摘要： 罗颖：叠山纪 艺术家出席酒会：2018年7月12日（周四）下午6至8时 展期：2018年7月12日至8月25日 汉雅轩：香港中环毕打街十二号毕打行四零一室 世界如果忽然停下来，大概就是罗颖画里的样子。但她的世界又在哪里呢?山外，湖心，寺院，或许就在围墙下，松竹间，抑或在两宋—&mdas…
汉雅轩：香港 中环 毕打街十二号 毕打行四零一室
A Tale of Layered Mountains:Interpreting Luo Ying’s Shanshui Painting
If the spinning world were to come to a sudden stop, the effect might be similar to the world in Luo Ying’s paintings. But where exactly is her world to be found? Outside of a mountain, in the heart of a lake, inside a temple; or perhaps behind a garden wall, or amidst groves of pine and bamboo. Or it could be found somewhere in Song painting—among their ancient shanshui[ The term shanshui refers to traditional ink landscape painting, and literally means’ mountains and water’—Trans.] forms, from Ming and Qing scholar’s gardens—within the folds and layers of Taihu rocks, or the small winding paths that seem to have no beginning and no end. There is no human figure in this world—everyone seems to have left the scene. This world, at once ancient and modern, belongs to one person alone.
An individual’s solitary world does not need to be lonely or dull; to the contrary, it can be unlimited and open, it can be a world of pleasure, of innocence, of expansiveness. Personal pleasure might be found in the sight of a pavilion suddenly glimpsed through the woods, in a charming rockery that invites lingering, in the small pathways that are now hidden, now revealed amidst the Taihu stones, or in the jade-green clouds reflected in the still waters of a pond. Sometimes this pleasure may be found beyond the human realm, in the myriad changing aspects of the ‘ten thousand things’; in the freshness of the air after an early summer rain; or in the way the sky opens up in all its vastness and quiet grandeur at the top of a mountain peak.
On the mountain, in the nook of a garden wall, among the trees and meadows—these images bring me back to my childhood and the carefree days when I used to skip school. The sight of a wild crane taking flight from a tree branch and circling back can be a transcendent experience, expanding the heart. The scenes revealed inside of a Taihu rock are like some fantastic kingdom in which time folds back on itself, while the heart is captivated by the mysterious stillness encountered on a winding forest path. Whether during our school days or in our adulthood, all of us have experienced the secret urge to escape and disappear, even if it is only for a momentary departure from our world: we seek a place that exists beyond definitions, beyond time, beyond the clouds.
Indeed, if woodlands, paths and pavilions existed in a world inside the clouds, than they would probably resemble those in Luo Ying’s paintings. Hers is a world without stories or history, where there is no excess of tragedy or joy. It is a realm as pure and clear as the dawn of time; and where considerations of ancient or modern, past or present, are as insubstantial as the clouds.
Apart from cranes and butterflies, I’m not sure what other kinds of creatures Luo Ying might welcome into her world, but I do believe that they would have to be auspicious and wholesome; they most certainly would have to be beautiful. The grasses flourishing amidst the clouds, the flying orioles, the dancing cranes, the garden pavilions with corridors and chambers—these bring to mind Song dynasty shanshui paintings, or scenes portrayed in Suzhou embroidery: beautiful, and at times wild and uncanny, like scenes from the classic novel Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, but never frightening. After all, this a world where one roams amidst cloudy mountains; it is the personal world of the artist, and all living things here seem to have sprung from her own heart-mind, and through her have become material and real. So here is a road, here is a tree, here a snowy plum blossom, but these are not of the physical human world—they are better and purer than that world.
Whether it is the configurations of Guo Xi’s lofty mountains, the texture of Emperor Huizong’s rocks, Xia Gui’s inky mists, or the nooks and corners of Ming and Qing gardens—as long as an element is pleasing to her, Luo Ying will bring it into her paintings; and yet this is not done in the contemporary sense of appropriation. Lofty mountains and Taihu stones are blended into one entity, and into the cold, glacial peaks the artist infuses emotional colour, adding elegant plants and greenery referencing ancient works. In this way she transposes the aesthetic sensibility of the Song, Ming and Qing into a modern tone. Luo Ying’s compositional approach blends the real with the fantastical: it derives from her own sense-perception of time. Time has no climate, it goes on indefinitely, and can be folded in on itself; it self-generates, occasionally producing an offshoot, and in other times it reflects back. Shanshui is a world of myriad cliffs and ravines, and time opens up within its folds and layers. It is from within these folds that we travel forth to other dimensions.
Here, the term nostalgia is inappropriate when referring to the past. Certainly one dreams of one’s homeland, but for Luo Ying it is not an inexorable attachment. One could say that on the one hand Luo Ying unconsciously reconstructs a vanished history, and on the other she navigates past civilizational conflicts. While she makes use of classical aesthetics, yet she has no intention of returning back to the classical past. Rather, her purpose is to create a moment which is neither wholly past nor present, ancient nor modern. She is constructing a private world that opens up for us to enter.
Taihu rocks are like infinite mountains in which time can be folded and layered; they are as malleable as a Rubik’s cube, whose configuration can be altered at any time; and they can be taken as material to create a unique universe, constructed in a boundless space, like a singular playground at the edge of the world. In Luo Ying’s works, sky and water are of a single hue, enhancing the sense that this is a pleasure garden made of illusions. The gardens she constructs are vast and solitary, they inhabit a primordial space which she populates with trees and dwellings that feel both ancient and modern and invite lingering, just as her roads and pathways invite one to roam at will. There are birds whose songs we seem to hear, whom we could befriend and with whom we might dance.
The validation of Luo Ying’s works lies in her ink painting technique: she shows mastery of both gongbi (fine line) and xieyi (free-style) techniques, and brings together both techniques to construct a credible past that certainly never existed before; or perhaps they are past periods suspended in time and folded between indeterminate shanshui spaces. Stylistically speaking, her painting lineage embraces both Song-period shanshui and modern shuimo, even as it extends outward to Impressionism and eventually to contemporary art. If Luo Ying’s art is not defined by national style, but rather transcends those parameters and enters into the larger world, then I must add another observation: that the ‘western’ belongs to the modern. Luo Ying was born in modern times; thus to her both the ancient Chinese past and the modern West are equally accessible. As such, she is able to enter into an engagement with a western painting vocabulary from within a context of Song aesthetics, so that—enabled by a contemporary sensibility—she may infuse traditional literati imagination with a modern spirit, yet not be limited or defined by either.
In Luo Ying’s paintings we encounter the quiet, restrained elegance of ink and brush, together with the decorative lushness of greens and blues, all uncannily melded together into what we might think of as an idealized world, and what the ancients called the realm of the Immortals. Yet Luo Ying’s sensibility is clearly that of ink and brush, even as she incorporates western techniques. With a gentle hand and understated elegance, through a classical approach she constructs a solitary moment that is wholly her own, a time and place to linger and, for a moment, to leave all attachments behind.
Late spring, mid-summer, 2018
(Translation by Valerie C. Doran)
Wei Xi is a painter and author. His most recent book is Night-shining White (Zhao yebai), published in 2017.
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