Color, Language, Language-Color

Color


I like colors and drawing. I began to draw in 1956, when I was 3 years old and my mother brought me chalk to use in school. The white chalk on the red brick floors of our home was particularly eye-catching. My grandmother was amazed, and said, “This is great, we should leave it!”

 

I like colors and I like beauty.

 

Everything in my memory is a color. If there were no colors, then there would be no pictures. If the pictures had no structure, then they cannot be parts of memory, or even fragments of a story.

 

I have had a lot of friends say that they can’t see colors in their dreams; they’re just monochrome. The colors in my dreams are rich and varied, whether I dream of a depressingly ordinary scene, a bloody battle, a romantic scene, or even a sexual fantasy that causes a wet dream. Form cannot be separated from color, and female charms bring visible colors to life.

 

When I confront the predicaments of life in a moment devoid of internal properties and intellectual possibilities, time becomes a meaningless fiction, a standard that represses individual ideas. Time seems to reflect the color of the sky. I once sat on the endless yellow fields of Inner Mongolia and wept because I was so moved by black clouds silhouetted against the burning red sun.

 

I was a worker for three and a half years, from late 1975 to early 1979. Every day, it was 50 kilometers each way from my home to the factory. It took 2-3 hours, or sometimes more, on a bus or a bicycle, and I learned everything on the route by heart. Most of the things I saw were broken, dilapidated, and cramped, but my eyes were filled with color. The colors flashed by my face and brushed past my body. Silent grey was optimistic amidst the darkness, and it was then that I began to love these colors.

 

Simply put, form is space. However, these words do not represent detachment, and my understanding of them is bound up in color. They are color, and they all have color. In another way, they are just textures in space. Essentially, color is ideological, and that is enough. Some have said, “History transcends nation, and language transcends history.” I believe that color covers language, which has made me ashamed of language. Language and color should reflect and complement each other, like Fuxi and Nüwa with their tails entwined.

 

Language

 

The dance between color and language is an intellectual frontier, “The Gate to All Mystery.” The first chapter of Lao Zi’s Daodejing reads, “The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name… Ever desire-less, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.”

 

This Dao is not the eternal Dao; the Dao is not traditional and the Dao does not believe in religion. This name is not the eternal name, a silly demarcation between the known and the unknown.

 

The absence of desire is an unfixed presence, but it allows us to “see the mystery,” or see fresh intuition like a young woman dancing.

 

When I flip the left and right parts of the Chinese word for mystery, miao, they form the word for “young woman.” Woman is a pictographic character of a woman spreading her arms. “Young” is also a pictographic character of the word for “small” with a slanting gesture. The character miao conveys love, the passion between an active person being watched and a passive watcher. Here, the infinite raps out an echo of the limited. The opposite is text (rules and poetry).

 

Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.” The character for manifestations, jiao, is a pictogram and an ideogram for silken texts, or words written on silk. They record, communicate, narrate, and summarize; they form a slow and strengthening rhythm that overlaps, reverberates, and echoes sounds.

 

This was Lao Zi’s description of the myriad things in the universe, but it is also a summary of the rules of art.

 

In the 1970s, when I was still in the production brigade in Inner Mongolia, I wanted to learn Western painting. I was worried about the extreme material deprivation of my environment, but one of my teachers, Zhao Yongzhi, told me, “You can’t find a teacher and you can’t find materials, but you can find poetry. Use poetry to refine your ideas and dreams.”

 

I started to read songs and write poems. Although poetry has never been my entire life, it became my partner in practicing, critiquing, and reflecting my images.

 

I also knew the poet Bei Dao and his friends in the underground poetry salon. Wrinkled pieces of paper were pulled out of book bags and passed around, covered with hand-copied texts. Poetry rose from young voices reading aloud in smoky rooms.

 

One day in 1974, Mang Ke brought over his poem “Green in the Green,” and I was surprised. Was this Modernism?

 

My poetic forms were old-fashioned, reliant on social reality. In April 3, 1976, amidst the chaos, I placed a poem, “The People’s Grief,” at the base of the Monument to the People’s Heroes. This poem was quickly published, printed as a central document with a red header and collected by the Public Security Bureau as one of the “Four Hundred Reactionary Poems from Tian’anmen.”

 

Despite this, I find it hard to accept the idea that the visual arts perpetuated the enlightenment of poetry in the 1970s, if you could call the 1970s and 1980s the enlightenment of China. The transmission and construction of this enlightenment was multifaceted; it came from inside and outside of China, and it came from new language and innovative styles. At an extremely desolate time, poets made great strides forward, and words became the standard-bearers for imaginative freedom. The period after 1980 was slightly different, because artists used form to occupy familiar spaces in life. Regardless, there is historical evidence for who came first.

 

Visual art ferments over time, and it requires more careful handiwork than poetry or prose. Visual art requires ordinary, solid foundations, such as canvas or sculptural supports, and these you need to make yourself. The understanding between hands and heart grows with time. Some people talk about creativity, doubt, and youthful sparks, but the concepts they represent changed constantly and inferior work cannot hide in the shadows of the classics.

 

Prose and poetry are two different forms, but these two forms (materials) are separate in the Chinese classics. At that time, the three perfections of poetry, calligraphy, and painting were used to judge the character of the literates. I often think that these texts can be re-worked, such that those poems or art can subvert tradition, but my hopes are often undermined. Looking to the future, it seems that hope is simply an old dream. China was once a creative power, a country in which prose, poetry, and art had limitless possibilities. China was also an anti-creative power. I find it hard to believe that the decades and centuries of cultural paralysis failed to affect intellectual people?

 

Since the 1970s, things have changed immensely. One popular trend has followed another. Fortunately, I was fairly fit, so I could both work and consider “ever desire-less, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.”

 

In 2006, I made Four Reds, which was the herald of Language-Color. One of those paintings was A Limit Reached, in which I allowed the colors to reflect texts. The words elaborate the color, which are gifts to certain people.

 

Language-Color

 

T.S. Eliot said, “There is emotional sensibility.”

 

Michelangelo said, “The best painting has the quality of sculpture.”

 

The art world has spotlighted numerous masters and classic works, but I have continued to explore language and color. I worked on the series for nearly ten years after clarifying my process. I don’t think that this series will be short; the temptation of Language-Color remains, and I can only continue to dance with it.

 

Language-Color is the color in language or a colorful environment recorded in text, but the visual effect is most important. Even when there is text, it melts into the colored background.

 

Language-Color can be traced back to the broader tradition of the three perfections of poetry, calligraphy, and painting from the literati era, but I let my imagination run wild. As a result, my methods run against counter to Chinese contemporary art. Instead of traditional Chinese precedents, I want to keep close to personal examples.

 

In 1978, the exhibition ‘Nineteenth Century French Rural Landscape Painting’ showcased150 years of early oil paintings in Beijing. I was one of the closest observers of the paintings, and I was very moved by this direct interaction with some of Duchamp’s works. After about a century, they are not that distant. When these paintings came to China, they completed my artistic enlightenment.

 

Duchamp’s works structure color. The blending of each stroke of color was completed on the canvas, so the colors were made in space. The brain directs the hands, the hands move the brush, and the colors move space. Some details move entire paintings, becoming the rhythm and meter of the subject and the life and breath of the painting.

 

Accumulated and scattered colors were sometimes piled like crops in a field; sometimes they spurted from the main line like blood. Still other times, they stopped like cars an intersection with a red light.

 

In other words, active (not scribbled) brushstrokes is one of the goals of painting, like a theme or a background. Through the resonance between the background and the theme, painting gives a sense or conception of three-dimensionality.

 

You could say that brushwork is an expressive technique, but it is directly related to the meaning of the painting. When you open art to intellectual movements, you place creativity above all else, but when you care about the results of the painting from the outset, you openly place content and style above all else.

 

Duchamp’s methodology was an open secret, but after the secret was widely publicized, it was made secret again. There was another secret in this open secret: anyone can achieve popularity, but no one can obtain exclusive secrets. Public contemporary art does not need color or linguistic exercises, and it does not need a sense of volume. In fact, the details and principles are no longer necessary in art, so this type of artwork is enveloped in tradition and sealed up in a museum.

 

Contemporary art is the magnificent transformation of the universal principles of consumer society; we all feel its warm light.

 

It would be a misunderstanding to say that the eccentric Duchamp opened the Pandora’s Box of my mind. Strange ghosts rushed out, leaping and jumping. The little demon that most entranced me was Language-Color.

 

It unexpectedly appeared in Beijing, the reddest of piece of earth on the planet.

 

The texts of the city are hard as iron, but full of intense life.

 

Huang Rui

February 2, 2015


色,言,言色

 

我喜欢颜色,与喜欢画画开始画画同时——1956年,我3岁时,母亲带来初上教堂使用的粉笔。白色的粉笔,画在我家深红色的瓷砖地上分外醒目。我姥姥惊讶极了:“这画太好看了,可不要擦掉!”

 

我好颜色,我好色。

 

我的记忆里都是颜色。如果没有颜色,则不幸成画面。如果没有画面的组织,则不成记忆中的事物,甚至连情节的碎片都不是。

 

听许多朋友说在梦里看不见颜色,梦里一片苍白。我的梦中颜色丰满,各式各样,有令人沮丧的日常,流血飞溅的斗殴,或有浪漫的景色,即使是性场景造成那话儿的梦遗,也是造型不离颜色,女色的诱惑由于可视的颜色才变成鲜活的。

 

每当我独自面对生活的困境——被剥夺自我属性及认知可能的片刻,时间变成没有意义的虚拟,变成压制个人思考的标准,时间也会带来天空的颜色。我曾坐在内蒙古一望无际的黄土地头,面对着夕阳烧红的乌云感动得流下泪水。

 

1975年底至1979年初,我度过了三年半时光的工人生活。每天从我家去工厂上班要往返50公里,用去2-3个小时有时更多的时间,我坐公交车或骑车,一路上的景物变化熟记在心——大部分残破不堪或劣质逼仄,但我的满眼全部是颜色。颜色扑面而来或擦身而过。那些沉默的灰色在暗处乐观,我从那时起爱上它们。

 

一言以蔽之:“色即是空”。但此言并非超脱,我的理解并不在色彩上超脱,它们就是色彩,它们都有色彩。另一方面,它们只是空间展开的肌理。在本质上,色彩为务虚之物——仅此已经足够。有人说“历史超越国家,而语言超越历史”。我要说,色彩覆盖语言——这让我愧对语言。而我的“言色”正是两厢对映,相辅相成,伏羲女娲在交尾中旋转的形态。

 

 

色与言共舞,组成思维境界的“众妙之门”。老子在《道德经》第一章劈头写道:“道可道,非常道。名可名,非常名。。。。。。。故常无,欲以观其妙;常有,欲以观其徼。”

 

“道”非常道——道既非传统,亦非信仰宗教。非常名,非常识界定——知与未知。

 

常无,非既定存在,可“观其妙”,新鲜直观有如少女的舞蹈。

 

汉字妙,左右成为少女。女,象形字,展开双臂的女性。少,象形字,小加倾斜的动作。妙传达一种爱意,主动的被观者与被动的观者之间的激情,无限敲打有限的回声。相反则是文字(法则与诗歌)。

 

“常有,欲以观其徼“。徼字通敫,亦是类象形字,或表意字,左右成为帛文——写在绢上的文字。记录、传达、叙述、总结;或者,舒缓而渐强的节奏,把音声交叠回响呼应的韵律。

 

这是老子针对宇宙万物,也是对艺术的规律性总结。

 

进入七十年代,我尚在内蒙古插队生活,志向已投入西画训练,我为极为贫瘠的物质环境苦恼,我的其中一位老师赵永志教导我:

 

“你找不到老师,找不到材料,但你找到诗,用诗歌训练你的思考与幻想吧。”

 

我开始读歌,也开始写诗,虽然诗歌从未成为我倾力而为的主业,但它成为我一生的陪伴,训练、批评、反照的自我镜像。

 

同时我也认识了诗人北岛和他的地下沙龙的诗人们。揉皱的纸放在手上,从书包里拽出来,是手抄的文字。诗从年轻的嗓音和着烟雾弥漫升起来。

 

一天,约在1974年,芒克带来他的诗《绿色中的绿》,我眼前一震;这不是现代主义吗?

 

我的诗体陈旧,且拘泥于社会现实。197643日,我在人头涌动的混乱中,把一首《人民的悼念》贴到人民英雄纪念碑的底座上。这首诗很快获得发表,印在红头中央文件上——作为公安局查抄证据的《天安门反动诗抄400首》里。

 

虽然如此,我也难于接受“视觉艺术受施于诗歌在七十年代的启蒙”那种说法——如果可以称之七、八十年代时为中国的启蒙时代的话。启蒙的传播与建构是多层面的,既来自外部也来自内部,既来自新鲜的语言也来自求变的风格。在极贫瘠的时间,诗人们大跨步地走在了前面,文字成为想象自由的旗帜。而八十年代以后有所不同,艺术家以形式占领生活环境中熟悉的空间。孰先孰后,有历史佐证,仅此而已。

 

视觉艺术往往伴随时间的发酵,比起诗歌文字更需要慎密的手工劳作。像制作画布或雕塑内撑那样普通而坚实的基础——要亲手触碰。心手间的磨合随着生命的时间一起成长。有人可以说出创造,说质疑,说青春火花;所代表的观念可以日新月变,但一件劣质的作品无法隐藏在经典的阴影里。

 

此外,文字与诗歌是两种不同的形式。在中国的经典,这两种形式(物质)可以分开。“诗、书、画”奉为文人品质的三绝。我常常觉得文字可以再创造,诗歌或艺术可以颠覆传统,又常常取消这样的期望——展望未来,觉得希望不过一场旧梦。中国曾是个创造大国,文字、诗歌、艺术都呈现无尽的可能性。同时也是个反创造的制度大国,几十年几百年的文化瘫痪又使几位仁人志士头痛脑热了?

 

七十年代至此,时代一变再变。流行一潮又赶上了另一潮。好在我身体尚好,可以一边劳作,一边“常无,欲以观其妙;常有,欲以观其徼”。

 

2006年,我创作了《四红》,是我明确“言色”系列工作的先声。其中一幅《红得发紫》,颜色表现文字的部分是我自己留下的。而文字饰于颜色的表达性词义是我送给恰如其分的那些人的。

 

言色

 

T.S.艾略特说:“有感觉的思想。”

 

米开朗基罗说:“有立体作品素质上的绘画是最好的绘画。”

 

尽管在艺术领域有过不少的大师和经典作品在聚光之下的反照,我还是朝着这个目标前行了,待我明确有这个过程,一路蹒跚已近十年。我甚至觉得在未来的时间这个系列的工作也不会短,“言色”的阴魂不散,我只有与之共舞。

 

“言色”,语言里的色彩,或说被文字记录在案的色彩环境,首先是视觉的。即使是文字,也可以并必然消融在我的色彩背景里。

 

虽然“言色”可以归纳于中国文人画“诗、书、画”三绝的宽泛传统——我可能是异想天开了,在中国当代化的洪流中,我的方式是逆向的。相比本国传统的案例,我更想举出贴近个人思考的例子:

 

1978年,《法国农村风景画展》缀以150年的前置词在北京展出了,我成了距离最近的观者之一。我非常感触直面塞尚的几幅作品,差不多近一个世纪之后,它们不远万里,来到中国,完成了对我的另一种艺术启蒙。

 

塞尚的作品结构了色彩,颜色一笔一笔摆到了画布上,颜色的衔接在画布上完成,色彩在空间上完成。这里有个布局:头脑支配手,手运动画笔,颜色运动空间;所以有的细节运动画面,成为画面上主题的韵律与节奏,绘画成为可动的有生命有呼吸的绘画。

 

堆积与分散的颜色有时如拢起的庄稼一样闲置在田野上,有时像血液分子一样冲刺在运输干线,拥堵,在交叉点上等待红灯。

 

换句语说,直接用笔触摆动(而不是涂涂擦擦)是绘画运动的目的之一,是一个主题,或是一个背景。在背景与主题的呼应下,绘画获得一种立体感。或者一种有关立体的思考。

 

进一步地说,笔法仅仅是技巧表现也就罢了,但它直接关联绘画的意义。此一种开放给在思考运动中的艺术,创造至上。彼一种从开始即照料结局,公然以内容或风格至上。

 

塞尚的方法论本来都是公开的秘密,不过这秘密被极度的公开化重新秘密起来了。公开的秘密里有个秘密:谁都可以得到大众化的公开,谁都得不到独享的秘密。公开化的当代艺术既不需要色彩,又不需要语言练习,更不需要立体意识;事实上把任何艺术的本质与细节都不再需要,因此此类作品被所谓经典打包,放到博物馆中封存起来了。

 

当代艺术实现了消费社会普世原则的华丽转身,我们都感受到它那暖洋洋的光线。

 

一个误会曾是:怪癖的老塞尚打开我脑中的潘多拉盒子。一些奇奇怪怪的幽灵闯了出来又蹦又跳,其中一个叫“言色”的小妖最得我的钟爱。

 

竟然在北京这块世界上最红色的土地上。

 

虽然城市里的文字坚硬如铁,可它们满热烈地生活。

 

2015.2.2