永利皇宫树脂现实,警示生命

法国思想家布莱瑟帕斯卡在《思想录》中写道:人只不过是一根芦苇,是自然界最脆弱的东西,但它却是一根会思维的芦苇。
然而,承认人的脆弱似乎不是人类尤其不是西方人的主导思想,具有人本主义世界观的西方人总是愿意标榜人类作为万物之灵长的强大与伟力。早在古希腊时代,伟大的悲剧作家索福克勒斯就说过这样的话:在自然界中即使再大的力量,也没有超过人的力量。
即使脆弱是人类生命的客观属性,人们也总是有意无意地加以回避和掩饰,我们甚至渴望征服人类自身的脆弱性。披览人类艺术史,我们可以看到无以数计的颂扬人类伟大坚强的杰作,古希腊神话中的大力神赫拉克勒斯更是西方历代艺术家钟爱的对象,我们几乎看不到表现人类脆弱的艺术作品。西方现代主义和后现代主义艺术对人性的种种缺陷进行了深入的挖掘,但也没有一个艺术家明确表现过生命的脆弱性。因此,当武明中致力于通过绘画表现人类生命的脆弱性时,他无疑揭示了人性的新纬度,开拓了艺术的新领域。

看到武明中的作品,会被其炫目而刺激的色彩所震惊,时尚而简约的造化所冲击。武明中惯用红色,红色作为其作品中主人公的内核而存在,在这里,一种颜色被赋予特殊的使命,物化成承载延展武明中艺术意图的具体存在,以液体的形式被浇注在武明中一切感兴趣的物质内部,使得这些本来透明、空洞的物体变得有分量感,化身成艺术家手中的容器,至于它要被装点什么,一切只能听从艺术家的安排;武明中画面中大面积的红色运用,也表达着艺术家内心世界的扩张,但这种扩张巧妙的被安排在生活中常见的物象之中,这是艺术家面对纷繁无序的现实社会无奈感、矛盾心理以及自我调侃的表达。时尚而真实的现实物象在武明中的画笔下变得不真实和虚拟化,我们可以感受到武明中与社会现实的明确联系,但是这些联系和逻辑却在他的画面中被艺术家有意的打乱了,他将它们塑造成一个个树脂的器皿,或者干脆是一些没有实际功能的树脂摆设,加上红色的血液,真实世界中存在的物体被武明中幻化成虚拟图像,在这一系列的虚拟物象和视觉结构中,我们可以观察到武明中对现实的独特关注和理解以及超现实的艺术表达,感受到一种不真实但很有压迫感的气场,尽管它们都是透明和易碎的,但正是这种虚拟化、人工化的材质可以给人们更丰富多元而又暧昧的感官联想。

武明中不是哲学家,但他从当代世界和现实生活的切身体验中,感到了生命的脆弱。为了表现这种不可言传的脆弱感,艺术家在画布上发明了一种装着红葡萄酒的透明玻璃人像。这样一种奇异别致的艺术形象看似灵感乍现、信手拈来的偶然产物,但却是他经过深思熟虑、反复探索的结果;玻璃人像是透明的,但这些形象的含义却未必一览无余;除了警示生命的脆弱,武明中的透明玻璃人像还蕴含着更丰富更复杂的艺术史含义。

说武明中的作品,必须谈谈他的人。我之前并不熟悉他本人,只是在别处见到过作品。他是一位教授,从武明中的作品中能感受到他的学理修为,这是和许多艺术家不一样的地方。武明中的作品承担着象老一辈艺术家作品教科书似的使命,尽管他的作品画面总是荡漾一些青春萌动的气氛,从形式语言上也很容易被年轻一代所认同和识别,但是我想,武明中还是更希望他的作品能有所指,因此他尽量营造了让其作品能指的可能性。可以说武明中走的是一条观念绘画的道路,这与他的生活经历和学识背景有着密不可分的关联。

武明中第一批成熟的作品完成于20世纪90年代中后期,当时的中国艺坛,政治波普艺术、玩世现实主义和艳俗艺术正盛极一时,武明中顺应时代潮流,以一组具有波普艺术风格的作品表明自己积极介入当代艺术的立场。我之所以将这组作品归类于波普艺术,是因为武明中采用了波普艺术惯用的现成图像挪用策略,但实际上它们与当时的政治波普艺术有着本质的差别,武明中挪用的图像不是那些作为政治符号的领袖人物,而是一些带有条形码的西方美术史上的著名形象,而且,他还通过三联画的形式,用并置的办法,描绘了一张正张着大嘴打哈欠的人脸。因此,这类作品在波普艺术特点之外又具有新表现主义绘画的品质。根据武明中自己的说法,这些作品表达的是对消费社会的困惑。在我看来,这些作品的真正意义在于试图通过超越国家政治、关注人类共同的生存境遇,达到对中国当代政治波普艺术的颠覆。

武明中绘画的突出特征是它的语言形式。红色的树脂物象已经无可厚非的成为了武明中的艺术标签。一方面,武明中有意识的挑选了现实生活中那些无意义的物体,比如说小便器、红酒杯等等,这些人们生活中司空见惯的物品在武明中手中精心的被营造成无意义的透明器皿,从这一点上看,武明中似乎希望将自己抽离于真实的现实之外,想要冷眼旁观,但又逃离不了真实现实的窠臼,因此他只能选择日常生活中熟悉的东西来借以发挥,并干脆将这些看似无聊的东西嬉笑化,娱乐化。可以说这是新一代知识分子表达面对社会现实急速剧变从而内心世界产生空前变化的新型方式。它是一种积极的喜笑怒骂和超女式的点评,而不是一味消极的批判和自我沉沦。另一方面,武明中还有喜欢调侃历史人物,将他们塑造成树脂的里程碑,本身这种方式就带有了武明中式的幽默。人物形象自身就蕴含了话语能力,有点穿越时空来到当下现实的错觉感,它们都是由树脂浇注而成,他的教育和历史意义在这里被Q化的解构了,变成一个摆设,可以看出武明中有意将经典变得娱乐,将历史变成当下的企图心。

从2000年开始,武明中创造了一种带有卵形脑袋的人像,也就是一种身体四肢和衣着高度写实,但五官略而不做,头部被简化成鸡蛋状的人物形象。武明中在现实生活中注意到这样一个现象,就是在官场和外交场合,各种人物特别是政客的相貌和五官并不是人们关注的焦点,人们更看重的是他们的身份,而且,他们的手势和动作往往代表着人物的角色,更能体现事件的性质、过程和结果,虽然这些动作通常带有公式化色彩,但它们具有约定俗成、一望即知的象征含义。以这样的人物形象,武明中创作了题为《接见》、《谈判》、《投票》和《宣誓》等现实题材的作品。尽管在这些作品中,我们看不到人物的相貌,但他们握手、鼓掌、举手和举杯的动作姿态已经将人物角色和事件结果交待得一清二楚。这些作品的素材主要来自大众传播媒体,其主题的选择再一次突破了狭隘的民族性,显示出画家敏锐而开阔的世界主义眼光。

我认为,树脂是武明中绘画永远的内核。似乎所有画面中都有树脂物体的存在。我更愿意称它们为树脂体而不是玻璃体,因为树脂比玻璃有更多的可阐释性,它同样易碎,但它比玻璃似乎更为模糊和虚拟,更具有凝结时代意义的特性。其材质本身就已经赋予了它自身更多的意义,就像武明中的作品一样。树脂是一种状态不确定,但很有质感的物质,它透明却又实在,能捧在手心,却又感觉虚无缥缈,因为它是如此透明;它遇热即改变状态,可以重塑成任何形状,当然也能保持原状,蓄发各种能量和生命,可以说树脂是一种变态的物质,这和许多艺术家的创作和生存状态很相似。我们常说某些艺术家很另类变态,可能是莫名的压抑和对未知因素的探求心理以及种种复杂骚动的生理心理情绪,驱使着艺术家创作出可能很沉默但具有内在爆发力的作品,这些作品的形态可能是多变的,看似静如止如固体的树脂,其中蕴藏的力量却很可能是凝结了这个时代的亚文化精神。而可流动般感的质感就像艺术家的思绪一样成为创作的源泉。种种这些树脂的特征都为武明中所用,他用树脂来塑造他感兴趣的一切事物,给很多无意义的场景和事物看似浅薄,易碎,但又富含无限张力的生命力。

2002年,武明中的个人艺术史翻开了崭新的一页,他的画布上突然了出现一种人们从未见过的艺术形象装着XO威士忌的透明玻璃人像,通过这种形象,艺术家希望表达他从现实生活和个人情感经历中领悟到的生命的脆弱感,人世间那些原以为坚不可摧的东西其实是脆弱不堪的。武明中在喟叹脆弱之余,不禁产生了通过绘画表达这种脆弱,也就是将这种脆弱的意念变成视觉形象的冲动。按照象征主义者的说法,任何一种观念,都存在一种能够将之传达的视觉形象。然而,究竟什么样的物象能表达脆弱这样一种抽象的质感和心理的感受呢?艺术家开始了艰难的寻找和实验,终于,玻璃进入了武明中的画面。从此,一个全新的艺术世界在他面前豁然洞开。根据古罗马作家大普林尼的《自然史》记载,玻璃是在公元前3500年左右由腓尼基人最早发明的,它是一种由石英砂和碳酸钠经高温熔化、冷却形成的化合物。在西方人眼里,玻璃是上帝赐予人类的最美丽的礼物。武明中将这样一种既坚硬又易碎、充满矛盾的神奇物质,作为貌似坚强实则脆弱的人类生命的象征,真是再贴切不过了。经过反复试验,武明中终于创作出了第一幅成功的玻璃人像,其标题为《嘿嘿!》,画面描绘的是意大利著名光头裁判皮耶尔路易吉科利纳。这个意大利人仿佛被施了魔法,一个血肉之躯焕然变成了玻璃制品,并且在这个玻璃人的体内还装满了橘红色的XO威士忌。在玻璃人像绘画的试验中,武明中发现,仅仅单纯地画出一个无色而又透明的玻璃人像,给人的视觉刺激是很微弱的,因此,在画出玻璃人像的同时,武明中就将玻璃人像装上了XO威士忌,有了这种液体,既强化了玻璃的质感,又增加了画面的色彩和视觉冲击力。由于找到了可行的办法,艺术家一发而不可收,接着创作了朋友,小心轻放!、嗨,小心!、拍吧!和爱能持续多久?等大量作品。这些玻璃人既有头像,又有胸像,还有立像;有单人像,也有人物众多的群像;有静止的姿态,更有活动的身影。许多头像和胸像有着高脚玻璃杯的底座,那纤细的支柱仿佛一触即碎,而那些在基座上倾倒的人像更是即将坠地,瞬间化为碎片。虽然肉体变成了玻璃,但这是一种高度写实的人物画,画中每个人物的相貌、神情乃至汗珠仍一如常态、逼肖真人。

皮力先生是这样评论武明中的艺术的:当历史与政治人物的物化成为艺术家的观念之后,画面的视觉样式就开始发生变化了。如果洞悉艺术家潜在的观念,我们就很难将这些绘画归结为我们熟悉的表现或者写实形态的绘画。武明中绘画的语言是在在于放弃固有的语言趣味,而绝对追求绝对虚拟出来的物象的质感。在这些画面中,我们看不到表现或者写实形态艺术所强调的画面本身的笔触,而是被对象本身的质感所刺激。皮力先生的分析充分而精确的说明了武明中绘画在语言和观念上的突破,武明中正是用物化的观念形象来揭示历史和现实的本质,其作品中解构和复制的特性为武明中的想象世界和现实世界搭起了桥梁。

从2005年开始,武明中迷恋上丙烯颜料中的荧光桃红,与此同时,他还将他的玻璃人容器中的液体换成了红葡萄酒,由荧光桃红、永固红和深红色画成的葡萄酒更加绚丽夺目,为了突出主体形象,画面的背景更多地采用了灰白色。色彩学和视觉心理学告诉我们,红色是光波最长、穿透力最强、感知度最高的颜色,它往往使人联想到太阳、火焰和鲜血等物象,常常使人产生欢快、激动和亢奋的心理反应。红色既象征喜庆和希望,又代表暴力和危险。在武明中的绘画中,红色无疑具有危险、警告和禁止的象征含义。虽然从形式上看,武明中的这种玻璃人像属于单色画,但由于其独特的语言、奇异的形象和强烈的红色,作品有着巨大的视觉冲击力,令人过目难忘。武明中的绘画素材基本上来自报纸、杂志和网络等大众传播媒体,他以图片为蓝本,通过想象将其转化为玻璃人像。实际上,武明中描绘的是一种虚拟的玻璃制品,制造的是一种超现实主义的幻觉。由于没有真实的玻璃人可供写生,一个装有威士忌的玻璃瓶成了武明中忠实的模特儿。可以说,武明中作品中的所有玻璃人像都是从这个玻璃瓶蜕变而成的。

从武明中的一系列新作中,我们看到他对当下现实生活更为宏观和直接的表达。如《吃吧》系列中,武明中运用大量排比和并置的方法将画面中武明中式的观念形象充斥到极限,完全用树脂、红色的物象作为他手中的棋子来布局画面,巨幅的作品加之几乎无限的物象,使观众几乎要窒息,画面达到了从微观到宏观,再从宏观到微观的通达效果。这一切都反映了中国社会特别是都市化进程,政治、经济飞速发展状况下,人们生活产生急剧变化的现实写照。当然,武明中的方法是非写实的,是观念和抽象的,但从这些新作来看,武明中对现实的关注远远超过了以往。可以说,我们可以看到武明中的艺术创作从语言上和观念上达到一个统一的高峰。语言已经成为观念的一部分。也许,树脂正是武明中的独特语言,也是他的艺术观念所在,是联系现实和武明中自我世界的结点。

由于武明中的玻璃人像绘画是如此新颖、如此独特,以致长期以来评论家始终难以将其归类。从风格学上看,武明中的这类作品具有显而易见的象征主义特征,武明中采用的艺术语言符合象征主义的定义,即用具体的人们可以感知的物象来暗指某种抽象的不可感知的人类情感或观念。在西方传统的象征主义绘画作品中,在人物形象之外,画家往往利用某种特定的道具来表达某种特定的寓意,例如,鸽子象征和平,玫瑰代表爱情,百合表示纯洁,骷髅暗示死亡。西方象征主义绘画中的物象或道具所具有的象征含义有些是全人类公认的,有些只有在特定的文化语境中才能成立。例如,在基督教文化中,红葡萄酒象征基督的血液,面包代表基督的肉体,这样的类比关系和象征意义就是非基督教文化圈的人所不熟悉的。武明中将人像画成玻璃制品,用玻璃来象征人的脆弱,而玻璃的脆弱性又是人所共知的;包装箱上的玻璃杯图形表示易碎物品,小心轻放,是一个世界通行的标识。红色代表危险和警告也是人类普遍认同的,绿灯行,红灯停是全球统一的交通信号。不过,传统的象征主义绘画多取材于文学作品,而武明中的玻璃人像则完全取自当代世界中的真实人物,作品具有更强烈的现实主义精神。因此,如果一定要我给武明中的玻璃人像绘画贴上风格的标签,我愿意将其称为象征现实主义。

Resinic Reality Liu Chunfeng

虽然武明中的玻璃人像是在画布上完成的,但它带有强烈的观念主义特征,我们甚至可以说,武明中的玻璃人像是架上绘画和观念主义的混合体,而这样的综合性也正是中国当代艺术的普遍特征。在武明中的作品中,既有关注人生的现实主义精神,又有幻想虚拟的超现实主义品质;既有托物表意的象征主义手法,又有图像挪用的波普艺术策略。武明中自己也说:画玻璃人像的时候,我把自己找全了,体验、观念和技法,所有的知识和思想都用上了。在我看来,高超的写实功力是武明中获得成功的重要基础,纯粹的绘画性使得这些玻璃人像作品更具独特性。武明中的绘画告诉我们,绘画没有死亡,它有着巨大的生命力和无穷的可能性。

Looking at Wu Mingzhongs painting, viewers are stimulated and shocked by
its dazzling colors, a concise and fashionable display that impacts the
eye. The red that Wu Mingzhong uses exists as the core in the main
characters depicted in his works. Color is given a special mission,
extending the specifics of color into the existence of the artist’s
work. He pours the liquid into every object that he is interested in, so
that these transparent and empty objects feel as if they have weight,
becoming embodied vessels in the artists hands. The artist alone can
determine what these vessels are to be filled with. These glasses,
bottles and other bizarrely shaped glassware visual celebrations
teetering on vertigo insistently require that you avoid clumsy movements
and that youhandle with care. There is such a latent power in Wu
Mingzhongs recent work that you feel a miraculous and captivating sense
of fragility. Amazingly, the colours transcend the canvas and emit a
vital visual flame. At once stimulating and stunning, it speaks to the
spirit and, set against the background of the canvas, one is able to
catch a glimpse of the artist’s passionate reflections on contemporary
society. He changed his style and began to use glass as an expressive
tool in the series. Perhaps his methods are better suited to Platonic
reflections on social reality, but once he began the series, there was
no going back. Mingzhong became fascinated with glass – its
transparency, luminosity and magnificence. His reflections, however, are
more immediately concerned with the ingenious ways in which these
characteristics can be translated onto canvas.

2008年,武明中又将它的创作扩展到了装置艺术和数码影像艺术领域。在第七届上海双年展中,武明中展出了绘画、装置和影像三合为一的作品《国际饭店501》,其中的影像作品,让观众通过晃动的红葡萄酒透视上海人民广场的人群和建筑,让人产生一种既华丽又虚幻的心理感受,真是妙不可言。在第三届西班牙塞维利亚国际当代艺术双年展上,武明中展出的是影像作品《城市》,同样表现的是通过装有红色葡萄酒杯看到的扭曲而又浮华的当代物质世界。

These figures and wine filled glasses, his vessels and bottles, either
deep red or fluorescent pink, have become the visual and extremely
effective mark of Wus questionings into social reality. Beyond polished
beauty, a deeply entrenched and worrying message lies in plain sight: a
warning orcaution. Beneath the calm surface, anxiety is present, an
underlying current constantly threatening to erupt. Wu Mingzhongs voice
resonates from within this work one that emanates from the soul. The
artist states that The more beautiful a material is, the more fragile it
is. It is the fragility of splendor. Materials these days are all about
beauty, flash and power. People are in search of consumption, luxury and
pleasure. They might as well be, but that search and an excessive
dependence on material things robs humanity of their independence and
their capacity for originality.

武明中的玻璃人像形式新颖、风格独特,但它们的意义还不在于风格学层面,换一句话说,如果仅仅从风格学的角度来读解武明中的玻璃人像,我们就会错失这些作品的真正价值。因此,我更愿意从作品的内在含义和中国当代艺术发展的角度来解读武明中的作品。

Material things will never solve the problem of mans vulnerability. On
the contrary, it will only serve to aggravate it. Man, originally a
creature of flesh and blood, no longer exists. He is nothing more than a
being made of glass and he does not belong: he is left with only the
material contents of glassware and that which is refracted toward the
exterior world. Glass and alcohol are two characteristics of our age. I
paint men made of glass to express the fragility inherent in
contemporary reality, says the artist, the fragility of the relationship
between man and himself as well as with others and the environment.
After an extended period of research and observation, Wu Mingzhong
finally found the material best adapted to the expression of his vision
glass. He tirelessly rendered its texture, integrated within the rest of
his artistic ventures, explored it and sought out its multiple
capabilities. He does so to a point where his cultural language and
intellectual orientation seem to say: social reality is paradoxical in
every respect. Overflowing with splendor, it is also fragile and
dangerous, and nothing in the universe is beyond the reach of its
entrapment. We are reminded of a dream and then we awake to realize that
the reality in which we live is fragile, that the environment is
fragile, that feelings, daily life, sincerity between individuals are
all fragile.

永利皇宫,我们知道,坚强和伟大是人类追求的目标,也是人类文明发展的动力,从某种意义上说,一部人类文明史就是人类努力征服自然、不断走向强大的历史,尤其是进入工业文明时代,人类更是创造了空前强大的物质文明。有人说,地球上的人类从来没有像工业文明时代这样活得如此高贵。但是,具有讽刺意味的是,人类创造了强大的物质文明,人类自身却越来越脆弱;在工业文明时代,人类的精神性日益丧失,对于物质的依附,导致人类自身也被物质化了。我们看到,随着时间的推移,出现在武明中玻璃人像行列中的人物越来越多,除了不知名的普通人之外,还有各国元首、世界明星、商业巨人、社会名流和大众偶像,武明中甚至将世界艺术史上的经典作品也变成了玻璃制品。在许多作品中,武明中还将众多人物和盛大场面布置在箱子里,意在讽喻人们身处危险而毫不自知,也是对乐观主义者的提醒。实际上,武明中揭示的不仅是人类生命的脆弱性,还包括人与人之间的关系、自然环境的脆弱性。在武明中眼里,除了永恒的时间,这个星球上几乎没有坚实的东西。生命、爱情、友谊、权力、政治、文明、信仰乃至精神,一切都不是坚不可摧永远不变的。至此,武明中似乎进入了看破红尘的佛教境界,但实际上,武明中并不是一个悲观主义者,他只是比常人多了一份理性、多了一份清醒,他的作品带给我们的是哲理和警醒,而不是恐惧和绝望。

We have made a transition from a society of political fragility to one
that is mercantile and even more fragile still. The ultra-consumerism
promoted by multinational capitalism is vertiginous and agonizing even
as it disrupts and destroys. Confronted by reality, in politics as in
life, artists can no longer allow themselves to remain dilletantes.
Lyricism, likewise, is out of the question. The artist’s only recourse
is to attempt to escape the trap of paradox. But to flee (that is to say
to distance oneself from) our monstrous and chaotic reality, that is
easier said than done. Who can forget the dead silence that followed,
twenty years ago, with the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger? Or
the endless reflections on the nature of vulnerability that were
triggered by the thick smoke of September 11th? Presently, the global
rise in temperatures shows us once again, as if it were still necessary,
to what degree the existence of the human species is fragile and the
extent to which our environment is in a constant state of deterioration.
The friend that sits at the negotiating table today may be the enemy who
takes up arms against us tomorrow. In order to reap rewards, interest
groups from powerful nations manage to perpetuate insurrection in
Palestine, Israel and the Gulf: how often have the hopes of those whose
goal is peace been torn to shreds as a result? Of course, Wu Mingzhong
does not address these issues directly, but his visual iconography is a
glaring confirmation of the vulnerability of individuals and of reality.

武明中的玻璃人像是全球化、信息化时代特有的产物,它不仅具有当代性,而且具有国际性。必须承认,武明中透明玻璃人像是对人性的探寻和质疑,脆弱性具有人类普适性。不分民族和种族,无论男女老幼,脆弱是当今世界所有生命的共同感受。武明中说:我认为,中国艺术家不必彰显自己的民族身份或民族符号,应该凸现个性化色彩,个人体内流动着民族的血液,不必加以强调,艺术家应该具有国际的胸怀和个人的视角。艺术家将所有的人物都画成玻璃人,还有另一层涵义,这就是人是简单的、同质的,不仅每个人的物质构造没有区别,每个人的需要和欲望也都是相同的。简而言之,武明中的玻璃人像是工业文明时代消费社会中脆弱化、物质化和同质化的人类生命的写照。这些作品既是对人类的讽喻,又是对生命的警示。

Whether or not the spectacle sets off a spark of desire or of yearning
within the brain is of little importance. On the contrary: the point is
to demonstrate how our lives gradually disappear beneath an accumulation
of pretty things. They also cause us to recognise the fragility and
ambiguity of such relationships – the slightest rupture. An incredible
amount of prudence must be taken in our treatment of others, of their
gender. Relationships must be contemplated with circumspection. Without
a doubt, they are fragile and dangerous, the epitome of the universal
constraints and vulnerabilities of the human species. An open challenge
to the moral standards present in our daily lives. while it is curiously
redundant and literary, still does not cause us to recoil. On the
contrary, in contemporary art, imitation and the corruption of the
classics constitute a means of re-addressing linguistic elements.

武明中的绘画意味着,
21世纪的中国当代艺术已经走出了对西方艺术的模仿,超越了狭隘的社会学价值观和民族意识;中国当代艺术家已经有能力与西方艺术家平等地进行艺术创造,能够自觉地与世界艺术家同步思考和探究世界和人类共同面临的问题。

From the works of Wu Mingzhong, we see a direct and grand contemporary
narrative forming. In series like Eat It, the character has become so
well known that he no longer requires explanation. It highlights the
complexity of society, the heterogeneous nature of our existence within
that society and, as such, questions anew the ethical norms of an age
that has become ever more vulgar and superficial. As for determinism in
art history, the psychological and cultural suggestiveness present in
his work situates him at the heart of the matter. Behind his dizzying
images, it seems to hint at something more dangerous and poignant.
Humanity would live in a state of perdition. The constant latent
possibility of the destruction of the world is evoked, once again
allowing Wu Mingzhong to charm us with his incessant search for
perfection and his masterful sensitivity toward contemporary artistic
form. In this world of glass, politics are combined in evermore
ingenious ways. Wu Mingzhong faintly blurs the line between the interior
and exterior universe. Perhaps, resin forms a unique language in the
work of Wu Mingzhong, serving as a concept in his art, a node that links
the inner world of Wu Mingzhong to the real world.

王端廷 中国艺术研究院研究员 2008年8月于北京

编辑:霍春常

The Warning of LifeImpressions on Wu Mingzhongs art workWang Duanting

French thinker Blaise Pascals writing (1623-1662) in the Penses : Man is
only a reed, is nature’s most fragile thing, but the reed can think.
however, the recognition of fragility apparently is not humans leading
idea and especially not in the Western, the Westerner with humanist
worldview is always willing to flaunt the mightiness of humanity as a
superior power. In ancient Greek, the great tragedy writer Sophoclēs,
(496-406 BC) said: even the great power in nature, that less than the
power of people. Although the fragility is the objective attribute of
human life, people always slide over and cover it up intentionally or
unintentionally, we may even desire to conquer the fragility of human.
Survey humans art history, we can see the countless masterpieces that
extol humans greatness and toughness, Helacles in ancient Greek myth is
also a favorite subject of Western artists, we barely find any artwork
that indicates humans fragility. The Western modernism and
post-modernism art excavate shortcomings of human nature in depth, no
one has clearly demonstrated the fragility of life yet. Therefore, as Wu
Mingzhong commits himself to convey the fragility of life through
painting, he has undoubtedly revealed the new latitude of humanity and
opened up a new field of art.

Wu Mingzhong is not the philosopher, but he has realized the fragility
of life from the contemporary world and real-life experience. In order
to deliver such a sense of fragility, on canvas the artist has created
the transparent glass portrait that contains the red wine. Such a
singular and unique art image looks like a erupting inspiration or a
random outcome, but the accomplishment comes from his deliberation and
repeated exploration; the glass portrait is transparent, but the meaning
of these images may not be totally seen; the transparent glass portrait
also contains a richer and intricate meaning of art history besides the
warning of life fragility.

The first group of mature works by Wu Mingzhong had finished in the late
90s of 20th century, the time in China’s art scene, Political Pop,
Cynical Realism and gaudy Art were very popular, he followed the trend
of the times and demonstrated his active position in contemporary art by
a group of Pop Art works. I classify this group works to Pop Art, since
Wu Mingzhong had adopted the image appropriation practice that has been
commonly used in Pop Art, but the work in fact has the essential
distinction to the Political Pop Art of the time, the images Wu
Mingzhong had appropriated in works were not the symbols of political
leaders, but famous images with bar codes in Western art history, he has
also adopted the form of triptych, and in the way of juxtaposition to
portray a yawning face. Therefore, this type of work has the character
of new impressionism besides the trait of pop art. As Wu Mingzhong said,
these works expressed the perplexity towards consumer society. In my
view, the true meaning of these works is tending to go beyond the
nations political, concerning about the living condition of mankind, to
subvert the political pop in Chinas contemporary art.

Since 2000, Wu Mingzhong created a sort of oval head portrait, that is a
body with highly realistic limbs and clothing, but the head is
simplified into an egg-shaped. Wu Minzhong has noticed such a phenomenon
in reality, that is, in official and diplomatic occasions, various
people, especially the politicians expression and facial features are
not peoples concern, more important is their identity, moreover, their
gesture and action often represent the role of character, it is better
to incarnate an events nature, process and result , although these
movements are usually formulated, they have a conventional and clear
symbolic meaning. Based on such characters, Wu Mingzhong created a
series works of realistic subjects entitled meeting, negotiation, vote
and oath and so on. Although we cannot see the characters appearance in
these works, they shook hands and applauded, raised their hands and
toasted, their movements have already narrated the characters and the
story clearly. The material of these works mainly came from the mass
media, the choice of theme once again broke through the narrow-minded
nationalism, showing that the artists keen and broad cosmopolitism
vision.

In 2002, a new page had opened in Wu Mingzhongs art history, the new
image suddenly had appeared on canvas that people have never seen the
transparent glass portrait that contains XO whiskey, through the
portrait, the artist hoped to express the fragility of life that he
realized from personal experience, the toughest thing in the world is
actually fragile. More than a sigh, Wu Mingzhong was eager to express
such fragility in his painting, that impulse was the motif to turn the
fragility into a visual image. As symbolist said, any kind of concept,
it can be conveyed by a visual image. However, what kind of thing can
express the fragility that is abstract sense and psychological feeling?
Artist started his hard search and experiments, finally, the glass
appeared in his painting. Since then, a new art world suddenly opened up
to him.

According to the record in Historia naturalis by ancient Roman writer
Pliny the Elder / Gaius Plinius Secundus ,(23-79), the glass was
invented in 3500 BC by the Phoenician, It is the quartz sand and sodium
carbonate melts at high temperature, cooling to form compounds. In
Western eyes, the glass is the most beautiful gift from God. Wu
Mingzhong picks such a hard, brittle and magical material that is very
contradictive, yet it is closely relevant to indicate the fragility of
human beings, the seemingly tough but fragile indeed. After the
experiments, finally Wu Mingzhong successfully produced his first
painting of glass portrait, entitled Hey hey!, the painting depicts the
renowned bald Italian referee Pierluigi Collina. As if the Italian has
been bewitched, the flesh and blood became a glasswork, and the glass
body was filled with the jacinth XO whiskey. Wu Mingzhong has found out
in the experiments that the visual stimulation is very weak to the
audience if draw a colorless and transparent glass portrait on canvas,
therefore, he added XO Whiskey to the glass portrait when he created the
painting, the liquid not only strengthened the quality of glass, but
also enhanced the paintings hue and visual impact. Since the feasible
solution he has found, the artist produced a large number of works
include Friend, Handle with Care!, Hey, Careful!, Shoot it! and how long
does love last?. These glass portraits have head, bust as standing
portrait; single portrait and group portraits; static posture and moving
form. Many heads and busts have a high-foot glass pedestal, and the thin
pillar looks so fragile, and the portrait on the pedestal is about to
fall and smash to pieces. Although the flesh turns into glass, this sort
of highly realistic portraits, their appearances and expressions of each
character played as usual, and even the lifelike sweat drops.

Started in 2005, Wu Mingzhong was stuck on the fluorescent pink of
propylene, at the same time, he had also replaced the liquid in glass
container by red wine, the wine is more eye-catching with the paint of
fluorescent pink, solid red and dark red, and the background in painting
is off-white to highlight the main image. Chromatics and visual
psychology tell us that red has the longest light wave, the strongest
penetrating power and the highest degree of sensibility, it is
reminiscent of the sun, fire and blood and other things,red brings
people the psychological reaction of joy, excitement and agitation. Red
is a symbol of celebration and hope, also represents violence and
danger. Red has undoubtedly symbolic meaning of danger, warning and
prohibition in Wu Mingzhongs works. Although the glass portrait
paintings are monochrome in form, the works have great visual impact
with unique language, singular image and striking red, extremely
impressive.

Basically, the material in Wu Mingzhongs paintings come from the mass
media, such as newspapers, magazines and internet, he has translated
these pictures into the glass portraits with imagination. In fact, Wu
Mingzhong has depicted a sort of fictitious glasswork to create a
surreal illusion. A whiskey bottle becomes his loyal model because there
is no real glass man at all. The truth is, Wu Mingzhong has transformed
the whiskey bottle into all glass portraits in works.

Because Wu Mingzhongs glass portrait painting is so novel, so unique
that the critic has always been difficult to classify. His works have
obvious symbolism features on the stylistic view, the artistic language
he used in line with the definition of symbolism, that is, imply some
kind of abstract unperceptive human emotion or concept with specific
objects that people can perceive. In Western traditional symbolism
painting, the artists often take advantage of some particular props to
express specific meanings beyond the characters, for example, dove
signifies the peace, rose means love, Lily indicates the purity,
skeleton implies the death. Some symbolic meanings of objects or props
in Western symbolism painting have been recognized in the world, and
some objects can only be acknowledged in a specific cultural context.
For instance, in Christian culture, red wine symbolizes the blood of
Christ, bread stands for the body of Christ, people are not familiar
with such symbolic significance for those are not Christian. Wu
Mingzhong creates glass portrait to symbolize the fragility of human
beings, the fragility of glass is well known; the glass graphic on the
package means Fragile Items, Handle with Care that is a universal logo.
Red stands for danger and warning, as well as the traffic light.
However, the material in traditional symbolism paintings were based on
the literary works, while Wu Mingzhongs entire glass portraits come from
the real people in the world, because of that the works have posed the
consuming spirit of realism. Accordingly, if I have to paste a style
label on painting of Wu Mingzhong, I would like to label it the symbolic
realism.

Although Wu Mingzhongs glass portrait has been finished on canvas, it
has obvious features of conceptualism, we might even say that, his work
is a combination of oil painting and conceptualism, and the integration
is a common feature of China contemporary art as well. Wu Mingzhongs
works both have the realism spirit towards living concern, and the
fictitious surrealism trait; as well as the symbolic technique of
symbolism and image appropriation tactic of Pop Art. Wu Mingzhong also
said: I had achieved myself when I produced the glass portraits
painting, my experience, concept and skills, I had employed all the
knowledge and ideas in practice. In my opinion, his superb skill on
realistic depiction is the key to be successful, the pure brushwork
makes the glass portraits painting very unique. Wu Mingzhongs painting
sends us a message that painting will not come to an end, it has great
vitality and boundless possibilities.

In 2008, Wu Mingzhong has expanded his art creation to the installation
art and digital video art. In the 7th Shanghai Biennale, he has shown
his triple artwork International Hotel 501 that included oil painting,
installation and video art, in which the video work was the audience
watched the crowd and buildings in Shanghai People’s Square through the
swaying red wine, it brought people a sort of magnificent and fantastic
feeling, that was really wonderful. In the 3rd International Biennial of
Contemporary Art, Sevilla, Spain, Wu Mingzhong has presented his video
work Metropolis, which was to see the distorted and flashy material
world through a red wine glass.

Wu Mingzhongs glass portrait is novel and the style is unique, however,
its significance does not define on the level of stylistic, In other
words, we will miss the importance of these works, if we just observe
the works from the perspective of stylistic. Therefore, I prefer to
observe his works from the perspective of paintings connotation and the
evolution of Chinese contemporary art.

We know that humanity is in pursuit of toughness and greatness, is also
the driving force for the development of human civilization, in a sense,
the history of human civilization is the effort to conquer the nature
and becoming powerful, especially in the era of industrial civilization,
human beings created an unprecedented material world. Some people say
that, people have never lived in such a noble era before. Ironically,
the humankind became more and more fragile when we created massive
material; in the industrial era, human was losing the spirit and
sponging on the material, it resulted in the human beings had been
materialized. We found that more and more characters appeared in Wu
Mingzhongs glass portraits with time went by, in addition to the unknown
people, there are the heads of state, the world stars, business giants,
celebrities and public idols , he even fabricated the classic works in
the worlds art history. In many works, Wu Mingzhong has arranged the
characters and grand scenes in the box, intended to satirize the people
in danger but have no awareness, or a reminder of the optimist. In fact,
Wu Mingzhong has disclosed the fragility of human life, as well as the
humans connection and the fragility of natural environment. Wu Mingzhong
believes that, except the eternal time, nothing is unbreakable and
unchangeable, such as Life, love, friendship, power, politics,
civilization, faith and spirit. At this point, he seems to reach the
Buddhist realm walk out from the illusions, but in reality, Wu Mingzhong
is not a pessimist, he is more rational and conscious than ordinary
people, his work brings us the philosophy and warning rather than the
fear and despair.

The glass portrait is a specific product in the era of globalization and
information, and being contemporary and international. We must recognize
that, the transparent glass portrait is the exploration and suspicion of
human nature, the fragility is universalism for human. Regardless of the
nationality and race, regardless of men, women or children, the
fragility is peoples common feeling in today’s world. Wu Mingzhong says:
In my opinion, Chinese artists do not need to stress their national
identity or symbols, we should demonstrate our personality, there is no
need to claim our flowing national blood, the artists should have an
international mind and personal perspective. All characters are glass
appearance in the works, suggesting another meaning, people are simple
and homogeneous, not only the physical structure of each person, but
also the demand and desire. In short, the glass portrait is the
portrayal of fragility, materialization and homogenization in industrial
civilization. These works are satire to humanity, warning of life.

Wu Mingzhongs painting means that, Chinas contemporary art has come out
of the imitation of Western art in the 21st century, exceeding the
narrow sociological valuation and national consciousness; Chinese
contemporary artists are capable to create art as equal as the Western
artists, and spontaneously are able to consider and probe into the world
with artists around globe, to solve the issues confronting the
humankind.

Wang Duanting Researcher at Chinese Art Research August 2008, Beijing

编辑:霍春常

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