Text/Qiu Yelin

It was the day after the opening when I visited CHANG Yuchen’s solo exhibition at Fou Gallery, a little gem of a gallery under the disguise of an apartment in residential Prospect Heights. It was much quieter than the well-attended opening night, I was told. I consider myself fortunate because Ms. Chang’s works are in fact better enjoyed alone, in silence.

The centerpiece is a large accordion-bound etching album of a snake, or rather a serpentine abstraction. Each album leaf works well simply as a detailed study of a tree trunk or a scaly alien landscape, complete with certain chiaroscuro-like effect, signs of vegetation on the surface, and sheer indulgence in lines of all lengths and thicknesses. It would be easy to get lost in the lines if not for the airy composition, on each page and seen together. The entire album, sitting delicately upright on the folds, turns out to be a balancing act: an exercise in abstraction and figuration, in indul- gence and restraint.

The parallel between the artist’s process and the snake motif is revealing. The act of etching entails repeated erosion over a long period of time on the copper plate, while on paper, etching produces a string of intermediate works, constantly renewed, ever approximating the eventual work. Erosion is renewal in this medium; so is it in the skin shedding of a snake. It is nonetheless a melancholic process, with old skins and intermediate works piling up, only to be discarded in the wake of the eventual work. It is through the relentless act of forgetting that the final work manages to remember. The earlier traces are hidden beneath the later ones, only to be detected by the delicate souls, in the faint-hearted vibrations yet epic narratives of those lines. Thus the work is not as quiet as it appears; it whispers to those who are willing to listen. It is therefore not surprising to hear Ms. Chang citing influence from Walter Benjamin, who wrote down the following passage on a Paul Klee work, Angelus Novus:

“This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastro- phe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” (Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History)

The snake motif took on the pencil-on-paper form in a body of smaller works. Tucked comfortably in wood boxes, in the shelf space under the window sill, these snake drawings occupy similar metaphorical space as the etching: repeated erasure and layering of pencil lines. Somehow the defined lines, the lower display level – well below waist level, and the small size of it all render the works more silent and cute than anything else; their psychological impact pales in comparison to their monumental counterpart.

At another side of the gallery wall, the Bonsai series and the newly commissioned work, Fingerprint offered much to ponder upon regarding the artist’s versatility and aesthetic tendencies. Each of the five pencil-drawings of bonsai plants is placed in a rather precarious composition: slightly off-center, faintly too low, leaving just a bit too much white on top or at a certain corner, etc. The result is an irresistible allure at the psychological level that pulls us just close enough to the painter’s indulgent world of lines. As she says, “The gesture, contour and presentation of the plant areWhen the artist delves into three dimensional works in Fingerprint– fivefingerprint engravings on glass based on artist’s right hand mounted on small wax bases, one start to discern brand new motifs. The curves on the fingerprints marked the cold hard glass surface, while the soft-contoured wax columns embrace the sharp edges of the glass fragments. The act of mark making – often associated with softerorganic and malleable materials such as wax –is done on a hard surface, yet the very masculine act of erecting monuments – often associated with hard materials such as marble and steel –is done on a soft medium. Hard and soft, masculine and feminine, organic and synthetic… polar opposites neatly approach synthesis in this surprisingly balanced work. Chang’s works on paper delineate certain historicity of lines, and with only one sculptural work on view, one can only guess what her next step is. I’m dying of anticipation already.

 

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文/邱烨麟  译/袁奕

 

在常羽辰的个展开幕的第二天我去参观了否画廊,一个宝石般小巧的画廊隐匿在布鲁克林展望高地的居民区中。听说与这天的安静相比,开幕式非常的热闹拥挤。我感到很幸运,常羽辰的作品更适合在静默中独自欣赏。

位于展览中心的是一本铜版印制、风琴书装订的蛇书,或者说,一幅巨蟒般蜿蜒曲折的抽象画。每一页都可以被看成是对树根表面、或是对栉比鳞臻的诡谲地貌的细致研究而独立存在,运用某种近似明暗对照的方式渲染,表面植被布满的痕迹,还有那全然的沉溺——沉溺于线的变化,长短、粗细。如果不是构图的大量留白给空气以流动的余地,观者很容易走失在线的迷阵里,对每一页或是对整体的观看都同样具有这种风险。而整本书轻巧、笔直地倚靠折叠处站立,成为一幕关于平衡的表演:在抽象与具象之间,在沉迷与节制之间。

艺术家创作的过程与作为主旨的蛇之间,有一层具有启示性的平行关系:蚀刻的制作要求对铜版进行长时间、重复性地侵蚀,而在纸上,蚀刻过的铜版留下一连串处于中间状态的印迹,持续地更新,无限地趋近最终的结果。在铜版这个媒介中,消磨就是发展,正如蜕换皮肤的蛇。这同样也是一个感伤的过程,被剥除的陈旧皮肤和中间状态的试印日渐堆叠,最终被丢弃在完成品身后的尾波中。正是通过无情地执行忘记的动作,最终的成品凝固了记忆:旧痕迹隐藏在新痕迹下面,只有灵敏的眼睛才能觉察它们,在犹疑震颤、然而编织成史诗般叙事的线条中。这件作品并不像它看起来的那样安静,它向愿意聆听的人耳语。因此当常羽辰向我谈起本雅明对她的影响时,我毫不惊讶,因为本雅明在讨论保罗克利的《历史天使》时曾写下这样的段落:

这就是人们如何描绘历史天使。他的脸朝向过去。在被我们理解为一系列事件的地方,他只看到一个不停积卷残骸的灾难,将碎片堆积在他脚边。天使想要留下,唤醒亡者,修复那些被粉碎的。然而从天堂刮起一阵风暴,它卷起天使的翅膀,剧烈的力使他无法将翅膀阖上。这难以抗拒的风暴迫使他进入他原本背向的未来,与此同时断壁残垣的墟骸向着天际越堆越高。这风暴就是我们所称的进步。(怀特˙本雅明:《历史哲学论纲》)

蛇的主题也以纸上铅笔的形式出现在一系列尺寸偏小的作品中。它们被放置于尺寸合度的木盒中,窗台下的木架隔层里。这些蛇的素描与铜版画占据着邻近的隐喻空间:铅笔线条重复性地擦除与叠加。然而这些分明的线条,较低的展示高度——远远低于视线,以及较小的尺幅,赋予这些作品更多的安静与亲密;与那纪念碑一般的蛇书相比,它们对于观者心理的震动是微妙的。

画廊另一侧的墙面,《盆栽》系列和最新创作的《指纹》系列,透露了更多研究艺术家创作的多元性及其审美倾向的线索。五幅盆栽的铅笔素描都被安排在相对不稳定的构图中:稍偏离中心,隐约地低于水平线,在顶部或在某一角落留下只是些微多于正常量的空白。这种安排的结果,是产生在观者心理层面的难以抵制的诱惑,去接近画家为线而沉迷的世界。正如常羽辰在自述中所提到的:“线的走向,疏密,规定了这株植物的轮廓,形态,印象。”

当艺术家进入立体的维度,观者可以感受到全然不同的题旨。《指纹》是五片基于艺术家的右手指纹而雕刻的玻璃,镶衬在小的蜡座上。指纹的涡旋被刻画在玻璃冰冷而坚硬的表面,而蜡柱温和的轮廓包容了玻璃碎片锋利的边缘。制造痕迹的动作——常常联系着柔软、有机并且可塑的材料,例如蜡——在此却被施加于坚硬的表面;相反,建造纪念碑这样极其雄性的动作——常常联系着坚不可摧的材料,例如大理石、钢铁——在此却由温吞的媒介完成。硬与软,阳性与阴性,有机与合成……截然相反的两级巧妙地化合在这件平衡的作品中。常羽辰的纸上作品叙写着线的某种历史,而展览中这唯一一件雕塑作品使人难以猜测她的下一步会走向哪里,我非常期待。

 

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