Chen Lianqing – 2007
水淹紫禁城
Flooding the Forbidden City

05_Chen-Lianqing-&-Mr-Fong_small (1)05_Chen-Lianqing--&-Mr-Fong's-photo_s

水淹紫禁城

近两年来,中国当代艺术在拍卖场上大火特火;北京的,香港的画廊挂上几件大头娃娃,立马就能火起来。

当代艺术,概念缘自西方,泛指二战后的新潮艺术。在当下中国的“当代”潮中,孰新,孰旧难以介定。上个世纪八九十年代,有常驻北京的西方记者拿来一些中国“地下”画家的作品:它们大多材质低劣,品相差,题材阴沉。在我的画廊很难卖出。我认为那是中国最初的当代艺术。星星画派由地面浮出,又有了圆明园画家;香港的画廊也努力向国际艺坛推广中国前卫艺术;外国人静静地在收集;而后有了宋庄;这个世纪初仁艺术中心带头进驻798;当代艺术在中国渐成规模。其中无病呻吟的有之;少年不知愁,为做新画强称愁的有之;跟着法兰西斯。培根吓人的不少;学安迪,沃荷调侃毛主席,解放军……的更多。但是,仍不乏像陈联庆这样在画布上巧妙地表达感受的画家。

联庆是四川人,生长在天府之国,却苦难不绝。人们不太留意蜀人的承受力与敏锐,却对川人,川话的幽默留下深刻的印象。掌握了绘画技术的联庆生来就是搞“当代”的材料。飞跃发展的中国,五光十色。但是联庆的画面总是灰色的。灰色使人冷静,灰色提醒人们,缤纷之外有另一个世界。灰背景上有中外著名的建筑物,代表着权威。活跃在建筑物周围的是“千千万万”鲜活的橙色小人——小人在中外当代画中已经不少——代表着成亿的天府国民。天子脚下,他们在拆,在耍,在搞事。他们调皮,乐天,十分有活力,是典型的四川人。小人们在被水淹了的紫禁城内游泳,则更加有趣。近年被水淹没的还有邻近联庆家乡的三峡……。

传统油画家会觉得当代画大多用压克力在画布上平涂而成,太过简单;很多传统的油画家们离开模特儿就不能作画,不也是另一简单吗。当代艺术家们投入生活,像写作家一样在生活中发掘题材来表达自己对生活的看法。他们的作品因而让人喜闻乐见,因而有了生命力。这是其它任何画种都应向他们学习的地方。

执笔至此,偶遇苏富比(纽约)执事人,问:当代艺术热潮过后该是甚么了? 答:还是当代艺术,不过会有更多的新面孔。

祝后来者好运!

方毓仁

二零零七年春

Flooding the Forbidden City

In recent years contemporary Chinese art has become a hot topic at the auctions houses. When a gallery in Beijing or Hong Kong hangs contemporary works in their window, such as the “big baby” portraits, they immediately become popular. The concept of contemporary Chinese art came from the West and it referred to a new tide of art following World War II. Within contemporary Chinese art it is often hard to distinguish between what really belongs to this new tide and what are merely imitations.

During the 1980s and 1990s a few western journalists living in Beijing brought with them to Hong Kong some works by “nderground” artists. Most of these were painted on cheap canvases, using poor quality materials, the subject matter was dark and dull. We couldn’t sell these works from our gallery. I believe this was Chinese contemporary art in its initial stages. Xing Xing artists began to emerge from the “nderground” and later on came the Yuan Ming Yuan artists. Galleries in Hong Kong started promoting Chinese avant-garde art to the foreign market and international buyers started quietly collecting these works. Later on came the Song Village artists and early this century Yan Club became a pioneer in the area known as 798, which is now a hotbed of contemporary Chinese art in Beijing.

Among these contemporary artists were those who displayed their suffering, others merely imitated this suffering, some copied Western artists such as Hockney, Bacon and Warhol. But among them are also artists such as Chen Lianqing, who manage to skillfully express their own feelings onto canvas.

Lianqing was born in Sichuan Province – known in China as Paradise Province, although life there is actually tough. Sichuan people are sensitive and tolerant, but they also appreciate humour and their dialect reflects this humour. After mastering the skill of painting Lianqing was destined to become a pop artist. The fast developing China has its colorful, bright side, but the background to Lianqing’s paintings is grey, reminding us that there is another world existing. In his paintings there are always historic buildings and around these buildings are hundreds of small orange, very active men representing China’s mass of people. They do’t care about power. In the paintings they are pulling things down, having fun, causing trouble in and around the Palace. They are naughty, happy and very busy – typical Sichuan people. The little men swimming and diving in the flooded Forbidden City are even more interesting, but they also serve to remind us that Lianqing’s hometown was also flooded a few years ago.

Traditional oil painters often think that the technique used by contemporary artists of applying acrylic directly onto the canvas is too simple. On the other hand many traditional oil painters are incapable of painting without using a model. Isn’t this just as simple? Contemporary artists throw themselves into real life, they use real life situations to express their feelings about life. Their works therefore feel real and are easily accessible. All kinds of artists should learn from this.

When I was writing this article I met a director from Sotheby’s New York and I asked her what she thought would be the next hot topic after contemporary art and she said it will still be contemporary art, but just new faces. Good luck to the newcomers!

Fong Yuk Yan

April 2007