读江衡的画,江衡流动的现代性和存在的焦虑之间的失乐园

 绘画     |      2020-01-06

借用卡通世界中的任务和图像是90年代初以来的当代艺术家的一个特点,这种借用贯穿亚洲各个国家的艺术(在中国,产生了所谓的卡通族,日本则有村上隆和奈良美智的超扁平一代),也风行于欧美大陆。在意大利,正如中国的卡通族那样,人们从90年代中期开始广泛讨论所谓的迪斯尼一代。迪斯尼一代专指那些常常将智慧和讽刺精心地与传统绘画的风格元素相结合的艺术家群体,他们作品中的影像和人物角色取自传媒和卡通动画。这种现象,不仅贯穿当代艺术,还影响了其他的表达形式,例如电影制作(其杰出和超前的试验性代表作就是罗伯特泽米基斯执导的《谁陷害了兔子罗杰》,该片于1988年上映,毫不奇怪地体现了传统电影技术和卡通技术的混合。)这不仅仅是90年代的孤立现象,它改变了贯穿艺术这个整体,甚至某种程度上贯穿同一时期所有最先进的表达形式的视角和语言。

熟悉江衡的人都知道,外表温文尔雅的他,在艺术上却有着一颗难以抑制的躁动的激情,江衡是位勇于艺术实验的艺术家,他在上个世纪90年代初,即以行为艺术的方式登场,并崭露头角,继而在其后的卡通一代的浪潮中,江衡又以一种义无反顾的勇气和可辨识性的视觉语符,成为了卡通一代的重要代表,经过二十来年的风雨,当年的青涩江衡已不复存在,代之而起的则是一个在艺术和人生上愈加自信、坚韧、从容和成熟的江衡。

  谈论江衡的艺术,有几个关键点是必须提到的,这些关键点是:

不论如何,我会毫不犹豫地将这种现象限制于后现代文化这一更广泛的范围,其具有一些基本特征,这些特征影响了所有表达形式。从这个意义上说,大部分后现代文化表达方式的特色元素反过来又可以追溯到一些统一的解释,比如否定不同体裁、语言和文化背景之间的层级(例如高雅文化与低俗文化、精英文化与大众文化、传统与创新之间的融合),重复和大量使用讽刺、剧本和对话,这造成观众语言和阅读水平系统性地去经典化,对所有的经典的解构与破坏,文化背景的碎片化与多样性,流派(包括模仿、异装癖、语言模仿)的混合或变化复制,艺术作品与文化产品的大量公开展示,这一切都符合类似的日渐狂欢化的社会。不管你乐不乐意,我们都可以以这样或那样的方式来准确地说明,这种统一的元素就算不是欧洲、亚洲和美洲在80年代到新千年初之间产生的大部分作品的唯一特征,也是其主要特征。

探寻江衡的视觉发展行迹,不难发现,江衡的个人成长轨迹,恰恰又印证了这么一个事实,即江衡的艺术是和中国当代艺术的发展进程有着密切的关联,正是社会结构的急剧变化,新的社会生产方式,生活方式所导致的视觉经验,为江衡提供了一种回应的策略和方式,江衡敏锐地从消费社会的文化观念入手,以一种主观介入的方式,揭示出全球化语境下的资本、权力、欲望、消费、生态、道德传统的缺失这些文化命题,而近期的视觉表达仍然和以往的视觉叙事保持着一种文脉上的关联和风格上的延续。

  首先要提到江衡的老师。江衡当年就读于广州华南师大美术学院,跟从李邦耀学习油画。本来,常识判断,华师美术学院从档次和规格上似乎应该比广州美术学院略逊一筹,但是,正因为华师美术学院在九十年代初期果断地从湖北美术学院引进了一批老师,他们同时也是中国当代艺术运动的重要成员,结果便逐渐改变了学院原有的艺术生态,在南方本地的气氛之中,催生了完全不同的艺术结果。江衡是这结果之一。

江衡的作品包含十分真实的人物角色,可以被完美地划入这一类别。他的作品是一种艺术操作,深入探究后现代艺术的文化和语言,并从中大量提取,用带有强烈身份特征的元素去充盈它,直到实现超越,从而找到属于他自己的独特方式,这种方式总能占据并连接当代西方艺术和文化争论的根本主题和思考。

如果对江衡的视觉图像进行解码,就不能不回到江衡的从艺经历和成长的历史背景,而重构江衡的成长历史环境,则可以为阅读者开启解码江衡的一把钥匙,当我们重构历史语境时,当我们反观我们的生存现实和文化现实时,我们发现,江衡这辈70后生人,他们显然已没有父辈身上的那种苦难深重和悲情意识,因而在他们身上也缺少那种宏大叙事的文化激情,可以说,江衡直面了一个荒诞时代的结束,但江衡又是幸运的,他又直面并能置身其间的一个伟大时代的开始,当以阶级斗争为纲不再成为一种政治,当计划经济走向终结,而改革开放思想解放,则让江衡获得了宽阔的视野和自由表达的叙事路径,当然,改革开放带来的不仅仅是物质的极度充盈。可以说,这也是一个翻天覆地的变化,又是一个伦理颠覆,浮躁纵欲和众生万象的时代,社会的快速发展,必然导致高度的复杂性和艺术变化的多样性。

  当年南下的艺术家,今天仍然留在华师美院教书的,除了李邦耀之外,还有方少华、杨国辛和石磊、他们四人的油画在当代油画艺术格局中各有位置。尤其重要的是,他们带来了发轫于内地的艺术思想和造型观念,包括九十年代初湖北的政治波普和他们所特有的表现主义描绘方式。更重要的是,他们在教学中一直强调个性的张扬,强调个人与情境的结合,强调艺术对现实的干预,从而形成有意义的艺术问题,并以此为基础去达成切入当下的目的。看江衡早期留下来的几幅油画,的确受到非本土因素的影响。1994年的《无题》系列,主角是扭动的红色男人体,背景则是表达欲望的图案。这几张作品混杂了某些波普的风格,却又用了表现的手法,有着湖北画风的影子。1996年的《卡通一代系列》,在画风上则显然受到李邦耀艺术的影响。毫无疑问,这是江衡艺术的风格起点。

江衡的作品的第一个关键性特征元素是对语言的选择。虽然他采用绘画这种古老的方法(其在中国有着深厚的学术技巧传统),但他选择了一种彻底的故意反学术的风格,这种风格直接来自漫画和流行插图,也因此在视觉和概念上与国际艺术的流行音乐和新流行音乐趋势有着明显联系。仅靠少数精确校准的色调和平坦的笔触,在图画的中心主题方面完全不受任何视觉干扰、杂质、水滴或干扰元素的影响,江衡的绘画风格明确表明其摆脱学术传统而转入广受欢迎的意象创作的大道:因此,在作为流行曲目和大众文化影响授课教师的一个案例的同时,他也成为其内部探索和质疑的一种方式。因此,江衡作品中的模仿元素通过无意识和自然的采用对大众具有吸引力的技巧(广告业、电视传播和漫画家创作的专属技巧),巧妙地掩饰了本身,发展出一个统一的故事,看似片面,却又具有吸引力和微妙的忧郁。

当伴随着90年代市场经济的全面来临,中国似乎在一夜之间就进入了都市文化和消费时代,这是全球化冲击所带来的必然结果,于是观念形态的日益更新,大众文化开始流行并越来越挤压精英文化,大有成为主流文化之趋势,图像时代开始影响人们的生活方式和创作活动,这些因素的交互叠加,共同构成了江衡成长的历史文化语境,而新的社会结构方式和新的视觉经验,也使江衡必须要寻找到一种回应激变的社会和激变的现实的方法,这也构筑了江衡图像叙事的视觉思考方式和视觉表达方式。至此,不难发现,理想主义的热情和对西方现代文明的盲目崇拜的潮流正悄然退出历史舞台,代之而起的则是对个人生活空间、个人价值的重视,以及对中国社会现实的关怀,特别是对于处于改革开放前沿的广州,人们更关心个人生存体验为基础的生存问题,强调个人在社会上的一种发展方式与生存方式,集体主义经验日渐开始被个人实验所代替。汪晖在《去政治化的政治:20世纪的终结与90年代》一书中也强调了市场经济时代的形成以及由此产生的复杂的社会结构变化,短暂的90年代,是以革命世纪的终结为前提展开的新的戏剧、政治、经济、文化以至军事的含义在这个时代发生了根本性的转变,若不加以重新界定,甚至政治、国家、群众等耳熟能详的范畴不可能用于对于这个时代的分析,视觉知识分子开始将目光从对过去的沉思转向对置身这个陌生时代的思考。与此,西方学者丹尼尔贝尔也强调,现代城市生活突出的特征就是强调视觉性,城市给艺术带来的不仅仅是传统和形式,而是一种全新的空间感、价值观和未来观。随之而来的还有速度与激情。这些无疑构成了卡通一代赖以产生的温床,而卡通一代也是自觉地把景观社会的视觉经验转换为艺术表达语言,他们的社会环境是流行文化和卡通、动漫游戏及摇滚激情,他们玩着美国芯片,看着好莱坞大片,吃着美国薯片一路走来,这必然导致江衡的生活经验决定了他的视觉表达方式,他从自身生活经验出发,创造出一个虚幻的卡通世界,用虚幻的语言来表现现实的世界,当现实被卡通化后,不仅颠覆了人们久已习惯的审美经验和价值观念,其实也印证了江衡这一代人的在当代社会的生存方式,他反映了江衡这一代人的人生经验,而反讽与调侃则构成了江衡视觉表达的基调,虚幻、迷离与梦境其间夹杂着些童趣的天真与浪漫和对未来无尽的想象,也就成为江衡的一种独特的叙事方式。他从《美女与鱼》开始,到《蝴蝶飞飞》和《蝴蝶飘》,再到现在的《风生水起》、《乱花渐欲迷人眼》,视觉的不断转向,思考的不断精进,把当代文化、当代的视觉经验作为其视觉表达发挥得合适合理,即有节奏又有控制,从而有效地把新的视觉经验转换为自我的绘画语言,进而以他所精擅的平涂的广告画方式,破坏掉油画的色调,并以一种符号化的编码暗示出生活的一种状态和经验,即高度商业化的社会现实,人被异化为物,人在物化中的变形。他也因此揭示出了大众的、流行的、通俗的,即现代商业社会的文化特征,特别是中国南方发达的大众文化与成熟的消费社会这么一个社会现实,即我们正处在这样一个无法逃避的时代,似乎有一只无形的手在操纵着你的思维,在支配着你的消费,在广告、宣传、传媒的夹击下,人们于日常普通的生活中,越来越丧失自我,并越来越异化为机器复制时代的一个物,其视觉图像所传达出的激情奔放,个人欲望处境与社会的关系,鲜活艳丽的色彩,其图像资源的转化也再次印证了这么一个事实,即当代文化正从传统的印刷文化向当代视觉文化转变,图像无时不刻不在经验着你,你也不断在被各类图像经验着。阅读者自此也从中深入了解到了江衡的一种来自内心深处的东西,即他内心的希望,而从江衡所精擅的图像表达中,他无疑有着一种极强地把隐喻转化为公众可以接受的现实这样一种本领,而且能保持对时代及社会现实的敏锐性,其图像的质感与华丽很让阅读者有一种心理情感和文化上的暗示,他的视觉叙事似乎一直在编织着一个个隐喻,他把其对当代社会和艺术人生的激情想象和象征性表达隐藏在艳丽的表象中,这也不难理解,为什么在江衡的图像表达中,色彩能够突破物象框架的束缚而获得一种自由,并放射出令人眩目的华丽与愉悦,而其视觉表达中的童心具有某种情感力量,他的视觉表达消解了成人的理解和判断力,并用一种新的理解方式来表现世界,从而在已有的图像世界中创造出一个全新的世界,这个全新的世界即是图像时代不仅改变了江衡的创作观念和表达方式,它也改变了阅读者的阅读习惯和视觉审美经验,而对图像时代艺术的阐释与解读,无疑是需要伴随着读图一代的长大来解决这样一个预设性问题。

  其次,九十年代中广州以黄一瀚为首的卡通一代运动,对江衡形成了直接的影响。今天,已经没有谁去怀疑广州的卡通一代了,即使评价有差异,但风靡当下画坛的所谓卡通风,追根溯源,和广州还是有着密切的联系。我的意思并不是说所有包含卡通风格的艺术都根源于广州的卡通一代。在我看来,造成卡通风气漫延的原因,比人们想象的还要复杂,来源更是千差万别,但类似风格的确是在广州最早出现的。有意思的是,身为广州美院教师的黄一瀚,却要到华师美院来寻找支持,让第一回展和第二回展在华师美院展厅成功举办。这说明华师美院的确存在着某种令人感动的宽容气氛。江衡从一开始就是广州卡通一代的积极参与者,并用自己的油画风格去印证卡通的合理性。以至于最后成为九十年代中期中国卡通一代的重要艺术家代表人物之一。上面提到的《卡通一代》系列,就是这场不大不小的南方艺术运动的直接结果。后来他那著名的风格标志,也就是睁着天真媚眼、高度物质化的女性偶像,就是在这当中成型的。

从他90年代的广场画开始,江衡持续复制女子的标准化外貌作为其画作的中心人物,这些女子是消费主义的产物,现在在全球广泛传播,包括在东方和西方:他的画的主角最初来自于每天无处不在的小异教女神,从针对青少年的海报和电视节目到卡通动画,更不用说那些每天数以百万计的张贴在社交网络上的照片,这些照片大量而疯狂地展示了自己的存在和生活,它们被转变为永恒的电影或电视。江衡因此抓住了建立新社会的核心综合景观(其早在60年代就被哲学家居伊德波非常有预见性地称为西方社会的噩梦,如今已经在东方广泛深入地传播),这种核心在强迫性的消费、需求和生活标准中很明显,以及那永无止境的关于永恒的青春期的神话,在这个神话中,洋娃娃般的女孩是天真的洛丽塔,但其眼睛、行为和服装已经具有诱惑力,具有完美的、晶莹剔透的象征,同时,这种象征无所不在,非常接近我们,却又致命地难以企及,因为任何人(除了那些碰巧生活在完全一样又稍纵即逝的时刻的人)都不可能有相同的青春期,因此也不可能有相同的青春期的梦想、新鲜感、踌躇满志或微妙的忧郁,这忧郁有时会带来最深的黑暗和绝望。

透过江衡为阅读者编织的一个又一个失真的虚拟的场景,他让真实性消融在图像中,他以虚拟的场景,机械复制的产品试图复活一种状态,进而以复制的复制来凸显他的经验叙事和价值判断。他在为阅读者带来一种另类的创作方式的同时,也带来了一种特别的观看方式,从而在主体与客体之间形成了一种张力,通过他营造的这个虚假场景,也让阅读者充分领略到图像阅读已然成为人们获取信息的基本方式,它不仅渗透在你我的日常生活中,更成为一种接受信息与知识的习惯,因而图像又时常控制着人们的思维,引导着人们的消费,刺激着人们的欲望。

  再其次,发生在九十年代中国社会的急剧转型,尤其是发生在南方的经济改革大潮,不但彻底改变了以往艺术所固有的精神格局与表现方式,而且,更重要的是,这场大潮还催生了新生代直接而坦率的物质欲望。不要小瞧这场在转型当中催生出来的物质欲望,也不要把这欲望仅仅看成是一种被动反应,恰恰相反,今天,中国的物欲,早就超越了自我范畴,而成长为一种精神现象。忽视这一精神现象,我们就无法对当下艺术做出哪怕是万分之一的客观判断。

毕竟,青春期和青春期前的状态,尤其是女孩,现在已经成为一个单独的阶段。在这一阶段,人们会经历快速的转变,这种转变在当代想象中可以体现几个迹象:强烈的情感碰撞和特别的文化意义。最明显的迹象不仅包括越来越多专门为这个年龄段设计的产品的大规模入侵(从服装、漫画类或其他杂志(逐渐指数级地增加并似乎越来越关注青春期和青春期前的特定部分公众)到各种小物品,玩偶的外形越来越或多或少地反映了传统的展示和强调前性别的图像,并具有其自身强烈的特征),还包括使这一现象成为近几十年最引人注目的其它几个因素。

江衡充分捕捉住了景观社会公共图像世界艺术的灵韵,体味到了社会生活的丰富与多样,他虽然营构出一个个形象一目了然,艳丽冷漠而又扑朔迷离的幻境与梦境,但自我却没有丝毫情感流露,阅读者面对的还是那些僵硬冰冷重复乏味和无聊虚幻与虚空之感,他要着力表达的是量化生产中的格式构图,系列的重复和意义的滥用。扑面而来的是一种经济的量化生产。江衡的视觉表达还是对消费时代各种时尚、保健用品及那些粗劣而又没有个性产品及赤裸裸的物质化物品的一种表达,一个毋庸置疑的事实,今天的中国正是建立在这种东西之上,它折射出我们赖以生存的、实用的、但不持久的物品中一切可以消费的瞬间性和短暂性。

  也就是说,来自内地的艺术思潮、本土掀起的艺术运动和中国社会的急剧转型,是造成江衡艺术之面貌的外部条件,没有这些条件,很难想象他会创作出现在人们所熟悉的风格。

在其他象征这种明显的女性青春期状态改变的特定元素中,首先就是一个新词的诞生,即音素tween,这个因素本身包含了表示这种改变的特定含义。事实上,tween来自两个不同单词的结合:一个是比较熟悉的teen,表示那些几年前我们称之为青少年的含义,另一个是between(意为之间),表示从一个年龄过渡到另一个年龄(特定地表示从童年过渡到青春期)和从人生的一个阶段过渡到另一个阶段。青春期本质上是这样一个年龄,正如媒体和大众所认为的,这个年龄玩玩具太大,找男性伴侣又太小。

江衡的视觉叙事策略,既是图像时代的胜利,也是消费时代的狂欢,同时又是性感的胜利和作为市场经济发达的广州在改革开放之初所取得的思想解放的胜利,江衡不仅仅有成熟的风格样式和日渐精进的社会批判立场,他能把自我的视觉标识通过挪用转化,将这些生活元素融入到视觉表达中,在消费社会和景观社会中,他适时地而又机智地用消费社会的方式对消费社会进行反讽和表达,从而揭示出景观对于人的异化所造成的冷漠与疏离,无聊与空虚,这才是江衡艺术的深刻之处,也体现的是江衡的价值观和文化价值尺度。至此,我们可以清晰地窥见到江衡的视觉叙事是浸染在极度商业化的情境中。一个不争的事实是,江衡受惠于消费社会的消费理念,这不仅为其赢得声誉,同时他又是消费社会资本文明下的艺术承载者。江衡以个性化的视觉讲述,讲出了一个极尽奢侈与繁荣的虚假而又虚空的景观,及隐藏在华丽表象背后的痛苦和忧伤,迷茫与无耐。

  除此之外,江衡本人的视角,他对生活和社会的独特把持,对他人与艺术的广泛认识,也起到了关键的作用。

事实上,这种转变和对角色的不确定性表明,新一代年轻女性在东西方已经承担了象征一整个时代的角色:一个充满不确定性的年龄(时间),几乎是一种致命的流动、不确定和不确定的时间(在这一点我们可以想想齐格蒙特鲍曼提出的流动的现代性)的象征。我敢说,江衡的大部分诗论就是建立在这种不确定性和长期而愉快的转变上的。他的作品实际上是之前和之后之间一段长时间的碎片。此处我们再一次提到between(之间),作为一个中心点,代表存在不确定性的状态,这种不确定性在危机中通过年轻女性的眼睛传给整个社会,并大肆寻找一个新的身份、新的重力中心,以及价值和意义之间新的平衡。

近期的江衡正在尝试多元的视觉表达路径,他不断地挑战束缚,挑战边界,并不断地超越自我,他的视觉图像世界依然充满着一派生机,而鲜有具体的感受和一时的情绪,这已然是一种升华的境界,一种从容与淡定的情怀,一种超然物外的憧憬,而人生阅历的日渐丰富,艺术探索上的甘苦体验,也让他少了几分以前的激愤,却又增添了几分平和与淡定从容,但艺术创新的激情却没有丝毫的减弱,而对和平与和谐的畅想,对自然和生命的崇高礼赞,对东西方文化与哲理的碰撞与交融的思考,对传统与当代相交织的困惑,将会引起江衡在以后持续的视觉探求。

  现在,世人所熟悉的江衡的艺术,便是他那几乎千篇一律的符号化的媚眼美女,她们傻笑着,做着各种符合世俗要求的媚态和表情,传递着一种或可称之为天真与美丽的性别信息。从某种意义来看,我觉得江衡的媚眼美女像是一句重复出现的反语,述说着与表面信息完全相反、甚至是相互抵触和冲突的内容。

我认为,正是在这由一个年龄向另一个年龄转变的关键时刻,带着这种时刻通常伴有的不确定性和焦虑,我们可以找到更好地理解江衡作品的关键。事实上,正是这种不确定性和焦虑构成了所谓的后现代文明的核心,其特点体现为失去对前一时期理性的乐观,并产生关于悲剧和希望的伟大思想,以及对未来清醒、开放而自信的展望。其实,如果说现代社会是建立在对进步的信仰上,那么后现代社会已成为一个充满危险和最大的不确定性的社会。对未来、核污染、地球毁灭、能源损失、福利终止、食品污染、家庭和性身份本身的害怕,以及对饥荒、战争、革命、种族冲突、恐怖袭击、日益进步的生物技术的恐惧,这一切都威胁着我们的确定性在这个消费主义、金融和先进的却不受控制的资本主义的社会,现在从根本上缺少思想上的确定性,人们在戏剧般的不确定中不安地担心着,这种不确定被掩盖在漂亮的小女孩从电视屏幕和路边广告海报中偷窥时露出的乐观的笑容下。

丁丁克拉克曾提出这样一个观点,现代艺术的历史不是一个平面化的历史,而是一个否定性的历史,是不停地由新的运动否定旧的运动的历史。

  记得当年我在一篇谈论广州卡通一代的文章中,提到了造成这种风格出现的某些原因:

江衡的作品展示了天真美丽的女孩沉浸在充满花朵的迷失乐园和未受损的大自然中,相反,其正是在提醒我们目前生活中的不确定性。她们那强行标准化的外貌使外貌想起后人类时代里人类社会的不自然性。毫不意外,有好几年,江衡画作中的绝对主角都是芭比,美泰儿公司制造的著名洋娃娃:可能在同一时代出现的完美的洋娃娃,拥有模特的身材,穿着时尚的服装,却又无人能与之相匹配(请想想那些关于女性神经质地进行无数的手术模仿其却徒劳的新闻报道吧)。芭比娃娃是一种时代象征,这种时代需要寻求其自身的解决方法来化解深刻的认同危机,这种危机来自于现代世界对不可能的永恒的青春的无瑕疵的美丽的信心。

那么作为卡通一代重要代表的江衡,将会再为阅读者带来哪些视觉的惊奇和期待呢?

  

然而,正如每个小丑的面具后都有忧郁的影子,从江衡笔下置身于花朵的人造的完美洋娃娃的人工美的背后,完美可以看到这个先进消费主义抬头的社会上笼罩的悲剧。正如许多西方女性设计图通过整容手术掩饰身体的年龄,却不能掩饰致命的神经衰弱,以及那些试图人为阻止时间流逝的人为尝试,广告图片中充斥着我们日常生活的无限乐观亦不能隐藏一个只有消费的社会中意义与价值的深刻危机。

我们拭目以待。

  卡通一代首先针对的对象是自己,看自己是否具备足够的穿透力,用以穿透南方人在文化上的局限性,以便得到一块观察的平台,并为作品的文化价值寻找新的定位。作为外来文明的一块跳板,南方的确具备了某种优越性,但处在边缘区域,受各种各样的诱惑太多,艺术容易走向肤浅和矫情,也是显然的事实。......影响我们的正是对所谓深度的不正常迷恋。......卡通大量涌向中国,既迅速冲垮原来的古典阅读方式,也造就了与五、六十年代相异的卡通人。同时,电脑的普及以及人造环境的空前增长,进一步阻隔了人与自然的有机联系,使得除了卡通人之外,又不断产生大量的电脑人。卡通一代的发起人黄一瀚用我们是长不大的孩子来命名他的一件作品,其实用这个题目来指称那些生理上过早成熟而心理上却迟迟不发育、整天埋头在卡通和电脑之中难以自拔的新一代的族群是相当确切的。[1][1]

近几年,江衡的作品越来越明确、直率和迫切:他笔下置身于花丛中的洋娃娃们不可避免地收到一种沮丧的忧郁的影响。死亡和悲剧似乎正一步步向她们紧逼。其他大量无生命的主角开始出现在他的绘画中。被迷人的风景环绕或置身于漫天飞舞的蝴蝶中,巨大的药丸象征着2000年代的器官性疾病(我们对于人在一个世界和时间中消失的神经官能症无法提供任何存在的确定性或对可能的来世的安慰),然后作为替代品成为理想的偶像,有权试图平复我们的心神不借用弗洛伊德的话来说,一种任何意识形态都无法治愈的神经官能症。因此,毫无意外,颅骨这一曾经在当代艺术领域中流行的象征,再次占据江衡的绘画,他的画作因此成为非凡的和快乐的当代虚空派,当代的死亡象征。在江衡最新的画作中,颅骨和药丸隐藏在明显的玩笑和及其愉快的装饰性焦虑中,以花朵作为掩饰和伪装,正如当代悲剧常常隐藏于一层又一层的胭脂、化妆品、侵入性广告和人工微笑中,我们在生活中的每一刻都被数以百计的屏幕所欺骗。

2014年1月14日18:00

  

江衡新作中颅骨和药丸的作用和他的洋娃娃的作用一样:装饰性物品,有益的、令人愉悦的虚伪和诱惑,却微妙地大肆地令人不安。江衡的颅骨,具有象征性地伪装于花朵中,友好而又可怕,完美地表现了后现代人类对历史和宇宙永恒不变的运动可能存在的双重的、矛盾的和对立的心理:划过天际的星星,生与死之间一瞬的欢愉。它也解释了后现代个体在混乱的历史中体验分散边缘性感受时的兴奋和不安,这种混乱的历史似乎已经永远失去了其线性和良性的发展。

于东湖三官殿

  出现在当年的这场南方艺术运动,曾经受到几乎整个艺术界的反对。曾几何时,类似风格却成为大多数70年代以后出生的新艺术家群体的图式选择。这种现象在时空中的反差,甚至导致了人们对当初事实的忽视。就像一开始我所指出的,江衡属于早期的卡通一代,他的符号形成与发展已经有近十年的时间。从这个角度来说,我也算是比较早对这一艺术现象做出反应的批评家。检索当年言论,我发现,我所感兴趣的并不是表面的卡通。站在今天的情境去审视当年,所谓卡通,可能只是一种巧妙的图式挪用策略。当然,其中也呈现了年轻一代成长时特有的视觉背景。就在批评家用不同的概念去述说今天的卡通风格时,我觉得其中一个问题是,他们几乎都对卡通当了真,而忘记类似风格早在七十年代前后,就成为出版产业和影像产业的重要内容。我之所以把当年自己的言论刊在这里,是我发现,即使在当年的关注中,我就已经多多少少地把卡通视为与成长密切相关的一个问题。黄一瀚提出长不大的孩子,可能只是他作为长辈对年轻人的主观看法。如果稍微深入到新一代的具体环境中,对于成长,他们所面临的,显然不是长不大,而是拒绝长大。这种拒绝的态度,切中了与成长有关的社会与历史背景,体现了成人社会和非成人社会的紧张关系,甚至是冲突关系。我承认,当年我也只是看到生理成熟心理不成熟这个自为是的表象,而忽略了其中的意义。在我看来,新艺术家们之所以选择偏向卡通或与卡通趣味有关的形象,表面看是其青春期受特定的视觉形象影响的结果,但深入看,却透露了他们在成长过程中,对规训其发育的成人社会的态度。如果这个猜测成立,那么,我要说,呈现在视觉上的形象的某种一致性,本身就是一个有趣的答案,并告诉我们,他们是如何看待成人社会的。面对一个日益虚伪的犬儒化成人社会,作为艺术家,他们大概只能通过选择曾经被成人社会(在这里我更多是指成人社会当中的艺术界)所遗弃或忽视的形象类型,比如卡通,来表达对这个社会的拒绝。当然,随着艺术界本身的变化,卡通也开始成为一种显赫的风格,使拒绝上升为新一轮的艺术运动。后起的追随者究竟是否因为相同的原因,还是为业已成功的前景所左右,才继续选择卡通,这自然要另当别论了。

亚历山德罗里瓦(米兰, 1964)

冀少峰:现为湖北美术馆副馆长、著名策展人、批评家

  当我把江衡的媚眼美女放在这样一个与成长相关的背景上时,他的作品的反语效果就开始呈现出来了。那是一个潜藏在青春早期甚至前青春期的粉红色梦想,曾经是成人社会压制的对象,并且和一个时期以来,艺术界所推崇的深度背道而驰。自然,就反语而言,我并不是说江衡有意要用媚眼美女这样一种视觉修辞去从事反抗或者讽刺。我相信他并没有反语式的创作意图。也就是说,他不关心表面的反抗。他甚至一点也不反抗。相反,他只关心图像所传达的物质欲望。正因为这样,我才读解出他作品中的某种真实性,因为内里所透露的,可能连他本人都不能清醒意识到,是一种拒绝成人社会的温软态度。

艺术评论家和策展人。作为一名评论家,他针对世界上出现的新艺术现象写下了许多文章、书籍和评论。

2013年唯一获得第55届威尼斯双年展策划奖的中国批评家

  这样,我以为我们就能理解江衡笔下的媚眼美女了。那本来就不是真实的美女,而是想象中的物欲偶像,呆在虚空中,瞪着假装天真的媚眼,以永远不变的面容和表情,注视着成人社会的持续膨胀。也就是说,江衡通过媚眼美女,既实现了他的拒绝意图,让年龄永远驻足在足以让艺术家感到愉快率性的时刻,同时又把一种少年的伤痛隐藏了起来,而用偶像取代对现实的插入。

作为一名策展人,亚历山德罗在欧洲策划并组织了多个个展和团体展。这些展览主要关注新的意大利和欧洲绘画,更确切的说,是关注世界上像街头艺术、新波普艺术和新艺术设计这样的年轻艺术现象。这些重要的公开展览中值得一提的有:新的意大利人像II(米兰,1998)、特殊(PAC.当代艺术馆,米兰,2001)、意大利工厂、新意大利艺术现场(威尼斯双年展,国际艺术双年展,威尼斯,2003)、 罗马四年 (罗马,意大利,2003)、新意大利现场 (欧洲议会, 斯特拉斯堡,法国,2003)、中国城市(上海,中国,2006)、意大利(上海美术馆,上海,中国,2007)、新意大利艺术(台北艺术馆,台北)、甜蜜艺术街艺术(PAC.当代艺术馆,米兰,2007)、跨绘画(超级工作室,米兰,2009)、跨界 (威尼斯双年展, 2013), 突如其来(米兰,2014)。

Ruins---- On Jiang Hengs Paintings

  

Jiang Hengs Lost Paradise between Liquid Modernity and existential anxiety

Ji Shaofeng

  Materialistic Idols Reluctance to Grow Up

Jiang Hengs Lost Paradise between Liquid Modernity and existential anxiety

Those who know Jiang Heng well understand that beneath the gentle appearance, he is actually an avant-garde experimentalist with an insuppressible passion for art. In the early 1990s, he appeared in the art society with performance art; then in the following Cartoon Generation wave, with his unswerving courage and distinctive visual lansign, Jiang Heng became an important representative. After more than 20 years ups and downs, he is no longer the green boy but a confident, resolute, unhurried and mature artist.

  - Jiang Hengs Flirtatious eyes and Gaze

by Alessandro Riva

Reviewing Jiang Hengs personal growth path shows that the development of his art synchronizes with that of the Chinese contemporary art. It is exactly the drastic changes of the social structure, the new social production means, new life styles and the visual experience created that provide a response tactic and approach for Jiang Heng, who acutely enters on from the cultural notions in the consumer society and through subjective intervention, reveals such cultural subjects as the capital, power, desire, consumption, ecology and absence of moral tradition in the globalised context. His recent visual expression still relates to his past visual narration contextually and extends the same style.

  Yang Xiaoyan

The appropriation, by contemporary artists, of icons and images drawn from the universe of cartoons is a phenomenon that characterized a whole generation of artists, since the early nineties, running through Asian art in a crosswise direction (in China, with the so-called Cartoon Generation, and in Japan, with the Superflat Generation of Murakami and Nara), but also on the American and European continents. In Italy, just as happened in China with the Cartoon Generation, much has been talked, since the mid-nineties, about a so-called Disney generation, a term specifically coined to refer to the artistic community of those who were able to mix - with intelligence, irony and often with great refined too, stylistic elements inspired by the classical painting tradition with images and characters taken instead from the world of media and cartoons. This phenomenon, which besides crossing through contemporary art also affected other forms of expression, such as film-making (just think of the brilliant and greatly forerunning experiment that is the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit by Robert Zemeckis, which, not surprisingly, dates from 1988 and shows a blending of a traditional film technique with that of cartoons), it was not just an isolated experiment confined to the nineties, but a real change of perspective and language that ran through art as a whole and, in some way, all forms of expression of the most advanced contemporaneity.

To decode Jiang Hengs visual images, one needs to look back on his artistic path and the historical background of his growth. Reconstructing this gives the audience a key to unlock Jiang Heng and his works. Reexamining our life and cultural reality, we will find that Chinese born in the 1970s, such as Jiang Heng, are not burdened with trials and tribulations like their fathers were any more, therefore they also lack of the cultural passion for epical narration. It can be said that Jiang Heng experienced directly the end of an absurd time. But he is also lucky that he equally witnessed and participated in the beginning of a great time when battle between classes is no longer the political priority, when the planned economy came to an end and the reform, opening-up and thoughts liberation gave Jiang Heng a broad horizon and free expression. For sure the reform and opening-up has brought much more than material abundance; it was a world-shaking change and an ethical subversion. A time of fickleness, desire and rapid social development would certainly have immense complexity and create a great diversity of art.

  

I would not hesitate in any way to mark the limits of that phenomenon within the more general ambit of postmodern culture, with some basic features that influenced its entire expressive cycle. In this sense, the elements that characterized most the forms of expression referable to postmodern culture can in turn be traced to some unifying interpretations, such as the refusal of a hierarchy among the different genres, languages, and cultural references (think of the mixing between high and low culture, between elite and mass culture, and between tradition and innovation), a repetitive and redundant use of irony, play, dialogue with the viewer, systematic decanonization of languages and reading levels, with the deconstruction and demolition of all canons, fragmentariness and multiplicity of cultural references, hybridization, or changing replication of genre, which includes parody, transvestism, linguistic pastiche, increasing spectacularization of the work and cultural product, in line with the parallel and growing carnivalization of society. Like it or not, we can quite rightly state that, in one way or another, the vast majority of the works created between the eighties and the beginning of the new millennium in Europe, Asia and America were predominantly, if not uniquely, characterized by this kind of unifying elements.

In the 1990s, market economy was rolling out overwhelmingly. Almost overnight, China entered into the time of urban culture and consumption an inevitable result of the impact of globalization. Along with it were continuous evolution of ideology and prevalence of popular culture to the extent that it kept squeezing out the elite culture with a tendency to become the mainstream. On the other hand, the time of images also began to influence peoples way of life and art creation. The combination and interaction of all these factors formed the historical and cultural context of Jiang Hengs personal growth, while the new social structure and new visual experience prompted him to find a way to respond to the upheaval, which underpins the approach of the visual reflection and visual expression in his image narration.

  Speaking of Jiang Hengs art, one must mention a few key points. They are:

Jiang Hengs work can be perfectly included, with characters of great authenticity, within this argument. His is an artistic operation that delves fully into and draws heavily from the cultural and linguistic reservoir of post-modern art, gradually enriching it with strongly identity-making elements until managing to go beyond it, in order to find his own original way, that somehow anticipates and connects to the themes and lines of reflection underlying the contemporary western artistic and cultural debate.

Thus it is not difficult to see at that time, the passion of idealism and the blind worship of modern western civilization were fading away from the historical stage and taken over by an emphasis on personal living space, value of individuals and attention to Chinese social reality. This was particularly so in Guangzhou, the gateway city of reform and opening-up, where people cared more about the matter of living based on individual life experience and emphasized personal way of life and development in the society. As a trend, the collective experience was more and more replaced by individual experiment.

  First of all, we must speak of Jiang Hengs professor. Jiang Heng was a student in the oil painting department at the art college of Huanan Normal University, and studied under professor Li Bangyao. Albeit our common understanding that Huanan Normal University categorizes as an institution of a lower tier in comparison to the Guangzhou Academy of Art, however Huanan Normal University hired a groups of professors from Hubei Academy of Art in the early 90s. They were once important players in the movement of contemporary Chinese art. As a result, their presence at the art college has gradually changed its artistic ecology of the former academy. With the local southern artistic sphere, it had induced completely different artistic outcomes. And Jiang Heng is part of its harvest.

The first key element that characterizes Jiang Hengs work is the choice of language. Although he uses an ancient method, that of painting, which in China boasts a great tradition of academic technique, Jiang Heng has chosen to use a completely and deliberately anti-academic style, whose immediate references are to be found in comics and popular illustration, as well as having, consequently, clear visual and conceptual relationships with the Pop and Neo-pop currents of international art. Achieved with a few well-calibrated colour tones, a flat brush stroke, completely free from any visual interferences, impurities, drips or disturbing elements with respect to the focus of the central image of the painting, the style used by Jiang Heng in his paintings expressly declares his willingness to get out of the school-academic tradition and to turn instead into the main road of the wide-spread popular imagery: his thus becomes at the same time an argument on the interferences of the popular repertoire and mass culture on our faculty of intellectual elaboration and a means to exploit and question them from within. Therefore, the parodic element in Jiang Hengs work cunningly camouflages itself with a spontaneous and natural appropriation of the mass seduction techniques peculiar to the advertising industry, television communication and the cartoonists universe, to develop a unified story, seemingly devoid of facets, both attractive and subtly melancholic.

In his book Depoliticized Politics: End of the 20th Century and the 1990s, Wang Hui, distinguished Chinese scholar, addresses the formation of the time of market economy in China and the complicated changes of social structure triggered, The short 1990s unfolded against the backdrop of the end of a revolutionary century. During this time, the meanings of drama, politics, economy, culture and military have all undergone fundamental change and if not redefined, then even concepts as common as politics, nation and people cannot be used to analyze the times; it was also at this time that visual intellects began to shift their eyes and minds from the past to the unfamiliar present. Daniel Bell has also pointed out that A distinctive feature of modern city life is its visualization. To art, city is not only a tradition and a form but a whole new outlook of space, value and future as well as speed and passion.

  

Starting from his square paintings from the nineties, Jiang Heng has continued to reproduce, as the central figure of his works, the standardized physiognomy of the girls who are the product of consumerism, now spread far and wide on the globe, in the West as well as in the East: the protagonists of his paintings were from the very beginning those little pagan goddesses who make their daily appearance everywhere, from posters and TV shows targeted at teenagers to cartoons, not to mention the millions of photos posted every day on social networks as a huge and crazy show of their own present and lives, which are transformed into an eternal film or television set. The artist has thus caught the founding core of the new society of integrated spectacle (this bad dream of Western society, as it was called, with remarkable foresight, by the philosopher Guy Dbord as early as the sixties, which by now has long been spreading far and wide in the East), apparent in the forced standardization of consumption, needs, and lifestyles, along with the myth of an eternal adolescence destined to never come to an end, of which the doll-girl, an innocent Lolita and yet already open to the seductive power of the eye, movements, and clothing, embodies the perfect, crystal clear symbol, which is at the same time ubiquitous and very close to us, and yet fatally inaccessible, because anyone - except from those who happen to live it in this very same, and yet fleeting moment are precluded forever from the same adolescence and, along with it, from its dreams, freshness, plenty of hope and subtle melancholy, which sometimes brings about the darkest gloom or despair.

Such is the hotbed on which the Cartoon Generation relies and they consciously translate the visual experience in the landscape society into languages of art expression, for their social surroundings are pop culture, cartoon, animated games and rock roll; they grow up using American computer chips, watching Hollywood movies and eating fries. Such a life style determines Jiang Hengs visual expression approach. Based on his own life experience, Jiang Heng creates a virtual cartoon world in which he uses virtual languages to represent the real world. The animated reality not only overthrows peoples deep-rooted aesthetic experience, values and notions, but also reflects the way of life of the authors generation and their life experience. Irony and ridicule are the keynote of Jiangs visual expression, whereas shadowland and illusion mixed with childish naivety, romance and endless imagination for future are his unique narration style.

  Among the artists who came to the south and are still teaching at the art college of Huanan Normal University, besides Li Bangyao, there are also Fang Shaohua, Yang Guoxin and Shi Lei, they each occupies an important position in the framework of contemporary oil painting. What is especially important is their importation of artistic thoughts and compositional concept from Chinas interior. It includes the Political Pop art from Hubei in the early 90s and the artists individualized approach of representation in expressionism. More importantly, throughout their teaching, they have always put the emphasis on highlighting individuality, emphasizing on incorporating the individual with his emotions, emphasizing art as an intervention on reality. With which, meaningful artistic issues could be formulated, and using it as a base of entry to current matters. Looking at a few oil paintings from Jiang Hengs earlier period, they were indeed influenced by foreign elements. For example, Jiangs Untitled series from 1994 depicts a red male body in swing as its main subject and contrasting with a background motif expressing desire. These works have mixed certain styles of pop art, yet was executed in the expressionist approach. There are shadows of the Hubei style of painting. And the Cartoon Generation series from 1996, has stylistically reflected the art of Li Bangyao. Without a doubt, this was the formative years of Jiang Hengs artistic style.

After all, that the status of adolescence and preadolescence, especially for girls, has now managed to carve out a separate place of its own, undergoing a process of rapid transformation, in the contemporary imaginary, is demonstrated by several signs of a strong emotional impact and of particular significance from the cultural point of view. Among the most obvious of these signs, there are not only the increasingly massive invasion of products designed specifically for this age group (ranging from clothes and magazines either of comics or otherwise, that gradually increase exponentially and seem to be more and more focused on the specific segment of adolescent and pre-adolescent public - to gadgets of various kinds, dolls, whose appearance tends more and more to be reflected in a more or less stereotypical image of increasingly manifest and stressed pre-sexuality with strongly characterized features of its own), but also several other factors that make this phenomenon one of the most striking of the last decades.

Starting from Beautiful Girl and Fish, then to Flying Butterflies, Flowing Butterflies and the latest Rolling on and Surging forward, Dazzling Feast of Flowers for the Eyes, Jiang Heng never stops shifting his view and refining his thinking and uses appropriately with right rhythm and control the contemporary culture and visual experience as his visual expression. In this way he effectively transforms new visual experience into his own pictorial language so he can use what he excels at flat color application as in advert painting, to destroy the original tones of the oil paintings and replace them with symbolized coding to imply a state and experience of life, i.e., a highly commercialized social reality in which men are alienated as goods; they are metamorphosed during the materialization.

  Secondly, the cartoon generation movement headed by Huang Yihang in the Guangzhou area in the mid-nineties has also had a direct impact on Jiang Heng. Today, no one questions the significance of the Cartoon Generation from Guangzhou, even though there are different opinions about it. Although if we trace back on the origin of the so-called cartoon wave now popular in the art arena, we find close ties with Guangzhou. I am not making the statement that art with cartoon features are all derived from the Guangzhous Cartoon Generation. In my view, the reason for the popularization of cartoon style is more complex than what we imagine, its sources were diverse. However, similar styles were indeed first appeared in Guangzhou. What is interesting is, as a professor of the Guangzhou Academy of Art, Huang Hanyi had to come to Huanan Normal University art college to seek for support. Thus the first and second exhibitions were successfully held at the exhibition hall of the art college. It demonstrates certain moving tolerance from the art college of Huanan Normal University. Jiang Heng has been one of the active participants in the formative stage of Guangzhous Cartoon Generation, and testified for the rationale of cartoon with his own style of oil painting. Consequently, he became one of the most representative Chinese artists from the Cartoon Generation in the mid-nineties. The aforementioned Cartoon Series was a direct outcome of this sizable southern artistic movement. Later on, his famous signature style wide opened eyes with the nave and flirtatious gaze on the highly materialistic female idols, was formulated in this process.

Among the other particularly symbolic elements of this apparent change of the status of the very concept of female adolescence, there is, first of all, the birth of a neologism - the phoneme tween - which contains in itself, in its own specific sense, the very meaning of this change. The word tween, in fact, comes from the union of two different words: on the one hand, the more familiar teen, indicating those which, until a few years ago, we knew simply as teenagers, and, on the other, the word between , indicating the idea of transition from one age to another (specifically, between childhood and adolescence), and from one phase of life to another. An age, ultimately, referred to in the press as well as popularly as too old for toys, too young for boys.

Jiang Heng uncovers the characteristic of this popular, earthy culture, or the culture of modern industrial society, especially in south China, a mature consumer society with highly developed pop culture: We are in a time that cannot be escaped from when there seems to be an invisible hand controlling your mind and your consumption. Bombarded by advertisement, campaigns and media, men are losing themselves more and more and continuously alienated as an object in this machine-copy time. The passion, the relation between individual desires and the society, the bright and vivid colors in Jiangs visual images and the transformation of visual resources prove again a fact that the contemporary culture is shifting from traditional printing culture to a visual one, in which various images are experiencing men at every moment.

  Moreover, the rapid transformation of Chinese society in the 90s, especially once the wave of economic reform hit on the southern provinces, not only the existing spiritual framework and its artistic approach of representation were completely changed, but more importantly, this wave has induced the direct representation of the New Generations materialistic desire. One should not belittle the material desire induced from this transformation, nor should one treat such desire as a passive reaction. In contrast, the materialistic desire in China today has far exceeds the boundary of the individual, but has grown into a spiritual phenomenon. If we ignore this phenomenon, we will be unable to make the slightest objective judgment on the art of today.

This idea of transition and uncertainty about ones role contains, in fact, the very meaning of the new identity of a generation of young girls who have taken on the role, both in the West and in the East, of the very symbol of an entire era: an age (and a time) of uncertainty, almost a symbol of a fatally fluid, slippery, and uncertain time (lets think in this regard of the Liquid modernity theorized by Zygmunt Baumann). Its is precisely upon this uncertainty, this long, happy moment of transition, that Jiang Heng has built, I daresay, most of his poetics. His are indeed fragments of a long moment between a before and an after: here we find again the word between taking its place as a symbolic central point that strongly identifies this state of existential uncertainty, which is handed down through the eyes of its young heroines, to a whole society in its entirety, in crisis and dramatically in search of a new identity, of new centres of gravity, and of new equilibriums of values and meanings.

Through his works, audience can see the hope from the bottom of Jiang Hengs heart. He has an outstanding ability to translate metaphors into a reality that can be accepted by the public through his skillful pictorial expression, and he always possesses an acuteness towards the time and the social reality. The texture and glamour of his paintings give audience an emotion and cultural implication and his visual narration seems to keep create one metaphor after another. Hidden behind the flamboyant appearance is Jiang Hengs ardent imagination and symbolic expression of the contemporary society and his life of art. This is why in Jiang Hengs works, colors can break through the boundaries of objects, being totally free and radiating glaring magnificence and pleasure. In addition, the childlike feeling in his works has certain emotional power that dissolves adult comprehension and judgment, but presents the world through a new perspective. Such a perspective creates a whole new world the time of image - from the original pictorial world. This new world not only changes Jiangs creative concepts and expression means, but also the audiences reading habits and visual aesthetic experience. As to the analysis and decoding of art in the time of image, that would be the task for the future Cartoon Generation when they grow up.

  

And it is right here, in the crucial moment of transition from one age to another, with the resulting dose of uncertainty and anxiety that such moments always imply, where we should find, in my opinion, the key to better understand Jiang Hengs work. In fact, it is precisely uncertainty, anxiety and uncertainty that make up the heart of the so-called post-modern civilization, characterized by the loss of the optimism of reason that marked instead the previous period, followed by the birth of the great ideologies with their load of tragedies, but also of hope and a clear gaze, open and confident about the future. Actually, if modern society had grown up on the belief in progress, the post-modern society has become instead the society of risk and uncertainty par excellence. Fears about the future, nuclear contamination, the destruction of planet Earth, the loss of energy resources, the end of welfare, food contamination, the family and sexual identity roles themselves, and then famines, wars, revolutions, ethnic clashes, terrorist attacks, increasingly advanced biotechnology that all together pose a challenge to our certainties The society of consumerism, finance and advanced and uncontrolled capitalism, lacking by now all ideological certainties as its benchmarks, just keeps worrying restlessly amid dramatic uncertainties, disguised by the optimistic smile of the fabulous baby-girls peeping from television screens and road advertising posters.

Through creating one after another anamorphic scenario for the audience, Jiang Heng let the realness dissolves in the images while tries to use virtual scenario and products replicated by machine to revive a state, and finally through replicating the replicate to present his experience narrative and value judgment. He brings to the audience both an alternative way of creation and a special way of reading. Therefore there forms a tension between the subject and the object; through the virtual scene established by Jiang Heng, the audience can fully see how image reading has already become peoples essential way of information acquisition. Image reading not only penetrates into everyones daily life but moreover has become a habit in information and knowledge reception. As a result, images often control mens mind, guide their consumption and stimulate their desires.

  In other words, the artistic trend from Chinas interior, the local uprising of artistic movement and the rapid transformation of Chinese society make part for the external conditions of Jiang Hengs art form. Without these conditions, it would be difficult to imagine how he could formulate the style we are familiar with today.

Jiang Hengs work, while showing us innocent doll-girls immersed in a lost paradise of flowers and unspoiled nature, ends up reminding us precisely, by contrast, the uncertainty of the time that we currently live. Their forcibly standardized physiognomy reminds us of the artificiality of the human condition in the post-human era. Not surprisingly, for a few years it was precisely Barbie, the famous doll manufactured by Mattel, to become the absolute protagonist of the artists paintings: such a perfect doll as to appear at the same time likely, as it was created in a models body and dressed in fashionable clothes, and yet impossible to match (just think of the widely reported news of a woman who neurotically underwent countless surgeries in a vain attempt to imitate her features). Barbie is the symbol of a time that looks for its own solution to a deep identity crisis resulting from the certainties of the modern world in impeccable aesthetic beauty to the limits of an impossible eternal youth.

Jiang Heng fully captures the artistic essence of the landscape society and the public image world, and understands the richness and diversity of social life. Although establishing many glamorous, cold and bewildering dreamland with distinctive images, his works show no trace of emotion expression at all; audience only face the numb, cold, replicated and dull vacuity and illusion. This is exactly what he tries to convey, the format structure of mass production, the repetition of series and abuse of significance. Watching his paintings, audiences are overwhelmed by the force of mass production. Jiang Hengs visual narrative is also about all the fashions, health products, large number of shoddy, tasteless goods and completely materialized objects in this consumer time. Undoubtedly, todays China just bases on these goods, and Jiangs works reflect the consumable transitoriness of the products we depend on, which are practical but short-lived.

  Besides, Jiang Hengs perspective, his unique view on life and society, as well as his overall understanding of others and on art were also crucial to this formation.

However, just as a shadow of melancholy can be glimpsed behind every clowns mask, behind the synthetic and perfect artificial beauty of the lovely dolls nested among flowers depicted by Jiang Heng we can see the shadow of tragedy looming over the society of advanced consumerism peep out. Just as the facelift with which many Western women try to hide the ageing of their body cannot mask the neuroses that fatally grips them, and that the very attempt to artificially stop the flow of time dramatically reveals, the triumphant optimism that advertising images that swamp us every day cannot hide the profound crisis of meaning and values hidden by a society devoted solely to consumption.

Jiang Hengs visual narrative tactic is the triumph of the image time, the carnival of consumer society as well as the victory of sexiness and of the thoughts liberation in Guangzhou at the beginning of the reform and opening-up with its developed market economy. He not only possesses a mature artistic style and ever progressing social critical standpoint, but is also able to convert and mix his own visual symbols and other life elements into his visual expression. Against the background of consumer and landscape society, he timely and wittedly uses this societys own way to satirize and depict it, and hence reveals the coldness, isolation and vacuity resulted from the alienation to men by landscape. Such is the depth of Jiang Hengs art, and the embodiment of his values and his criteria of cultural value.

  Today, Jiang Hengs art people are familiar with is his repetitive symbolized beautiful women gazing with flirtatious eyes, they smile innocently, posing in various flirtatious poses and expressions that satisfies the secular standard. They display this kind of so-called nave and beautiful gendered information. To a certain extent, I think Jiang Hengs women with flirtatious looks is a repetitive statement of sarcasm, it conveys information contrasting with its superficial appearance, or even of opposing and conflicting content.

Here, then, Jiang Hengs work has become in recent years more explicit, direct, and urgent: his dolls nested among flowers are inevitably affected by a sort of gloomy existential melancholy. Death and tragedy seem to be eager to seize them at each step.

It is clear that Jiang Hengs visual narrative is immersed in highly commercialized surroundings. Unarguably, he benefits from the notions of the consumer society and wins reputation from it; while on the other hand, he is also an art carrier in the capital civilization of the consumer society: Through personal visual narrative, he portraits an extremely luxurious, prosperous but fake and void landscape and the pain, sorrow, perplexity and helplessness hidden behind the glamorous exterior.

  I remember in one of my essays discussing the Cartoon Generation of Guangzhou, I have mentioned certain causes for the formation of this style,

Other protagonists, dramatically inanimate, come to dominate the scene of the artists works. Surrounded by fantastic landscapes or depicted in a cloud of fluttering butterflies, huge giant pills, symbols of the organic disease of the 2000s (our neurosis of men lost in a world and in a time that can no longer offer any existential certainty nor any possible relief in a possible future afterlife) then become the ideal fetish to which to have recourse in an attempt to soothe our malaise, as substitute objects, to quote Freud, of a neurosis that cannot be cured by any ideology. And so it is no coincidence that the skull, a once popular symbol that has been strongly revived on the contemporary art scene, returns to occupy the scene in Jiang Hengs paintings, which therefore become examples of extraordinary and joyful contemporary Vanitas, Memento mori of the modern era. Concealed and camouflaged among flowers, in Jiang Hengs latest paintings the skulls and pills are hiding behind an apparent playfulness and very happy decorative anxiety, just as the tragedy of the sense of the contemporary time is constantly hidden behind layers and layers of rouge, make-up, invasive adverts and artificial smiles we are palmed off by millions of screens in every moment of our lives.

Lately, Jiang Heng has been exploring a diversified visual narrative approach. He never stops challenging limitations, crossing boundaries and surpassing self. His visual image world is still full of liveliness instead of specific feelings and momentary emotions; this is already an elevated state, a calm and easy attitude and a detached perspective. Although the accumulation of life experience and all the sweet and bitterness in the journey of artistic exploration have moderated some of his past indignation and given him a peaceful and calm quality, his passion for artistic innovation has never bated a little. It can be expected that he will continue, through his visual exploration, to reflect on peace and harmony, to praise nature and life, to probe into the crossing and blending of cultures and philosophies between the East and the West and to display the bewilderment over the collision between tradition and present.

  The primary subject of the Cartoon Generation is the self, whether the self possess sufficient ability of transcendence, can the self go beyond the boundary of southern culture in order to gain a new platform of observation, and to redefine themselves according to the cultural value of their artwork. As a steppingstone to foreign civilization, there are indeed certain advantages in the south. However, as region on the periphery, it is lured by various sources, therefore it is easy for art to sidetrack to the path of superficiality and contentiousness, which is now obviously a fact. what influences us is precisely the abnormal infatuation of the so-called depth. cartoon overflowing into china caused the traditional way of reading to rapidly collapse. This gave birth to many of the cartoon characters from the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, the popularization of computer technology and the increase on artificial environments further barricade the organic relationship between human and nature, yielding large production of computer characters besides the already existing cartoon characters. The founder of Cartoon Generation, Huang Yihan has entitled his first work, We are children reluctant to grow up. The truth is, this title accurately refers to the younger generation who has physically reached maturity yet are psychologically lacking behind a generation who completely immersed themselves in comics and computers. [2]

The skulls and pills in Jiang Hengs new paintings play the same role as his dolls did and still do: decorative items, rewarding, pleasantly artificial and seductive, and yet subtly and dramatically disturbing.

T﹒J﹒Clark has a view that the history of modern art is not a flat one, but a history of denials: continuous denials by new movements to the old ones.

  

Jiang Hengs skull, symbolically camouflaged among flowers, likewise friendly and scary at the same time, perfectly represents the twofold, ambivalent and contradictory perception that the man of postmodernity may have about its incidence in the order of the totality of history and the eternal and unchanging movement of the universe itself: a fleeting star, one moment of euphoria between birth and death; and it also explains the postmodern individuals elated, anxious, and neurotic way of experiencing the sense of fragmented marginality in the chaos of a history that seems to have lost forever its linear and positive development.

Then as an important figure of the Cartoon Generation, what other visual surprises and expectations will Jiang Heng bring to the audience?

  This southern art movement at the time was once almost rejected by the entire art world. And not so long ago, its similar style has become the illustrative choice for most young artistic groups born in the 1970s. The contrasts of this phenomenon in time have even caused people to ignore its initial fact. As I have mentioned at the beginning, Jiang Heng belongs to the earlier Cartoon Generation, the formation and development of his symbolism has been almost ten years. From this perspective, I am also one of the earliest critics who have commented on this artistic phenomenon. As I retrieve my comment from the time, I discover that my interest was not on the cartoon per se. To analyze them with todays context, the so-called cartoon perhaps was only a intelligible strategy of compositional appropriation. Of course, from which we also find the visual reference specific to that young generation. As critics apply different concept to comment on the styles of todays cartoon, I think one of the problems among them is their gullible believe in Cartoon, and have forgotten that similar style has already been important content in publishing and film industries around the 1970s. The reason I am reiterating my comment from the past is that I discover, even with my view at the time, I have already more or less treated cartoon as an intimate issue reflecting on the process of growing up. The Children reluctant to grow up proposed by Huang Yihan was perhaps his subjective view of young people as an elder. If we enter into the particular context of the new generation, in terms of growing up, what is before them is obvious not unable to grow up, but refusing to grow up. This attitude of reluctance strikes a cord with the social and historical background associated with growing up, which reveals the intense, or even conflicting relationship between the adult society and its non-adult counterpart. I admit, what I noticed at the time was the symptom of physical maturity and psychological immaturity, but have perhaps neglected its meaning. In my view, the reasons for artists to choose cartoon or cartoon-like forms, from the surface its an outcome of their specific visual influence during their adolescent period, more thoroughly, it infiltrates their attitudes on the adult society that manipulates their growing process. If this hypothesis is true, then certain types of uniformity shown visually are in themselves an interesting response. It tells us how they view the grown-ups society. In dealing with the grown-ups society, that is becoming gradually pretentious and cynical, as artists, they can perhaps only use forms that has once been abandoned or neglected by the grown-up society, such as cartoon, to express their rejection of this society (here I am referring to the art world in the grown-up society). Of course, as the art world transforms itself, cartoon began to come a prominent style, and letting this rejection to become the beginning of a new cycle of art movement. Whether its later followers shared similar motives, or was driven by the prospect of future success and have chosen cartoon, of course needs to be discussed otherwise.

We look forward to them.

  As I set Jiang Hengs flirtatious beauties against the background related growing up, the sarcasm of his works began to emerge. The rosy dream hidden subconsciously in the early years of adolescence or pre-adolescence was once oppressed from the adult world, and also parts separate ways with the promotion of depth in the art world in the past while. Naturally, as of sarcasm, I am not emphasizing Jiang Hengs intended flirtatious beauties as a visual description to react or ridicule. I believe he did not have any sarcastic creative intent. In other words, he is not interested in the superficial reaction. Or even, hes not rebellious at all. In the contrary, he is only concerned with the material desire conveyed through the images. It is precisely for this reason, could I have interpreted the certain truth in his works, because what it essentially displays, perhaps he might not even be clearly aware of, is a kind of deterrent attitude in rejecting the grown-up society.

18:00, Jan. 14, 2014

  With this, I think we have a better understand the flirtatious beauties under Jiang Hengs brush. They were not representations of true beauty to begin with, but the imagined idols of desire, who are placed in a void, gazing with pretentious and nave eyes, observing the constant inflation of the grown-up society with their constant facial expression. In sum, Jiang Heng has not only realized his intent of rejection with the women gazing flirtatiously, but have allowed that age to be eternally planted in a moment of enjoyment for the artist. At the same time, he has also concealed a type of sorrow of adolescence, and has used idols to replace the intervention of reality.

Sanguandian Palace, East Lake, Wuhan.

  [1][1] 见《卡通一代:关于中国南方消费生活的报告》,自存稿。

Ji Shaofeng: Deputy Director of Hubei Museum of Art,

  [2] See Cartoon Generation: Report on Consumption Life in Southern China, unpublished text.

distinguished curator and critic, the only Chinese critic winning the

Best Curation Award in the 55th Venice Biennale 2013