‘War Hawk’ Zhang Fangbai

“鹰派”张方白


 author: Yang Wei

( Translated by Liu Weihong )


‘War Hawk’ is originally a proper term of politics which refers to those who advocate jingoism and aggressive military operation. Here in this paper it is used to discuss the artist Zhang Fangbai and his art, not only because of the great number of hawk totems in his works, but also his rhadamanthine cultural character. With his protest against the fad and trend, Zhang Fang-bai displays such a kind of idiosyncrasy as clear-hearted and direct-minded, being accordant with the tough attitude of so-called war hawk politics. Of course, the war hawk of art is basically different from that of politics. The tough attitude of War Hawk involves the intention of aggressive military operation, while the war hawk of art emphasizes on the integrity of independent personality. It also stresses the surpass of reality via certain cultural introspection. Just like what Zhang Fangbai says, ‘I prefer to stay away from being in trend excessively. I feel sometimes I am fighting against the society, against myself, or against the culture shaded by entire social environment. Once the trend gets overwhelming, I will begin to feel it questionable. Over these years, I have always believed that the ‘hawk’ has a kind of telepathy with me. I can feel that when I am lonely, it may comfort me; when I am timid, it may give me strength and courage. And all the time it is giving me a kind of willpower, which is also my artistic declaration to the world.’ ①


所谓鹰派,原本是一个政治学名词,用以形容主张采取强势外交手段和积极军事扩张的人士、团体或势力。我借用这个术语来论述张方白和他的艺术,不仅是因为张方白的作品中出现过大量雄鹰的图腾,更因为张方白刚正不阿的文化性格,以对时尚潮流的抗拒,而彰显出一种“清心为治本,直道是身谋”(宋·包拯)的人文特质,与所谓“鹰派政治”的强硬态度相吻合。当然,艺术上的鹰派从根本上还是不同于政治上的鹰派。如果说政治上的鹰派在其强硬态度的背后往往还贯穿着军事扩张的意图,那么,艺术上的鹰派则主要是强调独立人格的完善,强调以某种文化自省来实现自己的现实超越。这就像张方白自己认同的那样:“我不太喜欢过于流行化,始终喜欢保持点距离……我觉得有时候我在跟社会作战,跟自己作战,也在跟整个社会环境下的文化作战。一旦这个泛烂的时候,我又觉得这种东西是有问题的。这么多年来,始终觉得‘鹰’跟我有种灵魂的对话,你在孤独的时候会感觉到‘鹰’好像给你安慰,在你怯弱的时候给你一种力量,而且它始终是给你一种意志,也是你向外界的一种宣言。”


From the interpretation of Zhang Fangbai, we may see his cultural attitude and his original intention of showing hawks’ postures in his paintings. In fact, as a kind of fierce flying beast, hawks have always been related to strength in Chinese culture. There is such a saying in Chinese as ‘The hawk is so big and strong that it can swallow the whole world when it spread the wings’. How strenuous and commanding it is! No wonder Chinese traditional artists love painting hawks. They want to manifest that hawks not only have a sort of intrepid strength, but a certain invincible liberty. It is said that Tang Bohu, an artist of Ming Dynasty, once painted a picture of Flying Hawk. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it. So I know nothing about that painting. What leaves me a deep impression is The Hawk painted by Zhu Da, one of the Eight Greats ( the eight famous landscape painters of the late Ming and early Tsing Dynasty), in which the hawk was standing there, lordly and gracefully. Zhu Da was a descendant of loyal family of Ming Dynasty. In order to escape the control of a different race, he became a monk after Tsing Dynasty came to the throne. His paintings show his dissociation with the reality and his angry against the authorities, just like the hawk in his paintings which was supramundane, high and proud. This kind of cynical attitude reflects Zhu Da’s character-aloof and proud.  


从张方白自己的阐释中,我们能够看到他的文化态度,也清楚了他喜欢在绘画上表现鹰姿的初衷。事实上,雄鹰作为一个凶猛的飞兽,在中国的文化印象中一直是与力量相关联。所谓“雄鹰展翅,气呑天下”,可见鹰是多么踔厉奋发,威风凛凛。难怪中国的传统画家喜欢引鹰入画,因为在鹰的身上不仅折射了勇猛的力量,也反映了某种所向披靡的自由。据说,明代的唐伯虎就曾画过《雄鹰展翅,气呑天下图》。不过,我没有见过,不知道画面的内容。就我见过且印象深刻的,还是明末清初的大画家“八大山人”朱耷笔下的“鹰”,傲然屹立,清逸横生。朱耷是明皇室的遗老,在清兵入关明朝覆灭以后为了逃避外族的统治,削发为僧,当了一个出家和尚。他的绘画表现了他对现世的游离,也反映了他对当局的种种不满。正如他笔下的生灵均都远离尘埃,且神态傲兀、纷纷翻起白眼一样。这种对世事鄙夷不屑的态度,不仅表达了朱耷的孤傲,也体现了朱耷的节气。

Zhang Fangbai has pointed several times that his artistic works are specially influenced by the Eight Greats. He thinks the influence as an abstract inheritance of Chinese traditional spirit. I don’t doubt at all that culture can stand long only because of the abstract inherited relationship. While, anyway, that is not my interest. My focus is on the interest of Zhang Fangbai in Chinese traditional culture. Why does he have so much passion for the Eight Greats and insist in carrying on their legacy? On this question, we have to turn back to the present time, and back to Zhang Fangbai’s cultural decision in such a background.


张方白多次直言不讳地指出,自己在艺术创作上受了“八大山人”的一些影响,他把这种影响说成是对传统精神的抽象继承。我丝毫不怀疑,文化是通过抽象的继承关系才得以源远流长,只是我感兴趣的问题并不在如此,  而是在于张方白对中国传统文化的兴趣,为什么独独只对“八大山人”情有独钟,并执意要来承接他的衣钵?关于这个问题,可能还得回到当今的时代背景,回到张方白在这种时代背景下的文化抉择。


As we all know, China has been a nation developing out to the world since 19 century. But this kind of ‘development’ didn’t originate from its initial motivity, but the influence of the West. Just as what Lu Xun once said, ‘it didn’t move until it was whiped by a big lash.’ It was this situation of being oppressed that forced Chinese people to think about self-tradition, which not only helped accomplish the May 4 New Culture Revolution, but also start the trend of learning from the West. Over a hundred years, China has been involved in the trend, saying goodbye to its own tradition. What’s more, under the open policy, China has made the West as its model to pursue, and stepped into the express track of speeding development during the late 30 years. Undeniably, the learning from the West is a timely help for the survival of the endangered Chinese tradition. The open policy has greatly inspired the advancing of productivity and brought the liberation of ideology. Nevertheless, the progressive course has brought some kind of negative senses of being lost as well, among which the biggest one is the retreat of the principle part of culture, i.e. in the hope of walking to the world, our self-awareness has become gradually mere figurehead over the westerners, being homelessly without even knowing it.


众所周知,十九世纪中叶以来的中国,是一个不断走向世界的中国。不过,这种出走起先并非源于自身的内在动力,而是出自西方世界的影响,借用鲁迅的话说,就是很大的鞭子打在背上才开始动弹的。正是这种被动挨打的局面,促使了中国人对自我传统的反思,不仅成就了“五四”新文化运动,也掀起了轰轰烈烈的“西学”浪潮。近百年以来,中国就是笼罩在这样一个“西学”的阴影下,不断告别自己的传统,尤其是近三十年,中国以改革开放为契机,更是变本加厉,将西方作为现代化的摹本加以追逐,走上了急速发展的快车道。不可否认,对西方文化的学习,给我们汲汲可危的传统注入了一剂强心针,而改革开放更是激发了生产力,带来了思想的大解放。但是,这个进步的过程同时也带来了某种负面的失落感,最大的失落就是文化主体的退席,即在“走向世界”的宏愿中,自我意识被西方的“他者”逐渐架空,不知不觉让我们都成了无家可归的异乡人。


Zhang Fangbai was born in 1960s, the time of Chinese social transform in 20 century. Early in the late of 1970s, Zhang Fangbai began to learn painting. The artistic training made him more sensitive to Chinese social unsteadiness and change. In the late of 1980s, he was admitted by Academy of China Central Fine Arts (ACCFA). He left his hometown Hunan province and came to Beijing. In Beijing, the cultural centre of China, he saw the reality of fad and trend. Once in a while, he was excited by the dramatically changing reality, and made some daring attempts in art. He is said to have had quite a few behavior art while he was a university student in ACCFA. No matter in the form or the content of art, Zhang Fangbai has rushed to the front of the time. But things will normally turn to the opposite direction when they become extreme. After 1989, in more exquisite unsteadiness, Zhang Fangbai suddenly changed, from an impulsive and indulgent painter to a deep and silent artist. Since then, his paintings has changed as well, from the influence of the Western expressionism to the deep effect of Chinese cultural tradition.


张方白出生于二十世纪六十年代,赶上了二十世纪后期中国社会的大变革。早在七十年代末,张方白就已经开始学习绘画,艺术的训练使他更为敏感于中国社会的动荡与变化,尤其是八十年代后期,他从边远的湖南考进中央美院,居于北京的文化震中,更是目睹了新潮迭起的现实。曾经一度,张方白也为这种急剧变化的现实而激动不已,且做过很多艺术上的大胆尝试。据说,他在中央美院读书时就曾实施过不少的行为艺术,无论是从艺术的形式还是艺术的内容,张方白在那一时期,都已经冲到了时代的前列。不过,也许是物极必反的缘故,1989年之后的张方白,在更为剧烈的动荡中突然间像是变了一个人,由过去的冲动与恣纵变得深沉而内敛,他的绘画也是从那个时候开始出现了一个悄然的变化,即由原来受西方表现主义的影响变成了从中国的文化传统中摄取能量。

    

In 1991, Zhang Fangbai graduated from ACCFA. In the same year, he had his personal paintings exhibition in the gallery of ACCFA, including the series of Real-life. Later Zhang Fangbai explained about this group works, ‘I didn’t name them ‘Real-life’ at first. In fact, this series of paintings is something like human beings or not. It’s only a simple body, something like a lonely man, a symbol of a man or not, or an image of a ghost. Because I was a little bit lonely and isolated at that time. The estrangement from the reality made me immerse into my own ghost.’ ② From his explanation, I understand why Zhang Fangbai tended to be related in spirit with the Eight Greats. Like the Eight Greats, Zhang Fangbai also experienced the dramatic unsteadiness of time, the desolation and loneliness of life. As a way of clearing up the blocks in their mind, painting makes them resonate over the time. Therefore, their works possess a kind of internal quality about ghost world.


1991年,张方白从中央美院毕业,也是在那一年,他在中央美院画廊首次推出了自己的个展,并展出了《实在》等系列作品。关于他的这批作品,张方白后来解释道:“当时没有叫《实在》这个名字,其实是有点像人又不像人的那个简约躯体的一个东西,孤独的人那种,像人又不像人的符号,像灵魂的一种意象。因为那时候有些孤独,有些寂寞,现实的隔阂使我比较沉浸在个人的灵魂中。”从张方白自己的这段解释中,我明白了他后来为什么会与明末清初的“八大山人”产生精神联系,因为他和“八大”一样,都经历过时代的大起伏,经历了人生的落寞与孤独。绘画成为他们消除心中块垒的一种途径,不仅使他们跨越时间产生了共鸣,也使他们的作品共同具有了关乎灵魂世界的内在品质。


On the base of the series of Real-life, Zhang Fangbai got related with the spirit of Eight Greats over the outside influence, which seemed to help decide his paintings evolve from the nonobjective human body to the nonfigurative hawk. As I have said above, as a representative of strength, hawks have a magnificent symbolistic meaning in Chinese traditional culture. This symbol may substantiate one’s personality, and upgrade one’s character as well. The Eight Greats preferred to paint hawks, because they needed such a totem to reflect their aloofness in face of the troubled times. Zhang Fangbai decided to inherit their legacy, making the hawk as his own artistic symbol, because he also needed that totem to convey his idea to show his spurn against the trend.


以《实在》系列奠定自己的人文基础,张方白跨越外来文化的影响,与“八大”的精神品质发生联系,似乎注定了他的绘画将从抽象的“人体”发展到后来抽象的“鹰”。前面我已经说过,鹰作为一种力量的代名词,在中国传统文化中具有超乎寻常的象征意义。这种象征既是对人格的一种充实,也是对人品的一种提升。无怪乎“八大”会在自己的绘画中表现“鹰”,因为他需要这样一个图腾来反映自己面对乱世的冷峭;也难怪张方白要继往开来,将“鹰”抽象成自己的艺术语符,因为他对潮流的拒斥,需要这样一个肃煞的图腾来为自己传递意志。


In fact, in Zhang Fangbai’s paintings, the totem of hawk has already been not a simple symbol. The rugged brushwork in his paintings gives us an impression of layers of thick texture. All of these are against the trend of complanate smear from a contradictive point of view.  


事实上,鹰的图腾在张方白的绘画中,已经不再是一个简单的符号。这就像他画面的语言方式,笔触粗犷,充满了厚厚的肌理效果一样。所有这些都是从一个截然相反的角度,直指当今平涂的绘画潮流。


Superficially, the transfer of the trend of present Chinese art, i.e. from the attention of inside spiritual problems to outside social politics, has resulted in the massive appearance of advertising pictures, which seems to have something with public spread in the age of media. Some people defend it as the following: since art cares about public problems, it should be spread in a public way in order to show directly artists’ intention. It seems to be a reasonable logic, but actually it is a defilade of the problem. Today, with more and more frequent international communication, the using of ichnography as an output model may only simplify Chinese culture, and bring about a kind of direct artistic language, which takes on the influence of western bop art meanwhile as it pulls out its spiritual nature. This is the tragedy of Li Xianting’s ‘spring-roll’ style ( Li Xianting, a famous Chinese art critic who is regarded as Chinese modern art’s ‘godfather’ by the West.), and it is also the cultural bad luck faced by Chinese art after it broke away from its traditional contexture over one hundred years. Apparently, Zhang Fangbai doesn’t want to follow the same old disastrous road. He evolves his paintings from the series of Real-life to the totem of hawk. What he inherits is the human tradition of self-broken. In his paintings, Zhang Fangbai stresses the sense of the canvas’s strength with his rugged expressional language in order to overpass the complanate reality.


表面上看,当今中国艺术的潮流转向,即从关注内部的精神问题转向关注外部的社会政治问题,而造成广告式的画面图像大量出现,似乎与传媒时代的公共传播有关,就像某些人为此辩护的那样:既然关注的是公共性问题,那么,就得采取公共的传播方式,借以更加直接的手段来呈现自己的意图。这个逻辑看似符合情理,但其实恰恰是一种对问题的遮蔽。因为在国际交往日益频繁的今天,以平面化的图像作为对外输出的典型,只会将中国文化越来越简单化,以至于造成一种直白的艺术语言,在掏空自己精神实质的同时,不断向世界呈现出西方“波普艺术”的影响。这就是所谓“春卷”(栗宪庭:  中国著名的艺术批评家,是中国当代艺术的灵魂人物,被西方称为中国现代艺术的“教父”。)的风格悲剧,也是近百年来中国艺术在脱离了自己的传统文脉后所面临的文化噩运。显然,张方白是不想重蹈这样的文化噩运,他从自己的《实在》系列发展到“鹰”的图腾,所要承接的正是自身断裂的那个人文传统,而他以粗砺的表现语言来强化画面的力量感,更是希望自己能够藉此超越这个平面化的现实。

Talking of his love for rugged but powerful artistic style, Zhang Fangbai explained, “when I was early in Hunan, I used to draw pictures of human figures on straw paper with a brush. Aesthetically, I like something rugged but powerful, which seem to have connection with the heroism of my generation. Aesthetic in that age emphasized particularly on things of simple and powerful. Probably due to my own temperament, I have always been dreaming and loving for those things, never been interested in other things. When I appreciated the painting book of Zhao Wuji ( a great famous Chinese artist, who is now lives in France) , I guessed that he was an artist born in South China, somewhere in Jiang Su or Zhe Jiang…. Hunan is a historical province of war fire and blood, which may always give us a feeling of natural strength and power. Chairman Mao wouldn’t write those shabby lines, all he composed are those verses full of strength and power. From the examples above, we can see that a man’s temperament can not divided from his living environment.” ③


在谈到自己对粗犷、雄健的艺术风格的钟爱时,张方白也有过解释:“因为最早在湖南的时候,我就经常用毛笔在草纸上写生,画那种人物。在审美上,我一直比较喜欢粗犷有力的东西。这可能跟我们那一代人那种英雄主义情节有关。那个时代的美学比较侧重于朴实、力量的东西,这可能跟个人气质也有关系,好像我一直能对这种东西产生共鸣和热情,但是对另外一些东西就怎么也不能在内心中产生共鸣。当我看赵无极的画册时,我就觉得他是一个产生在江浙一带的艺术家……湖南是一个血与火的省份,它总会有一种对力量天然的感受。毛泽东他不会写那些小悲,都是那种‘雄关漫道真如铁,而今迈步从头越。沧桑如海,夕阳如血’。这个东西人是摆脱不了他的生存环境的。”


This is the self-analyse of Zhang Fangbai, conveying the significance of cultural reflection. Undoubtedly, this kind of cultural reflection provides us an approach to understanding Zhang Fangbai and his art. We can see that he penetrates his art into tragic ideology, due to his temperament and the influence of some culture. It is the combination of the heroic culture influence and his stalwart character that helps succeed Zhang Fangbai and his art. He disdains the plain and trite expressions, esp. those which are sentimental and emotional. He is charmed by something mighty and majestic. He loves for simple but firm human power. Therefore, Zhang Fangbai classifies himself as ‘war hawk’, and associates himself with the Eight Greats in art. The fates of Eight Greats were full of sadness, while Zhang Fangbai’s rugged but powerful artistic style, which was created from his tragic ideology, provides us an unflinching spiritual symbol beyond the encroach of outside culture.


这就是张方白的自我剖析,充满了文化反思的意味。毫无疑问,这种反思提供了我们一个理解张方白和他艺术的途径。看得出来,他将自己的艺术贯穿于悲剧意识中,既是性格使然,也是受了某种文化的影响。正是这种英雄文化的影响与顽强的性格交汇在一起,成就了张方白和他的艺术,使他不屑于平庸的表达,尤其对小情小调的东西嗤之以鼻,而是神往于大气磅礴,神往于朴实而坚定的人文力量。这也就难怪张方白要以“鹰派”自恃,在艺术上与“八大”为伍了。因为“八大”的命运尽管充满了悲怆,但他在悲剧意识中所创造出的一种苍劲的艺术风格,却于外来文化的侵蚀中为我们提供了一个不畏强御的精神象征。


References:

①、②、③, consult Zhang Fangbai: I don’t believe the trend by Wang Meng, from ‘art international’ web, August 6, 2009.

                             Tongzhou, Beijing

                              Dec 17, 2009

注:

①、②、③,见王萌《张方白:我不相信潮流》,“艺术国际”网2009年8月6日。

2009.12.17于通州

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