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如何在當代閱讀一幅山水畫? 讀林銓居【胸中有丘壑】

 
這段文字來自於印度裔英國作家奈波爾(V. S. Naipaul)的小說《抵達之謎》(The Enigma of Arrival),小說以第一人稱敘事,描述他所身處的異鄉──某個位於英格蘭風景優美的古老小鎮;在這本四百多頁的小說中,前面有超過一半的篇幅僅僅是作者散步時對於周遭環境的敘述和紀錄,輕描淡寫的筆法隱約彷彿掩蓋著主人公謎樣的內在騷動,似與整個現實和世界無關、甚至可以說是避世的場景背後,演繹的卻是奈波爾自身漂流的、被殖民的、詭譎的命運和難以言說的文化心理背景等諸多議題;然而這些深沈而嚴肅的命題,並非直接地以激烈控訴的方式被表達,相反地,它們化身在日常的景物和瑣事之間,用輕盈卻堅決的姿態存在並且反覆提問:你的時代氛圍是什麼?你的生存狀態如何?你是誰?你從哪裡來?你將往何處去?
自古以來,寫景的文學作品多不勝數,借景寄情的手法始終在文學創作中歷久不衰,重點並非在於外在景物的探索不盡,而是在於寫景的人總是擁有不同的眼睛和心智,能夠把同樣的景物藉由不同的角度加以關照──寫的雖然是景,但說的故事源自於自己、說的方式也是因人而異的。以這一小段文字作為開頭的原因就是在於,文中所謂的畫家,並非僅僅是將藝術作為手段,直接陳述對於現實的觀測和回應而已;在奈波爾的眼中,畫家彷彿應當具有某種連結時空的能力,能夠把現實加以想像,並且加諸在一片古老的土地上,古老的土地會因此而復活,並被賦予一種新的詮釋,然而這詮釋卻又是開放的,提供給未來的每一個現實,再加以串連、定義、詮釋以及使之活化,並在如此的思辯中不斷定義自身所處的時空位置。
看到林銓居的山水新作,讓我有了同樣的感覺──即便是山水這般在東方、在中國已經被演繹過千餘年、重新詮釋過數萬次的主題,在今日仍然有其存在的必要,並且充分對應了當下的現實。我認為,他的山水畫並不只是外在形象的描摹、也不僅是上追古代文人的懷舊情懷,而是一種積極的個人宣示。如果在已經沒有信仰的今日,我們還有什麼需要表明或陳述的,那麼對林銓居來說,那就是本我面目的特殊存在,並且透過必要之創作,加以實踐。
 
山水作為一種積極的選擇
如果我們確立在封建制度早已消逝的今日,所謂的文人美學是一種選擇,那麼林銓居對於山水題材的執著無疑來自於他個人的信念。所謂的「信念」,指的是一種主動的取向,我之所以如此強調藝術家的主動,源自於大多數的人太習慣把「山水」置放在一個近代歷史脈絡的窠臼中,總是直覺地認為山水等同於古老、過時、陳舊、沿襲、因循苟且、缺乏當代性、無法與現實對應的畫種;然而,若是抱持著如此的成見,那麼勢必無法理解為何在所謂當代藝術如此盛行的今日,仍然有一批創作者堅持以山水作為繪畫題材。我要說的是,在每一個時代藝術都不該只有特定的面貌,而也沒有任何一種題材,只在於某些時空語境下才會具有它的特殊意義──如果一個議題是值得探討的,那麼它將永遠被引用和詮釋;如果有一種文化精神是豐富而美好的,那麼它也沒有任何理由應該被忽視和揚棄。
基於相同的想法,林銓居持續著他對於山水議題的探索。大學就讀文化大學美術系的他,在很早的時候就用水墨媒材進行山水題材的創作──不可否認,當時他的這種取向絕大部分來自於師承和時代的客觀條件所賦予的審美趨向。即便在強調台灣主體性或是政治上「去中國化」的今日,我們也無法否認在過去很長的一段時間裡,台灣確實是以保有中國文化精髓的基地自居,而在那個氛圍下的大部分人都勢必受到來自中國文化與精神的感召。林銓居不但從未否認中國古典文化在他生命底層所留下的印記,甚至相當的強調這種中國經驗(儘管他是土生土長的台灣台北人),並且加以融會貫通成自身內在的美學涵養,他讀古文、聽古琴、票崑曲、追隨歷史中古人的風骨典範、感懷古典美學的優雅和婉轉--在此,必須留意的是,林銓居對於古典精神的上追,並非單純對於古雅氣氛的偏執,而是他相信所謂的經典,是在歷史淘洗之後去蕪存菁下的產物、是一種精鍊和精準的精神價值;因此,與其說林銓居是在上溯古典文化,倒不如說他是透過經典,全面鍛鍊和吸納對於藝術語言的精準掌握,而精神性層面顯現在他的創作上的,就是對於氣質、形神、筆墨、韻味等境界的嚮往和展現。山水作為實現此種內在底蘊最佳的形式,林銓居毫無疑問地以此作為創作的立基點。
另一方面,林銓居在大學時深受鄭善禧在藝術概念上的啟發。在這裡,我刻意避免使用「師承」這個說法,用意在於,「師承」這個詞彙帶有一種「師法」和「繼承」的線性演化意味,然而從林銓居後來的藝術表現中可以清楚得知,他並非是全然的承襲某種單純的風格,更貼切的說法是一種點狀的「啟發」。在當時的學院教育中,鄭善禧是獨樹一幟的,因為在一片臨摹的學習風氣中,他總是鼓勵學生按照自己的方法去畫「壞畫」,而非沒有自我、只有臨摹師承風格的「好畫」;此外,鄭善禧個人在創作上追求雄厚質樸和生猛直接的民間美學,也呈顯在林銓居對於藝術素樸質地的偏愛,例如他喜歡《詩經》、民間版畫、石窟壁畫等民間的、甚至是匠人的藝術形式,沒有矯揉造作、沒有修飾的坦白與真誠,林銓居坦言,那種草創、樸素、不完美卻充滿可能性和活力的質地,是受過學院訓練的自己所短缺卻心嚮往之的。
 
只有本質問題
沒有媒材問題
1996年,林銓居開始用油畫創作山水畫──用油彩和畫布,畫了一張頗具八大山人意味的山水,但與八大山人原作裡敷染著赭石和花青的淺絳畫法不同的是,林銓居用的卻是厚重而帶有點半透明感覺的油彩,在畫布上慢慢拖曳出顏色的濃淡,而這件作品也成為他後來山水油畫的基本典型。對林銓居來說,此舉無疑意味著:水墨媒材已經無法滿足他對於繪畫的可能性的追索;而在藝術家得以挪用、並置和拼貼任何歷史元件的今日,媒材早已不是創作的問題,畢竟,跨越了所謂媒材的保護主義的藩籬,創作者終究會發現存在於媒材背後的品味、精神和信仰,才愈貼近所謂創作的本質。
林銓居如此的繪畫特質,除了來自於前述對於民間美術的敦厚質樸的嚮往外,某種程度上也呼應了山水題材中青綠山水的豐腴富麗──富有工藝性的民間藝術以及象徵皇家的院體青綠,也是以「文人畫」為正統的學院教育中經常忽略的兩個面向──在我們認知和看待所謂「傳統」時,經常陷入某種過度簡化的刻板印象中,認為歷史有其必然和線性脈絡,將「傳統=國畫=文人畫=山水」,而在如此的邏輯之下,這些名詞的意義勢必往僵硬而單調的路線發展;但如果仔細檢視中國繪畫發展的脈絡,就會發現,在近代歷時不過百年餘的批判中國畫的聲浪中,所謂文人畫的沈重包袱,也不過是因董其昌的南北宗論所引發,那麼在更早、更古之前,中國繪畫的千餘年發展,還發生了什麼事?還有沒有其他可供追尋、並且在今日還有意義的面向?
答案當然是肯定的,因為林銓居的繪畫毫無疑問地完成了一個古典和當代的交會的介面──在精神和本質上與歷史貫通相應,然而在表現上卻是當代而現實的。對他來說,媒材的轉換並不影響內在的涵養,而回應現實的方式更不僅僅是再現眼前事物或是反應時事。藝術家更終極關懷的是個人所處時空背景的文化底蘊以及存在狀態,這些追根究底的本質探索,展現在人的內在意志和和外在姿態上。換言之,林銓居的繪畫,雖然確實具備「文人畫」和「山水畫」的某些表現風格,但確實早已經跳脫出所謂「文人畫」和「山水畫」的分類方式,而必須置放在更個人、也更寬廣的當代視野中加以審視。
 
 
閱讀林銓居山水的方法
延續著上述的幾條軸線,可以粗略的歸納出幾個影響林銓居藝術至深的脈絡:古典文學的經營、文人美學的優雅、民間質樸的美感、院體青綠山水的富麗,他將這些不同脈絡的特質加以融會擷取,延展成獨具面貌的藝術風格,透過審視他油畫山水的創作脈絡,不難發現這些出處不同、美學各異的脈絡體系,的確在林銓居不同區段的作品中此起彼落,彷彿一部樂曲,整體的貫通前提之下,每一個章節卻又傳達出相異的旨趣,架構出跌宕多姿的節奏律動。
如果把八大山人水墨以油畫轉譯,視為是林銓居油畫山水之路的起點,那麼在這段創作的過程中,他確實是以前述所提及的文化涵養不斷地豐富、深化和擴增藝術的各種可能面貌。1998年和2000年,林銓居曾經在台北的敦煌藝術中心和台中的靜宜大學藝術中心發表過【山川誌之二:山路】與【城南對】等兩個較具有代表性的油畫個展,從展出的作品中可以整理藝術家三個主要聚焦的題材:首先,是對於藝術典範的嚮往,例如〈有常玉的山水〉、〈有劉錦堂的山水〉、〈滌硯圖〉等,在景物的取樣或是畫面氣氛的營造上,林銓居不僅在標題上、更在繪畫內容上刻意追溯如常玉、劉錦堂、王蒙等幾位不同時代的偉大藝術家,向典範致敬的意味明顯,但林銓居並未如清代四王及其追隨者那般直接標榜著「仿XXX筆意」或是直接挪用和臨摹古代經典,而是以一種更隱微更婉轉的方式,將典範視為一個物件,自由地抽取其中他偏愛的元素置放在創作中,因此這類的作品並不能單純視為藝術家企圖「繼承」典範的行為,而是用更平等的位置試圖去理解、或是呼應常玉和劉錦堂眼睛所見的現實。藝術家在此要宣示的,仍然是創作上的個人意志,而非門派師承;換言之,林銓居是利用經典藝術家們的語言,但陳述的仍是自己的故事。
其次,在作品的基礎架構上,林銓居也援用了文學擴充了創作的文本內容,最明顯的例子莫過於來自於漢代樂府民歌中的〈上邪〉:「上邪!我欲與君相知,長命無絕衰。山無陵,江水為竭,東雷震震,夏雨雪,天地合,乃敢與君絕!」一反文人詩詞中對於愛情的委婉和羞澀,某位女子悍然而果決地以世界毀滅的巨變為愛情作證,林銓居以樂府詩中所舉例的五件事件為題,以繪畫假想出這非常的場景:無陵之山、枯竭之江、冬季雷電、夏日飄雪、以及貼合為一的天地;在這五幅畫面中,所有的地貌景物彷彿都是擬人化後的有情之物,藝術家將文學藝術所召喚的浪漫情思,經過自我的詮釋之後還諸繪畫,不僅重新賦予了漢代民歌一個極其個人的視覺詮釋,同時也在當代的繪畫中開啟一個更具歷史視野的面向。2008年的新作〈胸中塊壘之五〉兩塊分別出自雲端、最後合而為一的石塊可視為〈上邪〉的延續,而把冷冰冰的石頭以朱色表現,又恰是一種主觀而為心理色彩;同時這也讓我直接聯想到清代曹雪芹又名為《石頭記》的經典小說《紅樓夢》,書中的主角賈寶玉就是由一塊石頭「通靈寶玉」幻化成的,其「大如雀卵,燦若明霞,瑩潤如酥,五色花紋纏護」,而《紅樓夢》的開端就是補天的女媧在青埂峰下遺下一塊頑石,後來石頭化入紅塵,經歷了悲歡離合、炎涼世態,一直到頑石歸天,全書結束,寫的就是一塊石頭的故事;如果我們承認所謂的萬物皆有情,那麼林銓居無論是畫山水、岩石、草木皆是在如此擬人且寄情的前提下開展,他的山水不時有轉側的姿態與面向、有如骨肉般的肌理,當代藝評者蔣勳曾經形容這是一種「肉感」的表現,而此文學性與擬人化特徵仍延續至今。林銓居將經典文學和個人創作相互加乘而賦予新意,總和意義遠超過單純的互為說明,而此文學和繪畫的互滲,亦使林銓居的繪畫在這個講求跨領域卻仍深陷技術專業體制的當代,格外具有鮮明的特徵。
第三個影響藝術家山水創作的重點是旅行。1995年專事創作之後,林銓居開始他一連串具有意義的旅行和寫生,就如同他所自述的:
我出身農家。農民是不旅行的,除非離亂。我們家自康熙年間在萬里鄉的二坪開山種稻以來,四百年間從沒有人領過一本護照,度過鹹水出國一步。然而閱讀卻把我帶到不時聽到夜船氣笛聲的某個江南小鎮,使我在北京的萬仞宮牆下面嘆息;而學習繪畫,又將我帶到仍然留有北魏雕塑與盛唐壁畫的絲路東端,甚至到更遠的巴黎羅浮宮、紐約現代美術館,以及置滿了咒語與埃及法老棺木的大英博物館。於是我開始旅行。
對林銓居而言,多次旅行的具體收穫除了累積大量的寫生素描稿外,他也在高度意識的狀態下,透過「旅行」更進一步觸碰和衝撞生命內存的複雜多變──在旅行的途中,如果沒有一雙萬象之眼、沒有對於複雜形象的觀察能力,對新奇的事物視若無睹,旅行充其量也只是身體在不同空間的移動而已,無助於藝術和思考的啟發;換言之,對林銓居這種具有高度嚴肅自省和內在思辯的創作者而言,他的旅行讓他參悟萬象、滿足幻想、與大自然不時結下對話的機緣。
在如此前提的瞭解之下,我們就更容易理解他這許多年來旅行的意義:在長江三峽感懷千古風流人物的歷史和命運、在華山揣摩余承堯看山時的視野與胸懷、在印度的拉賈斯坦編織關於古代文明與神話綺想……,每一次外在的變動,都觸發並且指向藝術家的內在質地。緣此,在林銓居以寫生之名的油畫中,特定的景物通常介於可辨識或不可辨識之間,因為對他來說,他的意圖並非在於創造一張手繪的風景圖、也並不在於真切地再現出某一個客觀的風景,而是假借著山水之名,行自我內在完成之實,例如在〈月〉與〈琴〉等作品中,明明看似從石灰岩地景寫生所得的山水,卻不意中出現著一處無人所到的高臺,像是一個荒廢的遺址、又似一個儀式的場域,而當一朵雲被畫在高臺上時,我們不禁要猜想是否這座高臺正是藝術家自恃孤高、或是冥想靜坐所得的一種「超現實」狀態。這種「超過」或「溢出」大自然的手法,就像南朝宗炳就在其〈畫山水序〉中論到:「目亦同應,心亦俱會。应会感神,神超理得。應會感神,神超理得。」山水作為藝術家心性的載體,對於觀者而言,更重要的事情並不在於對於視覺符號的應用和轉換,而是在於透過作品,能夠閱讀到什麼?是否能產生和創作者的共鳴?又能不能藉此關照到山水和自身內在的處境?
 
塊壘與丘壑
之後,一段較長時間的旅居經驗,對林銓居的創作產生劇烈的影響──2000年他旅居美國芝加哥,並且在該地取得跨領域藝術的碩士學位,然而優美的密西根湖畔風光沒有引起他絲毫的共鳴,反而召喚出他對於文化的鄉愁,異地的經驗開始促使他面對並思索原鄉與土地的記憶,他的創作分叉出另一條與「山水」截然不同的「家族故事」系列,兩條同樣具有意義的平行軸線在林銓居的創作中成形。
2007年,林銓居開始著手進行新的山水系列【胸中有丘壑】,雖然從外在的表現形式確實無法將「家族故事」和他的山水繪畫放在同一個脈絡中來理解,但我認為,「家族故事」中對生命甜蜜與苦澀、輕盈與沈重、瀟灑與莫可奈何的矛盾卻又互為表裡的狀態,確實使他的山水畫呈顯出複雜度更高、企圖心更強、且更具可讀性的特質。他的複雜度與企圖心表現在層巒疊障的結構裡,表現在隨著峰迴路轉而一路向上的石梯中,以及明顯的畫幅的遽增──其中最大的〈豁然亭遠眺〉和〈遠眺香光寺〉等作品都是2.7米乘1.2米的巨幅山水,其餘的也都在一、兩米見方的大小,在表現形式上就已經和過去一般人熟悉的、林銓居小品式的文人情調迥然相異;而在內容架構方面,林銓居展現的是他史詩式的鋪陳企圖,同時是近來所見山水題材中少有的巨構,看似古典的山水形式,卻擁有險峻、奇崛、甚至帶有點超現實意味的山水情境,傳達出一種雄渾、壯野卻又略顯苦澀孤獨的氣質。
近幾年,林銓居持續在北京、桂林和台北金山創作,旅行、寫生和閱讀早已成為他的日常生活,摻雜對於現實世界的焦慮和難以承受的壓迫感,創作是他訴說遭遇的唯一管道;另一方面,隨著年歲的增長,林銓居更傾向以樸素、直接、真誠、精準、坦承、未經雕琢與拋光的方式來白描自己的面目,就如同他那些粗礫的岩石、嶔崎的山勢、如刀割一般的皴法、赤裸而無植被的峰巖,磊落而坦蕩的氣度,藝術家在所謂當代藝術光怪陸離的環境中,仍舊選擇以中國的、古典的、文人與筆墨精神為創作的自我期許,是果決積極地以小我的特殊存在姿態,抗衡整個時代主流以外的不合時宜;而所謂「胸中丘壑」,意指的正是這種對於時代和群體意識的牢騷與對抗現狀。
此外,在「胸中丘壑」的大主題下,延伸出的另一個「胸中塊壘」的系列,是我個人很喜歡、且認為饒富趣味的部分。「胸中塊壘」畫的全是太湖石,這些雅石本來就具有很濃厚的文人意趣,是中國古典的風流雅士案頭常備的把玩物件;林銓居將「胸中塊壘」與大幅的山水巨構相提並置,就像是在嚴肅的大山大水議題之外延伸出一條輕巧靈動的林中小徑,把筆墨、造型和岩石的質地從邏輯性較強的山水中解放出來,更自由、浪漫且充滿幻想地抒發在相對較少限制的太湖石題材上,作為藝術家自己創造出來的「胸中塊壘」,石頭的造型、筆墨和畫法的經營都更加酣暢淋漓,如同那些承載與孕育著石塊的雲霧一般輕盈悠然。如果說林銓居的山水畫需要醞釀的是一種大開大闔的遠觀視野,那麼「胸中塊壘」就是一種細膩和微觀感知下的產物,兩者如同月之陰陽,圓滿了現階段創作者的精神面貌。
如果說時代精神、獨特性和文化辨識度是我們判斷藝術優劣的三大準則,那麼林銓居的作品無疑符合甚至更加超越。因為我們瞭解,對於現實的過度擁抱、讚頌和全心投入,就無法在一定的心理距離之外進行深度的反省和思索。藝術作為時代的良知,不該只是表象、膚淺、歡樂和快速的。對林銓居而言,山水作為繪畫主題,從來不只是單純一種習慣的因循或是風格的選擇,其背後所支撐的是他作為擁有一雙敏銳眼睛和心思的創作者,在歷經反覆思考和衝撞過後的文化趨向,而此趨向目的仍在於彰顯他個人的在時代中不可取代的存在價值。自然,是人最親近的客體;山水,卻又是歷史脈絡中悠遠的文化象徵,林銓居的山水畫提供的一種忽遠忽近的心理空間,除了是他生命歷程的表達外,同樣也意圖在當代引發更多的回應與溝通。
在林銓居相隔九年後的繪畫個展前,我在上述的理解下衍生了這如此一條閱讀他山水創作的途徑,盼能通向他胸中蜿蜒、幽微而浩蕩的丘壑之境。

(文:孫曉彤,刊載於林銓居「胸中有丘壑」個展畫冊,2009.4,台北大未來畫廊出版)




Reading landscape painting in the present age
On Lin Chuan-chu’s Divine Inspiration
 
In his novel The Enigma of Arrival, V.S. Naipaul, a British writer of Indo-Trinidadian descent, describes the foreign land in which he lives in first person – a beautiful old small town in England. More than half of the first part of this long work is devoted to describing the surroundings during walks the writer takes. The casual tone seems to hide the enigmatic inner turmoil of the protagonist. While this place seems to be segregated from reality and the world, and can even be seen as the setting of self-exile, it actually interprets various issues, such as Naipaul’s drifting, colonized and strange fate and his cultural and psychological background. However, these profound and serious issues are not raised directly in the form of bitter accusations. Instead, they are incorporated into everyday objects and things and have a persistent presence, repeatedly asking questions like: “What is the spirit of your age?”, “What is your state of existence?”, “Who are you?”, “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going?”.
 
Since ancient times, numerous literary works have been written that contain landscape descriptions. Using such descriptions to convey moods and feelings has long been a literary convention. The point is not that there are endless external objects to draw on, but that writers with different eyes and mental states can look at the same landscape from different perspectives. Even though they are describing the landscape, the stories come from themselves and are told differently. Looking at Lin Chuan-chu’s new landscape works, I have the same impression. Even though landscape is a subject that has been interpreted for more than a thousand years and re-interpreted tens of thousands of times in Chinese art, it still has its necessity today and also adequately responds to the contemporary reality. In my view, his landscape painting is not just the representation of external appearances, or an expression of nostalgia for ancient scholars, but an active personal statement. If we still have anything to declare in this age without belief, in Lin Chuan-chu’s case, it would be the unique existence of the self, and its realization through the necessary act of creation.
 
If “scholarly aesthetic” is a choice today long after the disappearance of the feudal system, Lin’s obsession with the subject of landscape undoubtedly comes from his own conviction. With “conviction”, I mean an active inclination. I stress the artist’s own initiative, since most people are used to seeing “landscape” in a recent historical context, equating landscape with an old, out-dated and conventional genre lacking in modernity and unable to keep up with reality. With such prejudice, they naturally cannot understand why a group of artists still insists on painting the subject of landscape today despite the dominance of contemporary art. What I want to say is the art of any age should not have a specified character and no subject has special meaning only in a certain temporal and spatial context. If a theme is worth exploring, it should always be quoted and interpreted. If a cultural spirit is rich and wonderful, there is no reason to neglect and abandon it.
 
Based on similar thinking, Lin Chuan-chu has continued his research of landscape. A fine art student at the Chinese Culture University, he started painting landscape with the ink medium from early on. Although he is a local Taiwanese, he studied the aesthetics of classical Chinese culture and developed his own taste. We should note that Lin’s revival of the classical spirit is not merely driven by an obsession with its archaism and elegance, but by his belief that “classical” is the product of refinement through time and represents a purified and precise spiritual value. He is not so much emulating classical culture as mastering the artistic vocabulary by absorbing the classics.
 
In 1996, Lin started creating landscape painting with oil. He painted a work reminiscent of Bada Shanren with oil on canvas, in which he added the winding mountain passes and little mountain cabins typical of Taiwan. This became the prototype of his later landscape oil painting. For Lin, this no doubt indicates that the ink medium could no long satisfy his search for the possibilities of painting. Today, when artists can appropriate, juxtapose and collage any historical elements, medium is no longer a creative problem. After breaking down the barriers of medium and protectionism, artists discover that the taste, spirit and belief behind medium are in fact the essence of creation.
 
If we see the reinterpretation of a Bada Shanren ink work with oil as the starting point of Lin Chuan-chu’s oil landscape, he has continued to enrich, deepen and expand the various possibilities of art through the above-mentioned cultural references. In 1998 and 2000, Lin held two representative solo exhibitions of oil painting, Mountain Pass and Dialogue with Nature as a Recluse, at Caves Art Center in Taipei and the Art Center of Providence University in Taichung respectively. From the works shown, we can identify three main themes the artist focuses on. The first theme is his dialogue with artistic models, in such works as A Work of Landscape Dedicated to Sanyu (1900-1966), A Work of Landscape Dedicated to Liu Jintang (1895-1937) and Washing Inkstone. In terms of the choice of landscape or creation of mood, Lin deliberately invokes great artists from different periods, such as Sanyu, Liu Jintang and Wang Meng (1308-1385), as evident in the titles and the content of the works. While the intention of tribute is clear, Lin does not say that his works are created “after so-and-so” in the manner of the Four Wangs of the Qing Dynasty and their followers, nor does he appropriate or copy the classics directly. Instead, he uses a more oblique method, treating the classical work as an object from which he randomly selects the elements he likes to be included in his work. Thus, this kind of work is not so much trying to “emulate” the model as an attempt to understand or echo the reality seen by Sanyu and Liu Jintang on a more or less equal footing. What the artist declares here is still his personal will in artistic creation, rather than his adherence to a school or tradition. In other words, Lin uses the vocabulary of the classical artists to tell his own stories. 
 
Second, in terms of the structure of works, Lin employs literary allusions to expand the text and content of his paintings. The most obvious example is his reference to the folk song “By Heaven” from the Han Dynasty (140 B.C. – 220 A.D.): By heaven/ I shall love you/ Until the end of time/ When mountains crumble/ and streams run dry/ when thunder rumbles in winter/ snow falls in summer/ and the earth mingles with the sky/ only then will I part from you/
 
This folk song is a woman’s vow. Based on this song, Lin imagines these extraordinary scenes: flat mountains, dry streams, thunder and lightning in winter, snow in summer, and earth and sky that mix. The landscapes in these five scenes are anthropomorphic landscapes imbued with feelings. The artist translates the romantic sentiments evoked by the writer into painting. Not only has he provided a highly personal visual interpretation of a Han folk song, he has added a historical dimension to contemporary painting. In his new work Rock V in 2008, two rocks that emerge from clouds and finally become one can be seen as the continuation of By Heaven, while the vermilion of the cold rocks indicates a subjective and psychological colour. When Lin combines literary classics with his paintings, the total effect far exceeds that of mere illustration. The interpenetration of literature and painting gives Lin’s work its distinctive mark in this age that stresses interdisciplinarity without seeking depth. 
 
The third factor that has influenced the artist’s landscape works is travel. After becoming a professional artist in 1995, Lin Chuan-chu embarked on a series of meaningful travels and sketching trips. For Lin, apart from making a vast amount of sketches, travelling also allows him to further experience and encounter the complexities and vicissitudes of life in a highly conscious state. Without a pair of keen eyes, curiosity and the ability of observing complex phenomena, travelling would merely mean moving one’s body in a different space, and would not help to inspire art and thinking. But for an artist with a high sense of self-awareness and analytical ability like Lin, his travels provide him with the opportunity of meditation, stimulating his imagination and engaging in a dialogue with nature.
 
With this in mind, we can more easily understand the relationship between his travels and his painting over the years. In his oil paintings entitled Sketch, the objects often hover between legible and illegible. His intention is not to create a hand-painted landscape or faithfully represent an objective scene, but rather to express his inner self in the landscape. For instance, the landscapes in works like Moon and Qin seem to be drawn from nature from the limestone formations in Guilin. However, a high terrace that appears in them looks like a deserted ruin or a site for performing rituals. When a cloud is painted above this high terrace, we wonder if the terrace represents a “surreal” state that the artist attains as a result of his aloofness or meditation. Such transcendence of nature is reminiscent of what Tsung Ping of the Southern Dynasties (375-443 A.D.) described in his “Introduction to Landscape Painting”: “As the eye sees and the heart responds to the landscape, visualized with skillful techniques, other eyes and hearts should see and respond in a similar manner. Seeing and responding lead to the feeling for the spirit which is transcended with Li (principle) established.” Landscape painting is the carrier of the artist’s spirit. For viewers, the important thing is not the application and interpretation of visual signs, but what one can read in a work, whether they can identify with the artist, and connect the landscape with their inner state.
 
In 2007, Lin Chuan-chu started a new landscape series called Divine Inspiration. Before that, he spent a few years making the Recollecting My Family Story series. With its expression of the conflicting aspects of his life, its sweetness and bitterness, lightness and heaviness, his landscape paintings acquire greater complexity and depth in terms of their psychological symbols. His complexity and ambition can be seen in the structures of mountain ranges, the winding stone staircases that rise to the top and the sudden increase in the painting formats – the largest works such as View from the Clarity Pavilion and View of Xiang Guang Monastery are huge landscapes measuring 2.7 x 1.2 m, while others are one or two square metres. The form is radically different from the past small and simple pieces of literary interest. In terms of content, Lin realizes his epic ambition. They are vast landscape compositions rarely seen in Taiwan in recent years. The seemingly classical landscape paintings show precipitous, bizarre and even surrealistic features, conveying a majestic, wild and slightly bitter and lonely mood.
 
Another Rock series developed from the theme of “divine inspiration” is my personal favourite and of particular interest. It depicts porous stones from Taihu Lake. These stones have a rich literary flavour and decorated the desks of ancient Chinese scholars. By associating these Rocks with the large landscape compositions, it is as if Lin had taken a smaller path beyond the solemn tall mountains and big rivers. Liberating ink and brush, form and the texture of rocks from the more logical landscapes, he applies them more freely, romantically and imaginatively to the subject of Taihu rocks which has fewer rules and restrictions. As rocks invented by the artist, their forms, brushwork and modelling are more fluid, as graceful and light as the mist and clouds from which they emerge. If Lin’s landscape paintings are about creating a grand and far vision, the Rock series is the product of subtle and microscopic observation. They complement each other to convey the present spiritual outlook of the artist.
 
In recent years, Lin Chuan-chu has been dividing his time between Beijing, Guilin and Jinshan, Taipei. Travelling, sketching and reading have become his daily routine. Filled with anxiety about the real world and an unbearable sense of oppression, he has no other outlet to share his feelings other than artistic creation. As he grows older, he tends increasing to express himself in a simple, straightforward and unpolished manner, like the coarse rocks, steep mountains, textures as if cut with a knife, naked ranges without vegetation and generous spirit in his paintings. In the midst of a lot of strange and bizarre contemporary art, the artist still chooses to create in the classical spirit of ink and brush of the Chinese literati. With the unique stance of an individual, he works against the mainstream of the times. “Divine inspiration” may signify the dissatisfaction with group consciousness and the opposition to the present state of affairs.
 
If the spirit of the times, distinctiveness and cultural identity are three major criteria for judging art, Lin Chun-chu’s work undoubtedly meets these criteria and even goes beyond them in terms of contemporary Taiwanese art. As we know, it is hard for those who are too immersed in or appreciative of reality to reflect on it deeply from a certain psychological distance. As the conscience of an age, art should not merely be superficial, joyful and fast. For Lin Chuan-chu, choosing landscape as the theme of painting is not just a convention or style, but the cultural orientation of an artist with keen eyes and an alert mind after thorough thinking and consideration. The purpose of this orientation is to highlight the value of his existence in history. Nature is an object closest to man, while landscape is a traditional cultural symbol in the historical context. Lin’s landscape paintings provide a psychological space that is sometimes near and sometimes distant. Apart from reflecting his perception, taste and life’s experiences, they also intend to create a secluded and divine retreat in the contemporary world.





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