当代艺术中的个体修辞,拒绝成长的物欲偶像江衡的媚眼与观看

 美术     |      2020-01-07

提及江衡,大家并不陌生。九十年代中期发端于广州的卡通一代艺术团体,江衡便是其中一员。之后,卡通现象从广州出发席卷西南乃至北京,成为中国当代艺术生态的重要部分。

  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:

广州当代创作现象颇为有趣,表面看似平静无波,实则如海底暗礁,由不同的火山岩浆喷发凝聚而成。按区域大致可分三块:一为广州美术学院;二为华南师范大学;三为阳江组。当然还有不少学于广州,更倾向于个体生存的艺术家,如王度、曹斐等人。近年来,一些艺术家开始北上开辟工作室,但数量不多。江衡的学养,属华南师大一脉,究其源头,乃是中国85新潮策源地之一湖北艺术的延伸。但其少年时代却深受潮汕文化影响,曾拜师习画练字,后阴差阳错考学至华南师范大学。在他那里,中国南方乡土文化与喧哗炫目的都市景观交织碰撞,中部艺术的前卫思想与东部沿海的活跃思维相互交融,形成了江衡艺术创作的精神心理。

  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。

1992年初,华南师大为了提升该校美术教学与创作力量,曾远赴湖北美院招贤纳才。1993年初,尚扬、皮道坚、李邦耀、刘子建四人先后落脚华南师大,紧接其后,杨国辛、方少华、石磊又来此与故友会师。至1995年,华南师大共聚集了7位来自湖北的批评家和从事水墨及油画创作的艺术家。1996年,刘子建继续南迁至深圳画院与严善醇汇合,尚扬则挥师北上栖身首都师范大学,最后被尊称为四大金刚驻留下来的艺术家分别是:李邦耀、杨国辛、方少华、石磊。

  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。

这支异地迁徙而来的小分队到底为广州当代艺术创作埋下怎样的火种,会产生多大的作用,还有待时间验证。其实李邦耀于1992年下半年来到华南师大上课时,恰逢江衡背着行囊从家乡来此就读,师徒两人初见,并不十分融洽。当时江衡美院情结根深蒂固,又受传统文化熏陶,入师大则心有不甘,情绪抵触。所幸的是,这个问题青年求知若渴,很快消弭了自身障碍,开始接受当代艺术的洗礼。一年级下学期,江衡就和同学做了一场行为表演,初生牛犊不怕虎,对当初的实验精神,江衡至今颇感骄傲。从江衡早期的作品看,这是一位基本功扎实、勤奋又有想法的年轻人,然而,成长需要一次次破茧而出,蜕化推进。从1992年至1995年期间,江衡画了大量手稿,创作了诸如风景,游戏机的年代、游戏系列及卡通一代等不同风格的作品,其中有些受尚扬《大风景》的影响,也有些借鉴培根表现主义的处理方式,还有一些作品打上了早期湖北波普的印记,这段时间,是江衡创作的起步阶段。

  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。

1996年,广州美院国画系教师黄一翰发起卡通一代的艺术活动,开始招兵买马,物色与此概念相关的艺术家。另一方面,江衡经过几年探索,正在寻找能够与当下社会现实情境呼应的视觉表达。值得提及的是,上世纪九十年代中期,广州作为南方大都市,率先受到影像文化、大众文化,消费文化以及西方后殖民文化的强烈冲击,这种风潮导致本土文化发展逻辑的断裂。其结果,是89后关于深度艺术的探讨以及表现主义的线索被边缘化。随之而来的是充满平面化表征的图像符号逐渐升温。对此,我们不能一味否定。其实,从伤痕写实到青春残酷(新伤痕写实),再到中国新人类卡通一代之间存在着某种沟通,即是对中国社会异化现实的精神反应。卡通一代的艺术作品可以令人感受到本土文化令人炫目的紊乱,其批判意识乃是借壳商业消费来揭示卡通文化对中国年轻一代的精神殖民。从这个意义上说,其艺术创作同样具有鲜明的挑战性。其积极意义在于,不回避有问题的人格,对生存于问题中的人格变化予以大胆的审视。近年来,批评界对卡通风潮的质疑,主要是针对那些遵循名利场逻辑的复制,而不是卡通一代的艺术家在艺术形态、方式和观念上的探索。

  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。

江衡自1996年涉足相关题材创作至今,从未间断,从中我们可以看到一条清晰的脉络贯穿始终。从1996年至2001年,江衡用了近5年时间,个人风格初见端倪:一是人物形象的去色彩处理;二是借鉴传统国画渲染技法;三是对人物性别的选择;四是运用象征性符号。美女鱼系列最能体现这一阶段的探索成果:清一色的女性形象,传统国画的晕染技法体现在人物形象及背景处理上。鱼是这一时期的标志性符号,具有年画般的视觉效果。从符号学的角度看,美女与鱼都是被观赏的对象,都是对象化了的性征隐喻。江衡这一时期的作品,有两点值得注意,一是男性主体仍在画面之外;二是视觉符号依然有写实特征。随着这一系列不断推进,从美女鱼23开始,神态鲜活、装着时尚、表情肆意的现代都市女性形象开始出现在画面中,成群结队的鱼儿悠游穿梭,画面似乎迷漫着温热的触觉与松软的感官体验。2002年,饱和的色彩开始重归画面。2005-2006年,随着散落的物品系列创作的展开,鱼这一象征性符号对画面的垄断已成过去。江衡把其观察视野放置到更为宽泛的社会场域,与时代相关的指征性物品洋洋洒洒不断飘落在画面之中:手枪、鲜花、口红、苹果、药丸、针筒、高跟鞋、五角星、着靴的裸腿以及翻开的书页等等。这些丰富的图像资源意涵、无法替代的生命体验(药丸、针筒),画面女郎或冷眼凝视、或大胆撩拨、或娇媚诱人、亦或俏皮可爱。但无不浓妆艳抹,其身体发肤都被人为修饰侵蚀殆尽。自然女性被充分物质化,当消费者与消费产品之间达成高度一致时,文化工业已达到了对人性的完全操控。这比毁灭生命的罪行更为可怕,因为罪行可见,有痛苦警世,而消费以舒适为借口,成为根本的虚无主义,消解人与非人的界线,否定自我作为精神主体的存在意义。

  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。

2007年之后,江衡的画面又出现了些微变化:一是画面形象愈加简练,更为注重对身体的局部刻画;二是有意识地选择与个体记忆有关的符号;三是主体性对画面的介入;四是模糊物理与虚拟空间的界线。只要注意观察蝴蝶飞飞、散落的物体蓝色系列等作品中的人物描绘,就可感受到艺术家从物欲的普遍书写转向对个体性的生命解码。当药丸符号介入画面之后,艺术家与其描绘对象之间形成了文本互涉:首先,药丸与生命记忆直接相关,故成为主体的物化符号;其次,药丸的形状与男性阳具相似,进入画面,代表了画面形象不再有性别局限,艺术家由此完成客体化的主体与主体化的客体这种双重身份的转换。同样,这一时期大量出现的蝴蝶符号,会进一步证实这种分析。蝴蝶和很多昆虫不同,它具有雌性,雄性,还有雌雄同体,阴阳蝶就属于雌雄同体。也许,江衡使用这种符号,并不曾意识到其隐讳的符号学意义。但由于他的运用,让画面具有了基因文化学的延异性。如果把身体作为一种政治话语来考量,这一现象可解释为对传统父权叙事结构的颠覆;如果把性别作为一种文化载体加以分析,这种现象则可理解为对逻格斯的消解。它的出现,意味着自我作为主体,把个体生命抛出既定的文化审美系统,打乱传统的道德规训与僵化的思维逻辑,成为自我流浪的文明碎片。正如江衡所言:我总是感觉自己处在漂浮之中,找不到稳定的支点。

  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。

其实,人的存在必须为自己寻找一个假设的支点,并不断追寻支撑这个支点的理由。从这个意义上讲,人是宿命的又是主动的。江衡对生命意义的珍视,表现在他对艺术创作不断深入的挖掘与发现。而这一过程,正是艺术作为信仰并实现为信仰的过程。

  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。

郑 娜

  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:

2009年5月15日

  

写于广州珠江新城

  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]

Individual Rhetoric in Contemporary Art

  

Jiang Heng is no stranger to us. He is a member of the Cartoon Generation art community that made its debut in Guangzhou in mid 1990s. After its inauguration in Guangzhou, the Cartoon phenomena swept from Southwestern China to Beijing, evolving into an important part of contemporary Chinese art.

  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。

The contemporary art scene in Guangzhou is rather fascinating. Apparently calm and unperturbed, it resembles a submerged reef lurking underneath the tidal waves, and is a resulting of undersea volcanic eruption and the subsequent accumulation of its cooled pahoehoe. It may be geographically divided into three parts: Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts; South China Normal University (to be referred to as the University hereafter); and the Jiang Yang school. Of course, there are also a number of artists having studied in Guangzhou but chosen to fend for themselves, such as Wang Du and Cao Fei. In recent years, a few artists started to relocate their studios to North China but their number is limited. Jiang Hengs school falls into the dominion of the Univeristy, which is derived from the continuation of one of the originators of the 85 New Wave Movement: Hubei Art. In his teenage years, Jiang Heng was deeply influenced by Chao and Shan cultures.[1] He had learned both painting and calligraphy under private tutors guidance before being mistakenly granted admission into the University. To him, the rural culture in southern China, and the din and dazzle of urbanity clash against each other. While the avant-garde thinking on art in central China and the intellectual dynamism on the eastern shores are interwoven and integrated, shaping his artistic pathos.

  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。

In early 1992, in order to bolster its artistic faculty and creative strength, South China Normal University went to Hubei Academy of Fine Arts to look for talents. Earlier the following year, Shang Yang, Pi Daojian, Li Bangyao, Liu Zijian came one after another to the University. Following their footsteps, Yang Guoxin, Fang Shaohua and Shi Lei came to join them. By 1995, seven art critics and painters (oil, and water and ink) from Hubei had converged there. In 1996, Liu Zijin moved further south to Shenzhen Fine Art Institute, where he joined Yan Shanchun; while Yangshao moved northward to Capital Normal School in Beijing. The four remaining artists at South China Normal University became the four Heavenly Kings and were enshrined, so to speak. Their names are Li Bangyao, Yang Guoxin, Liu Shaohua and Shi Lei.

  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。

What fire did this small branch of migrants lay in store for contemporary art in Guangzhou? What sort of impact has it had? That awaits the testimony of the time. In the second half of 1992, when Li Yaobang came to teach at the University, Jiang Heng happened to come there to study. When they first met, their relationship was not that cordial. Having previously been immersed in traditional culture, Jiang Heng was obsessed with the idea of enrolling at an Academy of Fine Arts. Therefore, he was frustrated at having been admitted into the University and, at the outset, assumed a psychological stance of resistance. Fortunately, as an avid learner, he was soon able to ride over his own barrier and start to accept the baptism of contemporary art. In the second semester of his freshman year, with his classmates, Jiang was involved in a performance art and was as intrepid as a newborn calf. Jiang is still rather proud of his earlier experimentalism. Seen from his earlier works, he was a diligent young man with not only ideas but also a solid foundation. Yet, growth stems out of the repeated process of cocoon-breaking: gradual advancement. Between 1992 and 1995, Jiang Heng did a large quantity of manuscripts and came up with a series of works with different styles, including Landscape, The Age of the Game Machines, Games Series and Cartoon Generation. Some of them were influenced by Yang Shangs Grand Landscape, some borrowed Bacons expressional approach and some bore the marks of Hubei political pop. That period represented the beginning of his artistic pursuit.

  

In 1996, Mr. Huang Yihan, a teacher of traditional Chinese painting at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, initiated a campaign called the Cartoon Generation. To begin with, he started recruiting artists who had common interest with him in the said concept. At the other end, after years of exploration, Jiang Heng was looking for visual expressions that corresponded to the prevailing social reality at that time. Worthy of mention is the fact that as a major metropolis in southern China, Guangzhou was at the forefront of the fierce bombardment of visual culture, pop culture, consumer culture and post-colonial Western culture, which resulted in the break in logic of local cultural development. The result is the marginalization of both the in-depth exploration of post-89 art and the clues of expressionism, which is subsequently accompanied by the gradual interest in pictorial emblems imbued with plane features. That, we cannot always deny. In fact, from Scar Realism to Youth Cruelty (new scar realism) and then to the New Chinese Cartoon Generation, there lies a linkage, i.e. the psychological response to the dissimilation of Chinese society. Art works by the Cartoon generation acquaint one with the dazzling chaos of our local culture. While their critical attitude, through commercial consumption, aims at revealing the spiritual colonization by cartoon cultures of the new generation of Chinese youth. Seen in that light, his art vividly challenges the status quo. What is more, it is positive in that it does not evade the problematic personalities, and it bravely assesses the changes in personality one has to grapple with in reality. In recent year, the critics have questioned the role of the cartoon movement, in particular, the duplication of logics in accordance with the vanity fair, rather than the exploration in style, concept and approach of art by the cartoon generation artists.

  Materialistic Idols Reluctance to Grow Up

Jiang Heng has never rested since he embarked on the path of relevant thematic creations. We can discern a clear thread that pervades the whole process. From 1996 to 2001, spending almost five years, Jiang Heng roughly shaped his personal style: firstly, the de-coloration treatment of human images; secondly, appropriation of the application of colors in accordance with traditional Chinese paintings; thirdly, the selection of gender of the figures features; fourthly, the utilization of symbolic icons. His BeautyFish series is the result of the artists experimentation at this stage, using purely female figures depicted and traditional Chinese painting techniques both in the depicted and in the background. Fish was the symbol of the period and very much resembles the visual features of New Year posters. From the perspective of semiotics, beautiful women and fish are the object of visual appreciation, and are materialized metaphorical signs. There are two special features in Jiang Hengs works meriting attention: one is that the male images are still excluded from the canvas; the other is that the visual symbols still denote realistic attributes.

  - Jiang Hengs Flirtatious eyes and Gaze

With the continual evolution of this series, starting from Beauty Fish 23, fashionable and lively urban women images with reckless facial expressions start to appear on his canvases, while swarms of fishes swim leisurely at will. The picture seems to be radiating a cozy sense of touch and a tender sensual experience. In 2002, rich palette started to drift back to the canvas. Between 2005 and 2006, with the commencement of the Scattered Objects series, the monopolization of fish became history. Jiang Heng expanded his vision to a wider social sphere, with symbolic objects of the age drifting adroitly and continually onto his canvases: pistols, flowers, lipsticks, apples, pills, syringes, high heels, five-stars, naked ankles in boots and opened books. These images have rich connotations and represent irreplaceable life experiences (pills and syringes). Gazing young girls, their eyes wide open, their attitude highly seductive, alluring or adorable. However, they uniformly use heavy makeup and their skin and hair are so manicured that they have been divested of their original texture. Naturally, the materialization of females manifests the complete monopoly of industrial civilization upon humanity, as the consumer society develops to a certain extent. That is more horrifying than the annihilation of human life. As the sins are so visible, the warnings so dire and painful, this has, in using the convenience of consumption as an excuse, become the fundamental nihilism, obliterating the boundary between men and objects, and denying existentialism, whose spiritual core is self.

  Yang Xiaoyan

After 2007, there appeared some minute changes in Jiang Hengs paintings. First, the images they depict have become terser, and more focused on parts of the body; second, he has consciously chosen symbols to do with personal reminiscences; third, the proactive interposition of the canvas; and fourth, the borders between blurry physics and virtual spaces. If one peruses his portrayal of human figures in the Butterfly Flutters and Scattered Objects Blue series, one will discern the artists transition from the depiction of material desire to the decoding of individual life. When the symbols of the pills are introduced onto the canvas, the artist and the objects he depicts form a textual bond. On the one hand, as the pills and life experiences are directly linked, they have become the symbol of the materialization of the objects; on the other hand, resembling male sexual organs, the pills represent the gender-neutrality of the objects, thus enabling the artist to swap the dual roles of the objects and the subjects. Likewise, the swarm of butterfly emblems goes further to testify to this analysis. Unlike many other insects, butterflies can be male, female and hermaphroditic (as in the case of yin yang butterfly). Perhaps, Jiang Heng may be using this emblem without realizing its metaphorical significance. However, with this, the horizon of the canvas is expanded and injected with cultural genes. If we treat the body in a political context, his artistic approach may be interpreted as subversion of the traditional narrative of patriarchy. If we analyze gender as a cultural carrier, then his artistic phenomenon may be understood as dissolution of logos. Its emergence denotes a cultural esthetical system, against which ego, as the subject, is flung; while traditional moral disciplines and fossilized logics are turned upside down, and dashed into self-drifting fragments of civilization. Just as Jiang Heng says, I always feel that I am drifting, unable to find a steady point on which to stand.

  

In fact, one has to find in life a suppositional pivot and keep looking for the reasons behind the pivot. To a certain extent, human life is fatalistic as well as proactive. Jiang Hengs nourishment of the meaning of life demonstrates his deepening excavation of and discovery in his artistic career, in which process, art acts both as faith and the means of realizing faith.

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

Text by Zheng Na

  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.

Written at Zhujiang New City, Guangzhou

  

Date: May 15, 2009

  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.

  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.

  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.

  

  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.

  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.

  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.

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

  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]

  

  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.

  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.

  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.

  [1][1] 见《卡通一代:关于中国南方消费生活的报告》,自存稿。

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

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