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series of a Calligraphy Piece (Mo/3o), exhibition view, 2019
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Cy Twombly, Six Latin Writers and Poets: six plates (Bastian 61-66), 1976, image source: Christie’s
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赵孟頫 Zhao Mengfu ( 1254-1322 ), 秀石疏林图 Elegant Rocks and Sparse Trees
石如飞白木如籀,写竹还于八法通;若也有人能会此,方知书画本来同。Poem on the left side: Rocks are Feibai and trees are Zhou (both are writing techniques in Chinese calligraphy)…If one understands this, one
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Chinese shadow puppet. From the collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Image resource: Wikipedia
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Robert Motherwell in his studio. image source: Artsy

related work:a Calligraphy Piece 书法之一(Mo/30)




Color of Chinese Calligraphy

Preface: a Calligraphy Piece

Once in a discussion class at UdK in the beginning of 2019, I presented some of my latest works, of which the three calligraphy pieces (with the same title a Calligraphy Piece) — calligraphic practices of a single Chinese character Mo — had set off the most conversations and suspicions among my professor and the fellow students. The three calligraphy pieces on display were A3 in size, made of plain white sketch paper and different colors of ink (red, blue and black), arranged on a horizontal line on the wall. In the class, the formalistic strategies of the rather unconventional appearance of Chinese calligraphy, such as the size of paper or the color of ink, were questioned particularly.

I could only imagine that my international classmates are quite knowledgable in art history, and all have had more or less certain classic model of Chinese calligraphy registered in mind as soon as my a Calligraphy Piece entered their sight. Thereupon they honestly queried the validity of the formalistic utterances in front of their sight, in particular the explicit colourfulness on a supposed Chinese calligraphy as one of open provocation. In my understanding, the held suspicions are not intending to condemn the enthusiasm of modernising Chinese traditional art, on the contrary, if there is something unresentful about this Chinese calligraphy of a Calligraphy Piece for most intercultural inspections, I suppose it first of all is its overt alienation from the cultural stimuli of the repetitive eastern exoticism. It is fair enough that the neutral and universalised look of this particular Chinese calligraphy has set off an irresistible feeling of familiarity, and questions.

For any artist who comes from an academic background, these questions — in a structuralist model of signifiant and signifié — are perhaps as affable and at the same time as exhausting as going back to one’s parents house. The vested power of this order has indeed guided many artists to construct their won functioning system of language or help them to countercheck leaks in concept. This efficacious order is almost like a baby walker, which has always been a great help to not only babies but also grownups with its excellent treatment: rapid onset, easy operation, free from pain, hence free from whining. Unfortunately, there’s still a handful inevitable side-effects of this useful tool, for instance, the efficacy prone to rebound, the users are likely to become dependent, and certainly worst of all, in the case of a creative industry, this formula is freakishly boring.

The questions of my international friends did not catch me off guard. Luckily, as a proud MA student who started her west-centric art training as early as ten years ago, even though the inchoate stage did not take place in the west, the satisfactory amount of culture appropriation of western art — or simply globalism? — in the common art scenes in China had me well prepared. In fact, none of the concerns from them were not already repeatedly dealt with during the process of my creation. If this whole discussion was a game of laser tag, I was at least pleased to know that their assessments are within my firing range. Regrettably, a reachable range still failed in empowering me with a killing craftsmanship, now thinking of it, because I did not recognise the crux of the argument at that time. To defend an important decision in my work that had boggled many minds on that day — the non-monochrome appearance of the calligraphy — my defence was unduly simple: it is the result of arbitrary assignment, likewise the pronunciation of a logogram, or the meaning of a phonogram. At that time I stupidly thought the justification of my argument was self-explanatory and this answer was clear and straightforward.

Obviously, my explanation did not leave people in relief, because they all ended up looking at me as if I was speaking Chinese to them. I soon became aware of a certain kind of discrepancy, so apparent yet so arcane, existing deep down in the ways of seeing on each side and led to our disagreement, but at that time I could not quit yet put my fingers on it. Until recently, after tireless pondering, I came to a revelation, more accurately, a bold assumption that I could not help to come to, that is — I’m afraid my Chinese calligraphy pieces were mistakenly regarded as an outcome of western modern art, in particular the notoriously influential and authoritative Abstract Expressionism.

Now, whether the assumption is true or not, I think it is nevertheless an interesting proposition. In the rest of this paper, I would like to discuss some of the misconceptions of Chinese ink tradition, and undertone its unique traits in the practice which I would propose as Sinocalligraphism.


Chinese writing, the writing of calligraphy and Sinocalligraphism

Calligraphy is a set of aesthetical demand on manuscript, the corresponding visual presentation of meanings in forms of words. In a broad sense, any written script counts as calligraphy. During the course of history, the Chinese writing system has undergone several stages, in which oracle script, bronze script and seal script were all happened once and then replaced by the newcomers and consequently faded into an exquisite appetite for the upper class bureaucrats and literati. Almost all of today’s commonly used Chinese writings can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), and have maintained their change of visage within a fairly small amplitude ever since. Interestingly, early Han is also the age in which paper ever made its debut in the world — in forms recognisable as paper in modern times — so that the less ideal writing gears, like the cumbersome bamboos and the extravagant silks, were soon left behind. As the writing materials have been pretty much fixated to paper and ink, it is not so surprising that the scripts from that time period are the ones that carry on.

In 1950s, the newly established communist government of China promoted a newer set of simplified characters derived from the traditional cursive scripts — in the hope of increasing literacy among the people who haven't had chance for proper education by decreasing the difficulty of writing — trimming more than two thousand leafy Chinese characters of the bloody bourgeoisie to nude branches for the innocent proletariat. The idea of this writing revolution seems so wild and wacky, like if the millennium-old Roman architectures were to be renovated into Bauhaus style to prevent high cost of maintenance. One does not need to be brainy to understand the hatred many people hold toward the simplified writings back then as well as nowadays, nevertheless, I could not help but wonder whether if we have overestimated the significance of this recent innovation of Chinese characters. After all, to boil it down, simplified Chinese is just an additional edition of a little more than two thousand of comparatively more abstract shapes of logograms that piles on top of all the previously existing ones. One thing need to be clear is the newcomers of Chinese characters are not imposters of the old ones, but the mediators between the nostalgia for the traditional cultural, which ideally should be agented in part through inheriting the long-preserved old writings, and the current political structure and economic environment gripped by the regime power. In other words, the simplified Chinese is a politically designated proxy of meanings in representing the authoritative speech of our contemporary political life under communist govern. Certainly, this is not the only or first time that the official writing system in China had to change in a top-down process, that means to say, when we look at a Chineses character in its etymological thread, we see a passage of meaning in its past political forms.

To understand the implication of Sinocalligraphism, we need to first acknowledge that the case of Chinese ink culture is most definitely one of a kind. First and foremost, both calligraphy and painting are essentially the practice of imitating images. Secondly, the images in that sense could be further identified as pattern or as non-pattern by the inspectors — not its practitioners — of the artworks, based on their pool of knowledges. The images that were written in calligraphy are diagnosed not just as any images but authorised patterns (Chinese logograms), which have been imputed with semantics within its linguistic network, whereas the rest of the depictions, the non-prescriptive representations of meanings, are often not recognised as equally authoritative and communicative as logograms. Writing the non-patterns, so to speak, is in fact nothing else than the vary practice of the classical ink-wash painting. This is to say, Chinese calligraphy and painting are the same resulted productions that are made through practices of ink art and distinguished later on into categories depending on the content they are carrying. Even though it seems we have long gotten used to the dividing, the division of Chinese ink isn’t any premise of an artwork and does not kick in before the process of creation. Therefore, it is far from accurate to categorize Chinese ink works into the separated status of calligraphy or painting, because the dynamic of the status of an ink work is always shifting. As a matter of fact, a finished Chinese ink painting without any calligraphy (poetry, comment, or simply title and signature) written on the side is hardly seen anywhere in history. From a practical point of view, to distinguish the act of painting ink from the act of writing ink is tautological; from a theoretical point of view, there is a famous ancient phrase customised for this parallel — calligraphy and painting share a common origin (书画同源) — this historical observation implicates primarily the overlaps on material, formality and motif between the two siblings, while traces their monistic origin back to the pre-spilt time. Sinocalligraphism, however, only refers to the ever unified status of writing and painting as genre.

The proposing of the neology Sinocalligraphism is necessary because it patented to withdraw the fundamentalist type of practice of traditional Chinese ink from the dominant linear all-in-one art theory. Sinocalligraphism is an ideology that casts away formalism entirely and advocates that a program of writing meaning is the sole truth of Chinese ink culture. The manifesto of Sinocalligraphism means to intervenes the commonplace of comprehending calligraphy and painting in the norms of west-centric art history books, with its ambition of resuming the collective genre of Chinese ink. Under such notion, the naming of Sinocalligraphism may seem false for it only refers to the one-sided part of calligraphy while applying its proposal to calligraphy and ink-wash painting as a whole. In fact, throughout the history of ink-wash painting, the grasp of 写意 (xieyi, the style of writing meanings) is held in such high esteem that it became the requisite criterion for the most praised paintings. That means to say, in a program of writing meaning, as writing is being the only kind of gestural command that supervises the momentum of ink, the activity of painting is arguably inexistent by defination; alternatively in a radical sense, it is retreated to a status of artistry, a distinctively lively kind of writing that resides in the program of Sinocalligraphism. The style of writing meanings, embodied by ink, water, brush and paper with shapes in vast spectrum of patterns and non-patterns, is not only a praxis of metaphysics but also an incisive summary of the aesthetics lies in the hierarchic ink tradition — art as a way of intellectual exchange — it is noteworthy that the speech of ink art was entirely harnessed by the class of literati and bureaucrat in ancient China.

In the manifesto of Sinocalligraphism, there are not separate art practices for writing or painting. The moment when an ink artwork unveils itself as calligraphy or painting, is the moment in which viewers conduct an assessment of its image. Take my a Calligraphy Piece as an example: when a Chinese calligraphy cannot be identified from a perspective that fully comprehends its literal content, calligraphy consequently becomes painting, or even a painting of Abstract Expressionism in the eyes of many. The assessment of a Chinese ink work is hinged on the culture of the inspectors and their former experience in viewing. When an image ceases to operate as a concrete symbol of logographic meaning, calligraphy is thus converted to painting, vice versa.

A poem shall not be finished. Should it be overfilled, it becomes calligraphy. Should it be misread, it becomes painting.
—— Su Dongpo


Color of fulfilment

In the average viewership toward Chinese calligraphy and ink-wash painting, a stubborn habit has carelessly taken the black-and-whiteness for granted, hence when I altered this protocol in my work without offering an apparent acceptable explanation, my calligraphy pieces resulted in being simply suspicious.

As a matter of fact, Chinese calligraphy and ink-wash painting never restricted themselves to black-and-white by definition. The tinctorial contrast between the white paper and the dark ink is not an intrinsic order that regulates paper and ink, but rather epiphenomena of the destined materials. In the relation of paper and ink, the unpainted paper is not just a plat surface in white but stands for a carrier of blankness, which prepares a void status previous to the event of writing or painting. Meanwhile the ink is not simply a blackish water-based pigment but indicates a substantial matter, which fulfils the event through its distinctive manner on platform of the carrier. In this process, the happening of event is converted into a pictorial format that the platform is competent to read. Paper cannot directly read event, but it can read ink, regardless of the choice of colour.

Just as a screen reads a shadow play projection, resulting in monochrome shapes, and screens out (literally) all that fabulous colours on the shadow puppets, in the program of writing meaning, the material colour would not affect the messages that the event supposes to convey. The functioning of shadow play is a much more observable and legible example of the mechanism of arbitrary assignment than that of my calligraphy pieces following the same principle. The judgement call on the arbitrariness of colour is not a criminal accusation against its legitimacy, and does not suggest the chosen colours are unrepresentative and purposeless. Rather, it is an efficient estimate of the causal relationship between material colours and gestural outcomes — which is plain arbitrary. In other words, the visual tinctorial simulations of the material ingredients of shadow play and of writing and painting would eventually be folded inside the dark shadow or ink on the terminal devices at the end of the process — a process of reducing the dimensionality of a happening to a 2D reflection.

Make no mistake — it would be utterly wrong to overthrow the retained profiles of the long-lived traditional renderings. No matter it is the oral presentation of a logogram, or the visual description of a pigment, they are arbitrarily assigned with a reason. Mandarin was not a lingua franca in China until the 14th century when the officials of Ming dynasty endorsed this one specific model of vocalisation; the black-and-whiteness has always been the most preferable colorisation in Chinese ink works by its early practitioners since Han dynasty, and is virtually sacred with its legacy spreading over the east asian art history. That is to say, the political identity of the historically elected vocalisation of Mandarin or black-and-whiteness of calligraphy is not backed by any methodology of Chinese language or ink art, but by a far wider discourse of historical determinism and cultural phenomenon.

Calling it arbitrary is by no means a denial of the aesthetics of the black-and-white tradition in Chinese ink art, which we all hold dear, nor does it prepare to ignore the formalistic trivia (e.g. colour, paper, size…) are real concerns of art that is heavily context related. It means to clarify that writing meaning is the only variate that is being examined under the inspection of this particular genre. Similar to that the Chinese script is a type of writing system in which each character stands for a content, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vocalisation, Chinese calligraphy is another type of writing in which the writing itself — as a spiritual act — stands for a meaning, leaving its material utterances a tentative co-product to the act. In other words, the colour of ink could be any colour besides black as long as it resonates with the act of writing, and fulfils the performative outcome with an legible format onto the paper (in any colour includes white). The colour of ink is really the colour of a successful fulfilment.


epilogue: calligraphy’s calligraphy

The idea of my calligraphy pieces are doomed to turn into a kind of homage to Abstract Expressionism under current circumstance is indeed mind-boggling. It is unfortunate, but it is the reality. Since the dawn of Modernism, the effectuation of East fever in western art has tactically evolved from mere formalistic mimics, namely works of Orientalism, toward an integrated philosophical and aesthetic approach. After World War II, a notable group of avant-garde artists began to work with concepts that was primitively derived from eastern ideologies — decisively Zen, Taoism, and the rituals of Chinese ink schools. Within the scope of painting, Abstract Expressionism, synonymous with the New York School, and Art Informel movement which rooted in Europe in the roughly same time period, have decently illustrated the eastern impacts on western modernist paintings by undertaking Zen rhetorics in concept and exercising in calligraphic brushworks as method.

However, instead of seizing the initiatives in the discourse of eastern influence and writing art history books, the modernist study of Chinese art was not only rare and blunt but also nearly removed during the ten-year revolution of a great leap backward in 60s and 70s, the time when western art of modernism matures at a fastest pace. As a result, the process of the cultural appropriation from the East is painted out when the native language of Sinocalligraphism was successfully lexicalized into the western force of knowledge in the age of pre-internet. While the products of Chinese ink culture still remain exoticism to the west front, the copyright of Sinocalligraphism along with its right of final interpretation were castrated by western avant-garde through waves of art movements. Among the movements the most formidable ones — Action Painting, Process Art, Happening and Performance Art — have entirely confiscated the hope for an independent identity of Sinocalligraphism. As consequences, without a name, the distinctive act of writing of old China has to reconcile itself to a world where western art theory annotates on Chinese calligraphy.

Contrary to its vacancy in speech domain, Sinocalligraphism is unceasingly applied within its culture, even precisely for this reason, the omnipresence of its aesthetics and rituals in east Asia has made it cruelly difficult for people to imagine an elimination of its significance. In other words, Sinocalligraphism is on some level the victim of its own success. In my bold speculation, if there comes an opportunity for Sinocalligraphism to be resurgent, it would only be made happen through orchestrated tactics of analysing the legitimate Chinese ink art from viewpoints that are western rhetorics oriented and Orientalism repellent.


中华书法主义

前言:书法之一

二〇一九年初的某次创作讨论课上,我展示的作品中包含了几件Mo字的书法字帖。课上的几位同学及导师对这三幅书法作品发表了不同程度的疑惑,其纠结主要集中于它们所采用的材料、形式及其所象征。这三件字帖呈A3大小,以普通素描白纸和三种不同颜色(黑、蓝、红)的水性笔为媒介,横排于墙面。我的列位国际友人都受过良好的艺术史教育,想必在看到作品标题为《书法之一》时,脑海中已不乏经验上的传统中国书法之图像登记在案。于是,有法可依地,他们一致质疑面前这三件所谓书法的纸上作品实现自我证实的形式策略,也就是我对《书法之一》的纸张、尺寸、色彩的决策是否合法有效。

这种存疑并非是反对中国传统艺术向西方当代艺术语言的转换(尽管这件作品也没想这么干),恰恰相反地, 如果这些个《书法之一》对于西方观众来说有什么不令人讨厌的地方,大概首先就是它异化于中国符号的中性的外观——这种外观令人倍感熟悉,它们就像任何一张没有特殊种族诉求的现代主义抽象作品。如此以来,纸与颜色的问题,当然是大问题。

这样的发问对于任何学院派背景的艺术家来说都像回到娘家一样亲切(或惹人疲倦),对结构主义的“能指”与“所指”的执念在很多时候确实有助于在展开对艺术的讨论时寻找合适的切入角度,也帮助艺术选手们在创作中搭建语言及随时自检。这套秩序就像是幼孩成长时期的学步车,有了它似乎大人小孩都省心,疗效显著:见效快、使用体验好、免创伤、免哭闹。副作用是易反弹,易产生依赖,特别是对于创造性工作来说,这套操作最令人绝望的弱点则是无聊至极。

幸而国际友人们的发问没有使我措手不及,作为一名从二十岁开始接受训练的艺术学生,即便早期训练地点在中国,中国艺术现场中足够的对西方现当代艺术的文化挪用——或者仅就是“全球主义”?——早使我做好准备。他们关心的问题无一不是我在创作中就反复掂量并妥善处理的。如果这种讨论是一场电玩,我很高兴他们的问题都在我的射程之内。然而在射程之内,却似乎没击中要害,现在想来,那是因为问题的要害并没有被我及时地意识到。对于被重点怀疑的用色选择,我的解释是:随机委派,就像是表意文字的汉字的发音,或表音文字的德语的意指那样。既然随机性配给是机制内部章程就已经决定的,「随机」所构成的是一个总体事件,而其规则下被分发的单位不可在脱离事件的背景下独立拥有符号身份。当时,我颇自作聪明地以为如此回答清晰直白。

显然,这样的解答没能使我的国际观众们如释重负,他们看我的眼神就好像是我在对他们讲汉语。我察觉到某种存在于双方观看中既明显又曲折隐晦的错位使我们彼此难相苟同。对于这种错位我困惑了好一阵子,直到在最近的思考中,我得出了一个大胆的假设:我的国际友人们恐怕是把我的书法创作——即便标题就是书法——错误地当成某种抽象表现主义的呈现了。

无论这样假设属实与否,我想它都将是一个有趣的命题,即:当中华书法主义与西方抽象表现主义混淆时,会出现的重大误会。


字、书写、中华书法主义

书法是当文明创造了书面的语言后,对于手写体文字相应地审美要求。汉字形制连同其书写载体在历史中经历了多次更迭,甲骨文、金文及由始皇帝官方唯一指定的小篆都依次被后序兴起的字形取代了流通汉字的功能,而退为文人阶级的雅好。至今常见的几种字形——隶书、行书、楷书、草书——均发源于汉后期,也就是说,从魏晋时期至二十一世纪的今天,通用汉字的基本面貌维持在小幅度的变化中(甚至包括现在的简体字)。汉初是造纸技术逐渐成熟的年代,汉纸作为最理想的书写载体横空出世后,笨重的竹简与昂贵的绢帛随即被迅速取代,因此书写材质的确立也直接影响了汉代以后的汉字字形确立。

二十世纪五十年代,由成立不久的中共政府操刀的继秦始皇之后又一次自上而下的汉字改制——以降低书写难度,扫除文盲为目的——将两千余枝繁叶茂的资产阶级的汉字修葺得只剩下无产阶级的主枝干。这种突如其来的转换,其激进程度就好比把一世纪的罗马风格建筑统统重新装修成包豪斯,以降低维修管理费用。不难理解许多传统汉字的支持者对这套被拔了毛的简体字深恶痛绝,然而想来活在这个时代的我们,大抵还是高估了我们正在使用的这套汉字在历史中的位置。实际上简化字不过是在原有的符号版本中增补一版更加抽象的图形罢了。符号的任务不是替代符号,新汉字不是也不会是旧汉字的替代品,简体字不是驱逐繁体字的冒名顶替者,而是繁体字所代表的文化体系与现存政体间矛盾的调停者——简体字是新权利语境下对意义的身份审核和重新代理。当我们凝视一个字源学中的汉字时,我们看到的是意义在历史中的表现形式。

为了理解中华书法主义,我们应该首先及时地意识到,从甲骨文到简体字,汉字是图像的文字,因此以汉字为内容的书法即对图像的书写。书法中被书写的不是任何图像,是已被确定为图样的图像,也就是成为语义符号的图像,而除此以外地用同样的媒介、技法和艺术语言对非图样图像的书写,即水墨绘画。书法与水墨画实际上是同一种艺术实践的相同的创作产物,之所以被区分为两个类别,并非是它们的创作材料和表现手段差别甚大,而是因为它们的内容(图样的文字与非图样的图像)轻而易举地指向了西方艺术史中被完全区别对待的两种不同的艺术形态:书法与绘画,于是后发的中国艺术理论便不假思索地继承了西方惯例。即使我们已经非常习惯这种区分,也应该意识到表意的汉字与表音的拉丁字母的性质完全不同,前者不仅包含了后者符号性图样的功能,还兼具了作为图像的要素,也就是说,汉字即图像本身。如此一来,无论是以再现图像为手段的绘画行为还是以再现图像为手段的书写行为,从操作层面来看,是同一种行为——这种行为即为中华书法主义下的创作行为。

尽管在传统上,书被称作书,画被称作画,乍看之下这种分裂早已定型,但值得深究的是中国的「书」与「画」在很大程度上并不重合于西方的「书法」与「绘画」。在这个问题上,中国古人对我们的启示是一个广为流传的对书画的总结「书画同源」,这种同源描述的是书与画在创作材料和形式上的重叠,以及在表述上显示出的相似的精神面貌。「书画同源」首先默认了书与画作为结果的两种形式的存在,同时着重强调了它们在源头上的亲缘关系。这个历史性的启示由于过于精简,留下了很多引人发问的悬念,出于对此的回应,中华书法主义提供了更近一步的注释。中华书法主义诉求的并不是分裂的书与画二者,而是一个统一的艺术流派。

中华书法主义从一般性艺术理论中的抽取出中国水墨传统的几乎是原教旨主义的部分——以支撑在文人精神之上的托物言志与寄情于情作为创作实践的要素——彻底放弃了形式主义的教条,将以水墨纸笔为材料以及文人精神为内容的书画归纳为特定的艺术流派。也许中华书法主义的命名有偏颇的嫌疑,因为它的概念范围不仅涉及「书」,也将「画」也收编在内,但实际上这样的命名为此特定流派下的创作实践提供了更准确的定义。「写意」是中国书画理论中的专有术语,它精辟地概括了水墨书画的总体的方法论,正如「写意」一词与文人画的关系,中华书法主义的「书法主义」概括了包括文人画在内的水墨艺术实践的意识形态。激进地看来,在写意(书写意义)作为笔墨得以运行的全部肢体要求的创作中,单纯的绘画行为不过是通过书写非字符的图像表达意义一种艺术技巧。中华书法主义的创作实践是形而上的,它以书写为动机,以笔、墨、水和纸为具体的物料的化身,使肢体的运动同步意义的生产,并将其安置于图样与非图样的图像光谱间。水墨书画是一种绝对忠诚于书写的艺术性实践,因此它并不受用于任何人,它是中国古代文人士大夫专有的艺术语言,是文人阶级在属于常规书写范畴的著书立说的领域外,实现思考与表达的另一种写作渠道。自然地,作为纯粹被文人阶级掌握的话语形式,中国书画展现出对制图风格的图形样板或是工匠式手上功夫的蔑视。

对于中国书画的创作者来说,不存在分裂的书法与绘画两种艺术实践。一幅中华书法主义的作品向书与画分裂的时刻,是艺术家以及观众对其图像进行审判的时刻。以我的字帖《书法之一》为例,当汉字书法不能从理解的角度被辨认(哪怕它被命名为书法),在西方观众的眼中,书法即成为了绘画,或许更确切地说,是抽象表现主义的绘画。一幅纸本水墨的内容究竟是符号的图像或是非符号的图像(或兼而有之),不同文化背景和观看经验的观众可能得出不同的结论,这个结论则决定了眼前的纸本水墨是书法或是绘画。当一个图像停止了作为符号意义的运营,而成为非符号,书法即成为绘画,反之亦然。

诗不能尽,溢而为书,变而为画。——苏轼


书法的颜色

在对中国传统书画的观赏中,存在着这样一个错觉:水墨书画奉行黑白原则。我在个人的创作《书法之一》中修改了这个协议,却没有给这个决策加注合理的解释(随机委派显然不属于可以接受的合理解释),导致我的非黑白的字帖暴露观众前的面目极为可疑。

实际上,书法与水墨画从来没有将自己限制为色彩定义上的黑白,白纸与黑墨,不是颜色关系,而是二元论的虚实关系。准确地说,纸代表的不是白色,而是空虚的载体,它是事件未发生前的空白状态,墨代表的也不是黑色,而是充实的物质,它将事件的发生——一切引导墨汁最终落在纸面上的行动——通过色彩填充的可视化过程反映在载体之上。在这一过程中,物质将事件转译成适配于载体阅读的材料格式,纸不能直接阅读事件,但可以阅读墨汁,这与墨汁的颜色无关。

纸的白与墨的黑,并不捆绑在纸与墨的二元关系上,因此在中华书法主义的艺术实践中,无论是墨汁的颜色变化,还是其历史来源甚至化学结构,都不是影响艺术创作被读取的有效变量,倒不是这些围绕材料的细枝末节不存在,而是「书写意义」才是唯一被考核的变量。这样的表述绝不否认黑白传统作为水墨书画中的历史现象,以及其意义在艺术史中被阐释的权利,而是对创作过程中,材料特质与事件发生间的关系的估量,即,完全地「随机」。水墨实践中物质材料的视觉色彩将最终折叠在作品的终端机制上——随着行动的书写降维成二维的静态作品,书写材料的颜色——无论是白底黑字,或是豹纹底彩虹字——被压缩为二元的虚与实。

正如表演皮影戏时,在投射皮影的幕布上,颜色再艳丽的皮影也只是被转化成明暗关系的单色影子。在个过程中,皮影戏的艺术实践检验的,是一切使影子反馈于幕布上的行动,以及行动产生的叙事。与此同时,皮影人偶的颜色和材质等材料特性,由于不体现在以幕布为终端的输出上,将不参与终端产品意义上的皮影戏作品的阐释,仅以幕后花絮的身份加入整个制作意义上的作品阐释。皮影戏与中国水墨艺术相比,其操作原理直白且易于理解得多,因为水墨寓意隐晦且非一目了然的基于时间的艺术,使其后被西方前卫艺术吸收归纳为「行动艺术」的属性在本土的原始语境中从未被开发。

我们可以概括地说,中国文人水墨书画的艺术实践是完全存在于西方现代主义之前的艺术理论之外的,但一直以来东方未能发展出独立的艺术史理论,也就是未能及早地用理论完成其原创意义的注册,以至于在现代主义之后西方强势理论入侵后,中国内部的艺术理论更是完全放弃治疗了。


结语:治疗

现代主义以后的西方艺术受到了东方主义的广泛影响,不同于后印象派的梵高、马蒂斯等现代派大师对于东方主义的装饰性的着迷,二战后的一批前卫艺术家从禅宗、书法、水墨的基础观念中吸收元素,加入到西方当代艺术实践中,形成了书法派的绘画风格,例如在美国兴起的抽象表现主义运动(也就是纽约学校)的代表人物Jackson Pollock (杰克森·波洛克)、Robert Motherwell (罗伯特·马瑟韦尔)、Cy Twombly (赛·托姆布雷),以及同一时期欧洲的无形式艺术运动Art Informel的Antoni Tapies (安東尼·塔皮埃斯)、Yves Klein (伊夫·克莱因),以及后来的偶发艺术、激浪派,都属于东方主义这一体系。

西方前卫艺术受到东方主义影响的过程,实际上是将中华书法主义的表现形式抽离出中华书法主义的原始语境,并收编入西方当代艺术实践的过程。行动绘画和过程艺术没收了中华书法主义在当代艺术语境的话语政治中的最终解释权。话语权的丧失导致中华书法主义的作品在面对国际观众时——甚至包括大批中国观众在内——被迫接受西方现代主义的注解。

中华书法主义之所以常常被忽略或误认,是因为它从未被严肃地提出过,中华书法主义在东方美学中的无处不在,使它的缺席变得不可想象,以至它无法被独立地辨认。某种意义上,中华书法主义是它自己的牺牲品。如果存在一种可能,使中国水墨的书写实践重获话语权,权益之计是,我们必须在熟练掌握西方艺术理论的书写要求的同时,从内部摒除东方主义对东方系统的反噬。