Chen Lianqing: the Art of Myself / 陳連慶：自己的藝術
2005年起，梳理了自己前十来年思索的陈联庆开始在北京的画室里整年的画画,这些画即是后来最早被外界所认知的寓言式的布面丙烯作品:记录着历史(亦不乏政治与战争的因素)和日常生活的图像,它们有着《清明上河图》式的全景视角, 又有着西方现代绘画中简洁抽象甚或波普式的人物形象,其中对建筑物如故宫、城楼、天坛、帝国大厦,巨型油轮或者想象出的飞行器、游乐机等细节的描写, 却十分精细和密实,与空旷的背景和人物形象形成较强的对比。这种形象和对比的结果就是作品给人一种政治或历史寓言的荒诞感和观念性,而当时艺术家却淡然说道:“我画的人见皆知,就那么点事儿,伪事”。这种在工作室里画画和生活的方式大约持续到 2011 年,期间有间歇,也有思考,但在相当一部分的画面里, 总有大面积的水域出现。
回到那个水晕盎然的年代。1990 年的绢本彩墨《午后》,描绘了山城的一角,骑车的年轻人大概是刚从美院毕业的艺术家本人的写照,左下角那棵树和背后的路标平衡了构图,也衬托着少年,整个画面仿佛笼罩着一层湿湿的水汽,清新而朦胧,颇有南方的感觉。到了 1993 年的纸本彩墨《我的橘子树》里,依然水晕朦胧,作为主角儿的女孩在画面中心,手里拿着个橘子,略带迷茫和惊讶的神情,显然在担心着什么。她的左右两边是挂着果子的橘子树,背景有房屋和坡地,还有远远近近成片的橘子树林儿。
在见到 2014 年的新作时,不免有些意外。倘若说绢本彩墨《心经》里的居士给人正面的感染,《米拉日巴大师集第 276 页》里的佛学者则是通过视线方向的引导,让观众进入到一个静谧的内心世界里,这两幅画的共同点在于他们所透露出的强烈而又隐忍的精神性,这也正是艺术家近两年思考与实践的结果。《放生组》有着 16 世纪的画作《雪中猎人》(荷兰,布鲁盖尔)式的广阔视域,描绘的却是一组当代人的放生图。这些画显然与艺术家接触佛学有关,然而作品并非只是某种图解:居士的眼神里分明也透露着人间情感,我们几乎是从一个侧面或者窥视的角度来看到经集和佛学者,还有放生鸟类的人们,并没有施舍的姿态, 反而像是在愉快的进行着劳动。艺术家也谈到,关于佛学,更多是辩证的去看待, 或者说,佛学也是一门艺术。
Chen Lianqing: the Art of Myself
“They are climbing up, we are walking down. Anchored at a momentary bay, never rely on the bank account. They live in grand houses, we drift in the tide of times, not frowning once upon life.” This song by Anthony Wong, a local singer of Hong Kong, also represents today’s landscape of art and artists. Some rely on newfangled concepts to please and get to higher places. Some nestle in their warm baskets of tradition. But some go out of their way to explore new possibilities for change while keeping to their own styles. For this last type of artists, a sense of balance and depth naturally spreads under their brushes.
Labour Within and Art Without
Starting from 2005, Chen Lianqing painted all around the year in his studio in Beijing. This resulted in his fable-like acrylic on canvas paintings that recorded history by freezing life’s moments. The works put simplistic pop images of individuals in a background of large panorama, the meticulous depiction of monumental architectures form sharp contrast with the blank background. This accomplished technique successfully brings absurdity into the conceptual picture. As Chen says, “Everybody has the experience that I put down on the canvas. Just those things, things that are false”. He carried his studio lifestyle all the way to 2011, producing works that were characterized by large areas of water.
“My Orange” and A Path Submerged in Water
“Afternoon” (ink and colour on silk, 1990) depicts an ordinary scene in Chongqing. The young man on the bicycle probably is the self-portrait of the artist himself, a fresh graduate from the art college. The tree and the road sign support the central figure and balance the picture. Everything is blurred, and the painting seems to have moisture on its surface. “My Orange” (ink and colour on paper, 1993) follows the same style of blurring and moisture. The girl in the centre holds an orange in her hands, looking perplexed, surprised, and worried. Some orange trees are beside her, houses and a slope appear in the background, and the woods of orange trees that connect the foreground and the background.
Back at the time of its creation, the government was planning the Three Gorges Dam Project, and huge number of people was going to be relocated before the Yangtze River eventually flooded their villages, and the orange trees that were so prevalent in the area. While from another angle, we also see how a young artist feels for his future – can he carry on his yearn for art against the harsh reality? Maybe for this reason, Chen still uses flooding on paintings while breathing the arid wind of Northern China.
Temperament and A Beginner’s Heart
When we move on to see Chen’s most recent works in 2014, we are somewhat startled, and then impressed. He depicts a lay Buddhist in “Heart Sutra” (ink and colour on silk), and that figure simply radiates positive energies. Whilst another Buddhist figure, the monk in “Page 276 of Mi La Ri Ba”, is arresting the viewers’ eyes into what he sees, a scripture, laid open to another unearthly world. If the two paintings have anything in common, it is the projection of a spirituality strong but restrained, a presentation of Chen’s inner experience. “Setting Free” is a contemporary portrayal of some religious people setting birds free, yet employing the broad-range landscape of “The Hunters in the Snow” (Pieter Bruegel the Elder) in the 16th century. These works are born from the Buddhist inclination of the artist, for sure; yet they function as more than portraits—from an extra portion of tenderness in the eyes of the lay Buddhist, from the unusual perspective in which we observe the monk, or from the absence of condescension from the the people’s happy labour of setting free. Buddhism, as the artist believes, needs dialectical understandings; it is an art itself.
“Breathing” is a remarkable work. A man lies on a self-motion device, emitting smoke like a train. This painting centres around life as the theme, and this may have some potential link with the death of his mother. Both “The Meeting Hall in Yanan” and “Tightrope Walking” remind us again of his repertoire architecture as the symbol of political power in his works of acrylic on canvas, but in a more relaxing and livelier tone.
These are the moments when the artist captures exactly his own way of expression after a long expedition. These are the moments when mountains are treated as mountains. When one’s temperament dances in the same tempo with a heart of a beginner, one naturally arrives at his dreamt art, his own cosmos of art—the universal values in the human’s inner landscape.