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Gao Xiang: Seeking an Eastern Method

Gao Xiang: Seeking an Eastern Method

Gao Xiang is a visual artist, a professor of oil painting at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and a scholar of the modern Italian painter Giorgio Morandi
June 21, 2013, TCG Nordica Gallery
* This interview was published in the book To Start from Art by Shanghai Joint Publishing house in 2014, author: Luo Fei.

Gao Xiang, “The Dreams: To Feed The Tiger”, 160×120cm, Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 2015

Luo Fei: I think that you are a unique artist in Yunnan. You paint oil paintings, carry out research and engage in certain cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural art projects. I remember when I first arrived in Kunming in 2000, you were making installations.

Gao Xiang: Right. Before 2000, I created a series of installations. I wanted to make transparent artworks connected to Ming dynasty furniture, which I did using Plexiglas. I was very enthusiastic about installation art at the time, but the artworks cost a lot to make. One table, including materials and labor, cost nearly 20,000 yuan.

Luo: Did you sell it?

Gao: It has remained in my studio (laughs).

Luo: At the time, there were quite a few Kunming artists engaged in installation and performance art, such as Xiang Weixing, Zhang Chongxia, Ning Zhi and Jiang Jing. It was around the year 2000 that performance and installation art were being spread around China, and a lot of young artists were drawn in. It seemed as if using these mediums gave the artists a critical, independent attitude.

Gao: I was very enthusiastic at the time. There was a sense of freshness to it. That experience was very important, and it provided me with inspiration in my painting, spurring me to deal with the relationship between space and painting, with such approaches as painting on Plexiglas.

Luo: Since 2005, you have been painting a series of horses on round pieces of Plexiglas.

Gao: Right. That is in order to explore painting in space. Making installation art brought me in contact with the third dimension, and so I started wondering whether or not painting could also touch space, rather than merely being hung on a wall. I had a good opportunity in 2005, which was to travel to Kirstiansand in southern Norway. It was a contemporary art event to celebrate the centennial of Norway’s independence. Artists from ten countries participated, and I was recommended by Nordica. The organizer wanted us to create outdoor artworks, and I was thinking I could paint on Plexiglas, that it would be really cool to integrate it with the plants in the garden and the sea in the distance. I gained the most that time from working for long periods with Western artists. I learned a lot about Western contemporary art by talking and working with them, and that gave me a true understanding and feeling for their conceptual and performance artworks.

Gao Xiang, “The Dreams: Who is The Doll”, 220 x 300 x 60cm, Glass,Acrylic,Aluminium Frame, Kristiansand, Norway, 2005

Luo: How do you decide what contemporary art is?

Gao: I think there are many basic factors in contemporary art. It can be judged in terms of time or subject matter, or in terms of the idea of the artwork or the medium used. There are at least three or four comprehensive factors through which one can judge whether or not something is contemporary art.

Luo: I remember you painted night scenes for a while.

Gao: Yes, it was called Why Have Night Scenes Become so Alluring? I painted it between 2001 and 2003. I painted this series of night scenes at the same time I was making installations. There were about twenty of them, and they weren’t very big. I was doing a lot of bar-hopping at the time, and I caught a certain feel for the scenes of the night. I wanted to express it.

Luo: How did you end up painting horses? The horse is a classic form in Chinese traditional painting.

Gao: Right. Many ancient and modern Chinese painters have painted horses, painters such as Xu Beihong[1] and Li Gonglin.[2] It was by chance, however, that I ended up painting horses. One day, when I was painting “dolls,” I suddenly added a horse to the picture. I think it was a subconscious experiment. It felt mysterious. I didn’t really know anything about horses at the time; I was just trying to create the atmosphere of the painting. Of course, now I have painted many of them, and my horses have taken on symbolism. Sometimes it is femininity, sometimes it represents nature and sometimes myself.

Gao Xiang, “The Dreams: Lookout”, 180x80cm, Oil on Canvas, 2010

Luo: In the Dolls series, we always saw the figures of “big women” together with “little men.” I don’t think we ever saw “little women” with “big men.” Why is that?

Gao: Actually, much like my decision to paint horses, I didn’t really think about it. It’s just that there were a few times that I painted the men a bit smaller, and it felt interesting. There was this sense of freshness that is difficult to describe. I then started painting the men smaller and smaller, and it was fun. It fit with the feeling I was pursuing.

Luo: What was the feeling?

Gao: Very comfortable, very harmonious, but with latent discord and contradiction. All of my works feel very comfortable and harmonious in terms of color.

Luo: There is a feel to your paintings that is poetic, dreamlike and somewhat dramatic. How do these three come together?

Gao: I think it may be connected to my life experience or my artistic experience. For instance, the sense of theatre or drama is connected to the Southeast Asian art project I took part in from 2002 to 2004 – the Mekong River Project.

Luo: Did you do stage design?

Gao: This was a project connected to the National Theater in New York and sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. Each installment brought together about twenty artists from various regions and fields such as dance, music, cinema, theater, choreography, folk puppetry and visual art. For instance, in 2004, I went to Cambodia for a month with famous Yunnan dancer Wen Hui.

Luo: What was your role in this?

Gao: They didn’t actually care what I did. I ended up being a part of the performance.

Luo: You performed?

Gao: I can perform if I want, but I don’t think it’s one of my strengths. At first, I was having a lot of trouble, thinking about how to integrate painting into a temporal artwork, so I didn’t know what to do. Later, when they performed, I would sit to the side and paint, using light to project the painting onto a big screen. My painting would change to the music, the dance and the story, so that they would fuse together in time. These experience have extended onto my painting and now play a role in it.

Luo: Your art has been exhibited internationally quite a bit in recent years. What do Westerners think of your art?

Gao: They mainly think it’s interesting, seeing something they don’t often see.

Luo: The artist list for your last exhibition in Canada included the Gao Brothers, Zhang Huan, Gu Wenda and Cao Fei. Their works contain clear social themes.

Gao: Right. Last year, a group exhibition I took part in at a Paris gallery included works by Ai Weiwei, Cai Guoqiang and Sui Jianguo. Cai Guoqiang’s work is different, but the other artists’ works have heavy sociological elements, touching directly on social issues. The Canadian and French curators thought that my Dolls series contained concealed social issues, such as issues about gender status or psychological gender balancing. My artworks actually aren’t so direct. They are more of a psychological response and experience. The other artists might strike at issues more directly, while I propose my individual mental perceptions.

Luo: The attitude of your artworks is not so direct, and focuses more on visual perceptions such as aesthetics.

Gao: This is perhaps connected to my experiences learning art. I am obsessed with the ontological aspects of art, for instance artistic form, colors, modeling. Their abstract visual effect can influence human perception and emotion. Of course, this has been emphasized in modernist era artworks, but I think that this is one of the most alluring aspects of art, something that is close to the power of visual art itself. It is very important to me.

Luo: Compared to the conceptual, you are more interested in aesthetic experience and visual pleasure.

Gao: I think that the perception of artistic form can allow the artwork to speak for itself. Actually, something I have always wanted to do is see if I can fuse the aesthetic experience, conceptuality and sociology so that they speak together.

Luo: Who would you say is a good model for this?

Gao: In Western contemporary art, there is Mimmo Paladino, Enzo Cucchi, Anselm Kiefer and Luc Tuymans. Their work has achieved an appropriate integration between their experiences of contemporary society, cultural traits, personalized artistic concepts and artistic language. When there are only “concepts” without visual transformation or highly developed artistic language, then the resulting artworks are mere propaganda posters. If they are just textual concepts, then it is better to let the philosophers and sociologists write them. The artist’s work should employ the appeal of visual language.

Luo: Is your focus on artistic ontology what led you to research Morandi?[3]

Gao: Yes. His artworks are very important in terms of the ontology of art. Of course, he is also conceptual. I think that he is a rather successful modern artist in this regard. For instance, most people focus on the color, forms and linguistic rendering of the bottles, but through these, you discover that his concepts are connected to his religious faith. He was a very pious catholic. He went to mass every Sunday. He lived a simple life, like that of a monk.

Gao Xiang, “The Dreams: Trojan Horse”, 180 x 80cm, Oil on Canvas 2010

Luo: This is a lot like the traditional monastic painters of China.

Gao: Yes, but because of their different religions and worldviews, their starting points and resulting expressions were different. Morandi was more directed at God in the sky. China’s monastic painters were connected to Daoism and Zen, aimed more at nature, the fusion between man and nature or the wanderings of the individual. Morandi’s painting was aimed directly at God. These were highly religious paintings for modernism.

Luo: Did he carefully collect those bottles?

Gao: He did. He personally purchased over a hundred bottles and jars. When he brought them home, he would sometimes treat them. For instance, he would take a chocolate jar, and treat it according to the color he wanted, perhaps painting it white, blue or brown.

Luo: Were those bottles from his own time, or were they antiques?

Gao: They were quite normal, water jugs and chocolate jars.

Luo: This is quite different from Chinese literati. Literati figures had a tradition of collecting various types of vessels, such as porcelain vases and bronze vessels, and they cared a lot about their eras and origins.

Gao: I think that Morandi was actually a lot like Chinese literati painters. Some of the more refined literati painters paid much attention to the mundane, discovering truths within ordinary things. This is quite like Zen.

Luo: Which literati painters?

Gao: For instance, Bada Shanren[4] and the Four Monks[5] all painted very ordinary things around them such as squashes, vegetables, lotus flowers and birds. The things Morandi collected were very normal, part of ordinary life.

Luo: We can also see from Morandi’s living arrangements that he led a very simple life.

Gao: It was very simple, even for his three sisters. I have gone through their closets, and none of them owned a single brightly-colored dress. Few people visit his old home, and I was the first Chines person to do so; I may be the last as well (laughs). The house was very simple, no different from that of your average farmer. When he built this house in 1956, however, he was already a very rich man. He could have lived a very luxurious life. He had no material desires at all. When Museo Morandi was sifting through his library, they found many blank checks among his books. These were given by the buyers of his paintings. He could fill these checks out however he pleased, within certain limits, and redeem them immediately, but he was using them as bookmarks (laughs).

Luo: Within Catholic ascetic traditions, there is the belief that simplicity is wealth. The simpler your external life, the richer your inner life.

Gao: His later studio was a bit bigger, but it was still only 40 square meters. His earlier home in Bologna was only nine square meters, including his studio. His material life was very simple, but he enjoyed great spiritual wealth.

Luo: Let’s get back to your artworks. I think that your art has a certain Eastern quality.

Gao: Thank you for that complement (laughs). To me, that is quite a compliment. As a student and later as an artist, I have visited many Western countries, and I gradually came to understand that I must seek out inspiration from Eastern traditional ideas or aesthetics in order to create artworks with originality.

Luo: What experiences does this inspiration draw from?

Gao: The first source is aesthetic ideas. For instance, in traditional Chinese painting, you often find very lofty metaphysical meaning. Also, I draw from the figurative schemas of traditional Chinese art. These two things are both quite far from Western classical, modern and contemporary art. I think this is a good thing, particularly in this era of globalization. Without this distance, we would all become the same, losing the artistic value that is rooted in individualization. That is a fundamental view for me. From the East, I seek out forms, perceptual methods and inner spirit that differ from those in the West.

Luo: Give me an example.

Gao: For instance, Chinese painting focuses a lot on emptiness, which is quite different from Western aesthetics. Chinese people view the blankness in the picture as the sky or as water, but in reality it is just blankness. Westerners with no experience of Chinese traditional painting may think that it is an unfinished painting, a sketch, and that the blankness has no meaning. The Eastern tradition also places a lot of emphasis on aesthetic experience that transcends reality. For instance, very few Chinese paintings of the last 2000 years depict war scenes, but we all know that China was no less warlike in this period than any Western nations, with battles of great size and brutality that produced profound memories. The Chinese never expressed these brutal memories. Their expressions are of ideal states, even fairy realms that transcend this suffering.

Luo: You are saying that this spiritual mindset needs to be expressed in contemporary art.

Gao: Actually, this Eastern transcendent state is particularly precious in our increasingly materialistic and ever-accelerating contemporary society. This was done long ago in Japan and Korea, so many Western critics believe that Japan and Korea are today’s inheritors of Eastern Zen aesthetics. For instance, the Japanese Mono-ha School[6] approaches art from Zen philosophy. I think that Chinese contemporary art has paid little attention to this type of artistic path in the last twenty years.

Luo: This is connected to the overall progression of society. Japan and Korea completed the modernist transition of their societies long ago. China overall is still in a pre-modern period. The greater backdrop determines how far an artist can go.

Gao: I really agree with that. This is connected to the state of a society’s development. Of course, I’m not saying that any contemporary art that draws from Eastern philosophy is good, just that I think this path has value.

Luo: Let’s talk about life. You’ve been working in both Kunming and Beijing over the past few years. What are your impressions of these two cities?

Gao: I have a pretty big studio in Beijing, where I can paint large paintings. When I’m back in Kunming, I have a studio at the Yuan Xiaocen Museum, where I can paint smaller paintings. Beijing is China’s cultural center, and you can see world-class exhibitions and artworks there. But the natural environment in Beijing is very poor. It is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Life is rough there. Kunming is very livable, very comfortable. You really feel like you’re living. But there’s a distinct lack of cultural exchange there. Beijing is a lot more vibrant.

Luo: Do you think that you create better art in Beijing or Kunming?

Gao: That’s an interesting question (laughs). I think that a little more than half of my best works are created in Beijing.

Luo: It would seem that artists need pressure (laughs).

Gao: Right. Beijing is full of passion, and it’s also constantly giving you stimulation and pressure.

Luo: Thank you for giving this interview. I really enjoyed talking with you today.


[1] Xu Beihong (1895-1953), originally Xu Shoukang, was a Chinese modern painter and art educator. A forefather of modern Chinese art, Xu was known not only for his paintings of galloping horses but also for his ability to fuse Chinese and Western painting techniques to create a unique artistic style.
[2] Li Gonglin (1049-1106) was a painter in the Northern Song dynasty. His surviving works include Five Horses and Herding at Lin Wei Yan.
[3] Gao Xiang, Quiet Observation of Space, People’s Fine Arts Press, 2011. This book researches the work of 20th century Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, seeking out the roots of his artistic style through analysis of his painting forms, artistic views and attitudes towards the world in order to assess the artistic value of Morandi’s paintings.
[4] Bada Shanren (ca. 1626-1705), born Zhu Di, was from Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, and lived during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. Bada was a member of the Ming dynasty royal family and a famous painter, one of the “Four Monks” of early Qing dynasty painting.
[5] The Four Monks were four Buddhist monk painters from the late Ming and early Qing dynasty. All were adept at landscape painting and were highly expressive in their work. They preferred innovation over imitation. The four monks were Yuan Qi (also known as Shi Tao, 1642-1718), Zhu Da (also known as Bada Shanren, ca. 1624-1705), Kun Can (1612-1692) and Zhe Jiang (monk name Hong Ren, 1610-1664).
[6] Mono-ha was a Japanese school of modern art that emerged between 1968 and 1971.


Translated by Jeff Crosby
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对话高翔:寻找东方方式

高翔,《梦 — 舍身饲虎》,布面油画,丙烯,160×120cm,2015

对话高翔:寻找东方方式
高翔  //  视觉艺术家,中央美术学院油画专业博士,意大利现代画家乔尔乔·莫兰迪(Giorgio Morandi)的研究者。
罗菲  //  策展人  艺术家
* 本文收录于罗菲著《从艺术出发——中国当代艺术随笔与访谈》,2014年上海三联书店出版

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时间:2013年6月21日
地点:昆明TCG诺地卡画廊
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罗菲(以下简称罗):我觉得你在云南是一个很特别的艺术家,你画油画,做研究,也参与一些跨界、跨文化的艺术项目。我记得2000年我刚到昆明的时候,你在做装置。

高翔(以下简称高):对,2000年前后我做过一批装置。我想做一些和明代家具有关的透明性作品,采用机玻璃。那时对做装置有很大的热情,但作品的花销很高,有一张桌子,成本连工时费就近两万元。

罗:后来有卖掉吗?

高:后来一直在我画室里(笑)。

罗:当时昆明有一拨做装置和行为的艺术家,比如向卫星、张琼飞、张仲夏、宁智、姜静等。2000年前后正是行为、装置在国内受广泛传播的时期,获得年轻艺术家的青睐。使用这种媒介似乎给人带来一种批判和独立的态度。

高:我们当时主要是因为热情,有新鲜感。那段经历很重要,我做了两年装置,这也给我在绘画上一些启发,促使我尝试处理绘画与空间的关系,比如在有机玻璃上画画。

罗:你从2005年以来一直创作一组在圆形有机玻璃上画的马。

高:对,那是想在空间里探索绘画。因为做装置让我触及到三维空间,我就想绘画能否也触及到空间,而不只是挂在墙上。2005年有个比较好的机会,去了挪威南部的克里斯蒂安桑(Kristiansand)。那是挪威独立一百周年的国际当代艺术活动,有十多个国家的艺术家去,我是诺地卡推荐去的。主办方希望我们多做些户外的作品,我就考虑用有机玻璃来画画,如果能和花园里的树木,以及远处的大海结合起来就很棒了。那次给我最大的收获是跟西方艺术家一起工作很长时间,通过闲聊和工作对西方当代艺术了解了很多,能真正理解并体会他们做的观念艺术和行为作品。

罗:你判断当代艺术的参照是什么?

高:我觉得当代艺术有好几个基本元素,比如从时间、题材来判断,从作品理念以及媒介来判断,至少有三四个综合因素可以判断是否是当代艺术。

罗:我记得你画过一个时期的夜景。

高:对,叫《为什么夜景变得如此迷人?》,是2001至2003年间画的。我在做装置的同时也在画这批夜景作品。尺寸都不太大,总共二十多张吧。因为那段时间经常泡吧,对晚上的景象有种特别的感受,想去表达。

罗:那后来是怎么转向画马?马是中国传统绘画里非常经典的一个形象。

高:对,中国古代和近代画马的画家很多,比如徐悲鸿 ,李公麟 等。但我画马很偶然,我在画“玩偶”的时候突然在画面里加入了马,我觉得是一种无意识的尝试,有种神秘感。其实那时我对马也没有什么认识,只是为了营造一种画面的气氛。当然,画多了,我的马就有多种象征,有时是女性,有时代表自然,有时是自己。

罗:在“玩偶”系列中都是“大女人”的形象,和很小的男人的组合,好像没有“小女人”和“大男人”组合。为什么会这样处理?

高:其实跟画马有点像,我也没考虑过,就是一两次画男人的时候其身体尺寸画小了点,反而觉得有意思,有种说不出来的新鲜感。后来就把男人缩得越来越小,觉得很好玩,符合我想要的感觉。

罗:什么感觉?

高:很舒服,很和谐。但又有种潜在的不和谐与矛盾。我的画作从色彩上看着都很舒服,很和谐。

罗:我从你的画中看到一种诗意的、梦境的,同时也是剧场的感觉,这三者如何在一起的?

高:我觉得可能跟我的生活经历有关系,或者说跟我的艺术经历有关。比如舞台感、剧场感,跟我2002年到2004年间参加东南亚的艺术项目——湄公河计划的经历有关。

罗:你做舞美吗?

高:这个项目是纽约国家舞蹈大剧院下属的一个项目,是洛克菲勒基金会资助的,每次都有各个领域的二十多位艺术家参加,舞蹈、音乐、电影、戏剧、编导、民间玩偶艺术家、视觉艺术家等等。如2004年,和我同去柬埔寨一个月的就有云南籍的著名当代舞蹈家文慧。

罗:你在里面的角色是什么?

高:其实他们无所谓我做什么,后来我参与到舞台演出的部分。

罗:表演?

高:我也可以表演,如果我愿意的话,但我觉得我很不擅长这个。所以我一开始比较头疼,我老在想绘画作品如何跟时间性的作品结合起来。一开始我不知道我要做什么。后来在他们表演的时候,我就在旁边画画,用灯光投影仪,在玻璃纸上画,把画投到巨大的幕布或者背景上。我的画跟随音乐、舞蹈和剧情同时变化,让它们在时间里融合。这些经历也延续到我的绘画上,并且发生了作用。

高翔,《梦 – 谁是玩偶》,玻璃、丙稀、不锈钢架,挪威利斯塔,2005

罗:你的作品最近几年常在国际上展出,西方人怎么评价你的作品?

高:他们首先觉得有意思,看到了不常见的东西。

罗:你上次参加加拿大一个展览的名单里有高氏兄弟、张洹、谷文达、曹斐等,他们的作品都具有非常明确的社会议题。

高:对,我去年在巴黎一个画廊参加的群展上,还有艾未未、蔡国强、隋建国等艺术家的作品参加。蔡国强的作品是另有不同,其他艺术家作品里社会学份量比较重,直接针对社会问题。加拿大和法国的策展人觉得我那个“玩偶”系列里有隐藏的社会问题,就是男女之间的社会地位或心理平衡问题。我的作品其实不是那么直接,是一种心理上的回答与体会。可能他们直接采取抨击的态度,我是提出个人心理感受。

罗:你的作品态度不是那么直接,更注重观看的感受,比如审美。

高:这可能跟我学艺术的经历有关系,我对艺术本体的东西比较迷恋,比如艺术形式、色彩、造型等,它们自身的抽象视觉效果就能对人的感觉和情绪产生影响。当然这在现代主义时期的作品中被强调,但我觉得这是艺术主要的魅力之一,更贴近视觉艺术本身的力量,对我自己来说很重要。

罗:和观念性相比,你更看重审美体验,视觉愉悦。

高:我觉得艺术形式的感受能让作品自己说话。其实我一直想做的是,审美体验与观念性,以及社会学方面能否很好地结合起来,这三方面同时发出声音。

罗:你觉得谁是这样的典范?

高:以当代西方绘画来看,如米莫·帕拉迪诺(Mimmo Paladino)、恩佐·库基(Enzo Cucchi 1949—)、安塞姆·基弗(Anselm Kiefer)、吕克•图伊曼斯(LucTuymans)等等。他们的作品将自己对当代社会的体验,民族的文化特征,个性化的艺术观念和艺术语言做了恰当的结合。只有“观念”,没有视觉上的转换,和较高水准的艺术语言,作品就是简单的宣传画。如果只是文字上的观念,不如让哲学家、社会学家来写。艺术家的作品应发挥视觉语言的感染力。

高翔,《梦 — 眺望》,布面油画,180x80cm,2010

罗:正因为你看重艺术本体,所以你去研究莫兰迪 ?

高翔:对,他的作品在艺术本体上很重要。当然,他也有观念性。我觉得他是在这一块上做得比较成功的现代艺术家。比如大多数人看他作品的色彩、形体,处理瓶子的语言方法。可透过这些你也会发现他的观念,即跟他的宗教信仰有关,他是非常非常虔诚的天主教徒,每个星期天都去做礼拜。生活简单,像是一个修士。

罗:这跟中国传统的僧人画家很接近。

高:是。但因为宗教、世界观不一样,他们的出发点和表现出来的结果也不一样。他更多还是直接指向天上的上帝。中国僧侣画家跟道教、禅宗有关,更多指向自然,人与自然结合,或个人逍遥。而莫兰迪的画直接指向上帝,是现代主义里非常宗教的绘画。

罗:他那些瓶子是精心收集的吗?

高:是的。他自己买过一百多件瓶子罐子。他买回来有时还会再处理,比如巧克力罐子,他会根据自己想要的颜色来处理,比如涂上白色、蓝色、赭石色。

罗:这些罐子都是他那个时代的,还是有古董?

高:其实都是平常人家用的,比如蓄水罐,巧克力罐。

罗:这一点跟中国文人很不一样,中国文人有收藏各类容器的传统,比如瓷瓶、青铜器什么的,而且特别讲究年代、出处等品相。

高:我觉得莫兰迪跟中国文人画比较接近,层次比较高的中国文人画家还是注重日常性,从平凡事物发现真理,这一点比较接近禅宗。

罗:比如哪些文人画家?

高:比如八大 、四僧 ,他们画的都很平常,都是身边的瓜果、蔬菜、荷花、鸟。莫兰迪收藏的东西都很生活化,很一般。

罗:从莫兰迪家居安排也可以看出来,他生活非常简朴。

高:太简朴了,包括他三个妹妹,我都翻过她们的衣柜,她们没有艳丽的衣裙。访问他故居的人很少,我是第一个去的中国人,不知道是不是最后一个中国人去(笑)。房子非常简朴,跟一般农民房子没任何区别。但在1956年他盖这个房子的时候他已经很有钱了,如果他想奢华一把的话,完全是可以的。他对物质真没什么欲望,当时莫兰迪博物馆在整理他的书籍时,发现书里面有好些没有填写数额的空白支票,是人家买他画的时候给的,随便填(有上限),而且可以立马兑现。但他就当一个书签用,哈哈(笑)。

罗:在天主教简朴操练的传统里有这样一种信念:简朴即丰盛。你外在生活越简单,你内在生命就越丰盛。

高:他后来的画室大一点,也才40平米,他以前在博洛尼亚的房间才9个平米,画室也在里面。他在物质上简朴,精神上却非常富足。

罗:回到你的作品,我觉得在你的作品里有一种东方品格在里面。

高:谢谢你的表扬(笑)!这个对我来说是比较大的表扬。从我学画到后来做艺术家,去西方国家也多,我渐渐明白需要从东方传统理念或美学里寻找一种灵感,否则很难创造出有原创性的作品来。

高翔,《梦 — 木马计》,布面油画,180 x 80cm,2010

罗:这种灵感主要来自什么经验?

高:一是审美理念,比如中国传统绘画里会看重比较高的形而上精神内涵,另一个是形象图式。这两样跟西方古典、现代或当代都有比较大的距离,我觉得这个距离很好,尤其在全球化时代,没有这个距离我们就会变得雷同,丧失了艺术基于个性化的价值,这是我的基本立场吧。我要从东方寻找到区别于西方的形式、感受方式以及内在精神。

罗:举个例子。

高:比如中国画讲究空,这跟西方的审美有很大差异。中国人把画面中的空白理解为一片天空、一片水,但其实是空白的。这对没有中国传统绘画经验的西方人来说,他们会觉得这幅画没画完,是一张草图,空白没有什么意义。东方传统也比较注重超越现实的审美经验,比如中国两千多年的绘画史上很少出现战争场面,但大家都知道中国这两千多年来不比西方哪个国家的战争少,而且规模大、残酷、记忆深刻。但中国人从不表现这种痛苦的记忆,他们要表现超越于痛苦的理想状态,甚至是仙境。

罗:你是说这种精神境界需要在当代艺术中表现出来。

高:其实东方超然的精神境界在我们日益物质化,生活节奏日益加快的当代社会,尤其珍贵!这个日本和韩国早就做了,所以很多西方艺术评论家认为日本和韩国是东方禅宗美学的继承者。比如日本的物派(Mono-ha) 是从禅宗哲学出发来做艺术。我觉得中国当代艺术前面二十多年对这类艺术道路很没有重视。

罗:这跟整个社会进程有关,日本韩国早就完成了现代性社会转型。中国总体上还处在前现代(Premodern)时期。整个舞台背景决定了艺术家能走多远。

高:对,我非常同意,这跟社会发展状态有关系。当然我也不是说只要是东方哲学的当代艺术就很好,我只是觉得这是很有价值的一条路。

罗:聊聊生活,你这几年在昆明、北京两地工作,对这两座城市有何感想?

高:我在北京有一间比较大的工作室,可以画大画。回来昆明我在袁晓岑博物馆有间工作室,可以画一些小画。北京是中国的文化中心,可以看到世界级最好的展览和作品。但北京自然环境太恶劣,冬天很冷,夏天很热,生活很粗糙。昆明比较生活化,很舒服,感觉你生活了,你活着,但这里文化交流还是比较贫乏,北京更有活力。

罗:你自认为比较好的作品是在昆明还是北京创作的?

高:你这个问题很有意思(笑)。好像我一半以上比较好的作品都是在北京创作的。

罗:看来艺术家是要有压力(笑)。

高:对,北京充满激情,也给你不断刺激和压力。

罗:谢谢你接受采访,今天跟你聊得很高兴。

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