界的符号和一套结构系统。第一抽象本来就是对世界的抽象,某种程度上是符号化。所谓符号化也是人为地简化和赋予意义的过程。于是他们开始用这样的符号来说自己的事情,变成一种语言了。把“抽象”变成了一种语言系统,变成了一套符号系统,并且用这个系统来陈说事情和事物,康定斯基很重要的两本书中阐述了这个观点:第一,他认为抽象的符号中一定要有精神含义,就是说符号是符号,精神含义是其中承载的东西;第二,他认为任何符号都是有意味的,比如他说三角形碰到圆形的时候,就像亚当手指将要被上帝怎么样。他认为符号可以表达和承载一种逻辑的意义。这就是第一抽象,达到了顶峰,也受到了这个顶峰的局限。

  1929年,有一个年轻的德国艺术家去拜访康定斯基,他发现康定斯基所做的“抽象”完全不是他理解的“抽象艺术”的本质之所在,因此他就开始自己重新解释抽象。这个艺术家是哈同(Hans Hartung 1904-1989),他比较早地发展了后来作为抽象表现主义特质的抽象:抽象作为不可知的状态。这个渊源由达达主义到超现实主义,再到抽象表现一脉相承。二三十年代的时候在巴黎开始,后来因为遇到二次大战,欧洲这套系统发展得不如在美国发展的充分,所以最后是由美国的系统的艺术家把它充分地展现出来,就出现了第二抽象,以抽象表现主义为代表,与后来出现极少主义(Minimal art)对应,形成抽表/极少抽象。

  抽表/极少抽象并不是从一个具体的物体中找到抽象(几何)形体①,而是要在一个不是为了造型的单纯笔划或简单的物体中寄托人的感觉和精神。

  抽象表现主义作品,比如波洛克和莫里斯的作品,跟康定斯基的画,特别是康定斯基晚年的画放在一起,有很明显的超越。康定斯基晚期的画很拘束,很拘谨,而且经常反复,不能坚持坚定的统一风格。

  第二抽象实际上是受到了“超现实主义”的影响,“超现实主义”的两条道路一是幻境描述、一是无意识创造。理论来源多可归到早期精神分析理论。后一种无意识创造艺术精神状态类似中国艺术中的“写意”,又有根本不同,只不过超现实主义的“写意”写的是无意(无意识),不是写的有意,这是它的重要的来源。甚至有些艺术家做“自动主义”,像马宋 (André-Aimé-René Masson 1896 –1987),就是把人的控制权跟世界的关系消除掉,让画自己画出来。在这个层面上,抽象表现主义跟中国书法相接近,甚至有些艺术家直接吸收书法的传统完成抽象,这一点儿都不奇怪。波洛克公开地说他是用禅宗的状态来画画,这个也不奇怪,因为波洛克理解的禅宗就是他个人的下意识的神秘体验。因此第二抽象和中国的笔墨有暗合之处,但是不完全重合。

  在第二抽象发展的过程中有一批艺术家已经注意到所谓有意境的追求,有一个人类自我的骄傲,就是过多地脱离了和物质世界本身的关系,于是就有一批艺术家在同样的精神状态之下发展了极少主义艺术(Minimal art)。Minimal art最高程度就是物质的本质是人的精神的最后归宿,也就是说精神和物质没有两分法,物质本身出现的时候,无论它的质感还是它的存在本身,就是神性,就是最后的归结,就是上帝,就是物自己。这就是第二抽象的成就。

  极少主义其实不是单纯地做一样东西,是一样东西反复地做很多,甚至在反复过程中间消除人的情绪和精神的动荡,慢慢地归于寂静和单纯的过程,这就是第二抽象的双重成就,也是两个方面:

  第一,更多地注重人的精神本身;

  第二,把人的精神消除,归回到它的本质状态,就是回到物本身,这就是第二抽象。

  第三抽象,实际上在第二抽象中已经开始出现。比如Rothko和Twombly,其中有一个大画家Rothko,以当时抽象表现主义的理论,无论哪一种都无法定义他,于是只能说他是“纽约画派”的艺术。这个“纽约画派”就像我们说“北京的艺术”或者“湖北来的艺术”,没有什么风格、理论上的意义,只是一个没有办法的办法,只能表明他是在纽约画画的。他的画没有人能够定义,但都觉得好。七十年代他自杀自杀在他成功的时候,他不能承受艺术中精神的一种承载。那么其中到底有什么东西,就是我们现在要追究的问题。

  虽然后来我们发现中国人可以做第三抽象,但这是人类共同的一个艺术的本质,并不是中国人的特质。如果是特质,那就会变成一个小的地方文化。第三抽象不是一个地方文化,它是艺术本质推进的一个方面。第三抽象到底是什么?它的形式已经变得不重要了,它不像第二抽象会注重笔法、力度、行为等,而关键是在于一笔中人的精神可以灌输进去多少,甚至反复灌输的时候,其中可以承载多少,这就是第三抽象。那么“第三抽象”注重的是什么?实际上它和古代的一样东西完全重合了,这就是所谓的“笔墨”,就是董其昌。

  会画画的人都能够体验这一点,画的好的人画中有文气,笔法之间有文气。文气是一笔中,他个人的精神寄托了多少。所以董其昌的画作往上数一定是倪云林,再往上数一定是王羲之,一定就是中国艺术的一个本质问题,这个本质大大地不同于希腊艺术的本质。希腊艺术的本质是对一个事物的再现,就是把握世界和表达世界,就是人和认识的关系,人对世界的测量和尺度。整个西方艺术学院派都是沿着这个系统发展,一直到文艺复兴。而中国的艺术从汉代末期开始,一直到魏晋南北朝自觉成功之后,以书法为代表,以二王为代表,其本质就是脱离现实,超越生活,要的是境界,就是说我不是这个世界,我是在这个世界之上的东西,就是我之所以需要艺术,就是人不是一个世界中可以承托精神的产物,必须要有超越的可能,于是要用一样东西来超越,这个东西被称为艺术。所以此艺术和彼艺术是两股道。中国的艺术被否定实际上是历史的偶然,是一个错误。今天我们把它重新提出来,不仅可以看到它自身的发展,在世界范畴内,由于我们有独特的眼光,会发现甚至可以从西方的历史,从卢浮宫的收藏中看到这条笔墨的道路隐藏其中,忽隐忽现,若有若无。

  今天我们有机会把它重新做出来,中国人来做这个方向,在素质上有敏感,在资源上有传统,在责任上又有义务,他不这么做,他就对不起天下。但它又不是中国人的专利,Rothko可以这么做,Twombly也是这么做的,也做得很好,他们都是西方大师级的人物,西方人都知道他们好,但是都没有人说出来他为什么好。

  尚扬的风格虽然像一幅水墨画,但它毕竟不是水墨画,至少尚扬的“董其昌计划” 是综合材料的新型绘画,所以它具有了与笔墨之间的联系,但同时也具有反笔墨的性质。因为“第三抽象”具有“反笔墨”的性质。那么“第三抽象”跟事物本质之间或者是世界的关联的另外一个极端是什么?

  1986年的时候,在《西方画坛隔岸观》中,曾把它定义为“照相写实主义”。“照相写实主义”用瞬间的截取消除掉人的选择和戏剧化的处理,将事物呈现为一个无意义的,无聊的切片的时候,实际上已经达到了抽象的一个极度的转换,就是在时间上彻底抽象化了。这个文章没有影响,因为人们怎么也想不出来,特别具象的东西为什么是抽象。

  高名潞和栗宪庭都做过“念珠”和“极多主义”,而“极多主义”本质上就是“极少主义”,它们的态度是一样的,在中国之前做得最好的是谢德庆。但是这种所谓重复的无意义,像张羽摁手印,让人在重复的过程中间消除掉他自己的意志,消除掉人为的一种欲望,然后达到和物质世界通融的状态,这个过程是不是可以变成“第三抽象”的一种因素?现在基本上把上述的这些创作看成是走了80%的地步,因为所有的这些艺术家,都有不可回避的两个来源。

  第一,这些人过去都是画国画出身,对人类的历史,抽象的历史未必很深刻地了解。他觉得自己做的是新的东西,可能过去很多人都做过,Minimal art的艺术家都做过。

  第二,他们所做的方法,无法摆脱Minimal art的追问。就是Minimal art其实也是一个、一个地做,做很多。而且Minimal art八十年代就已经做得很精致很地道了。有些人做地上的钢板一条一条过去,像理查德,就是把一些石头放在深山中,放若干公里。当我们了解这些情况,就会发现一些做得较好的中国艺术家,他们不是通过中国古代一些资源的借用、挪用,而是真正地从自己生存的状态,对自己现实的遭遇进行反抗和反传统的一种思考,然后走出了一条这样的道路,其中的精神含量是非常饱满的。但是,中国大多数艺术家做这个事情,常常是作为一个策略。我们要把它往前推进。

  奥利瓦说中国的抽象有意义的地方在于三个特征:

  第一,反复地重复,然后表现出一种精神的理性的力量和对一种无意义的把握、超越;

  第二,他们跟生活达到了一种融汇的状态,日常的生活,像绣花、做刺绣,像一个人敲木鱼,反复地敲,像念经,都是通过重复来达到日常化;

  第三,跟禅宗一样达到了超悟的境界,使得存在忽然变得虚无。

  这些艺术家基本上也就追求这三样东西,就是日常生活的经验,不停地通过重复消除意义,最后在日常生活的经验和消除意义过程中达到超悟。

  这三条路基本上是禅宗的办法,慧能不停地砍竹子,最后就超悟了。我们走到这里以后,如何再超越过去?对现代性有一种责任,就是为什么要在这个时候做这种事,这种事有什么意义,就是这个问题。

  今天的现代性有什么意义?如果这个问题不解决的话,我们艺术家就会有问题。

  第一,实际上做艺术成了做策略,审时度势,投机,找机会。

  第二,我们为什么需要艺术家?是人类的精神需要艺术家给他指出道路,就是说艺术跟我们现在精神的道路之间有什么必然的逻辑性,跟中国现实的政治,现实的情况,社会的结构和我们整个人类精神的状态又有什么关系。如果没有关系为什么要产生?如果只是为了卖钱,最后就是为了卖钱,这样制造了差异就是制造了市场,或者是制造了西方所需要的市场,那又有多大的意思呢?所以我们必须就开始第三抽象的未完成的部分。前半部分我们就是在一件作品中间,反复的绘画中间寻找灌注精神的多少,因为这个精神包含了我们现在对于物质,对于世界和对于知识的理解。

  另外一个就是在我们所强调的反复的行为跟物质世界之间的关系又怎么样?我们看到其实这个方法也为九十年代初在柏林东德地区的艺术家所使用,把很多的铲子放在一个房间,将铲子作为劳动的象征,作为革命的象征。一如犹太人的纪念碑在柏林,高高低低全是石头,采取同样策略,一块接着一块,连成一片,在政治层面就非常地清晰地由极多呈示出极少的意义集中的力量。

  第三

  2010年,由独立的评论家所组成的“中国批评家年会”毫无悬念地推选尚扬为“年度艺术家”,并将为这位获选的杰出的艺术家召开一个特别研讨会。在研讨会开展的前夕,当我们回顾尚扬的艺术历程,不仅能够看到尚扬对于中国当代艺术所做出的一贯贡献,还看到在当代艺术充分发展四十余年后的今天尚扬对于中国抽象艺术乃至世界抽象艺术所做出的特殊贡献,即对抽象艺术发展近百年来将要发迹的新一种抽象——在这里我们将之概括为“第三抽象”——所完成的开创性贡献。2011年尚扬又被一个权威的评选小组评为“吴作人艺术奖”获得者。

  尚扬1957年进入湖北美院附中,1960年进入湖北美院学习油画,开始自己的学习历程。在尚扬的工作室中,我们见到了他大学时代的第一幅习作,这是一幅静物,笔法细腻,功底扎实。这种“好看”的学院派气质贯穿了尚扬以后的创作生涯,即使进入了抽象画创作阶段,这种细腻又大气的“好看”仍见于他的作品当中。

  在访谈中,尚扬提到在大学学习期间,即1961年前后,他开始尝试一种“马蒂斯”式的风格。1958年印象主义在国内受到大规模的批判,但是美院所订阅的三本前苏联画刊——《艺术家》《造型艺术》和《创作》中时常会出现冬宫所收藏的塞尚等人的小幅画作。这些“小豆腐块”所呈现的艺术形象与主流的“革命现实”主义大相径庭,而对于它们自觉或者不自觉的模仿则构成了尚扬创作历程中的第一次反叛。“我就是想要不同”,尚扬说道。也正是这种要求“不同”的精神,成为了尚扬在以后的艺术创作道路中不断“反叛”,勇于推翻自己和传统的基础。

  但是60年代尚扬的创作并没有能够持续很久。1965年,尚扬大学毕业,1966年后因为众所周知的原因,尚扬和同时期的大部分青年一样停止了本职工作,直到1979年才重回湖北美院继续攻读硕士,1981年毕业后留校任教,才开始了真正意义上的创作生涯。其后,他的创作观念又经历了若干个不同的重大改变,一直到了今天所呈现的“董其昌计划”的面貌。

  与80年代出所有的知识分子一样,那个时期的尚扬沉浸在对于六七十年代的批判和对传统文化的反思,以及对真正的中华文明的寻根之中。生长于江汉平原的尚扬来到了黄河流域,观察那里人民的生活,创作了《黄河船夫》,他还用一种看上去略为粗糙的、写意的手法,稚拙的儿童画式的构图,和著名的“尚扬黄”,一种粘稠的、苍茫的黄色,描绘那里的景色和人物,其中《黄河五月》《爷爷的河》分别获得了第六届湖北省美展金奖和全国美展优秀奖。这是80年代尚扬恢复创作后获得的第一次重大的全国性的奖项。

  但是黄河系列的作品并没有持续很长时间。在1985年前后,我们就能看到尚扬在创作手法和题材上的悄然变化。而在访谈进行的2010年,当我们同尚扬谈起他卅年前的旧作时,尚扬毫不讳言对那些作品的不满。从本质上来说,八十年代前期尚扬的这些创作虽然对文化之根进行的探寻,但在八十年代中期西方思想大量进入中国、文化界对于传统文化及文革有了一个较为清晰的反思之后,尚扬意识到了这种探寻道路的无效性。而这个时期带有乡土气息的画风也是尚扬在后来的创作中竭力想要摆脱的。

  1988年对于尚扬的创作历程来说是一个重要的年份。如果按照时间顺序来观察尚扬的所有作品,我们可以清晰地看到这一年尚扬正式进入了纯粹意义上的抽象画创作。乡间的风景和人物不见了,刻意而为的苍茫风格也不见了,灰蒙蒙的“尚扬黄”也在1986年完成了最后的使命,取而代之的是后来反复出现在尚扬创作中的黑、白和综合材料——《状态》。

  在随后而来的1989年前半年中,尚扬连续创作了《状态》系列的5幅作品。这些作品均为135×122cm左右的小尺幅,木板综合材料,表面有褶皱,正如题名所描述,试图表现一种“状态”。在《〈大肖像〉与我的艺术转型》一文中尚扬提到,“⋯⋯(这)是我由来已久的对综合材料的偏好的一次释放,也是80年代末我在自己的艺术转型中的一次尝试。”而在美国艺术评论家Joan L. Cohen1996年发表在ARTnews中的文章中则回忆道,“1989年3月,就在抗议者占满广场的前一个月,尚扬在国家美术馆展览了充满焦虑的《状态》作品系列。”②尚扬在同Joan L. Cohen女士的谈话中认为“《状态》系列是实验性的,没有实在意义的。我曾经做过表现实在意义的作品,但不是这一次。”③

  但事实上《状态》系列在尚扬的创作生涯中却有重要的划时代意义:首先,尽管尚扬自认为《状态》系列“无意义”,但正如Joan L. Cohen所说,对于焦虑状态的表达和画家个人情绪的宣泄却淋漓尽致。这种用个人情绪替代集体情绪的转变是八十年代文化转型和反思的重大成果和高峰,也是抽象主义的重要表征,更是“无形抽象”(informal / non-figurative)的重大意义之所在。尤其是《状态》系列之4,九宫格式的模糊背景和前景上悬浮的黑色,将落不落的沉重状态,都是尚扬对于社会状态的敏感表达。其次,尚扬在风格、创作手法和题材上都进入了一个全新的时代,其后的创作证明《状态》系列并不是一个偶然的实验,而是他创作的必然进程;这以后,尚扬再也没有回到之前的老路上去,而是不断继续实验,抽象、综合材料等关键因素都在他以后的创作中不断发展。后来,这似乎是尚扬三十余年创作生涯中与现实政治关系最紧密的一次,在《状态》展出后紧随而来的六月,尚扬和许多人一样遭遇了人生的再一次重大变动,他没有停止创作,但是《状态》表达情绪的那种微妙方式没有再能够延续下去。

  90年代伊始是中国文化界的集体沉默。八十年代令人心神激荡的浪潮被迫散去,大量进入的西方思潮和自身的反思得到了一个机会进行理性沉淀,但没有得到八十年代那样长的机会。如周爱民在《从“致利奥塔”到“董其昌计划”——尚扬创作评述》中说道,“此时,‘人文精神’、‘终极关怀’、‘理性’、‘启蒙’等问题的讨论还未散去,而与利奥塔的名字联系在一起的‘后现代’、‘后工业’、‘信息流’、‘知识合法化’等词汇,已经悄然而至。各种挤压在一起的知识、尚难明辨的社会动向以及正经受困扰的个人生活状况,使‘混杂’、‘碎片’等话语尤其触动尚扬的思绪。” ④在创作了让自己尽量安定下来的《致利奥塔》之后,尚扬进入了《大肖像》系列的创作,包括《新娘》《蒙娜•梦露》和《大肖像》三幅作品。

  《新娘》大约是最早进入西方视野的尚扬作品之一,熟悉的文化符号(蒙娜•丽莎、玛丽莲•梦露)和政治波普的表达方式(塑料袋等日常用品的规模集合)都让这个作品更容易被西方理解。这个系列的作品只有三件,之后尚扬就迅速放弃了这种过于“波普”“美国化”的方式⑤,在《〈大肖像〉与我的艺术转型》一文中,尚扬说:“此时的中国,以一种前所未有的综合因素在发韧,文化形态日趋混杂,市场开始增长的活力与变革中的无序以及纷乱搅和在一起。地处中部的武汉,这种感觉尤为明显。生活在此时,种种感触纷至沓来,我拟以《大肖像》为题,创作一批关涉‘文化与市场’的综合材料作品。⋯⋯完成了这两件作品之后,坐在画室里,我却突然自省。我看到了在关于作品当代性的努力中,我此时的思维方式、指向和轨迹,以及图式的形式与视觉形态,与我内心深处的文化根基和基本立场有着相当大的距离。”⑥

  但是这组作品却明确地反映了九十年代独特的文化信息:市场经济和全球化的冲击,这是八十年代的文化界所不曾面临的问题。自此开始,中国人和社会在市场化、全球化冲击下的复杂生存状态、经济发展带来日益凸现的环境问题和在全球化中如何保持自我文化身份的重大命题开始成为尚扬关注的主要对象,主导了他整个九十年代乃至新千年的创作,并且尚扬也对最后一个问题形成了较为成熟的观点——《大风景》系列的开始创作,周爱民概括为:

  “艺术表现上走向非再现的方式,以符号的拼接、组合与排列表达图像的意义,在创作方法和精神追求上回归东方文化的根性。”⑦ 而“符号”和“文化的根性”恰恰也是在进行尚扬研究中最值得关注的问题,即“抽象”和“现代性”。

  《大风景》系列对于尚扬创作生涯有了巨大的推进,再现所运用的“山水图式”成为了尚扬的标志性构图。九十年代日常生活丰富性远远超于八十年代,1993年南迁市场经济前沿的广州和1994年的入院治疗都使得尚扬对个人、身体、精神和物质有着不同寻常的细微体察。他将这一切通过典型符号的抽取,组合进自己的创作中:“这就是正在发生的所谓“后现代”的文化景观。在这种文化景观中,所有服从于历史秩序和现实经验的符号形象得以重新编排。在传统与现代、东方与西方、大众文化与精英文化之间,文化发生着深刻的“位移”。”⑧ 而这种细致入微的提取和日记式的记录,也使得“大风景”系列成为了极为深刻的政治性表达 。⑨强烈的个人风格、不间断的创新实验和高质量的持续创作使得尚扬成为了中国当代艺术中毫无疑问的“教父”级艺术家,但并没有让尚扬的作品获得与其他当代艺术家同样的流行,很少成为大众和评论界的焦点。尚扬一直在流行文化和学院派的中间地带里安静地创作和实验,《大风景》系列伴随他从武汉南下广州又北迁京城的整个九十年代,在2002年,尚扬的艺术观念又发生了一次飞跃性的发展——“董其昌计划”系列的出现。

  “董其昌计划”仍然起源于尚扬对于人与自然的关系这个普遍性的当代社会问题的关注,也同样大多运用了符号化和“山水图式”的表达。但是与《大风景》系列不同的是,“董其昌计划”所主要关注的不再是纷繁的现象和混杂的状态,而升华成为一种纯粹的、关于人类生存环境危机的追问和思考。与诸多评论中所提及的这组创作与画家董其昌“文人精神”的特殊联系不同,在访谈中,尚扬强调“董其昌”这个名字的选择是一个“信手拈来”的偶然结果,重点是要提及中国传统的山水精神和对待自然的方式。但是对尚扬的深入调查发现,尚扬的父亲是一位传统的画家,尚扬从小就通过他的父亲了解董其昌,并多少意识到由董其昌所带出来的不同于西方的审美价值和创作方法,按照他自己的话说,当时信手拈来的董其昌的出现,实际上是沉积于自己内心深处记忆的一次显现。从“董其昌计划”开始,其后的《天书》《册页》乃至水墨《经过》系列,尚扬的创作蕴含着越来越饱满和精纯的精神力量,却没有了八十年代末个人冲破集体的激烈和焦虑,九十年代个人渺小化的纷杂和某种程度上的迷茫,进入了一个沉静的、臻于炉火纯青的状态。我们认为,这种巨大的精神力量恰恰来自于尚扬所做出重大推进的第三抽象。

  在与尚扬多次反复的访谈中,我们对于“第三抽象”做过深入探讨,强调其一笔中可以承载多少反复灌注的人的精神,这与董其昌在《画禅室随笔》中所说的“笔墨”概念几乎重合。“第三抽象是我们这一代的追求,我们已经意识到直接的宣泄和表现,或者反过来认为,无论是表达的彻底否定和对宣泄的极端克制,都是一个直接面对情绪的结果,而与人心的图像和终极的真理还是相互隔绝。因此,我们要放松笔划,使之完全成为神经和精神的运动痕迹。而神经如果只是偶然的生理性激动,与禽兽无别;人的神经是在进入潜意识状态中才与文化根源相通。而精神则更为深刻,因为涉及到人的反思和自我否定,透入人情的表达和思绪的压抑之后的觉悟,这种觉悟使人到达了完美的状态,也使人回到原初的本质,顺便留给人间一道痕迹,每一条痕迹都是人觉悟的一条路(独一无二)、一个人(独立自由),这条路就是现代化之后的人们摆脱神的规定之后的自我神圣的道。”⑩在这个定义之下,尚扬的艺术的革命性发展和中国当代艺术持续发展的现代性找到了一个契合点:以希腊艺术为源头的西方艺术本质是对世界的再现,展现人和认识的关系;而中国艺术以书法为代表,本质就是脱离现实,认为现实世界不可承载人类的精神产物,必须要用“艺术”超越世界而承载。于是,这既是抽象艺术在经过抽象表现主义禅宗式“顿悟”的发展以后将要走向的新的发展方式,更是中国艺术传统在被时代错误地抛弃后的重新启用和激活。

  这种笔墨的呈现在2008年以后创作的数张“董其昌计划”和水墨《天书》系列、《经过》系列中体现的尤为明显。这一批画作已经完全弃用了符号的能指与所指,整体性的构思,对于材料娴熟而富有创造力的运用,以及在创作过程中反复的涂改和擦洗修正,使得画面充分具有了一种自我驾驭的能力。其他人对于这一点的描述与“第三抽象”的设想不谋而合:“在他(尚扬)看来,艺术创造中机遇和偶然的重要性远甚于有目的的控制驾驭。丙烯与油彩混合在一起出现的皲裂效果,是技术操作不当而出现的坏画效果,但是在他的作品中却成为一种特有的视觉语言,风化与裂变的意义凭着这种意外的材料肌理显现出来。在画布上,物性与人的精神贯通在一起,人的意志不是强加于物质材料上,而是以人的精神和行为激活物质材料的性灵,又以物质的性灵引导人的精神游历。他觉察材料的表情,不停地与它们沟通交流。⋯⋯物质材料在虚空的视觉景象中获得一种充盈,在不确定性中得到一种确定的存在。⑪在评论家何桂彦所建构的另一种抽象话语“后抽象”中,他指出“后抽象”绘画叙事有几个特征:“第一,摒弃了具象绘画的创作原则,尤其是那种利用个人符号的图像叙事方式,而是侧重于内在的情感诉求。⋯⋯第二,作品具有本土文化的美学观念,既可以从传统文化或以东方的美学观念来寻找一种独特的抽象形式,也可以从日常化的生活中来寻求一种个体经验的表达。” ⑫根据这样的表述,我们可以看出抽象主义在当代艺术中的发展方向与“第三抽象”的理论定位契合,以及尚扬的作品在这种动向中的先锋力量。

  另外一个话题则是重新运用中国传统艺术方式对于中国当代艺术现代性有何推进。在余虹教授的访谈和我们的访谈中,尚扬分别清晰地表达了他关于“现代性”的想法:

  1. 20世纪是西方尤其是美国话语霸权确立的最重要的时期,文化艺术也伴随经济被极大地“一体化”,甚至“单一化”了;

  2. 21世纪的进步需要体现在对于多样性和差异性的包容之上;

  3. 中国传统艺术精神被历史性地误解和忽略了,需要在提倡多样性的过程中自发地确立我们的现代性的传统或曰范式;

  4. 21世纪是要在人类的进程和全球化过程当中保持这种态度,把二十世纪所有那些关于推进整个现代文明的进程继续下去,但是必须要用这种方式建立新的文化群落,这个群落是在20世纪荡涤了所有文化的落后的污垢面以后,所磨锃出来的“光彩”,这种光彩是各种文化里最好的东西组合成一种新的文化生态,这个生态才是我们21世纪所需要的。20世纪的西方现代主义拓宽了人类文明的河道,经过现代主义洗礼的世界各个文明,都应以全新的、更加强劲的态势汇入这条河道,使之愈加宽广、浩浩荡荡。⑬

  在最近的创作中,尚扬风格也确实在实践他对于作品现代性的推进。相比于中国当代艺术界的普遍状况,显得非常突出。从《状态》系列开始摆脱对于“前现代” ⑭情景的描绘开始,尚扬坚持用现代的眼光审视当代中国和世界,用超越一般性的现代的方法付诸笔端,构建了一种独特的叙述方式,虽然采用了抽象和笔墨的双重交合语言,但并不从属于历史上任何一个派别或者风格。尚扬的风格看似“中国的”,但反映的是当代中国乃至世界所面临的普遍的核心现代性问题,没有沾染上“中国特色”“时代”那些会随着时间变化而迅速失效的标签,完成对具有国际通用话语的、具有艺术史有效性的第三抽象的呈现。

  注释:

  ①虽然一开始也未必如此截然分别,因为美国的艺术史积累之前还处于原初状态,艺术家个体模仿欧洲,一如80年代中国现代艺术运动。

  ②“In March 1989, just one month before protesters first occupied the square, Shang exhibited an anxious series of abstract paintings called “State”at Beijing National Gallery”, Mona Lisa Plastered with Food Labels, Joan Lebold Cohen, ARTnews, April 1996.

  ③同上 ”The ‘State’ series was experimental, without meaning, ⋯I previously did work with meaning, but not this time”.

  ④引自《从“致利奥塔”到“董其昌计划”——尚扬创作评述》,周爱民,2009年10月29日,原文见http://shangyang.artron.net/main.php?pFlag=news_2&newid=90355&aid=A0000237&columnid=0

  ⑤同注③。

  ⑥引自尚扬自述《〈大肖像〉与我的艺术转型》一文,未发表。

  ⑦同注④。

  ⑧引自《从“致利奥塔”到“董其昌计划”——尚扬创作评述》,周爱民,2009年10月29日,原文见http://shangyang.artron.net/main.php?pFlag=news_2&newid=90355&aid=A0000237&columnid=0

  ⑨此处所说“政治”,为英文political直译,是理论的“政治”概念而非指涉现实政治。

  ⑩引自《中国的抽象艺术问题——兼论抽象水墨的性质》,朱青生,2010年5月31日,原文见http://www.artnow.com.cn/Discuss/Special/SpecialArticle.aspx?c=757&ArticleID=25468

  ⑪引自《从“致利奥塔”到“董其昌计划”——尚扬创作评述》,周爱民,2009年10月29日,原文见http://shangyang.artron.net/main.php?pFlag=news_2&newid=90355&aid=A0000237&columnid=0

  ⑫引自《“后抽象”:抽象艺术的一种新的可能性》,何桂彦,2008年7月15日,原文见http://review.artintern.net/html.php?id=2071&page=0

  ⑬以上内容概括自《尚扬与余虹的谈话》、《尚扬与朱青生的谈话》。

  ⑭借用余虹《“大风景”:尚扬的艺术世界》中语,原文见http://shangyang.artron.net/main.php?pFlag=news_2&newid=90342&aid=A0000237&columnid=0
 

  (First Draft)

  I.

  Shang Yang's style has already revealed clues of change since 1998. Back then, as the recommendation term for art literature, we wrote the following comments:

  "In my opinion, what Mr. Shang Yang wants to hear most is my distinct artistic concepts, I think his role in Chinese art history would be more clear if not just being taken as an 'oil painter'. The value of art can never be judged by genres as a prerequisite. In history, Leonardo da Vinci's (1452-1519) paintings are actually not oil-paintings but a mixture tuned by himself. Andy Warhol's (1928-1987) paintings are not oil-painting either. Oil-paintings are the product of European art concept from the 15th to the early 20th century (or Renaissance painting concept). The core of the concept is representation and symbolization. Representation requires illusion-making techniques, such as drawing a sheer surface into an opening in a wall according to optical illusion principles. Symbolization requires real images that can remind people of direct or indirect experience through their relations with life phenomena. These experience will have special interpretations based on individual's cultural background and mental state, which are traces of life, society, and civilization. So the history of visual art records inspirations from all creatures between Heaven and Earth. By the end of the 19th century, the illusion-making techniques are increasingly borne by photography and the later film and television industry. Symbolization has come to deep reflection and all-around search of human nature, society, and ideals, demanding all possible techniques, tools and materials to express and convey thoughts. Painting is one of the means, while oil painting as its branch is a matter of material difference. We should use smartly according to various circumstances. If Shang Yang be an oil painter only, he must have expressed strong disapproval on this shallow statement. But later on he changed into making devices of 'pot' and 'chest pieces', which have already settled the dispute in art history."

  Now Shang Yang's style has been completed in "Dong Qichang's Projet". He began adopting Chinese painting skills into his oil paintings since 1994, and started the first piece of "Dong Qichang Project" in 2002, named as "No.2", and the former one "No.1" which was created in 1994 (according to artist's own statement). Therefore, although the comment written in 1998 is not a direct dialogue with the artist, it can still be taken as observation notes regarding the process of Shang Yang's style change.

  II.

  Shang Yang's style is considered as "the third type of abstract art". The relationship between "the third type of abstract art" and "ink painting" signify a typical characteristic of Shang Yang's style.

  The "abstract" generated from ink painting in "the third type of abstract art" is not purely a matter of form, but rather an art concept, which means art should be redefined.

  We should search for the position of the third type of abstract art from history. In fact, it has two meanings:

  First, time horizon, which shows difference between the abstract art today and those in the past.

  Second, space horizon, which shows difference between our abstract art and foreign ones of the same generation.

  Difference shows value, especially in the art world. Only unique work can be preserved. Of course the difference cannot be too small.

  The first type of abstract art is represented by works of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), featured by simplifying existing items into geometric shapes and extracting them from real life. This trend has passed down from Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) to Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), from Kandinsky to Mondrian. Interestingly, they just represented two different aspects. Kandinsky simplified outer images, which aims on shapes; while Mondrian simplified the relationship of external images, which aims on structures. So, one is absolutely calm and meticulous, and the other can acquire universal freedom and change among abstract objects.

  When the first type of abstract art evolves to a certain time, inevitable limitations began to unravel. The abstract concepts of Kandinsky and Mondrian are to develop a new set of symbols and structural systems to illustrate the world. The subject of the first type of abstract art is originally the world, and to some extent is symbolization. The so-called symbolization is to artificially simplify and give meanings to the process. So they began to use these symbols for their own subjects, which turned into certain languages. Two very important books of Kandinsky explained this view. First, he believes that symbols must convey spiritual context. That means symbols are just symbols, with spiritual context carried within. Second, he believes each symbol is meaningful. For example, when triangular meets round, it is as if to say God is about to do something to Adam's fingers. He believes symbol can express and convey logical meanings. This is the first type of abstract art, which has reached the peak and exposed limitations.

  In 1929, a young German artist visited Kandinsky. He found that the "abstract" work by Kandinsky was completely different from his understanding about the essence of "abstract art", so he began his reinterpretation. This artist is Hans Hartung (1904-1989), who developed the characteristics of Abstract Expressionism in a early time, which is the state of unknown. The same strain is carried on from Dadaism to Surrealism, and then to Abstract Expressionism. The theory originated in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s. But due to World War II, it was developed not that well in Europe as in the United States. So in the end, it was American artists who made the system fully unfolded, which became the second type of abstract art, represented by Abstract Expressionism, corresponding to the subsequent emergence of Minimalism (Minimal art). Hence Abstract Expressionism/ Minimal Abstract Art were formed.

  Abstract Expressionism/ Minimal Abstract Art are not to discover an abstract form (geometry) from a specific object,but to inject emotions and spirits into the shape of some simple strokes or objects.①Works of Abstract Expressionism, such as the works of Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and William Morris (1834-1896), have obviously surpassed the paintings of Kandinsky, especially those late ones . Kandinsky's late paintings are very restrained, stiff, and overly repetitious, cannot adhere to the firm unity of style.

  The second type of abstract art is in fact influenced by "Surrealism". Surrealism has two branches: illusion description and unconscious creation. More theoretical sources can be attributed to early psychoanalysis. The spirit of unconscious creation is similar to the "Impressionism" of Chinese art. But there is also fundamental difference, which is, Surrealism takes unconsciousness as important sources. Some artists even prefer Automatism, such as André-Aimé René Masson (1896 -1987), who eliminated people's control over the world and allow paintings to freely express themselves. At this level, Abstract Expressionism is very close to Chinese calligraphy. Some artists even directly absorbed the tradition of calligraphy to complete their abstract works, which is not a bit strange. Pollock said openly that he was at Zen state while painting, which is not surprising either, because Pollock's understanding of Zen is the mystical experience of his subconsciousness. Therefore, the second type of abstract art coincides with Chinese ink style at some points, but not completely overlapped.

  During the development of the second type of abstract art, a number of artists have noticed that the pursuit of artistic conception and self-pride means deviating from the material world, so a group of artists developed Minimal Art. The highest extent of Minimal Art is that matter in nature is the final destination of human spirit, that is to say, there is no dichotomy about spirit and matter. Matter, regardless of its texture or existence, is divine, is the final destination, is God, is itself. This is the achievement of the second type of abstract art.

  In fact, Minimalism does not merely do the same thing, but do it repeatedly and a lot, and even eliminate mental turmoils in the middle of the iterative process, slowly attributed to the silence and simplicity. This makes the double achievements of the second type of abstract art, which also includes two aspects:

  First, focusing more on human spirit;

  Secondly, eliminate human spirit, and return to matter itself, which is the essence of the second type of abstract art.

  The third type of abstract art, in fact, have shown traces in the second type of abstract art, such as Mark Rothko (1903-1970) and Cy Twombly (1928-2011). Rothko was a famous painter. None of the Abstract Expressionism theories could define him at the time. Therefore his works were only considered as belonging to New York School. "New York School" is like we usually say "Beijing Art" or "Hubei Art". There is no certain style or theoretical significance, but the only way to approach, which only shows he is a New York painter. No one could really define his paintings, but they are extremely popular. In the 1970s, he committed suicide as succeeded, because he could not afford the spiritual load in art any more. Then what's the myth after all? That's what we need further exploration.

  Later on, we found that Chinese can do the third type of abstract art as well. But this is a universal phenomenon, not Chinese trait only. If it is a trait, then it would be narrowed down to local culture. The third type of abstract art is not a local culture but essentially an aspect of art promotion. So what is the third type of abstract art? The form is no more important. Instead of skills, dynamics, behaviors, etc, it focuses more on the spiritual infusion within each stroke, or even the amount of load during each repetition. This is called the third type of abstract art. Then what does it emphasize on? In fact, it entirely overlaps with an ancient skill, "ink painting", such as "Dong Qichang Project".

  A painter can tell what makes a good painting. That is “Wen Qi”which means how much emotions conveyed in a single stroke. So the one beyond Dong Qichang 1555-1636)must be Ni Yunlin(1301-1374), and the one beyond Ni Yunlin must be Wang Xizi(303—361). That is a fundamental issue in Chinese art, which is greatly different from Greek art, whose essence is representation, to understand and express the world. In other word, it is a matter of cognition, the observation and measurement of the world. The entire Western art school had been developed around this system until Renaissance. However, the essence of Chinese art from the Han Dynasty to the consciousness success of Wei & Jin Dynasties, taking the two masters on calligraphy as example, is to surpass reality, go beyond real life, to search for the realm, or put it simply, "I am not human but beyond." Since humans cannot carry such spirits, we must find means to surpass which is art. Therefore the two arts are different. The denial of Chinese art is actually an coincidence, a mistake. Today we must reexamine the issue, not only for its own sake, but also for a international vision. With this distinct perspective, we may find flickering traces of ink painting from the collections of Louvre, or even the Western history.

  Today we have the chance to make it reappear again. In this direction, Chinese people have the talents, resources, tradition, and responsibility to complete the task. But it is not confined to Chinese only, but open to the world. Rothko could do it, so did Twombly. As Western great artists, they both did very good jobs. Their works are extremely popular among Westerners, but no one can tell why.

  Shang Yang's style is like but actually does not belong to water-ink painting. At least his "Dong Qichang Project" is a new type of painting with synthetic materials. So his works have double nature of ink and anti-ink. Since the third type of abstract art has anti-ink nature, then what is the other extreme associated with the world?

  In 1986, Thoughts on Western Paintings from the East once defined it as "Photographic Realism", which uses instant interceptions to eliminate choices and dramatic processing, making things into pointless, boring slices. In fact, it has reached an extremely abstract conversion, which is the completely abstract on the time perspective. This article does not have much influence, because people cannot figure out why the concrete things are considered to be abstract.

  Gao Minglu(1949-)and Shu Xianting(1949-) have both done "beads" and "extreme doctrine". And the latter is essentially "Minimalism" as their attitude is the same. Among earlier Chinese artists, Xie Deqing (1950-) was the best. But this so-called repetition is meaningless, just like Zhang Yu pressing fingerprints. The aim is to make people's will and desire gradually eliminated during the repetitive process and then reach the state of accommodation with the material world. Can this process become a factor of "the third type of abstract art"? Now we can see the above works have stepped 80% forward, as all these artists have two sources that cannot be avoided.

  First, these people all originated from traditional Chinese painting. They might not have a deep understanding about human history or abstract art. They felt their creations are new, but many people might have done that before, at least Minimal artists have done that already.

  Second, their methods cannot escape the questioning of Minimal Art. Even for Minimal Art, it is actually done a lot, and one by one. Beside, Minimal Art has reached a very fine and authentic degree in the 1980s. Some people placed steel plates on the ground one by one, such as Richard who placed some stones in the mountains for several kilometers. Once we understand these situations, we will find some Chinese artists who did good jobs. They did not just borrow some resources from the ancient time, but carry on resistance and anti-tradition to fight their fate, and then traveled on their own road. The spiritual context is overwhelmed. But most Chinese artists take it as a strategy. We must push it forward.

  Achille Bonito Oliva (1939-) believed that Chinese abstract art is meaningful in three characteristics:

  First, they got rational forces and a grasp on meaninglessness and transcendency after multiple repetitions;

  Second, they reached a blend state with daily life, such as embroidering, tapping wooden fishes, chanting scriptures, all through repetition;

  Third, they reached the supreme state like Zen, making existence suddenly become nothingness.

  These artists basically pursue the three things, which are experience of everyday life, by repeated elimination of significance, and finally reached the supreme state in daily life.

  The three ways are basically of Zen style. Hui Neng (638-713) kept cutting bamboos and finally achieved the supreme state. Then how to transcend the past after we arrive here? There is a responsibility for modernity, which tells us why at this time we should do this and what is the meaning. That is the point.

  What is the significance of modernity today? If this problem cannot be resolved, our artists will have other problems.

  Firstly, in reality, art has become a kind of strategy. Artists have to assess the situation and speculation, looking for better opportunities.

  Secondly, why do we need artists? In spiritual world, we need artists to pave the road. In other word, what is the inevitable logic between art and our spiritual journey? What is the relation with the current politics, situation, and social structure as well as our state of mind? If irrelative, then why we do it? If only for money's sake, then why create such a market, just to please Westerners? So we have to continue the remaining part of the third type of abstract art. The former part described spiritual infusion in repetitious drawing because it includes our understanding about the world.

  Another is the relation between our emphasized repetitious behaviors and the material world. We knew that this method was adopted by artists from East Berlin in the early 1990s, such as many shovels in a room, which symbolized labor and revolution. Also, the Jewish memorial in Berlin is made by all stones, which adopts the same strategy. That is, using maximum to express the minimal concentrated forces, which is pretty clear on political level.

  III.

  In 2010 Chinese Critics Annual Meeting participated by independent critics, Shang Yang was undoubtedly selected as the "Artist of the Year", and a special seminar was held for the selected outstanding artist. Before the workshop was carried out, as we looked back Shang Yang's art journey, we could see not only his consistent contributions to Chinese contemporary art, but also his special effort made to domestic as well as International abstract art today after more than 40 years of full flourish. That is the upcoming prosperity of a new type of abstract art after over a century's development. Here we call it "the third type abstract of art", which is a groundbreaking contribution. In 2011, Shang Yang was awarded as "Wu Zuoren Art Prize Winner" by another authoritative judging panel.

  Shang Yang was admitted by Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in 1958 to study oil-painting. Since then, his art journey has started. In his studio, we saw the first piece of his still life assignments, which has delicate strokes and a solid foundation. This "good-looking" academic temperament has been throughout his entire art career. Even after he entered the abstract stage, this delicate and grand "good-looking" still exist in his work.

  During his study at Hubei Academy of Fine Arts, Shang Yang created a series of landscapes and realistic works, such as "Old Workers" (1963) reproduced in 2009, "White House" and "Playground" (1961). These themes and creative approaches are all consistent with the prevailing social environment and political mainstream. But in the interview, Shang Yang mentioned he tried a "Matisse" style around 1961. Impressionism had received large-scale domestic criticizes by 1958. But three former Soviet Union Pictorials subscribed by Art Academies, namely, "Artist" "Plastic Arts" and "Creation" often presented Cezanne and other artists' small-sized paintings collected by Winter Palace. The artistic images presented by these "small chunks" show great difference from the mainstream "Revolutionary Realism". And the conscious or unconscious imitation has become the first rebellion on his creative path. "I just wanna be unique", Shang Yang said. This belief has layed foundations for his later rebellious, courageous behaviors such as overthrowing traditions as well as himself.

  However, Shang Yang's creation in 1960s did not last long. Due to the widely known reasons, Shang Yang had to stop his work like most young people of the time. Until 1978 he returned to Hubei Academy of Fine Arts to continue his master study. After graduation in 1981, he stayed on to be a teacher. Since then, his creative career has truly begun. Later on, his creative concepts have experienced several major changes before his "Dong Qichang Project" series are presented today.

  Like all intellectuals of the early 1980s, Shang Yang immersed in the criticizes towards the1960s and 1970s and the reflection on traditional culture, as well as the root searching of real Chinese civilization. Shang Yang was born and grew up in the Han River Plain, and then came to the Yellow River Basin in the north, where he observed the lives of the locals, and created the "Fishermen of Yellow River" series. He adopted a slightly rough, impressionistic approach with childish composition and the famous "Shang Yang Huang, a kind of thick, hazy light yellow. The content is mainly countryside scenery and characters. Among them, "Grandpa's River" and "Chu Regatta" won outstanding awards at the Sixth Hubei Provincial and National Art Exhibition respectively. These are the first major national awards since Shang Yang restored creation in the 1980s.

  However, "Yellow River" series did not last long. Around 1986, we could see the quiet change on his creative techniques and themes. In the 2010 interview, when we talked about his older creations thirty years ago, he bluntly expressed his dissatisfaction towards those works. In essence, although these creations in the early 1980s expressed Shang Yang's exploration into cultural roots, he realized the invalidity after Western thoughts greatly emerged and cultural society had a clearer reflection to traditional culture and cultural revolution. The rustic style during this period is what Shang Yang trying to avoid in his later creations.

  The year 1988 is significant for Shang Yang's creative process. Observing Shang Yang's works in chronological order, we can clearly see that this year Shang Yang officially entered the pure sense of abstract creation. Countryside landscapes and figures disappeared, so did the deliberately vast style, even the gray "Shang Yang Huang" completed its final mission in 1987, replaced by repetitious use of black, white and synthetic materials, such as "State".

  Then in the first half of 1989, Shang Yang continuously created the other five pieces of "State" series. Each piece is of small size (135*122cm) and wood board synthetic materials, with wrinkles on surface, as the title described, to express a kind of "state". In the article In "Big Portrait" & My Art Career Transition, Shang Yang mentioned that "... (This) is a release of my long-standing preferences of synthetic materials, also a tempt of my artistic transformation in the late 1980s." American art critic Joan the L. Cohen recalled in an article of ARTnews published in 1996, "In March 1989, just one month before protesters first occupied the square, Shang exhibited an anxious series of abstract art works called 'State' at Beijing National Gallery." ②In Shang Yang's conversation with Mrs. Joan L. Cohen, he said, "The 'State' series was experimental, without meaning, ⋯I previously did work with meaning, but not this time."③

  But in fact, the "State" series is an important landmark in Shang Yang's creative career. First of all, although Shang Yang think the "State" series is "meaningless", as Joan L. Cohen said, the anxiety state and the emotional catharsis have a full expression. This alternative using personal feelings to represent collective mood is the major result and peak achievement on cultural transformation and reflection in the 1980s. Besides, it is also the important character of abstract art, the significance of informal/non-figurative abstract art. Especially the No.4 of the "State" series: the blur background of Jiugong format and the suspended black at the foreground, the nearly drop-down heavy state... These are all Shang Yang's sensitive expression on social state. Secondly, Shang Yang's style, creative approach and subject matter have all entered a new era. The subsequent creation proved the "State" series is not an accidental experiment, but the inevitable process of his creation. Since then, Shang Yang has never returned to the old path, but continued to experiment. Abstract, synthetic materials and other key factors have continuous development in his later creations. Finally, that seems to be most closely related with politics in his more than 30 years' creative career. In the next six months since the "State" was exhibited, Shang Yang and many people encountered another significant change in life. He did not stop creating, but the subtle ways to express emotions in the "State" failed to continue

  The early1990s experienced the silence of Chinese art world. The mind surging waves of the 1980s were forced to disperse. The rising western tide and reflections found the chance of rational precipitation, but did not get the opportunity of growth like the 1980s. As Zhou Aimin said in On Shang Yang's Works: From "To Lyotard" to "Dong Qichang Project", "At this point, the discussion about 'humanity', 'ultimate concern', 'rationality', 'enlightenment' has not dispersed yet, 'post-modern', 'post-industrial', 'information flow', 'knowledge legalization" etc. linked to Lyotard's name have quietly approached. All kinds of knowledges, unclear social trend, as well as troubled personal life made words such as 'mixed', 'debris' etc. particularly touched Shang Yang's mind.④ After competing the two sets of teapot devices" to settle down, Shang Yang started the "Big Portrait " series, including "Bride", "Mona Monroe" and "Big Portrait" three works.

  The "Bride" is probably one of Shang Yang's early works attracting Western attentions. Familiar cultural symbols (Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe) and political pop expression (collection of plastic bags and other daily items) make his works more easily to be understood by the Western world. This series only has three works. Later he quickly gave up this too "pop" American style. ⑤In "Big Portrait" & My Art Career Transition, Shang Yang said: "China today is developing with an unprecedented combination of factors. The cultural patterns become increasingly complicated. The growing vitality of the market an

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