冷冰川的新工艺和这么些墨版中的墨的涉嫌

  怎么看冷冰川的艺术?  很多评论都肯定了冷冰川是一个有个性、有创造性的艺术家,但是论及他的创造性的时候,我觉得这些研究和评论都忽略了冷冰川在艺术探索上的一个重要方面,那就是这位艺术家不全是在「风格」层面上,也不全是在一般「艺术语言」的维度上进行他的创造,虽然他的经常为人称道的艺术上的贡献,都与这有关。我认为冷冰川的创造性贡献,最重要的是他的绘画实践创造了一个新的画种。这个画种在材料、工具和工艺方面可以说是全新的,现代的,但又可以说是很「旧」的,很传统的,因为它们和中国传统绘画艺术血脉相连,其中积淀着在几千年岁月的漫长发展中形成的最古老的观念和方法。  最初看到的冷冰川的作品不是原作,是印刷品,这并没有妨碍我一下就被深深吸引。不过吸引我的,主要不是他的绘画中那种如梦如幻的种种「美」的意象,而是这些画面中的线正是这些在一片黑色中随意婉转漫游、聚散无常的白色细线,组织了画面,营造了意象,让这黑和白的交织一下子获得了一种难以形容的清雅的品质和丰盈的内容。但是,无论我怎么琢磨,怎么把这些印刷品翻过来调过去地细细品味,始终弄不清这些在无尽的黑暗中不断涌现出来的美丽的白色线条,是怎么「画」出来的?用笔?用刀?在木板上?在纸版上?都不像。长期以来,冷冰川的白线对我一直是个谜。  有一段时间,我在心里暗自把冷冰川的画作硬规定为某种新的「版画」。这大概和我对版画情有独钟有些关系。我对版画着迷,特别是木刻,木刻里尤其迷黑白木刻。见到冷冰川的画之后,由于心里把它们认作是「版画」,所以常常把它们和国内外的一些我喜欢的版画家的作品比较,比如三十年代的李桦、黄新波,比如桥社的诺尔德、罗特鲁夫。当然,在画风、语言等方面,冷冰川和他们全然不同,但是越不同,就越显出冷冰川的线语言的独特,我常想,版画史上还有和这样的白线类似的语言吗?似乎没有。在众多版画家的刀子之下,木刻的语言大半强烈、严峻、粗狂甚至狞厉,即使有作风典雅的,往往也都受制于板子的「木性」,很难完全以线语言来结构并统一画面。比较之下,冷冰川的线语言就太特殊了,纤细,精致,高雅,华丽,充满动感,甚至有点神经质这一切还都只在黑色里浮现,在黑暗中悄声细语。  问题是,冷冰川的画作真的是版画吗?我并不自信。可是,不能想象艺术家的白线是用笔画出来的。我们熟悉《八十七神仙卷》和《朝元仙仗图》,那是中国古代大师们对线的运用的极致,也几乎是线语言的极致,冷冰川肯定是受了这一传统的深刻影响,不然很难想象他对线有这么深的感情,把自己对「画」的理解全部投注在线语言上。但是,可以肯定,他这种线绝不是用笔画出来的,没有任何一种笔能创造出这样精细又纤细的现代「铁线描」来,即使?家神乎其技也不行。那么,这还是版画吗?是木刻?我问自己。显然也不是,因为占据着画面的主要面积,让冷冰川的白线显得那样明亮灿烂的大块大块的「黑」里,没有一点木性的征兆。  长时间以来,冷冰川的画成了我的一个解不开的谜,一个挥之不去的疑惑。  直到去年,冷冰川在苏州博物馆做个展,我不但有幸去参加了这个展览,而且有幸和画家站在他的作品前面,和他直接讨教和讨论之后,才终于解开了这个多年的疑惑。  在艺术史上,艺术的变革往往都和材料、工具的变动有关,因为材料和工具的变动往往带来新的工艺(或者说是手艺)。不要说艺术家发现或创造了某种新材料和新工具,即使材料和工具有很少的一点变动,往往也由于工艺的变化带来新的可能性,造就一种新观念,或是新风格、新画种的出现。冷冰川的艺术探索就是如此。他的那些纤细的白线果然不是用笔画出来的,是用刀「刻」出来的,不过不是在木板上「刻」,而是刻在一张比较硬的纸上。最关键的是,这个「刻」并不是直接在纸上运刀,而是在纸上涂了一层并不很厚的墨,画家的刻刀就在这层薄墨上亦刀亦笔,制作梦幻,如醉如痴。  原来,冷冰川在他的画作中展示给我们的那一切,无论是「绿酒初尝人易醉,一枕小窗浓睡」,还是「暖风十里丽人天,花压鬓云偏」,或者是「玉枕纱橱,半夜凉初透」,这些既清丽又华丽的图画和意象,竟然都是在这样薄薄的一层墨质上营造出来的。  这太神了。  找到一种新的材料和工具,创造出一种新的语言和方法还有比这个更吸引艺术家的梦想吗?  实现这样梦想的艺术家是很少很少的,因此,也是非常幸运的。  冷冰川正是这样幸运的艺术家。  不过,我觉得冷冰川的幸运不仅仅是一个艺术家创造或者发明了一个新的艺术语言,一个新的画种(不妨把它叫做「墨刻」),并且以此为现代架上画开辟了新的可能性,更值得我们注意的,是他的探索涉及到了一个今天中国艺术家不能回避的问题,那就是在今天,我们当代艺术和中国古代的艺术传统之间到底应该建立一个什么样的关系。自五四以来,这问题已经有过无数的讨论,至今讨论也仍然还在继续。在纷纭的众说中,最流行的,是「继承」说,坚持当代艺术必须继承中国艺术传统,并且只有在这继承关系中寻找新空间,新出路;再一个,是当代艺术「无国界」说,认为今天再强调艺术的中国特色或是民族特色,根本就没有必要。有意思的是,不管这些讨论意见如何分歧,两种意见多么对立,但是在它们后面,其实隐约出没着一个共同的不安,这不安虽然经常说不清道不明,但是实实在在:中国当代艺术如何证明自己是中国人的艺术,证明自己虽然很当代,可不是「倒插门」的洋女婿。  我以为冷冰川用自己的艺术实践参加了这个讨论,并且提出了自己的解决办法。  这个办法就是用新的材料和工具来发展一种新的工艺,创造一种新的线语言。这种新的线语言不但开拓了当代架上画的新空间,并且以此证明自己的当代性。同时,这种线语言还使得冷冰川的艺术与中国传统绘画和书法之间建立了坚实的关系,不过并不是平常人们所说的「继承」关系,而是一种更有创造性的转换关系。  自古以来,中国画最基本的材料是笔和墨,还有宣纸。这几乎已经是大家都认可的共识:以线作最基本表意和造型手段的中国画,如果没有宣纸,就不可能存在。可是冷冰川在为他的线语言寻找新的生命的时候,居然把宣纸扔掉了,弃之不用。按说,没有了宣纸,笔和墨就无处附著,无家可归,那么只有走一条路,就是西方水墨画。冷冰川没有走这条路(他也根本没想过走这条路,因为那里没有线语言的空间),他的做法是,在大胆地舍弃宣纸这个最基本的材料之后,把「笔」和「墨」留下来了,但不是在传统的用笔用墨的层面上,而是把墨铺在一层纸上当作版子,形成一种墨版(是一般的墨,一得阁的墨,大家都用来写字作画的墨)。这墨版底下有一层纸,不过真正起作用的还是被纸托住的墨层。「纸」的传统功能此刻有了很大的改变,一方面,就纸和墨的关系来说,纸在这里变成是第二位的,辅助性的工具因素,但另一方面,是这层墨版下的白纸提供了画面必须的白色大概没有人面对冷冰川的明亮异常的白线不为之动容。从某种意义上说,冷冰川发明的这个以「墨版」做基础的绘画,也可以说是一种版画,但又和西方的版画有质的不同。在西方传统里,铜版也好,木版也好,石版也好,只是一层版子,「墨版」可是两层版子,一层墨叠加一层纸。这从版画来说也是一种技术和工艺的创新。要特别强调的是,这个工艺的创新还有和西方版画工艺传统很不相同的另一个维度,冷冰川的新工艺和这个墨版中的墨的关系,并不完全是西方版画的工艺中刻刀和木板所形成的那种关系,而是从中国的「笔墨」传统中生发出的新的可能性:不再是用笔用墨那个「用墨」,墨的功用改变了,不是用墨来直接作画,是在墨上面作画。这对「用墨」的观念和方法是一次很大的改造。在冷冰川的绘画艺术里,「用墨」作为一种美学因素被保留下来了,但是其美学功能和美学性质,发生了根本性的转化。  笔和墨,在中国绘画的观念和技法里,二者是一而二,二而一的关系,把墨也弃之不用,怎么用笔?作为中国画最基础的美学要素的「线」,又怎么生存,怎么活下去?冷冰川的做法很干脆,就是以刀代笔不用毛笔,用刻刀,拿起我们祖先在甲骨和竹简上刻字的那把刀子。不是笔和墨发生关系,而是是刻刀跟墨发生关系,但是,由于线语言是根本,由于线语言有其历史性,所以,这里刀子和墨发生的关系,还是在笔墨传统之中,其间有着深刻的历史联系。  不过,我想强调,在这样一个新的方式和新的工艺里,笔、墨、纸这三个要素,无论其各自的功能,无论是三者之间的关系,还是它们各自和「线」的关系,都发生了根本的转化。这个转化带来了很多新的可能性。其中最显著的,是千百年来大家熟悉的「线」,在冷冰川的绘画中获得了新的形态。比较起我们在「国画」空间里早就熟悉了的「线」,其性质、功能、表现力都发生了很大的变化。不再是「兰叶描」「莼菜条」,也不再是「吴带当风」「曹衣出水」,刻刀和墨版的结合,在冷冰川的创造下,出现了一个「线」的新天地,有各种变化,各种姿态,各种类型。其中最经常出现,也是被当做最主要造型手段的,就是上文说过的那种细细的白线类似「铁线描」,这种线就其自身来说,由于过于纤细、均匀、瘦硬,似乎应该是缺少表情,甚至嫌其呆板,但是很奇怪,当它们被冷冰川在墨版上用刻刀一刀一刀组织起来的时候,这些细线竟然有那么丰富的造型能力,黑白相映,千姿百态。应该说,我们在传统的绘画历史上没有见过这样的线。如果我们见过这种纤细瘦硬的细线,那是在甲骨文上,在竹简上。受甲骨和竹简这些材料的质地纹理的限制,在这些材料上刻画线条不可能游走自如,只能「硬笔」运作,只能在古文字的字体结构中表现一种刻线的魅力。但是,冷冰川以墨作版,以刀代笔,这些在甲骨和竹简上被冻结了几千年的硬线就一下子得到了解放,成为可以控制的线语言,有了新的质,有了新的生命。  冷冰川是幸运的,新的语言必然带来新的可能性,他以自己的画作实现了这种新的可能性。  一般来说,中国传统绘画很难表达和容纳梦境和超现实形态的东西,无论山水,人物,或者是花鸟,在艺术追求上更关心的是意境的营造,是在「似与不似」的游戏里反复试验笔墨技术和感情表达的统一。看冷冰川的墨刻,虽然也很讲究意境,但是那意境的意味与我们熟悉的很不一样,有另外的东西,有一种陌生感。这「另外的」的因素,大多都是近乎梦境或超现实的因素,形成一种与我们熟悉的「国画」完全不同的作风。当然,这种新作风还有其他因素,比如,仔细琢磨冷冰川如何组织他的线语言,给人的感觉是其中还有细密画的因素,无论在画面的构图上、布局上,或者是意象形成的方式上,都明显很多细密画的影响。这使他的本来很容易纤弱、轻飘的线语言,常常形成一种很繁琐、很致密的肌理,这些华丽的组织又和大面积的黑色,或者和是游丝一样的细线,形成对照、对比、平衡、冲突等等关系,还有,更重要的,是使得画面获得某种神秘的超现实的品质。中国传统绘画在处理神秘主义题材内容的时候,比较拙,往往都是用写实主义的办法。比如表现地狱,最常见的,不过是刀山,火海,牛头,马面一类,很具体,其实并不很神秘,至少和我们今天理解的那个神秘主义的神秘有很大距离。但是在冷冰川的画里,虽然很多形象都很简单,很日常,却充满了一种不可解释的,不确定的,模糊的,难以名状的神秘氛围。例如,冷冰川的画作中的裸女意象,在西方绘画中也是经常出现的,特别是在高更、卢梭等画家的原始主义风格的创作里,热带的裸女和繁茂的花卉都是不可或缺的元素,里面充满了对「原始」生活的向往和隐蔽、热烈的欲望;然而,类似的母题在冷冰川的墨刻艺术里,却得到完全不同的处理和表现:大面积的黑色控制了画面里所有元素,由裸女意象可能带来的欲望表现被冷处理,一方面是幽暗的,黑夜的,神秘的,另一面,又是优雅的,诗意的,东方的。可以说,正是这样优雅的诗意构成冷冰川墨刻绘画的一个最明显的特征,而这个特征又和他的线语言有着密切的关系,如果没有这样的语言,冷冰川的画又会是什么样呢?很难想象。  任何一个新的艺术实验,总会难免有不足、缺失和遗憾,我以为冷冰川的艺术探索也是如此。在我看来,冷冰川在墨刻中发明、发展起来的独特的线语言具有着巨大的潜力,但是画家对如何充分发挥这潜力,似乎还不够自觉。自创制墨刻以来,冷冰川的大部分画作都是以「美」为主题,尽管他围绕这主题创造了很多华美、神秘的意象,但是这个主题也束缚了冷冰川,束缚了他的独特的线语言的艺术潜力。艺术史上,每当一个艺术家幸运地创造了一种新的艺术语言的时候,他就会竭尽全力去从各个方向、各个层面去实验和探索,看自己能走多远,看自己究竟能为艺术增添多少新的东西,而决不会为某一个题材和主题所限制,更不会留恋自己已经熟了的东西。  我相信冷冰川也一定会是这样的艺术家,他一定知道他的线语言的表现天地是多么广阔。

The Beauty of Ink and Color:

Leng Bingchuans Language of Line

The Innovative Value of Yang Ermins Paintings

  How should we understand the art of Leng Bingchuan?  Many critical comments have agreed that Leng Bingchuan is an artist of uniqueness and individuality. However, in my opinion, when dealing with his creativity, researches and comments about him all ignore a very important aspect of his artistic exploration, that is, Leng Bingchuan neither creates his artistic work on the level ofstylenor on the level of commonartistic language, though his art contribution, which is always worthy of high praise, is very much concerned with both of them. In my view, Leng Bingchuans creative contribution mainly lies in that he develops a new type of painting in his artistic practice. This type of painting is entirely new and modern in its materials, instruments and techniques, while at the same time, they can also be regarded as veryoldand traditional, because they are bounded with Chinese traditional painting in blood, containing the oldest notion and the method in thousands of years of historical development.  The first painting of Leng Bingchuan that I saw was not an original one, but a printed work, yet I was immediately attracted by it as well. However, what attracted me most was not the various dreamy-like imagesofbeautyin his paintings. Instead, it was the lines in them. These gently winding and wandering soft white lines in their carelessness and variety of gathering and scattering, build the composition of the paintings and the images, which make the interweaving of the white and black obtain a kind of inexplicable freshness and dignity in its nature and the richness in its meaning. All along these years, I have been painstakingly thinking how these beautiful white lines rushing out of the endless blackness arepainted. I ponder again and again, and carefully appreciate these printed works from various ways, but still I cannot make it clear. Are theypaintedby brush or by knife? Are theypaintedon the wood board or the paperboard? None of them are quite likely. Leng Bingchuan remains an enigma to me for long.  For a period of time, in my heart I simply define Leng Bingchuans works as a certain new type of engravings. This might be related to my special love for engravings. I am so enchanted by engravings, especially woodcut and the woodcut of black and white in particular. When seeing Leng Bingchuans works, I always recognize them as theengravings, so I often compare them with the other engraving artistsworks that I like very much both in our country and abroad, such as Li Hua and Huang Xinbos works in 1930s, or Emile Nolde and Karl Schmidt Rottluffs (who belong to Drcke,Die) works. Surely, in the aspects of style and language etc., Leng Bingchuans works are totally different from theirs. The more different they are, the more special is of Leng Bingchuans language of line. I often ask myself, is there any similar language like this white line in the history of painting? It seems no. Under the knives of a great many engraving artists, the language of the woodcut is mostly intense, austere, fierce or even violent. Even if there are some works of elegant style, it is very difficult for the artists to make the unified structure of the picture by using lines because they are often restrained by the characteristics of wood board. To compare with these works, the line language of Leng Bingchuan is really special. These lines are delicately fine and magnificently elegant, full of energetic force, even with a bit nervous restlessness. And all these emerge only in black and are only tender whispering in darkness.  The problem is, are Leng Bingchuans works the real engravings? I am not quite sure of it. Yet it is unimaginable to think that the white lines in his paintings are made by drawing with brush. We are familiar with the Picture of the Eighty Seven Immortals and the Picture of Immortals Worshipping Xuan-yuan Emperor. They show the absolute perfect usage of the line of the ancient Chinese masters as well as the show of the almost perfect line language. Leng Bingchuan must have been deeply influenced by it. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine that he may have such a great affection towards line by casting all his understanding ofpaintingupon the line language. But, it can be made sure that his line can never be made by drawing with brush. Not a single kind of brush may create such a delicate and refined moderniron-line drawing① Even though the artist is of a magic power in his creation, it is not possible. Then, are his works engravings? Are they woodcuts? I ask myself. The answer is apparently no, because the major part of the picture that makes the white lines so bright and glittering is the large block of blackness in which not a single sign of wood nature is shown.  For a long time, Leng Bingchuans painting remains an unexplainable enigma and long-lasting puzzle to me.  Last year, Leng Bingchuan held an exhibition in Su Zhou Museum. I had the opportunity to take part in that exhibition, and was lucky enough to stand in front of his works with the artist himself, talking with him directly. It was not until then this long-lasting puzzle was solved finally.  In the history of art, the transformation of art is often related to the materials and the instruments, because the change of materials and the instruments will always bring some new techniques (or workmanships). The discovery or creation of some new materials and instruments by the artists may surely facilitate the emergence of a new artistic notion, or new style and new type of art. Even when there is only a slight change of materials and instruments, the new emergence will also come into being with the new possibilities brought by the change of technique. The artistic exploration of Leng Bingchuan is just like this. Those delicate lines are not drawn out by brush as I thought. Instead, they arecarvedby knife, not on the wood board, but on a hard paperboard. What is crucial is that thecarvinghere does not mean to cut directly on the paper. He paints a thin layer of ink on the paper first, and then he uses his knife to cut or todrawon it to make these dreamscapes in his ecstasy.  Now I understand. All that is shown to us in Leng Bingchuans works, whether they are the paintings being named after the poetic lines asEasily drunken in first taking the green wine/ Sleeping soundly on small window,Ten miles of warm wind with beauties everywhere/ In flowers pressing the hair, or the painting with the nameJade pillow and silk curtain/ Feeling cold in the midnight, all these fresh, beautiful and magnificent images and pictures, are created unexpectedly on such a thin layer of ink.  How miraculous it is!  To find a new material and new instrument, to create a new language and method, is there anything more attractive to the dream of an artist?  Only very few artists may realize their dream like this, thus, they are very lucky.  Leng Bingchuan is such a lucky artist.  However, in my view, his luck does not only lie in that he creates or invents a new artistic language, and a new type of art (which might be called asink engraving), hereby inaugurating a new possibility for the modern painting. What is more noteworthy is that his exploration concerns an unavoidable problem that Chinese artists at the present time are facing, that is, what kind of relationship should be set up between our contemporary art and the Chinese ancient art tradition? Since the May-Fourth Movement, this problem has been discussed over and over again and this discussion is still under way. Among various viewpoints, the most popular one is toinheritthe tradition. It insists that the contemporary Chinese art must inherit the Chinese art tradition, and explore the new space and new way for development in this inheritance. Another popular viewpoint lies that contemporary art is ofno national boundaries, arguing that to emphasize the Chinese characteristics or the national characteristics in art at the present time is absolutely unnecessary. What is interesting is that, no matter how diverse and opposing these viewpoints are, hidden behind these arguments, there lies dimly a common restlessness. It cannot be explained clearly, but it is really there as a fact, which leads to a consideration: How can the contemporary Chinese art be proved to belong to Chinese art, and to be proved that though it is contemporary indeed, yet it is not a foreignson-in-lawcoming back home?  I think Leng Bingchuan joins in this discussion with his art practice and puts forward his own solution to this problem.  His solution is to use the new material and new instrument to develop a new kind of technique, and to create a new language of line. The new line language not only opens a new space for the contemporary paintings on shelves, but also proves its own contemporariness hereby. At the same time, his line language makes him to establish a solid relationship between his art and the Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy. However, it is not a common inheritance relationship, but a relationship of more creative transformation.  From the ancient time, the basic materials of Chinese painting are brush, ink and Xuan paper. This is almost a common sense accepted by everyone. It is not possible for the Chinese paintingtaking line as its fundamental way to express meaning and do the shapeto exist without Xuan paper. But when Leng Bingchuan searches for the new life for his line language, he goes so far as to cast away the Xuan paper. Ordinarily, if there is no Xuan paper, the brush and ink will have nowhere to adhere to and no home to turn back to. Then there is only one way to choose, that is,the western ink and wash painting. Leng Bingchuan didnt take this road (he didnt even think of taking this road since there isnt any space for the line language there). What he did is to bravely abandon the basic material of Xuan paper, and keep thebrushand theink. But he didnt preserve them in a traditional sense. He spread the ink on a hard paper by taking it as a plate, which is an ink-plate (it is a kind of common ink of the brandyi-de-ge. People often write calligraphy or paint with it). Under this ink-plate, there is a layer of paper. What functions actually is the ink layer propped by the paper. The traditional function ofpaperat this moment changes greatly. On the one hand, as for the relation of the paper and the ink, paper here becomes secondary and auxiliary. On the other hand, it is the white paper under this layer of ink that provides the necessary whiteness of the paintingperhaps no one will be untouched by his unusually bright white lines. In a sense, this kind of painting created by Leng Bingchuan based on theink-platecan be taken as an engraving, but it is different from western engraving in its essence. In western art tradition, whether it is copperplate, wood plate or stone plate, it has only one layer of plate. Theink platehas got two layers, a layer of ink and a layer of paper. This may be a technical innovation for engraving. What should be emphasized particularly is that, this technical innovation has another dimension which is rather different from western engraving technical tradition, that is, the relationship between Leng Bingchuans new technique and the ink in his ink-plate is not entirely the same as that of the knife and the wooden board in the technique of the western engravings. This relationship produces new possibilities from Chinesebrush and inktradition. It is no longer of the traditional meaning to use the brush and the ink to do painting. The function of the ink itself changes. It is not to use the ink to create the picture, but to create the picture on the ink. This is a great change of the notion and the method ofusing ink. In Leng Bingchuans art works,using inkin its aesthetic sense is kept as well, however, its aesthetic function and nature was transformed essentially.  The relationship of brush and ink in the drawing notion and skill of Chinese painting can be understood astwo in oneandone with two. If ink is abandoned, how can the painting be made only with brush? And how can theline, the most essential aesthetic element in Chinese painting, survive and live on? Leng Bingchuans solution to this problem is straightforward, that is, he uses knife instead of brush, a knife taken by our ancestors to inscribe words on Oracle Bones and Bamboo Slips. Here, what is related to ink is not brush, but knife. However, since line language is the basic root in Chinese painting with its historical sense, the relation of knife and ink is still in thebrush-inktradition, which contains a profound historical association.  What I intend to emphasize is that, in such a new way and new technique, the function of brush, ink and Xuan paper, and the relation between or among these three elements, as well as their relation to thelinerespectively, all has fundamentally been transformed. This transformation has brought many new possibilities. The most apparent is that,line, familiar to us for thousand of years, gets a new form in Leng Bingchuans paintings. Comparing with thelinewe are familiar with in the space of our Chinese Painting, the character, the function, and the expressive force of the line in his works have changed greatly. It neither shows the drawing skill of Wu Dao-Zi, the great painter in Tang Dynasty, such as theLan-flower drawing, and theWater-shield-vegetable drawing, nor that of Cao Zhong-Da, a famous painter in South-North Dynasty. The combination of the knife and the ink-plate in Lengs creation appears a new world of line, with various changes, poses and types. What appears most is the thin white line, taken as the most important element in doing the shape. It is similar toiron-line drawing. As to the line itself, it is too fine, thin and hard, so it seems to be less expressive, even a bit stiff. Yet, its quite unusual that, when these lines are built up on the ink plate one by one by Lengs knife, these thin lines actually show such a great capability in doing the shape with black and white shining to each other in various forms. We should say, in traditional paintings, we havent seen this kind of lines. If we admit that we have got the sight of this thin and hard line, it is on the Oracle Bones and Bamboo Slips. Being restrained by the quality and the texture of Oracle Bone and Bamboo Slips, the lines on these materials cannot be free and smooth and the inscription have to be done withhard operation. The charm of this inscription lies only in the structure of the ancient Chinese characters. Leng Bingchuan takes the ink as the plate, using knife instead of brush to make the line, so the hard lines frozen on Oracle Bone and Bamboo Slips for thousands of years are set free suddenly, being the controllable line language, with new character and new life.  Leng Bingchuan is lucky. New language must bring new possibilities. He makes these possibilities come true in his art creation.  Generally speaking, it is very difficult for Chinese traditional painting to express and bring in something dreamy and super-realistic. In a painting either of landscape, or human characters, or flowers and birds, its artistic concern lies more on building the artistic conception and on experimenting repeatedly how the skill of using brush and ink can be unified with the emotional expression in the play ofsimilarity and dissimilarity. The ink engravings of Leng Bingchuan also pay attention to the artistic conception, but the implication of it is different from what we are familiar with. They contain something else, something strange, and this element of theothermostly concern with that of the dreamy and super-realistic, which forms an entirely different style from our Chinese Painting. Of course, this new style keeps some other elements. For example, if we consider carefully how Leng Bingchuan organizes his line language, we may feel that his paintings have a style of miniature. In the composition and the arrangement of the picture, and in the way of the formation in images, the influence of miniature is apparent. It makes his possibly tender and light line language show a very complicate and dense texture. These magnificent textures make a comparison, a contrast, a balance and a conflict with large part of blackness or with the hairspring-like thin lines, thus obtaining a certain mysterious superrealistic quality, which is more important. In dealing with the mysterious subjects, Chinese traditional painting often takes a realistic way, which is not very flexible. For instance, when depicting hell, Chinese paintings usually show the images of mountain of swords, sea of flames, ox-headed and horse-faced demons. They are very concrete, not very mysterious actually. At least, they are quite far away from the mysterious sense in mysticism that we understand. But in Leng Bingchuans works, though many images are really simple and ordinary, they are filled with a kind of inexplicable, uncertain, vague and inexpressible mysterious atmosphere. For example, the female nude images in Leng Bingchuans paintings also frequently appear in western paintings, especially in the paintings with the style of primitivism represented by Gauguin, Henri Theodore Rousseau and some others. In their works, female nudes and flourishing flowers in tropical areas are indispensable, which show the full expectation to theprimitivelife and the hidden as well as passionate desire. However, the similar theme in Leng Bingchuans ink engravings is dealt with and expressed in a totally different way: the large piece of blackness controls all the elements in the painting, thus the desire brought about by the female nudes is cooled down. On the one hand, it is gloomy, black and mysterious; on the other hand, it is elegant, poetic and oriental. Admittedly, it is this elegant poetic sense that makes the most distinctive feature of Leng Bingchuans ink engravings, and this is closely related to his line language. Without such a language, who knows how his painting will be like? It is just unimaginable.  A new artistic experiment will inevitably have its disadvantages, deficiencies and regrets. Leng Bingchuans art is also no exception. In my opinion, in his ink engraving, he invents and develops the unique line language which bears the great art potentiality. However, the artist seems not quite well aware of the way in bringing this potentiality into a force. Since he created the ink engraving, most of his works have taken thebeautyas the subject. He has made a great many magnificent and mysterious images around this subject, but at the same time, this subject also restrains him and the artistic potentiality of his line language. In art history, when an artist is lucky enough to create a new art language, he will try his utmost from every direction and on every level to explore and do the experiment, in order to see how far he can go, how much new elements he can add to art on earth. He will never be tied up by a certain subject or theme. Furthermore, he will never be reluctant to leave what he has been painting and familiar with already.  I believe Leng Bingchuan must be such an artist. He must have known how broad enough the world of his line language is.Note:①iron-line drawing: a kind of typical drawing skill of ancient Chinese masters in showing the charactersclothes fold.(The note is made by the translator.)

Written by Shao Dazhen

Chinese traditional painting has a long history and also a profundity for its variety. In ancient times there were designs on potteries and cliffs, and then drawings on stones and bricks appear, followed by murals in caves and tombs, drawings on cloth and paper and so on. Also, their colors vary in different historical periods. Most Chinese ancient paintings abound in colors, and vermilion (Dan in Chinese pronunciation) and cyan (Qing in Chinese pronunciation) are most frequently used. That is why the paintings are also called Danqing. After Tang and Song Dynasties, water and ink gradually prevail, and black becomes the main color of paintings. (extracted from Pan Tianshous Essays on Paintings in Tingtian Pavilion) Guided by the prevalence of water and ink, Chinese literati paintings, a type of Chinese water and ink painting, attain an unprecedented development. Undoubtedly, traditional literati painting uses the simplest lines and ink as the basic means and the purest black and white as the basic colors to describe spectacular images in nature and create a colorful inner world. It is a representation of high consciousness of painting language in the history of art, appearing hundreds of years earlier than the western painting language innovation in the end of 19th century. A Chinese classic The Book of Songs says, beautiful without accessories, and The Rites of Zhou says, a white ground is the first, and then comes painting. Inspired by them and the Taoist thought of comprehending the essence of nature, black-and-white water and ink painting adopts calligraphic lines as its basic element, pursuing a philosophic implication of quietness, naturalness, simplicity and imagination. It is Chinese peoples unique cognition of nature and specific understanding of art, which has permanent culture and art value. Literatis painting leaves us with a rich historical heritage, but its glory seems lost with the change from an agricultural to an industrial society. Water and ink painting which is drawn on rice paper and mainly in black and white can keep its vitality only when nowadays artists dare to make perseverant exploration with inspiration from daily life and courage of innovation. This is an effective way for the modernization of Chinese paintings. Nevertheless, it is absolutely not the only way.

Since the 20th century, some pioneers devoted to art innovation have been thinking how to develop Chinese paintings with literati paintings as the mainstay, and they have been expecting to find a new way of development with new tools, materials and models. They have contributed some valuable academic insights and opinions and put them into experiment. Of course, due to the limitation of their times, their thoughts and practice can hardly be comprehensive. For example, there is a lack in the understanding of the meaning and modern value of literati paintings; the importance of keeping the characteristics of literati paintings is neglected when the necessity of absorbing foreign advantages is highlighted; and there is not enough emphasis on the possibility of innovating on the basis of traditions so as to meet new aesthetic requirements. Nevertheless, their artistic insights and practice have significantly contributed to the innovation of Chinese paintings. Some pioneers represented by Xu Beihong, Jiang Zhaohe, Ye Qianyu, Huang Zhou and Fang Zengxian have learnt from western sketching and made great effort to combine it with traditional painting techniques in order to reinforce models and present features. Some pioneers represented by Li Keran and his school have adopted sketching-production with models, light and shadow borrowed from western paintings. Other pioneers represented by Lin Fengmian and Wu Guanzhong have used colors and composition technique in their innovation.

Just like figures and structures, colors in a painting can induce direct visual and mental reflections and produce artistic appeal. Under the influence of Taoist viewpoints of color, in Chinese traditional paintings black and white greatly prevail over other rich colors. On the basis of the physical analysis of black ink, it is emphasized in traditional water and ink paintings that black consists of five shades. To match black with white make people feel bright. That is why the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Zi once said, to stick to obscurity, even if one knows that light is something valuable. However, the prevalence of water and ink paintings has restrained the development of other Chinese paintings which use rich colors. This is indeed an unfortunate loss in the inheritance of tradition, and what is more unfortunate is that up to now there hasnt been enough understanding of such a loss. When people talk about Chinese paintings, they often consider that they are the same thing as literati water and ink paintings. Under the wide influence of the prevalence of water and ink, some people even take the impressionistic style of Chinese paintings as the peculiar feature of water and ink paintings, and think that the use of rich colors will impair the impressionistic spirit. As a result, the popular viewpoint in Chinese painting circle hasnt emphasized or encouraged the use of rich colors; what is more, some people even think that using rich colors in water and ink paintings is unorthodox. Nevertheless, owing to the increase in aesthetic requirements in modern society, the artists comprehensive study of traditional paintings and the influence of international art environment, some artists emerge to devote themselves to color innovation, of whom Yang Ermin is one member.

Yang Ermin was born of a craftsman family in Quyang county, Hebei province. Bred in folk art, he has developed a deep liking for Chinese paintings ever since childhood. He once copied The Painting Book of Jiezi Garden and studied ancient classic paintings as well as modern masterpieces. It is his expectation to use tools and materials of Chinese paintings to express his feelings in the real world. The artistic practice has revealed to him the loss of rich colors in the traditional water and ink paintings, and his sensitivity to such materials as colors has led him to focus on the combination of rich colors with water and ink paintings. In such a colorful world, why cannot rich colors be used in water and ink paintings? As his artistic vision keeps being enlarged, his thought goes deeper and his practice develops. Speaking of the enlargement of his artistic vision, after graduating from university and finishing a teaching job, Yang assumed the leader researcher in Nagoya Research Center of Water and Ink Paintings in the Institute for Art Studies in Asia, Japan. During that period, he not only studied the development of Japanese paintings but also investigated the western modern art. He successfully held several painting exhibitions in Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Paris. Through the varied artistic activities it is perceived by him that the unique value of all types of art should be cherished and preserved; meanwhile the same attention should be put to art innovation so as to accelerate the emergence of new types and values. While water and ink paintings are shining as one of the most famous art in the world and a gem of Chinese traditional culture, a new type of Chinese painting which combines water and ink with rich colors should be admitted and encouraged as one of the most important ways in Chinese painting innovation.

Yang once said, Its fortunate that I live in a world which endows us with more challenges, opportunities, achievements and responsibilities than ever. His words show that he is carrying on the color innovation of Chinese paintings with a sense of mission and adequate preparation. Besides necessary knowledge of color use, using rich colors in water and ink paintings with impressionistic style also requires deep understanding of ink use in traditional paintings. And the most important thing is to combine the two into one whole to manifest the aesthetic spirit of Chinese culture. How to understand the aesthetic spirit of Chinese culture in water and ink paintings with impressionistic style is a critical subject to Yang. Needless to say, he can get enlightenments from the following three aspects. The first is Chinese ancient murals such as murals in Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province and Chinese folk art heritage, the second is achievements of eastern and western color paintings, and the third is accomplishments of senior artists in the 20th century. Following Lin Fengmian and Wu Guanzhongs exploration, Yang has produced a new type of water and ink paintings with impressionistic style which integrates features of the East and the West. Due to the experiences in Japan, he is more or less influenced by Japanese painting language such as the use of color. Therefore, he absorbs its advantages and makes them work for him. It is his acute awareness that the key to success in absorbing and adopting foreign color techniques is the real expression of situations and life in modern China and the maintenance of impressionistic spirit based on lines and harmonic aesthetic value in Chinese paintings. In my opinion, the free application of traditional techniques such as outlining and rendering is one of his characteristics distinguishing from Lin Fengmian and Wu Guanzhong who most adopt western lines and models. Meanwhile, pregnant with a good knowledge of color use, he adopts much more compound colors than contrasting colors. And by using these gentle colors, he brings oriental artistic verve out of his paintings.

Yangs exploration started from the early 1990th. White Chrysanthemums produced in 1992 is a representative piece of his early works. In this painting, outlining and rendering are used on rice paper to create a grayish background, in which the leaves and branches of white chrysanthemums are silhouetted. The success of this painting has brought him great encouragement and firmed his determination to further the exploration. In the recent two decades, he has bathed himself into exploration and produced a large number of Chinese paintings with impressionistic style which are both elegant and colorful due to the combination of ink and color. The achievements have entitled him to be a preeminent artist in Chinese paintings.

Yang once compared artistic creation to farming in a lab. According to him, every artist has his/her experimental plots, and his is rice paper. Im making efforts to find more possibilities here and lead traditional paintings to go out of traditional modes. Rice paper and ink are basic materials of Chinese paintings. Maybe it is because they are so ordinary that we used to take them for granted. Or maybe it is because masters of the past have achieved outstanding accomplishments that we are afraid to leave the beaten track. However, it is a fact that just like any other innovations, art innovation originates in the most ordinary and unnoticeable place. I know my paintings actually use the most ordinary models and the most common colors, and my discovery is not at all new, Yang said. Truly, his paintings are one of the ordinary types in a colorful artistic world. But let us never forget that while keeping the impressionistic style of water and ink paintings, he daringly applies different colors to his paintings. That is his outstanding contribution to the innovation in Chinese tradition paintings. His success has great inspiration for our inheriting and carrying forward traditions of Chinese paintings. It is also the value of his innovative paintings.

18新利,Yang still has a lot of efforts to be made in his artistic practice. I believe that he will keep improving himself and contribute more brilliant productions to the society.

(Written on December 2, 2011,

Beijing,China Central Academy of Fine Arts)

Translated by Jiang Yuxue