绘画的秘密一直是去发现另一层华美的肌肤，这是胜过人世间所有皮肤且不老而绚丽的肌肤，它或者是绘画的光泽，如果是用油画作为颜料的话，它或者用绢色带来的玉质感。绘画肌肤的触感，也是绘画永恒的诱惑，以物质的油画颜料抵达那如此切近又如此渺远的微妙触感，这就是绘画的光晕（aura of light）或者色晕（aura of color）之美。让绘画的表层带有如同玻璃镜子或者翠玉中烟云的隔离感，让迷人的色泽焕发出朦胧的诗意（aura of atmosphere），却又永远处於不可触的异域，但迷离的绘画在一片虚化中又召唤着我们的凝视，这正是绘画存在於这个技术世界的美感尊严与不可取代的诱惑。
The Atmosphere of Xiao Fangkai's Painting:The Hazy Halo on the Surface
The secret of painting has always been to discover another magnificent layer of skin, so gorgeous that it outperforms any skin in the world yet doesn't age. It can be the luster of the painting, or the jade texture brought about by the charming colors. The skin texture of painting is its eternal temptation. The delicate touch created by the oil paints is close and yet distant, which is actually the beauty of the aura of light or the aura of color. The sense of isolation on the painting's surface is like a glass cover or mist. The fascinating colors create the aura of atmosphere, staying in the untouchable exotic domain. The hazy painting is inviting us to gaze, revealing its aesthetic dignity and irreplaceable temptation in this technology world.
Among these competitive young artists in China, Xiao Fangkai is the one who is most fascinated with the surface of painting, groping after colors and the aura of the painting language. With elaborate strokes and the delicate transitional layer of colors, he's shown us a different view, poetic yet ancient. It's the scenery in everyday life, but full of blurred fantasies. Xiao's painting is visually blurred, being between explicit and implicit. The setting of the painting often has a misted atmosphere, just like the reflection in the water, flickering with the dream of the youth.
Xiao's painting is ambitious when his painting language begins to take shape. He's learned from Richter's out-of-focus landscape painting that appears hazy and thin, his tutor Shi Chong's handling with the plastic, semitransparent surface of painting, and Liu Wei's shivering strokes in landscape. Apparently, Xiao has established such a goal, endeavoring to compete with these creative masters. He intends to pursue the noumenon of the painting language, return to its pure expression, and explore its internal difficulty. These require courage and talents, as well as enduring work and exploration. Fortunately, he has already found his painting grammar and visual language.
That's to create a hazy, poetic atmosphere in general, so the scenery can only be seen through the "frosted glass". The pictures tend to be dense, with numerous details, and delicate variations of color layers and light. The seemingly realistic depiction is actually extremely abstract in detail, creating a misted aesthetic atmosphere. Observing closely, you'll have a completely different conclusion. With numerous tiny strokes, or lining with knives, or painting with the point of a knife, or piles of paints, the artist is depicting the delicate details. That's the painting unit and unique syntax he has invented. Between the abstract details and the integral hazy atmosphere, the artist has to create a touch of frosted glass with rich varieties of color layers and composition. The painting needs to be "hairy", which shows the vitality of the painting's surface. That's also a marvelous discovery of traditional Chinese painters, such as Wang Yuanqi of "Four Wangs". Hairiness is the touch of plants, and also the lingering appeal of nature and freshness. Contemporary artist Mao Yan also works on the touch of hairiness. Xiao attempts to cover the surface of the painting with a layer of hairy and interlaced net, like the emergence of retina itself. Our retina consists of numerous optic nerves, and the returning to the directness of retina is the secret of painting's rebirth. This is also a temptation, for the hairy vines on the surface invite the audience to touch, but painting, of course, refuses the desire to touch. The "illusion" and "hallucination" of painting remain as a result, and its appeal and magic revives again.
To keep the misted yet vibrant atmosphere, artists need to deal with the colors in a unique way. Xiao's colors are extraordinary and unforgettable. He seems to be always painting the dawn and dusk from his imagination, so the colors are in a bleak and dim tone. It's like Debussy's music, but it's not floating. The dark green and greyish white tone appears to be extremely calm and profound, and the falling and darkening tone reveals the artist's astonishing maturity and experience of internal life. The artist is obsessed to paint the dim instant of the world between appearance and disappearance. The internal glow, the internal density and intensity of light, makes the fading time shines eternally in the picture, and the dark tone never fades in the glow of white light. Everything is growing silently, including every pine needle, every pedal, every stone. Everything has its own life, breathing and echoing with each other. In their world, the hazy poetic tone segregated by the "frosted glass" is safeguarding them from the harm of the world.
Xiao's painting not only focuses on the surrounding scenery in everyday life, but also tries to introduce the artistic conception of ancient Chinese literati painting, and the dim poetry as well, into modern landscape. He's not only creating literati-themed painting, such as bamboo groves and bizarre rocks, but also bringing an ancient coldness, especially the dim ancient conception and sense of distance, into the current flaming landscape when creating the artistic conception. The seemingly ruined and fading landscape implies endless life in it, and that's how he could form his own visual language, but is still independent from all these masters. It's the poetic ancient conception that might be a contribution to contemporary Chinese painting. The weaving of the surface skin of the painting, and its lasting care and safeguard, is the preservation of time itself. In this sense, the painting is no longer landscape, but mindscape, a Utopia, an exotic domain to entrust the internal light of life.
Xia Kejun / Associate professor of Renmin University of China, Doctor of Philosophy
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