A Revival of Landscape Art

A Revival of Landscape Art

The Swedish artist Oscar Furbacken has worked intensively for six weeks (1/6-8/7 2013) as a summer artist-in-residence at TCG Nordica here in Kunming, China. In year 2000 he participated in a short artist’s exchange with the Yunnan Arts Institute in Kunming. He obtained his Master’s from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm 2011, after many years of contemporary art studies and with a practice much related to nature and landscape.

From early on, Oscar has been deeply influenced by Naturalism and Romanticism in Western landscape painting and captivated by the grandiose beauty of the natural world. As a contemporary artist though, he has purposefully moved beyond pure Romanticism, using macro lenses to photograph moss, fungi and other botanical elements in ways that make them appear to take on the characteristics of landscape paintings. Since then, he has developed clever works in a variety of media (such as drawings, sculptures, photographs and video recordings) embedding them in different types of public spaces.

RISING_in-church-performance03Oscar consciously acquires the ingredients of the Romantic Western landscape, emphasizing the expressiveness of sunlight, the dynamism of his subjects, and the dream-like atmospheres. But it is within microcosms and miniatures that he embeds all this. Take the piece “RISING” from the 2010 solo exhibition that marked his graduation from the Royal Institute of Art. This 13-meter wide and 2-meter high acrylic painting installation depicting some scaled up moss and lichens found on the forest ground, is built to create a “space within the space.” Accompanied by lighting effects that changed every ten seconds, the piece was swathed in mysterious shocks of color that fully immersed the viewer in its spectacle. Before this vast, fairytale-like magnified world, reality became extraordinary, and spectators became no more than insects. The same work was later shown in the Katarina Church of Stockholm, juxtaposed to a darker painting depicting fungi on rotten wood. Enhanced by a performance of unveiling organized during Easter Mass the work commented and re-interpreted the Resurrection. In this specific context “RISING” became a spiritual event, an altarpiece on the possibility of a new life after death. Here, the landscape transcends a merely decorative function entering the realm of symbolic meaning.

Oscar seems particularly attentive to the way in which the subject of his work is influenced by the shifting of context, a sensitivity that was probably awaken by his childhood experience of cultures when immigrating to France with his parents. Here in Kunming, he has composed three groups of bronze sculptures entitled “Life Spills.” In these works, leftover bronze scraps from a nearby sculpture factory were given a proper polishing and presented on smooth, dark-colored glass. Through a meticulously chosen lighting, the pile of mottled scrap metal is endowed with the Zen-like appearance of Taihu stone, a type of garden stone frequently used in classical Chinese gardens. It also goes by the name of “porous stone.” Commonly used in rockeries, it is a type of karst limestone that, due to years of weathering, is extremely varied in form and possesses exquisite carbonates. Often quite large in size, this type of rock was typically arranged in the parks, gardens and other outdoor areas of the imperial family for people to admire. In a similar way the metal spills that were originally discarded by their workmen have now, under the attention of the artist, come alive into miniature landscapes. In contemporary China, this sort of landscape full of Zen and classical influences has all but ceased to exist as the country hurtles down the road of industrialization. Oscar’s work thereby invites the viewer to recall an older forms of landscape known in China as “shanshui (mountain and river)” paintings.

LandscapeReflected_03wIn ancient China, there was no such thing as landscape painting as we know it today – but the shanshui ink-paintings were common, a technique developed in the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618). The biggest difference between the two art forms is the manner in which they are meant to be viewed. Shanshui paintings invite the eye to wander freely across their expanse. Using a form of cavalier perspective, in which diverse aspects of time and physical places may freely coexist within the same image, including different seasons. It’s a rather sophisticated approach to perspective, in which the focal point shifts as if slowly lowered from a mountain peak by parachute. So when Western painting centers on the reproduction of reality, Chinese shanshui paintings are mostly concerned with the abstract ideals of human experience. Western landscape traces out a history of art, whereas traditional Chinese landscape painting contains a history of ideas. The logic of this wandering mode of observation from the shanshui tradition, is evoked again as we watch Oscar’s video series entitled “Close Studies”. In this intriguing project he seamlessly fuses the magnified world of low-lying ground plants with everyday Stockholm life. These two parallel worlds are both full of poetic enchanting scenes, but to see them exist side by side without disrupting one another is a surprising discovery as we follow the smooth meandering path of the camera lens.

LandscapeReflected_01Another piece, called “Mountain City”, is an installation created from local materials: an oval meeting table with stools found in the gallery, a ”lazy Suzan” (rotating large glass plate seen everywhere on Chinese dining tables) and red bricks of the discarded sort that are found all over this city as they keep demolishing old houses. The pieces of bricks are fixed upon the round lazy Suzan in undulating ups and downs forming a landscape of picturesque disorder. Viewers can rotate the lazy Suzan, and place their gaze at a particular height to perceive what appears to be mountains in a reflecting ocean. Oscar ceaselessly encourages his audience to shift their viewing position either high or low, near or far in order to discover curious landscapes in the midst of everyday objects.

While focusing on the smallest of plants, Oscar’s work activates the viewers’ imagination and perception to recognize the greatness of nature. Paying careful attention to the viewing conditions of his exhibited pieces, Oscar also restores the Romantic from having been reduced to mere melodrama at the hands of the commercialism. The “rising” of this new approach on landscape in contemporary art is a pleasant surprise.

Written by Luo Fei (TCG Nordica Culture Center Curator)

Translated by Becky Davis, revised by the artist

Kunming, July 1, 2013






瑞典艺术家奥斯卡·弗贝肯(Oscar Furbacken)是TCG诺地卡夏季的进驻艺术家,在昆明工作六周(2013/6/1—7/8)。他曾于2000年作为交换艺术家造访过云南艺术学院。2011年,他获得瑞典皇家美术学院硕士学位,长期从事当代风景艺术创作。


奥斯卡自觉传承了西方风景艺术的浪漫主义传统,强调光线的表现力,对象的动感,和引人幻想的气氛。只是他在细微世界中重新表达了这一切,比如2010年他在皇家美院的毕业个展上,将三幅描绘森林地表菌类植物,长达12.85米高2米的巨大丙烯绘画《苏醒》(RISING)营造为一个“空间中的空间”。搭配每10秒切换的灯光效果,给人一种身临其境、充满神秘色彩的震撼效果。在那个庞大的童话般的微观世界面前,世界再次陌生,人成了昆虫。这件作品后来在斯德哥尔摩的卡特琳娜大教堂(Katarina Church)里配合复活节弥撒,与另一幅描绘朽木的画作,以及表演艺术一起,重新演绎并阐释了“复活”。《苏醒》在这里作为灵性事件,象征着复活后的新生。风景艺术从观赏功能进入了象征性意涵。

奥斯卡十分关注作品在特定场域和相关文化语境中的互动因素,这或许跟他幼年随父母移居法国的经历有关。在昆明,他创作了三组名为《生活溢漏》(Life Spills)的青铜雕塑。他为雕塑厂废弃的青铜边角料做了适当打磨,搁置在平滑深色的玻璃上,通过精心布光,为一堆斑驳的废弃物赋予了太湖石一般的禅意。太湖石是中国古典园林中常用的园林石,又名窟窿石、假山石,是一种石灰岩,它们一般是由长年风化、岩溶作用形成的千姿百态、玲珑剔透的碳酸盐岩。这类石头尺寸较大,一般布置在皇家园林、公园等户外场所供人观赏。奥斯卡的这几组形似太湖石的微型青铜雕塑本来被工人丢弃,却在艺术家手中“复活”(RISING)。在当代中国,那种充满禅意和远古意味的风景画面在工业化道路上已经荡然无存,这些作品唤起了人们对山水的记忆。

中国古代并没有风景画,只有山水画,形成于隋朝,其中最大的区别是观看方式,一种称作为散点透视的游走式的观看方式。画面可以同时描绘不同时空里的状况,甚至不同季节同时出现在画面中。其高远意境如同乘降落伞从山顶缓慢下降,焦点也在变换。相比而言,西方绘画关注对现实的再现,中国山水画注重理想中的人文情怀。西方风景艺术是一部艺术史,中国山水画传统是一部思想史。在这里,我们也可用中国山水画游走式的观察方式来体会奥斯卡的录像作品《近距研究》系列(Close Studies),他将地表植物所处的细微世界与斯德哥尔摩社会和谐而奇妙地融在了一起,随着镜头的游走,我们惊奇地发现两个既存平行世界互不干扰,充满诗意,引人入胜的场景。

另一件作品《山城》(Mountain City)是就地取材创作的装置,它们是画廊空间里开会的椭圆桌,中国餐桌上随处可见的玻璃圆盘,以及这座城市随处可见拆房子废弃的红砖。砖头被固定到玻璃圆盘上,形成起伏变化、错落有致的景观。观众可转动圆盘,在特定的高度,观众可以看到一个仿佛海景的景象。奥斯卡鼓励观众不断调整自己的观看位置,或高或低,或近或远,在平凡物中收获奇异的大地景观。





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