• 文/ 陳韋鑑 Written by Chen Wei-Jian

李昆霖2008-2009創作 Lee Kun-Lin: 2008 – 2009 Collection


  「我不寂寞,我只是有孤獨的感覺,孤獨不是寂寞」,最後在電話裡,李昆霖忽然用有點急促的語氣說出這話,不知道怎麼回應的我無言以對,但當下其實我內心想說的是,在滿街你無法分辨文本的、普普式的卡漫媒體圖像浪潮中,有誰還這麼現代主義的在乎孤獨與寂寞的細緻差別呢?

  顯然李昆霖在乎,在2007年個展「獨腳仙行旅圖」畫冊中,王永成在<孤獨者的樂園>一文中提到,李昆霖嘗試在創作中安置孤獨,安置的過程成為作品不斷湧現的過程,身為被以孤獨來辨識的李昆霖顯然對此有更深入的思考,但是這樣的思考卻被李昆霖拒絕以語言來描述,當畫家說:「我要說的話都已經全部呈現在畫面上了」,那麼畫面可以乘載多少藝術家的內心呢?這是藝術家超越語言的特權,而我們則是試圖在這樣的特權當中,尋找連結與觀看的可能性。

  延續過去的觀察,我們可以發現不管是王永成觀察到的孤獨、乳房或是許遠達在<內空間的旅行>一文中所梳理出,關於獨角仙與作者以及反重力的居遊、土地及肉身等主題依然被延續著,在2009年的個展中,基本上依然是可以辨識出上述的幾個特徵脈絡,我們可以07年的「大地迷蹤」與08年的「大地朝歌」來做一個簡單的比較,這兩張都是以「大地...」為標題的作品,橫向的構圖中散佈如山谷、海灣般的物體,在畫中也都有著被畫家稱之為"獨角仙"的圖像。在這兩張圖比較中最明顯的是,在09年的「大地朝歌」中,所有本來在「大地迷蹤」由乳房所構成的山灣,上面的乳頭全部消失,在「大地迷蹤」中如結實累累、一顆顆明確且量感非常厚實的乳房,在「大地朝歌」中再也無法被辨識為單個的乳房;消失的乳頭使得乳房在這些繪畫中不再是一個挪用的對象物,它成了一個比喻,一個文學性的比喻,這樣的比喻打開了我們對藝術家所創造世界的想像,這樣的比喻成為一個邀請,邀請我們去參與一個更為完整的世界。

  而過去那些從乳頭延伸出來的電塔、煙囪、獨角仙與樹木等,如今一去一留,過去那些所有噴薄出汙染的現代化物品如汽車與煙囪等已然消失,而留下的樹木與獨腳仙在09年的其他作品中則是彼此交融,更難以辨識出其差異,如<空想之豁>中像北宋山水般的巨碑式構圖,我們無法分辨是山還是乳房,而在原來乳頭的地方則是有著獨角仙與乳首融為一體。而這還是勉強看的出乳頭的,到了<靜候>或<孤丘>系列五張,乳首是完全消失,孤丘上孤拎拎的長了棵樹。

  我們該怎麼來看待這樣的改變呢?也許我們可以試圖將<大地迷蹤>與<大地朝歌>視為藝術家在建立一個世界時,為這個世界所畫的地圖,我們可以看到藝術家試圖分別在建立一個世界,有大地圖、有中景也有獨角仙的肖像畫,我們可以看到在<大地迷蹤>裡,藝術家不辭辛苦的把每個乳房都點出其乳頭,而在遠方則是有一系列頹傾變形的高壓電塔,但是在<大地朝歌>裡,這些都消失了,乳頭消失、電塔消失,從形式上來看,我們甚至發現原來<大地迷蹤>裡各個物體其明確的邊線也都消失了;其實消失的不只是這些,我們甚至會發現在2009年的展覽中,在藝術家創造的這個世界裡,所有會汙染這個世界的人工物都已經消失了,我們可以觀察到,藝術家雖然創作母題並沒有很大的改變,但是在表現形式與語彙上卻有不同,我們可以說藝術家的世界更為完全,因為再也沒有其他外來物來污染這個世界。

  在這裡,李昆霖創造了一個更孤獨的世界。

  但是,他不寂寞,從另一方面來看,在語彙上雖然沒有了那些外來物的汙染,但是更為孤獨的世界並不見得是寂寞的,雖然在符號上越發純淨,在畫面的線條處理上更為柔和,但是更重要的是,我們發現有更多水墨山水的影響出現在畫面中,以一種宋元以來文人畫的出世精神向我們顯現,如「孤丘」系列,五張都是以一個乳房山上只有一棵樹為主體的直幅作品,這樣的構圖很容易讓我們想到藝術史上著名的,元倪瓚<容膝齋圖>,惜墨如金的倪瓚在幾座孤石上簡單的畫上幾棵樹木,沒有人物、沒有白雲,時間彷彿靜止般,相較於此,李昆霖的孤丘則是充滿生命力的孤寂,不只是孤丘上的樹木有著果實,在筆觸上也充滿了流動的速度感,尤其是<孤丘四>,彷彿是一棵樹木獨立在乳房山上承受的強風的吹襲;一樣孤獨的世界,李昆霖的世界本身卻充滿了生命力。

  同樣在中國藝術史上,我們也可以在清初朱耷(八大山人)的作品裡看到這樣有生命力又充滿孤寂的世界,姑且不論倪瓚對朱耷的影響,我們可以發現朱耷有許多的冊頁作品中以一隻鳥,翻著白眼的孤鳥站在孤石上為母題,如<一鳥圖>,在朱耷的世界裡常以一隻腳站立著,這與李昆霖的獨腳仙何其相似,如<思>都是一樹一石與一仙;論者或者從形式上來溯源朱耷的這些簡筆獨腳鳥圖像有其禪畫系譜,但是朱耷的鳥可是翻著白眼,而李昆霖的獨腳仙從以前面無表情的看著這個世界,到現在,以一個中年男子之姿,反而是睜大著眼睛看著這個世界,就如同李昆霖自己說過的,不管畫幾隻、不管畫哪一隻,其實畫的都是自己,而09年展出的這些獨腳仙,有的依然是面無表情,但是也有如<晨曦>或<黃昏>裡的獨腳仙,睜大著眼睛無辜又無語的看著觀眾。

  其實在這個充滿生命力的世界裡,在07年的展覽中,李昆霖以肖像畫的方式描繪獨角仙的存在,如<男人與女人>,而在今年的作品中,我們看到的獨腳仙則是以更圖騰化的方式出現在各個場景中,過去的獨腳仙不是以肖像式的方式呈現,就是在大場景中簡化成符碼,但是在09年的展覽中,獨腳仙的形式更為固定,不再飄移簡化,不再有著人類的長相,單單就是獨腳仙自己,有著自己的表情,在乳房山世界裡優游著,與整個世界有著更好的相處。

  朱耷的鳥與魚對著世界翻白眼,而李昆霖的獨腳仙則是在他自己的世界裡悠游。

  但是從倪瓚到朱耷,我們可以發現李昆霖與這兩位大師有著一個很顯著的不同,再度的我們發現,李昆霖的速度感非常的明顯,這點顯現在他描繪對象時的流動筆觸上,最明顯的例子就是<潛行>或者是<階梯>,這種流動細碎的筆觸與水墨中的傳統皴法有著很大的差別,他不像皴法一樣有固定的法則,也不像皴法是再現自然的邏輯,他的筆觸更多是反覆堆疊、細緻綿密,相對於水墨的皴法來說,更具素人意味,這種素人式的筆觸堆疊與六、七十年代自學成功的水墨畫家余承堯的筆法頗有可相互關照之處,這種反覆堆疊的細密筆法,雖然不能跟余承堯相比,但是那種以重複筆法建構世界的方式,在與李昆霖過去的作品相比,有著越來越明顯的趨勢,這些筆觸也成了畫家的自白的一種,以他的速度感來告白他的生命力以及與寂寞的對話,而這也是為甚麼會與07年的作品相比,更有水墨傳統味道的原因之一。

  當然李昆霖受過完整的學院派訓練,但是李昆霖曾經明白的表示:「在繪畫的過程中,完全沒想過這些問題」,他表示,在繪畫的過程中完全沒有想過水墨畫的文人畫傳統,當然也沒想過參考那一位畫家,他只是在畫的當下很快樂,在畫布上塗抹,他自覺自己是個速度感很快的人,急著想表達出孤獨的感覺。科班出身的李昆霖對這些水墨概念應該是已經融為他創作的養分之一,雖然更孤獨,但是卻擁抱了另一個孤獨的大傳統,更特別的是李昆霖在這裡卻又不是顯現出文人畫的氣質,因為畫面上的速度感讓他充滿生命力的世界只是孤獨,而不寂寞。雖然從倪瓚、八大到余承堯,我們都可以找到些許與李昆霖畫面上對話的地方,但是據李昆霖表示,自己是在畫完這批作品後,才發現與八大的作品有對話到,不過自己是從人體出發,想談的是人體與土地的連結,所以現在大概是「見山又是山」的心情。

  不過我們可以發現,不管是倪瓚、朱耷或是余承堯,某個程度上來說都是他們身處時代的"他者",倪瓚活在異族統治的元朝,半生飄盪直到明朝建立才得以返家、朱耷身為明朝宗室後裔,在清兵入侵後出家為僧,余承堯隨著國府來台半生兵馬,五十餘歲才開始手追北宋古典寫實,這三個人都是身處在一個飄盪且失去認同的環境,相對於此,李昆霖身處於一個較為和平的年代,這種他者的孤獨感是從哪來呢?從現實與李昆霖對話的經驗,我們可以發現他對於語言的使用是很後退的,如果沒有喝酒這些輔助儀式的進行,那更會卡住很難對話,更實際的從畫面上來看,李昆霖夫子自道的獨腳仙,在今年的作品裡是完全沒有嘴巴的,這讓我們開始想像,李昆霖的這種孤獨感、這種他者的孤獨感,會不會是一種對抗語言的、對抗言說中心主義(logocentricity),自外於世界的一種自覺?

  無我相,無人相,無眾生相。-金剛經

  在與李昆霖對對話的過程中,李昆霖提到自己現在的心境是屬於「見山又是山」的心情,看著乳房、看著大地環境,想著如何對待身體就會如何對待大地,這表示藝術家自己在創作過程中,關注的問題不只是形式上的問題,更是自我與觀看的對話,且讓我們引用金剛經裡常被引用的「無我相,無人相,無眾生相,無壽者相」,也許這樣的比喻擬於不倫,畢竟在佛教原典中,對這幾句話的解釋主要是在致力於「無我」的追求,聖嚴法師更是在他<禪的體驗‧禪的開示>一書中,將這三句歸類於空間的無我,而後面的那句無壽者相,則是被歸類於時間的無我。

  但是我們可以試圖借鏡,將我相、人相、眾生相與壽者相視為人類自我觀看的四種層次,從觀看自我開始,步入到觀看他人,在這個觀看過程中建立關係,而後察覺這個關係的本身,並以此關係去連繫這個世界。而我們可以發現李昆霖近幾年的創作,從07年個展「獨腳仙行旅圖」開始,他的變化恰好某個程度上是符合這個過程的,誠如前文所提,我們觀察到李昆霖的獨腳仙在形象上的變化過程,從肖像畫的存在方式到今年更完整、更圓融的存在,獨腳仙不再需要長得像人類,也不在需要分別出不同性別的獨腳仙,我們可以說因為創作者的我消失,所以投射在畫布上的獨腳仙更為完整,這正是無我相與無人相的對比。

  而以文學性的比喻,營造出一個更為孤獨的世界,在這個過程中,對象物不管是乳房與山丘的同化,或是人造物的消失等,都讓我們看到李昆霖在自己建立的世界裡,越來越不在乎現實世界的景況,或者說,他創造的世界就是他自己,他依然在乎外在世界,但是他用好奇的眼光觀看著,而不在是將外在的世界再現在自己內觀世界中。

而相對於我們在畫面上觀察到李昆霖在空間的無我上的轉變,如果對比於金剛經,那麼我們會期待的是在這一系列越發成熟的過程中,李昆霖的下一步會不會如佛經般往時間相的體驗去思考呢?也許這也是我們可以繼續觀察的方向。畢竟在這個以甜美卡漫畫面充斥市場的年代,如李昆霖般朝向內在,以文學性的比喻來呈現私領域的思考,反而是一種中年大叔的現實體驗,這明白的告訴我們這不是詩,沒有詩意,這裡只有一個人在孤單裡如何面對自己。

(收錄於李昆霖《山賦》作品集)

“I’m not lonely. I just feel solitary. Solitude is not loneliness,” said Lee Kun-Lin with a hurried tone at the end of our phone call. Not knowing how to respond, I kept my silence. Yet, what was truly in my mind was a question: in this overwhelming wave of popular cartoon/comic culture that is almost non-textual, who is still so modernistic and cares about the subtle difference between solitude and loneliness?

Obvious Lee does care. In the exhibition brochure of Lee’s 2007 solo exhibition, The One-Foot Celestial Being’s Journey Map, Wang Yong-Cheng mentioned in his article entitled “A Paradise For Loners” that Lee attempted to place his solitude within his art works, and that the process of such placement became the process of Lee’s inexhaustible artistic creation. Lee, with his given label of solitude, clearly has contemplated further regarding it, yet he refuses to express his thoughts via words. When a painter states, “All that I want to say is on the canvas,” you’d wonder how much of the artist inner world can the canvas be loaded. This is the privilege of the artists who can thus transcend through language. We spectators, on the other hand, try to explore the possibilities of connection and viewing within such privilege.

Certain reappearing themes have been discovered by viewers in the past. Wang Yong-Cheng had pointed out a sense of solitude and the appearance of breasts. Xu Yuan-Da had discussed the One-Foot Celestial Being as a reflection of the painter’s state of mind, the anti-gravity scenery, and the appearance of landscape and human bodies in his article “The Journey in the Inner Space”. These themes, features and traces can still be found in Lee’s 2009 solo exhibition. Let’s make a simple comparison between Fascinating Traces of the Earth (2007) and Song of the Land (2008). Both paintings contain the image of the earth/land in the title, both have horizontal layout in which valley- and bay-like objects scatter, and in both appear the character One-Foot Celestial Being named by the artist himself. None the less, there are still differences between these two paintings: the nipples of the breasts composing the valleys in Fascinating Traces of the Earth disappeared in Song of the Land, and the substantial and definite fruit-like breasts in Fascinating Traces of the Earth can no longer be seen as breasts clearly and undoubtedly. The disappearance of the nipples turns the breasts from a borrowed object into a literary metaphor, which opened up our imagination to the world created by the artists. Such metaphor is an invitation for us to participate in a world that is more complete than before.

Furthermore, some of the nipple-extended or -transformed objects have disappeared in Lee’s latest collection: pollution-emitting modern objects such as pylons and chimneys are gone, while the One-Foot Celestial Beings and trees can still be found mingling into the paintings. For example, in A Dale of Fantasy that has a Northern Song Dynasty style monumental landscape composition, the centerpiece is dubiously a breast or a mountain. The One-Foot Celestial Being sits on the mountaintop where it should have been or becomes the nipple of the breast. In this piece, the nipple is barely recognizable but can still be recognized; however, in Quiet Waiting and Solitary Hill I to V, the nipple has vanished completely, leaving nothing but a lonesome tree on the hilltop.

How should we interpret such changes? Perhaps we can try to see Fascinating Traces of the Earth and Song of the Land as maps drew by the artist for the world he created. In these maps, we can see how the artist attempts to visualize the world with paintings of landscape, medium shots, and the portrait of the One-Foot Celestial Being. In Fascinating Traces of the Earth, Lee diligently depicted every nipple of every breast and a series of deformed pylons lying in the far distance. Yet, in Song of the Land, all of these disappeared, including the nipples, the pylons, and even the definite lines of every object in the painting. Moreover, all of the man-made objects that would pollute the created world vanish in Lee’s 2009 exhibition. We can see how the artist’s expressive form and vocabulary have evolved under the same creative motif. It can be said that Lee’s world has thus become more complete, for there is now nothing from the outside to pollute this world of his.

Hereby, Lee has created a world of deeper solitude.

Nonetheless, Lee is anything but lonely. A world of solitude is not necessarily a world of loneliness. After eliminating foreign pollution, Lee’s vocabulary has become purer and the lines more gentle. Most importantly, we see much more influence of calligraphic landscape painting and a sense of aloofness featured in literati paintings of the Song and Yuan Dynasty and afterwards. In the Solitary Hill series, all 5 paintings are vertical pieces with a single tree on one breast-like mountain. This composition reminds us of the famous Jung-Hsi Studio by Ni Tsan (Yuan Dynasty). Ni Tsan’s works always possess this minimalist style: no human characters, no clouds, only a few trees growing on some solitary rocks in a seemingly frozen time. The solitude of Lee’s hills, compared to that of Ni Tsan, is much more vigorous: the trees on the hills bear fruits, and the strokes are teeming with a sense of speed, especially in Solitary Hill IV, in which the tree stands alone on the breast-like mountain in face of the blowing gale. Lee’s world is not just a world of solitude, but also a world of vitality.

Such mixture of solitude and vitality can also be seen in the works of Zhu Da, also referred to as “Mountain man of eight greatnesses” (early Qing Dynasty). Tentatively ignoring the possible influence of Ni Tsan on Zhu Da, we can see that in many of Zhu Da’s works, such as One Bird, there is a bird standing, often on one foot, on a solitary rock and showing the white of its eyes. The resemblance between Zhu Da’s bird and Lee’s One-Foot Celestial Being is unmistakable, as one can see from Lee’s Longing where there is one tree, one rock and one being. On the other hand, the two one-foot figures have different expressions: Zhu Da’s bird is rolling its eyes, while Lee’s Celestial Being was always expressionless before and is now having its eyes wide-open as the middle-age artist looks at the world. As Lee has said, however many or whichever one, the One-Foot Celestial Being is a reflection of himself. Some of the One-Foot Celestial Beings in the 2009 collection are still expressionless, while some others, such as the ones in Dawn or Dusk, are staring at the audience with innocent, silent and wide-open eyes.

In 2007, Lee depicted the One-Foot Celestial Beings with portraits, as seen in Men and Women, or simplified them as codes within a bigger scene. In this year’s collection, these Beings appear in a more totem-like style and have more definite forms. These Beings no longer drift, be simplified, or have human faces. The One-Foot Celestial Beings aren’t anything else but themselves. With their own expressions, they wander leisurely among the breast-like mountains and get along with that world with further harmony.

Zhu Da’s bird and fish are rolling their eyes to the world, but Lee’s One-Foot Celestial Being is strolling in its own world comfortably.

There is another obvious difference between Lee and the two above-mentioned ancient masters ¾ Lee has a clear sense of speed in his brushstrokes. The best examples are Stealth and Ladder. His flowing and broken brushstroke is very different from the traditional Chun Method in Chinese landscape painting, which has fixed rules and logic of reproducing nature. Lee tends to stack layers of fine brushstrokes, creating a style that cannot be found in works under academic training. Such style reminds us of Yu Cheng-Yao, a self-taught calligraphic painter in the 60s and 70s. To construct the world with repetitive brushstrokes has become more and more obvious in Lee’s works, and the brushstrokes become a way of avowal for the artist. Lee expresses his life force and his conversation with loneliness through that particular sense of speed. The unique brushstroke is one of the reasons why the 2009 collection has a stronger feeling of traditional calligraphic painting than the 2007 collection.

However, Lee is not self-taught. He had received complete academic training. He had stated clearly, “In the process of painting, these are no issues at all.” He doesn’t think about the literati painting traditions, nor did he try to take reference from any artists. He simply enjoys the creative process. He thinks of himself as a fast-paced person, hurrying to convey the feeling of solitariness. The academic training has blended into his creation and become part of him. Although the oblivion brings more solitariness, it also allows him to embrace another long-established tradition of solitariness. Yet, Lee’s work is still different from literati paintings, for the sense of speed brings forth a sense of vigor to his solitary world without turning it into a lonesome world. From Ni Tsan, Zhu Da to Yu Cheng-Yao, we can see a subtle conversation in the composition between Lee’s works and theirs, but according to Lee, he himself did not realize so until he had finished the collection, which is about the connection between the human body and the land. Perhaps, Lee has entered a state when he can see the essence of things, and see them as what they are.

Interestingly, be it Ni Tsan, Zhu Da or Yu Cheng-Yao, they were all “others” in their contemporaneity one way or another. Ni Tsan was born in the Yuan Dynasty when the foreign race reigned before the Han people retrieved power and established the Ming Dynasty; Zhu Da was a progeny of the Ming Dynasty royal family, and became a monk when the Qing Dynasty was established; Yu Cheng-Yao left home and came to Taiwan with the Nationalist Government and did not start to paint with the classic realism of Northern Sung Dynasty until his fifties. All three of them lived in a time of displacement and loss of identity. Lee was born in a comparatively more peaceful era. Where does his feeling being a solitary others come from? In terms of reality and my personal experience of conversing with Lee, it’s easy to see that Lee is quite “backwards” in using language. Without rituals such as drinking, Lee’s relationship with language is never that smooth and close. Furthermore, none of the One-Foot Celestial Beings in the latest collection has mouth. Can it be that Lee’s sense of solitude and his sense of being others is a battle against language and logocentricity, and a conscious decision to part himself from the rest of the world?

Not abiding in the notions of self, person, sentient being, or life– from the Diamond Sutra

In our conversation, Lee mentioned that he has entered a state of mind when he could see the essence of things and see things as they are now. Look at the breasts, look at the earth and the environment, and then think about how to treat the earth the way one treats his own body. The artist’s focus of concern has transcended from the issues of forms, and becomes a conversation with self and observation. “Not abiding in the notions of self, person, sentient being, or life.” This is a sentence often quoted from the Budhist Diamond Sutra. Perhaps this analogy is improper, for in the original scripture, these lines are about devoting oneself in pursuing freedom from the notions of the self. Master Sheng-Yen explained in his writing that the first three notions are about freedom in terms of space, while the last notion is about the freedom in terms of time.

However, perhaps we can try to take these four notions and look at them as the four layers of human’s self-observation. To start from the observation of self, then to the observation of others; to establish a relationship in this process; to be aware of such relationship; and to connect to the world basing on this relationship. In a way, the changes shown in Lee’s work from 2007 to 2009 correspond to the above-mentioned four layers. As explained in the previous paragraphs, the image of the One-Foot Celestial Being has gone through some changes, and evolved from portraits to a more complete and more harmonious existence. These beings no longer need to look like human, nor to have a distinct sex. We could even go further to say that the disappearance of the artist himself has created a more comprehensive being to be projected onto the canvas. This is exactly the contrast of not abiding by the notion of self and of person.

The creation of a more solitary world with literary analogies, including the assimilation of the breasts and the hills, and the disappearance of man-made objects, allows us to see how Lee cares less about the reality when he is in that world he created. Or, we can say that the world he created is himself, and that he still cares about the real world outside. It’s just that instead of reproducing the outside world in the inner world of his, he began to look at the outside world with pure curiosity.

Coming back to the Diamond Sutra. If the changes and the special freedom we have observed are true, perhaps we can expect that Lee’s next step would be to free himself in terms of time, as the sutra suggests? We should keep watching him. After all, in an era where sweet cartoon/comic style images are flooding in the market, Lee’s inward thinking and his literary analogy are much more realistic ¾ a real experience of a middle-age man, who tells us explicitly that this is not a poem, this is not poetic, this is only a man trying to face himself in utter solitude.

#2009 #2009exhibition #fromothers

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