Drawing Book, artist’s book, 6 x 6 x 6 in. (2012)

This book includes two parts: what my father used to say when teaching me drawing when I was little, and screenshots from a Skype conversation between my father and me last year. He couldn’t find the mic, so he wrote down what he wanted to say and held it towards the camera.

We were talking about drawing. Drawing, as well as its method of observation and representation, was imported to China as part of the rational and realistic western civilization in the late 1800s, when the metaphysical tendency of the Chinese traditional Literati Painting was condemned as decadent of feudal society. In the same time, Expressionism emerged in Europe, and the waves of movements and transformations that followed were momentarily accessible to Chinese elites, to whom, Renaissance and Modernism needed to happen at the same time. The anxiety of identity and the drive for modernization created wildly diverse echos of western art, and gradually disappeared in the 1950s, when Socialist-Realism became the strongest, and latter on, the only voice. Soviet Union sent an expert, K.M Maximo to the Central Academy of Fine Arts (where both my father and me graduated from), and all the 22 students of his class later on became important figures of the establishment of modern art education in China. My father’s teacher was one of them, so were many of my teacher’s teachers.

In the micro view, creating a 3-dimensional illusion on a 2-dimensional surface calls for knowledge and technique: perspective and chiaroscuro, and certain kind of altitude as well — “Style of Junzi“, says Chang Qing. By adopting a Confucius term that referring to the gentle, cautious, and humble character, he renders a way of understanding for himself out of the chaotic materials that left and destroyed by history.

素描书,艺术家手工书,6 x 6 x 6 in (2012)


素描和它所包含的观察与表现的方法,作为西方现实、理性文明的一部分在十九世纪末被引入中国。那是文人画因其形而上的倾向而受到攻击和鄙弃的时代;而在欧洲,素描的源头,十九世纪末二十世纪初属于印象派和后印象派,绘画再现真实的用途走向终结。而此后西方此起彼伏的艺术运动和嬗变也都刺激着焦急寻找答案的民国美术 —— 文艺复兴和现代主义同时要求着发生。身份的焦虑和现代化的驱动交织在一起,民国美术是对于西方艺术的各种相异的回声的合奏。而这些不同的声音渐次消失在五十年代,革命现实主义成为了唯一的、持续时间最久的声响。1955,马训班在美院成立,班上22个学生中包括我父亲的老师,也包括我许多老师的老师。

在微观的视角下,在素描的内部,在二维表面上创造三维幻觉需要倚靠透视和明暗对照的技术手法,也包含着一种“格物”的态度 —— “君子之风”,我父亲这样说。儒学词汇在这里显得突兀却也情有可原:他用历史所留下和毁掉的材料,编织出属于个人的理解。这也许是唯一可能的方法,在个人的层面上实现一种相对的完整。