Yan Lei: Climbing Space

颜磊“上升空间”

 

颜磊(1965年出生于中国河北,现生活工作于北京)的所有作品均诉诸图像。在其早期作品中(如表演、装置等),摄影大多只作为其作品本身存在(或曾经存在)的记录证明。然而自1998年底,图像在颜磊的艺术创作中扮演起了更为重要的角色,它成为其近期创作——绘画的主要构成。在颜磊目前采用的复杂工艺中,摄影作用于作品成型之前而非之后;也就是说,摄影成了图画的来源。尽管两者的秩序颠倒,但图像仍企图作为现实的“纪实摄影”而保持其原有价值。在此有必要提及的是颜磊将现实称作“垃圾”,但其描绘的一切都来自其日常生活,这样做的原因按颜磊的话说,即:“人得有潜能、潜力、一个心理上的内在动因…这是个交换的时代…我的作品是我个人对外在世界的精神反应,我只能这么说,这是生活的需要。”

 

颜磊尝试建立一种与世界疏离的关系、客观的交换,第一步通过摄影来很快地固定一个印象,第二步通过艺术作品来实践反思。此外,绘画不用照相机,一般没有那种机械性的精确,但只有颜磊用其工艺反抄了任一机械或系统的科学本质。他就做到了!事实上,颜磊用一套计算机软件分析拿来的彩色照片,从而得以精确获取画面中形体的轮廓及亮度变化。这么一来,如果是单色画,那软件会针对每个颜色自动生成一个数值;对彩色画也是一样,如要使色彩在绘画中保持完全一致。然后,颜磊会放大所得图像的尺寸并直接喷绘在画布上,这样画布看起来就好像是原先那张照片的实体地图。一旦画布上的结构与轮廓固定,颜磊就可以根据先前采集的色彩数值来选用相应的颜料上色。按照画布上的线框填色后,画面被还原其立体存在。作品完成后,原本画布上的黑色网格线同色彩标号都会被颜料覆盖。

 

颜磊绘画的重要元素之一是丙烯酸颜料。这种化工合成的非天然颜料被颜磊用来勾画现实。用这种光滑亮丽的材质来表现我们如今后现代的色彩着实贴切,但也十分疏离。许多时候颜磊会统一画面中所有色彩的色调,这就好像为整张画罩了一层滤网。在其2002-2003年的系列作品“蓬皮杜项目”中(蓬皮杜艺术中心,展览“中国怎么样?”(Alors la Chine?),2003年6月25日-10月13日),十三幅单色肖像画一共选用了四种颜色:青、黄、红、绿。2002年的系列“国际风景”(2002年上海双年展)虽是多色绘画,但其视觉效果却同单色一样地人工化。比如该系列中描绘悉尼歌剧院的无题绘画:黄色的建筑映着碧水蓝天,感觉很假。其色彩无外乎是用来与当代城市的灰调子形成鲜明对比的“装饰审美”之暗喻罢了。

 

然而除却其审美意图外,颜磊对色彩的运用还得从其对创作观念的支持上深入研究。如“国际风景”中颜磊呈现的是对全球不同城市中著名地标的透视。但这些图画所取材的照片并非是他在当地所拍的实景,而是来自深圳“世界之窗”,这座主题公园集成了全球各地历史名胜的一比一复制品。可谓“假作真时真亦假”。而观念在“蓬皮杜项目”系列中也极为重要。这组人物群像描绘了各国从清洁工到艺术评论人、学者、文化部官员在内所有为艺术所吸引的人。每幅画作中的人物都是2002年颜磊在巴黎蓬皮杜艺术中心认识的,并都直接参与了展览“中国怎么样?”的筹划与布置。在该系列的第十三幅、也是最大的一幅画作中,颜磊描绘了他在蓬皮杜艺术中心外遇见的街头肖像画家。他说:“为什么他的作品没被认可而我的可以?为什么他坐在蓬皮杜外边而我坐在里面?我从中国去巴黎。他也去法国画画。许多中国人在国外的处境也常常如此,同时‘里外’。我去法国的时候也有这种体会。”而“国际风景”系列本身即是由多幅绘画组成的一件作品。颜磊玩味着呈现与现实之间的微妙界限。他以该系列幽默地反思了个体的处境——并非作为一个人、而是一个人在社会中的身份问题。

 

颜磊的另一系列“上升空间”同样是对“艺术家为成功而争”、公共空间及现状之疑的暗喻。该系列包括作品:“三里屯”,有着许多餐厅酒吧的北京使馆区;“廊坊”,颜磊自己的笔记本电脑,它作为一种工具、也是对当今中国现状的象征;“香港艺术家园区”,画面主体貌似是红灯区;“香港上海银行”,银行立面也可看作经济繁荣的象征。在同一系列中,颜磊还拍摄了几家机场,如“香港启德机场”与“巴黎鲁瓦西机场”。中国有地方会形容“那个人如同机场”形象地比喻这个人很成功、人脉很广、社交圈大。不论颜磊是否认同上述情形,他本人肯定身处其中。作为一名艺术家,他被迫挤入这一“上升梯队”。颜磊坦言:“通过创作这些作品,我正面了自己作为一名艺术家存于世上的处境。承认艺术同样也有竞争,这是无可回避的问题。”

*本文中所有引言均来自2003年3月10日与颜磊在北京的一次访谈。

文/箫岭(Nataline Colonnello)

译/顾灵

中文校对/李振华

 

In all his works Yan Lei (*1965, Hebei, China, lives and works in Beijing) resorts to the support of images. In his past works (performances, installations and so forth) photographs served mostly as documents evidencing the existence (or the past existence) of the work of art itself. Since the end of 1998, however, pictures started to have a much greater relevance in Yan Lei’s artistic creation, becoming an essential constituent tool of a quite new trend that characterizes a substantial part of his recent production: the paintings. In the complex pictorial process Yan Lei now uses, the photograph no longer supports the work when the latter is already begun or completed, but even before it exists; namely, the photo now establishes the origin of a painting. Although the time order has changed, the image, intended as a ‘photodocument’ of reality, keeps its value unaltered. It is important to point out that he regards reality as “rubbish”, but all the subjects he depicts are drawn from his actual life and this because, as he states, “hey have a latent capacity, a potentiality, an innermost reason that has to do with psychology. (…) This is an age of interchanges…my works are my personal spiritual reaction to the external world, I can say only this, it is a need of life”.

 

Yan Lei tries to build up a detached relationship, an objective interchange with the world firstly by means of photography – to quickly fix an impression -, and secondly by means of the real work of art –to make a reflection. Moreover, whilst a camera is a mechanical precision instrument, a painting is not, unless Yan Lei, in his technique, has recourse to any machine or system of a scientific nature. And he does! In fact, after having taken a colour picture, Yan Lei processes it through a computer using software which is able to measure and highlight the outline of the subjects, as well as the brightness variations inside each shape. With this method, each shade of a single colour (if the painting will be monochrome) is allocated a number computed by the information system; the same thing happens for each shade related to different colours, if Yan Lei wants to keep the polychromy of the picture unaltered in the final work. After this, Yan Lei resizes the image obtained, enlarging its dimensions and eventually prints it directly on to the canvas. At this point of the process, the canvas looks like the equivalent of a physical map of the original picture. Once the skeleton, the linear structure of reality appears on the canvas, Yan Lei is able to start applying colours according to the respective numbers/hues, which correspond to those shown on each jar of paint he employs. Following the ‘isometric lines’ on the surface with the paint and the brush, he is able to give the image back its tridimensionality and reality. When the work is finished, the black grid and the numbers become invisible under the coats of paint.

 

One of the main characters of Yan Lei’s pictorial play is acrylic colour. Being an industrial synthetic substance, acrylic paint is not a natural pigment, and yet he uses it to give birth to realistic compositions. This kind of material, with its bright and glassy effect is on the one hand the most apt to depict the chromatic blaze of our post-modern age but on the other is extremely estranging. In many cases Yan Lei employs a single tone in all its shades to coat like a filter the entire surface of the painting. In his 2002-2003’s series called “Project Pompidou” (Centre Pompidou, Exhibition “Alors la Chine?” 25.6. – 13.10.03) which comprises thirteen paintings, each one is monochrome and portrays a person. The colours he chose and that alternate on the different canvases are just four: cyan, yellow, magenta and green. His 2002’s series entitled “International Landscapes” (Shanghai Biennale 2002), however, consists of polychrome works but the visual outcome is equally artificial. In this series, for example, the untitled painting of a view of the Sidney’s Opera House reveals a bogus look: the building is yellowish, the water is emerald green and the sky cobalt blue. His colour is nothing but a metaphor of an “aesthetic of polish” that is in contrast to the grayness of contemporary cities.

 

Yan Lei’s colours, then, far from having only an aesthetical purpose, have to be investigated above all in their property of functioning as an extremely effective support of the other fundamental element of his creation: the concept. In “International Landscapes”, for example, Yan Lei represents foreshortenings of various famous monuments from different cities all around the world. He derived all his subjects from pictures he took not in cities he really visited, but in Shenzhen’s “Window of the World”, a theme park where scenes and sites of historical interest throughout the world are reproduced in scale models. The depicted cities thus could be as real as the real ones, as fake as the real ones.

In the series entitled “Project Pompidou”, the concept is also of the utmost importance. This series portrays a gallery of international characters gravitating around the world of art, from the cleaning attendant up to art critics, scholars, Culture Department officials and so forth. In each of these works Yan Lei depicts those people he knew at the Paris’ Centre Pompidou in 2002 and who are directly involved in the mounting and organization of the exhibition “Alors la Chine?”. In his thirteenth and biggest painting Yan Lei showes a Chinese street portrait painter whom he met outside the doors of Centre Pompidou. He says: “Why do his works have no acceptance whilst mine do? Why was he sitting outside the Pompidou whilst I stood inside? I went to Paris from China. He also went to France to paint. Many Chinese people go abroad and are all in this condition of being at the same time both “in” and “out”. When I went to France I recognized myself in this identity as well”. As for “International Landscapes”, this whole series is planned as one single artwork composed of different paintings. Here Yan Lei plays again with the transient boundaries between appearance and reality. In this series he offers a humorous reflection on the question of the status of the individual – that is – what a person represents by his/her role in society and not as a human being.

 

Yan Lei’s series called “Climbing Space” is a metaphor around the questions of status, “artists’ competition for success” and public spaces. To this series belong paintings like “Sanlitun”, Beijing’s embassies district, an international area full of bars and restaurants; “Langfang”, representing Yan Lei’s own laptop, a work tool, but nowadays also a status symbol in China; “Hong Kong Artists’ Commune”, where the subject seems to be a red-light district; “Hong Kong Shanghai Bank”, a view of the façade of a bank, symbol of economic welfare and success; and many more. In the same series Yan Lei also portrays airports, like those of “Hong Kong Kaitak Airport” and “Paris Roissy Airport”. In Chinese to say “that man is an airport” means, in a figurative sense, that he is a successful person and that his network of connections is growing as well as his social status. Regardless of his acceptance or rejection of this situation, Yan Lei is personally involved in it. He, as an artist, is forced to enter the lists, that ‘non-space’ in which social climbing takes place. He admits: “With these works I face my condition of being an artist in the world. Nobody can avoid this problem, that is to admit that art is competitive”.

 

by Nataline Colonnello

All quotations in this text make reference to an interview with Yan Lei held in Beijing on March 10, 2003

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2 Responses to Yan Lei: Climbing Space

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