寻找光
──李姝睿的画

Shigeo Chiba

1
如果人们在思考“新波普艺术”这个词时把“中国当代艺术”囊括在内,也许这个词就有了更多的意思。这些近来被称作了“政治波普”、“玩世现实主义”和“媚俗艺术”。不过现在中国的波普艺术呈现出了更多样的面孔──有些符合传统意义上说所的波普艺术,有些则已经超出了对波普艺术的界定。我们暂且把它们统称为“新波普艺术”。这是中国当代艺术里最为流行的一种类型,而且市场也对这一类的作品更加热心。尽管中国当代艺术中存在着各种其他创作方向,不过很自然地,这些让人一目了然的“新波普艺术”还是轻易地抓住了人们的注意力。

然而李姝睿的画却和那些流行的波普艺术中常常出现的形象不同。她所寻求的东西并不在流行艺术中。李姝睿是位年轻艺术家,所以在某种程度上来说流行的艺术潮流可能的确是更加符合她的趣味,更能触及她的敏感。尽管如此,她却相信这些不是她想要追求的。这些来自“过去”的风格并不合她胃口。想要背离“主流”并不容易,毕竟有无数的艺术家正在轻而易举地使用着那些方法。不过“不同”本身并不够,所以她必须找到真正给她以启发的东西,同时又保持自己的敏感。在她否定流行和找到自己的风格前,她需要去探索如何进行,走向什么方向。无法避免地,中国年轻艺术家的细微敏感从某种意义上来说被放置在了一种“失调”的状态,并且对他们的艺术“追求”感到迷失。实际上,“失调”恰恰是中国当代艺术的起点。

每个艺术家都在从这种失调中找到自己的方向。李姝睿则是从自己的内心世界找到了“光”。

我不了解为什么李姝睿选择了“光”。很多画家之所以成为画家,因为他们有受到来自自身经历的刺激。我想对李姝睿来说也是一样。她选择了一种关于“光”的抽象的概念,于是,光也选择了她。那种“失调”迫使她选择了“光”。

2

在这次展览之前,李姝睿的画看上很像是创造出了银河系的宇宙大爆炸,或者细胞的分裂。它们像她现在的作品一样包含了“光”。即使“光”本身不是主题,银河系的爆炸却同光不无关系;类似地,宇宙爆炸和细胞分裂也让人感到它们是发生在一片光的海洋上。

从她过去的作品到现在的创作,这个转变看上去十分重大,但其实也并非完全如此。我们之所以会感觉到不同是因为在她之前的作品里,我们能够轻易地看到主题是什么,比如银河系或者细胞;而现在的作品却要比从前模糊许多。但是如果我们暂且不去考虑画布上出现的究竟是什么,便会发现在她的作品中“光”这一概念留给我们的那清晰而强烈的印象。我不知道我要举的这些例子是否合适,但是我建议你设想一下夜店或者卡拉ok里那些眩目的光线,都市夜景中那从成千上万窗户里倾泻而出的光,城市景观中司空见惯的大量的光的聚集。这些都让李姝睿的画同现实世界发生了关联。但李姝睿想要描绘的却并不是这些景象,她所想画的恰恰只是“光”,所以我们不得不提出这样一个问题,什么叫作“画光”。

3

李姝睿说她的确是在画光,但却并不是某种具体的光线。光波并不能直接被描绘。当孩子在幼儿园里学会画一个橘色的大圆圈,并在周围添上辐射出的光线来表示太阳,这仅仅是个试图去表现太阳和它发射出的光线的简单途径。人不能看到光本身,当它穿过一张绿色的纸,只是因为纸反射了光谱中的一部分,肉眼才可看到。绿色的纸反射了光谱中498-530mm这个波段,也就是绿色,于是人只能看到绿色。换句话说,人需要通过一个媒介才能看到光。当光被某种特定的媒介反射,它才能被肉眼辨识。光不可视,或者说不可以直接被看到,这是它与生俱来的属性。大自然规定了光是不可视的。如果我们直视太阳,眼睛就会被灼伤。光是种独立的存在,人只能通过媒介才能看到。光来自热,那硬邦邦、冷冰冰的月球无法产生光。

画家可能就是被光这种只能通过媒介才能被肉眼接受的奇特属性吸引,并且孜孜不倦地探索的那些人。我们能够看到周遭世界,难道这还不够神奇吗?在这个意义上,我们所看到的可以等同于“无处不在的光”。画家在这个前提下尝试去表达光带给世界的美。可以说所有的画家都是在以不同的方式表现光;或者说当他们在描绘一个物体时,他们实际上是在捕捉光。无论如何,李姝睿这样的画家非常罕见,她不满足于去画一张绿色的纸来表现光。印象派画家克劳德·莫奈通过描画睡莲和水面创造出了一种精致的风景,荷兰风俗画家约翰内斯·维米尔通过巧妙地描画那些日常生活场景让光流动,而李姝睿比他们的描绘更加直接,她想要离“光”再近一点,再近一点,这种神秘的热情正像是伊卡洛斯(Icarus,希腊神话人物。代达罗斯父子被软禁在克里特岛上,为了逃离父亲做了两对羽翼,以蜡粘合;警告儿子伊卡洛斯飞得太高翅膀会融化,太低则会被海水打湿,伊卡洛斯年轻气盛,飞的太高,羽翼的蜡融化,掉下来摔死了),给她的画带来一种强烈的张力。

4

当我们面对李姝睿的画,我们困惑于如何解释它们。很难明确指出它们的主题是什么,它们看上去甚至是失焦的。但是,当我们继续观察,我们将渐渐与光遭遇。我们开始相信我们感觉到了光。难道你不这么认为?

更加精确地说,我们感受到的不仅仅是视觉体验,或者说我们的视觉比平时更加丰富了。这使得我们可以遇到光,而不只是看到。这种感受是不可否认的,类似于当我们透过的含着泪的眼睛看到的城市夜景。与此同时,我并不是真的仅仅在观看风景。虽然可能我自己并无意识,但是我的眼睛被引向了某个特定之处。楼房、街道、车流的形象从视野中消退,而那些从窗户里透出的光线,街上的光线,汽车车灯的光线则通通涌进了我的眼睛。

眼泪使得观者的视野变得模糊,一道朦胧的街灯的光线看上去像是来自一张拍摄时手没有扶稳相机拍出的照片。从物理意义上来讲这是成立的;但是如果我们稍微转换一下角度,那看到的又是完全另一种东西。

有些东西平时是不可见的。大部分时候我们视觉感知的门对它们紧闭。当我们合上眼,什么东西都看不见了。但是,我的眼睑还是可以感受的强烈的日光的照射。虽然这和我们平常意义上说的“看”不同,但我可以清晰地感觉日光。我睁开眼时无法直视阳光,但闭上眼却可以感受到它。实际上我的视网膜在吸收日光。你甚至可以清楚地看到视网膜上的血管。李姝睿在表现“光”时敏锐地注意到了这些。

她的画像是某种网状物。光可以在这张网上,也可以只是同这张网的形状重合。当光同网碰撞,色谱——绿色、紫色、红色、橙色、黄色和蓝色就喷薄而出。最初,这些丰富的颜色吸引了我们的注意力。这是不同的介质间接地反射了光的结果。我们注意到焦点不够清晰,于是我们后退几步再去欣赏她的作品。在某个特定的点,那种各种不同的光线杂乱地混在一起的印象消失了。近看时,李姝睿的画是由不同颜色的颜料组成,但是当同画的距离拉开,“光”开始取代了色彩。

当我第一次看到李姝睿的画,那些交织的色彩吸引了我的注意力,但是当我退后一些,我看到了光。我觉得我好像在看光本身,这不同于万花筒式的颜色陈列。即使我为那些强烈的色彩着迷,但我知道我在看的是另外一种东西!这也是为什么她的画看起来“失焦”的一个原因。如果焦点过于明确,会被太阳活活烧死。为了避免这种不幸,我们还是离太阳稍微远一点。如果想要直视李姝睿画里的“光”,观者和画之间必须得保持一定的距离。但是向往太阳的伊卡洛斯绝不能容忍太远的距离。让光间接地进入我们的眼睛,但同时又保证光本身的直接──这就是李姝睿的画为什么“失焦”。虽然这听起来很像是种方法或者技术,但实际并非如此。

5

一个画家如何在画里直接地去表现光,而不是采取迂回的措施?一个画家如何让观看者感受到“光”本身?让我们重新来思索这些问题。到现在为止,画家们已经尝试过通过在画布上描绘其他的事物来表现光,而且把这视为在描绘光。同样的,观看者也认为自己通过这些事物看到了光。但是让我们更深入地想一下,难道艺术表达仅仅只能依附这些外物?这是不是过于以物为主导了?即使它作为一种方法有它存在的合理性,但严格来讲,这种方法源自西方传统。毫无疑问我们能够找到更加独特的思考这个问题的方法。

这就是我所感受到的──我在李姝睿的画里看到的“光”并不是在画布上,它存在于我和画之间所保持的空间的某处。我的眼睛并不能集中在画布上,但在画前面的这一处空间里,它们可以清楚地寻找到“光”。当然,如果没有她的画的存在我们也无法得到这样的体验。这些不是发生在画布之上,而是在画前的那块空间内。这发生在她的创作这一行为本身中。我的眼睛在细细地观察着她的画,我那被扩展的视觉感知也成为了作品的一部分。于是,我感觉到我的视角发生了质的变化,超越了它平时的范畴。画是平面的,但它有力地吸收了它前面的空间。换句话说,她的画由静态的、平板的一个物体变作了一个包含了空间的东西。

李姝睿想要实现一种效果,一种副作用。她的意图是尽量直接地去表现光。她的实验使得她扩展了绘画和观者视觉感知能力的界限。反过来说,没有这样的努力就无法去忠诚地表达光,我们体验的东西将尽失,观者们将无法去直接地感受到光。

李姝睿的画不在传统的规则之内。因为她无法直接地去描绘光,她必须创新地去画。她面对着将一种“并非绘画的绘画”变成实在的绘画作品的困难。李姝睿发明了这种新的绘画形态,也发明了实现它的方法。

我再一次站在李姝睿的画前。这次只有她的画和我。我大概可以说大部分的画都是独自成立的,无论观者是否在场都是一样,它们是独立的。但我不知道如果我不站在前面,李姝睿的画是什么样,但当我站在它们前面时,我确定它们开始运动。当我远远地观看时,它们是静止不动的,但是当我开始靠近时──并非过近──它们开始呼吸,有了生命。

6

中国的艺术处在一种失调的状态。有人会把这视作混乱。但是,很多人显然认为即使这样一种混乱的状态实际仍然不是“传统意义上的艺术”就是“西方艺术”。可能,或者说中国艺术可能正面临着这样的危险——在从这混乱中脱身而出后将回到“正途”,回到那些规则中去。可能这并非是件太糟糕的事,但是可以肯定的是,它也将不再如此有趣。我们急迫地期待着不同的东西的出现。

把李姝睿的画称作“并非绘画的绘画”,这意味着她脱离了已有绘画的范畴,甚至也背离了绘画的前提,虽然她还在持续地创作着“绘画”。是不是绘画已经变成了某种“绘画”这个简单概念不再能定义的东西?在寻找光的过程里,而不是仅仅在绘画中,李姝睿继续地追问着这个问题。

In Search of Light
- Paintings by Shurui Li

Shigeo Chiba

1
People probably think of artworks that have "new pop art" images in a broad sense when they hear the term "contemporary Chinese art." Such artworks have been called "Political Pop Art," "Cynical Realism" and "China Kitsch" until recently. However, currently pop art in China shows a mixture of images – images within the defined boundaries and new images outside those boundaries. For now, let us embrace them together and simply call them "new pop art." This is the most popular genre in contemporary Chinese art, and the market receives these artworks with much enthusiasm. Although there are diverse trends in contemporary Chinese art, it is natural that casual and "easy-looking" "new pop art" immediately captures people’s attention.

However, Shurui Li's paintings show entirely different images from popular pop art. She pursues something other than trendy art. She is a young artist, so the popular art trend probably caters to her taste and sensibility to some extent. Nevertheless, she believes that it is not for her. Styles from the "past" seem not to appeal to her. It is not easy to materialize ideas that deviate from the mainstream, which many other painters are readily exploiting. "Difference" itself would not suffice, so she has to find something that genuinely inspires her, while staying in sync with her sensibility. Before she defies the trend and finds her own style, she needs to explore how to move and in which direction. It is inevitable that young Chinese artists with delicate sensibilities are caught in a state of "disorder" at some point, and feel lost about their artistic pursuit's "goal." Indeed, "disorder" seems to be the starting point for contemporary Chinese art.

Each artist finds his own way to move forward from this disorder. Shurui Li explored her inner world to discover "light."

I have no idea why she chose "light." Many painters have concrete experiences that inspired them to become painters. So does Li, I suppose. Regardless of her experiences, Li chose an abstract concept of "light" and, in turn, light chose her. The "disorder" could have compelled her to choose "light."

2
Before this exhibition, Li used to paint scenes that looked like the big bang that created the galaxy, or explosions and disruptions of cells. They contained "light" just like her current works do. Even when "light" itself is not the main subject, a galaxy's explosion cannot be separated from light; similarly, the explosion and disruption of cells evoke a feeling that they take place on the sea of light.

The transition from her previous to her current works is seemingly significant, yet it is not so. The reason we feel this change is that, in her previous works, we could figure out the subjects, such as galaxies and cells; but her current paintings look more ambiguous than ever. However, if we can put aside the question of what is painted on the canvas, we can perceive the "light" in her paintings as having a strikingly lucid impression. I wonder if these examples are appropriate, but I suggest that you try to think of the iridescent lights in a nightclub or karaoke bar, light pouring from the numerous windows of an urban nightscape, and the abundance of light in an urban setting. These are the images that Li’s paintings relate to in the real world. It is not these images that Li wants to portray however; it is clearly "light" that she wants to paint, so we cannot help but ask what it means to "paint light."

3
Shurui Li says that she paints light, but she does not mean specific sorts of light. Electromagnetic waves of light, that is, "light waves," cannot be described directly. When a child learns in kindergarten to draw a large, orange-colored circle, and to add radial lines around it to express the sun, it is only a concept of drawing the sun and its light. Light itself cannot be seen; when it passes through a piece of green paper, the part of the spectrum reflected by the material becomes visible to the human eye. The green paper reflects spectra outside a certain range (a wavelength of 498~530mm), which corresponds to the color green and, as a result, people can perceive only green. In other words, people need a medium to see the light. When light is reflected by a specific material, it becomes visible to humans. Light is either invisible, or can be perceived only indirectly, and is not visible by nature. That is, light is innately invisible. If we look directly at the sun, our eyes will burn out. Light is a mysterious entity that can be seen only through media. Light is a phenomenon generated from heat; it cannot be produced from a hard frozen moon.

Maybe a painter is someone who is amused by the idea that our eyes can see an object only through a certain medium or space, and who explores deeply into this wondrous phenomenon. Isn’t it amazing that we can see the objects and the world around us? In that sense, the view before our eyes is equivalent to the "omnipresence of light." A painter relies on this premise of light's omnipresence, and attempts to express the beauty that light brings to the world. Presumably all painters try to express light in one way or another; or when they attempt to draw certain objects, they are actually capturing light. Nevertheless, it is rare to find a painter such as Shurui Li, who strives to portray the light itself. Naturally, Li cannot paint light directly; however, she is not content with drawing a piece of green paper to express light. Claude Monet produced exquisite and luminous landscapes by portraying water lilies and water's surface. Johannes Vermeer brought out light floating in space by elaborately depicting the interior space of daily life. Li aspires to perceive and approach light more directly than they did. She yearns to get closer and closer to the "light." This mysterious aspiration, resembling that of Icarus (a man in a Greek myth who flew with wings made of beeswax, got too close to the sun despite his father, Deadalus’s, warning, and crashed into the ocean with burned wings), creates a strong sense of tension in her paintings.

4
When we stand before Li’s paintings, we are perplexed how to interpret them. It is hard to figure out their subject, and they even look out of focus. However, as we continue to look, we come to encounter light. We are convinced that we can feel the light. Don’t you agree?

More accurately, we enter a state which arouses a broader range of senses than merely the visual sense, or else our visual sense is augmented to become wider than usual. This allows us to encounter light, rather than merely seeing it. This feeling is undeniable, similar to when we see a city's nightscape with watery eyes. At that moment, I am not really watching the landscape itself. Although I might not be aware of it, my eyes are looking in a certain direction. Objects such as buildings, roads and cars vanish from view, and the light from the windows, streetlights and cars' headlights pours into my eyes.

The tears blur the view's focus, and an indistinct streetlight looks like a shaky photo shot. In terms of physics, it is correct to say so; but if we can shift our perspective a little bit, the explanation can be quite different.

Some objects are not usually visible. Our view is closed to them most of the time. For example, when we shut our eyes we cannot see anything. However, my eyelids can feel the strong sunlight. Although it is different from "watching" in the usual sense, I still feel the sunlight clearly. It is inaccessible to my open eyes, But I can feel it intimately with my eyes closed. In fact, the thin membrane of my eyelids actively absorbs sunlight. You can even see the membrane's blood vessels. The thin eyelid works like a retina. Shurui Li is keenly aware of these ideas in expressing "light."

Her paintings are a kind of mesh. Light can be on the mesh, or can overlap with the mesh's shape. As the light collides with the mesh, a palette of colors – green, violet, red, orange, yellow and blue – bursts out. At first, this variety of colors captures our attention. It is an indirect adoption of light reflected upon different materials. We note that the focus is not very clear, and thus we are forced to step back to appreciate her paintings. At a certain point, the feeling that different colors are chaotically mixed suddenly disappears. At close range, Li’s paintings are composed of color pigments; yet with increasing distance, "light" begins to take over in place of colors.

When I first encountered Li’s paintings, the blended colors drew my attention. When I took a step back, however, I saw light. I felt that I was seeing the light itself, something different from a kaleidoscope's colorful display. Even as I was enchanted by the dynamic colors, I was actually looking at something else! There is a reason her paintings are out of focus. If the focus were accurate, Icarus would burn out. To avoid such misfortune, Icarus needed to keep a certain distance from the sun. To directly see the "light" in Li's paintings, we need distance and space between them and us. However, the sun-aspiring Icarus would not allow too much distance. Indirectly channeling the light to our eyes, while ensuring the directness of the light itself – this is why Li’s paintings are out of focus. Although the matter of focus sounds like a methodological or technical issue, it is not.

5
How can a painter express light directly, rather than indirectly, in a painting? How can a painter let people experience "light" itself? Let’s try to redirect these questions. So far painters have expressed light on a canvas by portraying other objects, and have regarded this as painting light. Likewise, spectators have believed that they see light through these painted objects. Let’s give it some more thought. Should artistic expression embrace only such materialistic ideas? Isn’t it too material-oriented? Even if it is clearly a method in its own right, strictly speaking, it is a method of the Western tradition. We no doubt can find a more original way of thinking about this.

Here is what I feel – the "light" I see in Li’s paintings is not really on the canvas, but exists somewhere between her painting and me. My eyes cannot focus on the canvas, but they clearly feel "light" in the space in front of her painting. Of course, this can happen only because of her paintings. This event does not take place on the canvas, however, but in the space in front of the painting. This happens in her "act of creation." My eyes perceive her painting, along with my own extended perspective, as part of her "artwork." Therefore, I can feel that my perspective is broadened in its quality, transcending its usual realm. The painting is on a flat plane, yet it powerfully absorbs the space in front of it. Put another way, her painting is transformed from a static, flat object to a phenomenon that encompasses space.

What Li wants to realize is a certain outcome, a byproduct. Her intention is to express light as directly as possible. Her experiments have enabled her to expand the boundaries of both painting and perspectives. Conversely, it is impossible to convey light faithfully without such an effort. The effect would be lost, and the viewers would not be able to see or feel the light directly.

Considering these thoughts, Li’s paintings are outside the conventional meaning of the term. Because she cannot describe light directly, she must create her paintings innovatively. She faces the task of materializing a painting on a "plane of painting that is not painting." Li gave birth to this new "painting," and to its methodology as well.

I stand in front of her painting one more time. There is only her painting and I. I can probably say that most paintings are self-standing. They make sense without viewers; they are independent. I don’t know how Shurui Li’s paintings are when I am not there, but they definitely start to move when I stand before them. They stay still when I watch from a great distance, but as I begin to approach closer – but not too close – they begin to breathe and come to life.

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Chinese art is in a state of disorder. Some people might see this disorder as chaos. However, a majority of these people apparently think that the counterpart of chaos is either "art in the traditional sense" or "Western art." It is possible, or, more likely, risky, that Chinese art might revert to one of these alternatives after coming out of the tunnel of disorder. That might not be so bad, but certainly it would not be fun, would it? We eagerly anticipate something different.

Calling Li’s paintings "paintings that are not paintings" implies that she defies the category of paintings, and even its premise, while producing "paintings" nonetheless. Are paintings evolving into something that can no longer be defined by the simple term "painting"? By pursuing light, instead of just paintings, Li continues to address this question.