Pang Jiun’s Grey-Tone Oil Paintings and the Relationship Between Pang Jiun and Wu Guanzhong

厐均的父亲厐薰琹是中国第一代油画家。傅聪的父亲傅雷是中国翻译界泰斗。两家是世交。厐均、傅聪是发小。傅聪成为蜚声国际的钢琴家——诗人钢琴家。厐均拉得一手好提琴,但逃不过家族宿命,一生专注在油画艺术的探索中。他的作品既有唐诗宋词的意境,也传送莫扎特的音韵。

上个世纪的六、七十年代,厐均与闫振铎、曹达立一起是北京美术公司的“三剑客”。他们的风景油画在“红、光、亮”的革命潮流中别具一格,与众不同,在王府井的画店中畅销。厐均的“漓江山水”更是盛极一时。
提到漓江题材人们会想起白雪石、李可染、吴冠中。白雪石的青绿漓江成为符号,作品高悬於人民大会堂的厅房,俯视着来自全国乃至全世界的宾客。李可染逆光写漓江,改变了中国画自明清以来的格局,成为近现代最有贡献的水墨画家。吴冠中充满温情的桂林乡田——山水是中国的山水,油画是中国人的油画。

曾有苏联专家放言:中国人搞不好灰颜色,把握不住空气的潮湿与温度云云。厐均以灰调子写漓江,用西方油彩,描绘烟雨朦胧中的山色、江水、花木、渔家。厐均的灰色源于中国传统画的留白,温润淡雅,虚中有实,在画面中不仅起着调和、中介的作用:油画画到暗处才是难处,搞得不好显脏。厐均用灰色,在花间、叶下,背光、阴影处,把黑色、棕色、墨绿、纯白调和在一起,明快细腻、有力地与明处呼应,增添画面的层次感,加强了色彩的张力。厐均的灰色提供情节,更服务于营造意境:深灰色处是山,相看两不厌,唯有桂林山;浅灰是云,烟雨锁大江,云深不知处;云中山色倒映下来,浸在茫茫江水之中,形成另一层次的灰色;厐均的灰有五色之分,占据画面主要篇幅的是近白色的灰。那里便是野渡无人舟自横的漓江。三十年时光弹指一挥间,进入蓬勃的二十一世纪后,厐均的漓江,两岸桃花开不尽,轻舟已过万重山,风发意气,一时无俩。我们从他的作品中不仅享受到西方油画对中国山水写实描述的美,同时在虚实缥渺的意境中体味东方文化的精神。

厐均的灰色调不是单指灰颜色,而是一种格调——东方文人画的格调;构成一种松动、明快的节奏也传达温润、怡人的情绪。我们在勃拉克、毕加索的许多作品中都感受到这种灰色调的魅力。

建国初,周恩来总理设宴招待厐薰琹、郭兰英、马思聪、王昆,委托厐薰琹筹办中央工艺美术学院。周恩来逝世於1976年,厐均有感而发,创作了一生唯一的一幅领袖像 “人民的好总理,日日夜夜为人民”,成为他灰色调作品的典范。总理身着灰色中山装,神情自若。一笔灰颜色使人物造型鲜亮,出人意表地带出高风亮节的人格感染力。暗处的咖啡色、暗红、浅灰、黑甚至白色拱卫着王者灰色。地图、帷帘、报纸、书籍、铅笔、茶杯,衬托、刻划了日夜操劳为人民的主题。这是一幅格调高,吸引眼球,打动人心的作品,代表了上个世纪七十年代中厐均灰色调作品无人企及的高度。

厐均画江南,难免让人联想到吴冠中。吴冠中是江苏宜兴人,厐均常熟人,一样的江南气质,相近的中西文化背景,景地相同,情相近。吴冠中严谨、讲究。厐均率性、抒情。苦难孕育了吴冠中;无拘无束造就了厐均。吴冠中横站半个世纪,言论惊世,作品骇俗,影响力在争论中传播。厐均两岸三地,逆流顺流,在洋为中用的油画创作探索中,作品令人耳目一新,海内外为之瞩目。若干年之后回望,二者属于同一时代,同一辈人。性情、经历迴异,同在油画民族化的道路上披荆斩棘。

厐均与吴冠中另一相近之处是写生创作。厐均出门必带画具。酒店房间随时成为画室。厐均的人体速写甚少展出。近年,他将速写稿出版,竟成近400页的豪华画册。信手翻阅,美不盛收;流畅、洒脱如马蒂斯;坦荡、自若如大卫像。但是速写中的灵动与准确在他的人体油画中却又退让予构成与色彩。在油画中厐均以色(此“色”非彼色也)动人。像不像,准不准无关紧要。情绪、氛围是重要之重。从轻盈、撩人的纸上速写到阳光、厚拙的油彩重现,厐均算尽机关,在色彩的张力方面继后印象派、野兽派之后,又向前跨进了一步。

厐均是风景画家,但他最为醉心的是花卉写生。面对齐放的百花,此刻他摆脱一切束缚,任性地向变化无穷的色彩世界探索。油彩由白至黑,色阶丰富,如钢琴琴键由低音到高音,配搭无穷。厐均用色纯而浓。在缤纷的色块碰撞中,他抛弃造型的准确性,宁愿尽情地让情绪释放,画面因而饱满,富於交响感。

干净、细腻、响亮、夺目的色彩是厐均提升中国绘画张力的手段与结果。另一方面,他将中国传统的点、线、面构成关系移植进奔放的油彩世界中去,滋生稚、雅、高、洁的东方文人品味。厐均的父辈画家常玉有不少花卉作品传世:色浓、简洁,落寞、清高,不食人间烟火,象征着这位东方画人桀骜不驯地矗立於西方的花花世界。厐均的盆花画在另一个心态环境之中,自在、奔放,任性但更接地气。
很难将厐均归类为哪一类画家,他写实,不实,真情实景中着重於“意”。厐均为人慷慨豁达、幽默大气。其画也大气、贵气。笔者曾笑语厐均是豪门画家。此“豪”虽曾落难,但是,如大革命中的法国皇后,沙皇王子,始终保持贵气。厐均在海内外探亲访友,所到之处,必在酒店内摆流水酒席。亲朋好友一拨儿走,一拨来。客人兴高意满,主人喜笑颜开。欣赏厐均作品有如聆听莫扎特的弦乐重奏,时而渗入“春江花月夜”的流水琴音甚至瞎子阿炳的“二泉映月”。也许用“梁祝小提琴协奏曲”来比喻更加贴切:西方丰厚的器乐、曲式叙述东方浪漫的故事,倾诉江南幽怨的爱情。在当代中国油画发展中,从构成上的中西溶合示范到响亮、利落的色彩引领;从传统中国文人风范传承到当下时代精神的体现,厐均都有历史性的贡献。

方毓仁
2014年春

(本文為《龐均油畫藝術》一書前言)

Pang Jiun’s Grey-Tone Oil Paintings
And the Relationship between Pang Jiun and Wu Guanzhong

Pang Jiun’s father was Pang Xunqin, who was amongst the first-generation of oil painters in China. Fu Cong’s father was Fu Lei who was a leading authority in the field of translation in China. The friendship between the two families spans several generations. Pang Jiun and Fu Cong are childhood friends. Fu Cong became a famous international pianist, a musical poet. Pang Jiun plays the violin well, but could not escape the destiny of his family and has devoted his whole life to the exploration of the art of oil painting. His works not only have the artistic conception of Tang Dynasty poems and Song Dynasty lyrics, but also exude the rhythm of Mozart.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Pang Jiun, Yan Zhenduo, and Cao Lida were the “Three Musketeers” of the Beijing Art Company. Their landscape oil paintings were unique and unusual in their revolutionary trend of being “red, light and bright” and sold well in the painting shop in Wangfujing. Moreover, Pang Jiun’s Li River subject paintings flourished at that time.

When it comes to the Li River, people think of Bai Xueshi, Li Keran and Wu Guanzhong. Bai Xueshi’s dark green Li River is already an icon, hanging high in the room of the Great Hall of People and overlooking visitors from across China and indeed the whole world. Li Keran painted the Li River with a concept of reverse light source, having changed the pattern of Chinese painting since the Ming and Qing Dynasties and, as a result became the Chinese ink painter considered to have contributed the most in modern times. Wu Guanzhong painted Guilin villages and fields full of warmth – the landscapes belong to China and his oil painting is really the oil painting of the Chinese people.

A Soviet Union art expert once said, “Chinese painters have not mastered the color grey, nor do they know how to convey a sultry, dense atmosphere.” Pang Jiun, however, expertly portrays the Li River in tones of grey. Making use of western oils, he depicts mountains, rivers, flowers, trees and fishermen in the misty rain. His grey color originates from the essence of traditional Chinese painting; it is mild and quietly elegant. There are tangible elements behind its intangible appearance. He uses grey color as a moderator and mediator in the painting, using it as a buffer between paler and darker sections.  It is always challenging to paint shadows well in oil, as this can easily make a painting look ‘dirty’. Pang Jiun uses grey tones not only on his still life flower paintings, but also in the shaded areas of his landscapes; in between the muted areas of black, brown, dark green and the lighter areas of pure white.  His grey tones are bright, lively, fine and smooth and contrast beautifully with the lighter areas of the painting, adding a sense of layering to the work and strengthening the tensile forces of color. Pang Jiun’s grey tones offer greater depth to the artistic conception. Dark grey is used for the distant hills creating visions of beautiful Guilin Mountains. Light grey is used for the clouds and misty rain, sometimes so thick that is obscures everything, heightening the sense of mystery in the painting.  Cloudy mountains are reflected in the river, forming another layer of grey tone. According to Pang Jiun, there are five different tones of grey.  The palest grey, verging on white, covers most of the painting; this is the Li River itself, where boats converge. Thirty years pass by in a flash. Entering the flourishing 21st century, Pang Jiun’s Li River is now flanked by countless colorful peach blossoms; the boats have passed through numerous mountains on their way downstream. The Li River is high-spirited and vigorous and nothing can be compared to it. We can not only enjoy the realistic beauty of Chinese landscape through western oil painting, but also feel the spirit of oriental culture in his intangible and tangible artistic conception.

Pang Jiun’s tones of grey do not simply represent the color grey, but rather a kind of style, the style of oriental literary painting. It forms a kind of smooth and swift rhythm and conveys warm and pleasant feelings. We can similarly feel the charm of such tones in the many works by Braque and Picasso.

In the early days of the PRC, Premier Zhou Enlai gave a banquet for Pang Xunqin, Guo Lanying, Ma Sicong and Wang Kun, entrusting Pang Xunqin to make preparations for establishing the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts. When Zhou Enlai died in 1976, Pang Jiun felt an urge to paint his only painting of a leader, depicting the Premier as a “Good Premier of the people, working day and night for the people’”, in his typical grey tone style. The Premier is wearing a grey Chinese tunic suit and has an easy grace. Despite the simplicity of the tunic, Pang Jiun makes the figure stand out, bright and striking, bringing out the nobility of Zhou’s character beyond everybody’s expectations.  Brown, dark red, light grey, black and even white surround and envelope the grey color. The map, valance, newspaper, book, pencil, and cup all highlight and convey the theme of ‘working day and night for the people’. This profound work is eye-catching and touching, representing the unparalleled height of achievement of Pang Jiun’s grey tone works in the 1970s.

Pang Jiun’s paintings of southern China remind us of Wu Guanzhong. Wu Guanzhong is from Yixing City in Jiangsu Province, whilst Pang Jiun is from Changshu City. They have the same southern Chinese disposition and similar Chinese and Western cultural backgrounds; they share similar landscapes and similar feelings. Wu Guanzhong is strict and careful, while Pang Jiun is straightforward and emotional. Bitterness has bred Wu Guanzhong, while freedom has created Pang Jiun. For over half a century Wu Guanzhong fought off his critics, expressed astonishing views and producing exceptional works. His influence was wide-spread. Pang Jiun traveled to Hong Kong and Taiwan and encountered twists and turns, producing highly acclaimed and fresh new works at home and abroad by exploring painting that adapts foreign methods to Chinese needs. Looking back over several years, we find that they are in the same time period and belong to the same generation. With totally different feelings and experiences, they blaze a trail in the nationalization of oil paintings.

Another similarity between Pang Jiun and Wu Guanzhong is that they both paint on location. Whenever Pang Jiun travels, he takes his painting paraphernalia with him. Hotels and rooms soon become his studio. Pang Jiun’s figure sketches have rarely been exhibited. However, he has recently published his sketches, which formed a luxury album of nearly 400 pages. After casually looking at these paintings, you would find them so beautiful. They are free and easy like the works by Matisse and bold and daring like the sculpture of David. When he converts these sketches into oils, however, composition and color become paramount. In his oil paintings, Pang Jiun is famous for using rich colors. Whether the painting truly resembles the original object does not matter. Emotion and atmosphere are his top priorities. From the light, arousing sketches to the reemergence of bright and thick oil painting, Pang Jiun has resorted to endless schemes and has made one step forward in expanding the tensile forces of color after post-impressionism and fauvism.

Pang Jiun is a landscape painter, but he is most intoxicated by the painting of flowers. Breaking away from the shackles of restriction, he freely and indulgently explores the capricious world of color.  The oil paint shifts from white to black with rich color gradations, just as the keys of the piano also shift from low pitch to high pitch with many combinations in between. Pang Jiun uses pure and thick colors. In the clash between different color zones, he abandons the accuracy of representation and tries to release the feelings as much as possible, so his paintings become very profound and filled with a sense of symphony.
The use of clean, bright and eye-catching color is an important method for Pang Jiun to improve the tensile force of Chinese painting. On the other hand, he is able to convert the composition of spots, lines and space into the bold and unrestrained world of oil painting, breeding the oriental literary taste of innocence, elegance, quality and purity. Sanyu (Chang Yu), a painter of Pang Jiun’ father’s generation painted and handed down a lot of flower paintings, characterized by strong color, simplicity, solitude, and loftiness, as if he were otherworldly. An oriental painter who obstinately stood in the colorful world of the west. The potted flowers by Pang Jiun are painted with a completely different state of mind, one which is free, bold and willful, but also more popular.

It is hard to classify Pang Jiun into any particular type of painter. His paintings of real objects are not realistic and he focuses more on the “meaning” of a real situation. Pang Jiun is generous, open-minded, and humorous. His paintings are also generous and noble. I once joked that Pang Jiun was a painter from a rich and powerful family. Though his powerful family once met with misfortunes similar to the Queen of France or the Tsar of Russia in the Great Revolutions, he always kept his nobility. Whenever Pang Jiun visited relatives and friends, he would offer a banquet there for them. Friends and relatives would come and go, group after group. The guests were happy and satisfied while he was also pleased. To appreciate the works of Pang Jiun, is just like listening to the string quartet of Mozart blended from time to time with the sound of running water and the lingering music of “A Wonderful Night in Spring” and even “The Moon Over a Fountain” by Abing, the blind Chinese musician. Perhaps the “Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto” would be a more apt description of his paintings: using rich western instruments and musical form to tell a romantic story of the east, a story of hidden love in Southern China. Pang Jiun has made historic contributions in the development of contemporary Chinese oil painting.  Not only in his blending of Chinese and Western techniques in his use of composition, but also by using bright, clean colors, and by conveying his traditional Chinese heritage in a scholarly style, but updated with a modern, contemporary spirit.

Fong Yuk Yan
Spring 2014

(This article is the foreword of catalogue The Art of Pang Jiun.)