人文精神在蒙特利尔艺术家Guy Laramée的作品中发挥得淋漓尽致，他挑战了书本作为材料的极限。刀划过书本的蜿蜒线条继承着卡斯帕·弗里德里希（Caspar Friedrich）与杰哈德·李希特（Gerhard Richter）的精髓。Laramée坦言他被灵性所吸引，并将亚洲艺术与禅学的古老哲思同浪漫主义的绘画浪潮结合起来。Yatzer有幸采访了艺术家的创作实践，与之共同探讨人类的原始性、喷砂技艺与艺术自由…
像大多数艺术家一样，我试图超越所有身份。我总将卡比尔（Kabir，一名14-15世纪印度神秘主义诗人）的这句话作为自己的座右铭：“若你是来解放我的，那就将我从我自己解放出来吧。”（If you were to free me, free me from myself）因此即便我接受自视为“浪漫主义者”，那也只会是暂时的。然而换个角度看，在过去数年间，我一直在质疑我们对创新的狂热兴情，并试图将自己与传统(tradition,暂时找不到一个比这更好的词)相调和。当我试着接受中断，甚至拥抱它，从而与其将之视作权宜之计（modus vivendi）——与过去隔断的无奈——倒不如将之作为事实来面对，同时我也想要去求隐藏在无常背后的那份未知。所以渐渐地，我可以从这份思悟中“走出来”，找到自己表达的语言，并越来越愿意承认：如果一定要将自己与艺术史中的某一流派相联系，那应该只有浪漫主义契合我作为一名艺术家的当务之急。正是杰哈德·李希特（Gerhard Richter）给了我这份承认的勇气，也就是说，如果我们想要在历史之外找寻独属于自己的道路，那我们也同时肩负着继承先辈传统的职责。并非所有的传统都要去继承，也并非只认某一条非此不可的线索，而是那些我们能够切身体会到、告诉自己必须去传承的。
因而从某种程度上来说，我的作品亦是对卡斯帕·弗里德里希（Caspar Friedrich）与杰哈德·李希特（Gerhard Richter）的继承。当然“浪漫主义”是一条大河，我不会认同其中所有的鱼。在对这一流派的所有描述中，可能恰恰是那被低估的一条最吸引我：灵性（spirituality）。浪漫主义在试图超越自然的同时发现了其在亚洲艺术中的回声：禅，我可以轻而易举地将之辨别出来。我会在爬上高山时感受到一些宗教文学中提到的所谓“顿悟”（epiphanies）。我认为，这种高度感性很少在当代艺术中看到的原因仅仅是因为：人们都不再爬山了。当你不知“崇高”为何物，那就很有可能只去否定它的存在。
灵感是非常神秘的。它常不期而至。当然，我已经在这行做了30年——不断质疑创作过程的意识形态，将自己浸染在非西方文化里，根植在痛苦的无处不在与意涵深蕴中，挑战我们对知识积累的幻想，等等——灵感自然随之而来。书是一个好例子。它来得很不经意。有一次，我在一个金属工作坊打磨一件雕塑，一抬头看到一台喷砂柜（sandblasting cabinet），后来很巧合地用了它一次，于是就自言自语起来“如果把一本书放在那里面会成什么样？”这个系列就是这么来的。一切都发生在那个瞬间。事实上，我脑海中立马就呈现出书本上这些风景的清晰轮廓与线条。但真的到了制作过程还是遇到过不少未曾预料的意外，这也是因为我对这门技艺一无所知。不过作品构想进展得异乎顺利，我想原因是当时我正在攻读的人类学硕士学位课程。(同期我还在攻读另一项硕士学位：视觉艺术)总而言之，这个“喷砂书”的构想正好成为表达我与学术和知识间暧昧关系的恰当落实。近年来我一直对把大堆知识往脑袋里塞表示质疑。我认为，智慧定是某种精炼的凝缩，它会将人的确定性（certitudes）清空、而非建立之，或彻底为确定性开辟一片新疆界，而非某类纯粹信仰——比如我们所谓的科学，我将之称为“唯物教”（religions of the objective）。
恩，为什么选了书呢…当然是轨迹，不过这轨迹并非是文明的、而是关于我们是如何思考的。我把目光投向了智力之外——正如大多数艺术家所做的那样，但其中大多数即便达成了也不自知。思考是无从逃避的（The mind is inescapable）。不论我们怎样尝试都无法停止它。但我们完全可以退后一步来反观之，把它看个究竟：一个梦中之梦。思考即解放。若非自由，艺术家还能追寻什么？
The human spirit transcends the known through the work of Guy Laramée the Montreal based artist who pushes the materiality of the common book to the limit. Continuing the lines drawn by Caspar Friedrich and Gerhard Richter, Laramée admits to his attraction to spirituality. He combines the old philosophies of Asian arts and Zen and draws energy from Romanticism. Yatzer caught up with the artist to discover his approaches to his practice and discussed human primitiveness, sand-blasting and artistic freedom…
Do you class yourself as a romantic and if so, in which ways?
As most artists, I try to transcend all identifications. I always refer to these words from Kabir as my motto: ”If you were to free me, free me from myself”. So if I was to accept seeing myself as a ‘Romantic‘, it would only be provisional. On the other hand however, over the last few years, I have come to question our cult of innovation and sought to reconcile myself with what we call ‘tradition’ (for lack of a better word). As much as I seek to accept discontinuity, to welcome it, not so much as a modus vivendi– having to break from the past – but rather as a fact, I also want to find what lies behind impermanence. So gradually, I had my ”coming out” so to speak, and I became less and less reluctant to confess that yes, if I find a link in any current of art history, it is probably Romanticism that best describes my preoccupations as an artist. It is Gerhard Richter who sort of gave me the rubber stamp to accept that as much as we want to find our way, outside history, we also have the task of pursuing the lines of work drawn by our ancestors. Not any line, not all the lines, but those that we feel must be continued.
So in a way my work is about continuing this line that goes From Caspar Friedrich to Gerhard Richter. Of course ”Romanticism” is in itself a big movement and I don’t claim to defend all of its tenants. Of all the descriptors one finds about this current, it is probably the most understated that attracts me the most: spirituality. The way the Romantics sought to see the transcendent in nature finds echoes in the Asian arts that were linked to Chan’ – the ancestor of Zen. I can identify with that easily. I had what religious literature refers to as ”epiphanies” while climbing high mountains. I think one reason why this kind of sensibility is now dismissed in contemporary art is simply this: people don’t go there. So if you don’t experience the ”Sublime” first hand, the next step is to deny its existence.
Themes such as isolation, spirituality and the greatness of nature are ever present. Can you expand on the importance of these themes?
My work is not about nature. It is about the feelings that a wild setting triggers. It is about transcending the mundane. Going beyond both the known and the unknown and heading for the unknowable. I think it is Christianity that had us thinking about the ”transcendent” as a floating realm, outside this world, a paradise of sorts. Asian spiritualities give a completely different reading of the term. To them the concept of ”transcendence” means simply beyond, beyond opposites, beyond concepts, concepts of any kind, even the concept of ”concept”. So in a way, I am closer to people like Agnes Martin, who found a way of going beyond the mundane through abstraction. ”Painting is not about ideas or personal emotions” she said. ”Paintings are about being free from the cares of the world, free from worldliness”.
Talk us through your creative process with one or two examples.
Inspiration is a very mysterious thing. It comes unexpectedly. Of course, having baked some preoccupations for more than thirty years now – questioning the ideologies of progress, being nurtured by non-western cultures, rooting myself in the existential and the meaning of suffering, questioning our fascination for the accumulation of knowledge, etc – it is normal that inspiration would come in the guise of these questionings. The book is a good example. It came out very casually. Whilst working on a sculpture in a metal shop, I looked over to a sandblaster cabinet that I used occasionally and thought to myself ‘‘what would it be like to put a book in there?” And there it was. In seconds, the whole thing bloomed. I saw the landscape and the whole line of work actually. But many discoveries go unattended, for lack of proper ground. I think the reason why I picked up this thread so readily is that at the time, I was doing a master in anthropology. (I was actually doing two master degrees simultaneously – another one in visual arts.) So this discovery – sandblasting books – just gave form to my ambiguous relation to academia and to knowledge in general. For years I had been questioning this need that we have to pile things into our head. Wisdom, I thought, must be the exact opposite: emptying one’s certitudes, instead of building them. Or rather founding another ground to certitude than sheer belief –our so-called sciences, what I call the ”religions of the objective”.
Why books? Would you say that you treat books as traces of civilization?
Yeah, why books… Certainly traces, but not so much of civilizations as traces of how our minds work. I’m looking for an outside to the intellect – as most artists certainly do, most of which is achieved without knowing. The mind is inescapable. We can’t stop thinking, even if we try to. But we can take a step backward and see it for what it is: a dream within a dream. That itself is liberation. And what do artists seek, if not their freedom?
Is a sculptural intervention on any specific book determined by the book’s content?
I am not interested in what lies inside those books. I do not comment on their content. I want to shift our focus from ”what we think” to ”THAT we think”. At first I restricted myself only to encyclopaedias and dictionaries. It was easier in a way as there are so many books! I was attracted to encyclopaedias because of their alleged neutrality. Encyclopaedias were also becoming the locus of obsolescence. I could find them for $0.25 a book and that was because they were no longer valid, both in their content as well as being a vehicle for knowledge. But one day I was walking through the aisles of a library and I found one book, the only book in years that drew my attention not because of its title. You know, when you look at books, what do you look at? The title, the author, in brief: the function. But this book was just…beautiful! The colour of the cover, the nickel tone of it embossed title, everything was perfect. I stole it! Of course I found a replacement copy – which cost me $250… but anyway, this became my fetish. I then walked into libraries and bookstores, not looking at content, but looking at form. I had found another way, a more ”clever” way, to deny content.
So now I go by gut feeling. The book throws a feeling, not even an image at me, and then the image comes, most often all of a sudden. And most of the times, I find afterwards that that image is a perfect response to one of my life’s dilemmas. Last week, one of my books that was badly shelved had become misshapen somewhat. My first reaction was to put it under other books to press it, so that it would recover its “correct” shape. Then all of a sudden this image of a wave, a tsunami came to me, and there it was: the best vehicle to convey all the emotions that the last tsunami in Japan had triggered in me.
Do you use new technological processes? If so how do you reason their use when dealing with such a romantic concept?
No laser, no computer, just plain standard manual electric tools that wood carvers use. From band saw to chain saw to grinder to flexible shaft rotary tools – all very standard procedure for any sculptor. You see, I don’t abide by any moral prescriptions. I don’t see Romanticism as forbidding as much as allowing. It allows one to trust one’s own feelings, one’s intuitions – whatever that means, one’s own relations to perceptions and yes, sometimes, concepts.
How is human primitiveness discussed through your work?
I think humans have not evolved much since cavemen. And that is good news. The Zen master Robert Aitken said in substance that it is though the old that we touch the timeless, that which is beyond the old and new. Of course that being said, our consciousness has evolved. We are far more conceptual than our ancestors. They were centred on the Idol and the temple whereas we are centred on the ‘I‘. My work questions this centre, the ‘I‘ through a simple and very old device: contemplation. Again this word has suffered the necessity of language. It is common to hear people say that they are ‘contemplating something’. But if you abide to the original meaning of the word, that is impossible. You cannot contemplate something because contemplation is precisely about abolishing the distance between the viewer and the view. The magic of the small worlds and the misty landscape in my painting all call for a different relation to the world. They are an invitation to enter and lose oneself in the spectacle.
Is there any reason why the human figure is absent in your work?
It is not absent, not even for a second! YOU are always there. YOU are always in the picture!