高  倩  彤
KO SIN TUNG
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Muse for a Mimeticist 
Wang Wei and Ko Sin Tung 
24/6/2017 - 20/8/2017 
Edouard Malingue Gallery, Shanghai 

逼真主義者的靈感
王衛 與 高倩彤
24/6/2017 - 20/8/2017 
馬凌畫廊, 上海









































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As a conceptual tool devised for this exhibition, “Mimeticism” differs from Realism in that, while the latter embraces countless possible definitions and means of realisation, the former advances only along a narrow path. Mimeticism adheres to only one technical standard: an enchanting realm of perfection towards which one approaches ever closer.

A well-known tale from antiquity recounts how Zeuxis and Parrhasius, two outstanding Greek artists, decided one day to stage a contest to determine who was the greater artist. Zeuxis first unveiled his painting of grapes, the exquisite likeness of which actually fooled the birds. Thinking the grapes were real, they one by one swooped down to peck at the painting. Zeuxis beamed triumphantly. Next came Parrhasius, who invited everyone into his room where he had painted a large curtain on the wall. Caught unawares, Zeuxis went in and asked, “Well, then, show me what you drew underneath?” As Zeuxis uttered these words, the greater artist was determined. Zeuxis’ painting merely fooled the birds whereas Parrhasius managed to deceive Zeuxis. This story informs us how the technical criterion of “mimesis” is purely biological and not preoccupied with conceptual thought.

The exhibition proposes the following notion – that inspiration virtually always emerges on the path towards Mimeticism and that one is fortunately allowed to stray from this path. With this as the point of departure, Wang Wei and Ko Sin Tung’s oeuvres continually demonstrate how inspiration is sparked by such deviations from Mimeticism. Naturally, their work also frequently reveals all that is lovely and good-natured with Mimeticism.

For Wang Wei and his generation of Chinese artists, Realism is certainly not unfamiliar. Wang Wei graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the base of Realist pedagogy in the New China, long dominated by Soviet-inspired Academic Realism. The generation of artists prior to Wang Wei — the Chinese artists who rose to prominence in the 1980s — had long parted ways with “Realism” (which to a great degree was a version of Mimeticism) in order to free up the methodology in their art and in their thinking. They engaged with new artistic forms such as abstract art, installation, performance art, videos, texts, among others. In contrast, Wang Wei along with his generation more consciously realise that while it was necessary to veer away from Mimeticism, something else is now needed. Realist art pedagogy in China merely stays at the level of technical training, without delving further into reality; meanwhile, the intoxicating powers of Formalism (however contemporary it may be) are certainly no less than those of Mimeticism. For Wang Wei, the most pressing task of art is to return to Reality, but he is in no rush to discover new artistic forms. Instead, he seeks to intervene into new social realities with the various languages of contemporary art.

Thus Wang Wei devotes himself to the observation of reality, continually probing the cracks and edges of a commonsensical reality. He observes what is most ignored in the landscape of the everyday and takes up the critical judgement of ordinary people — a judgement derived from people’s most unadorned intuition in order to gradually construct the countenance of a vast and complex world without any “centrisms” — a world which we inhabit. Such is Wang Wei’s core subject — which incidentally is also the particular characteristic of our age.

For this exhibition, Wang Wei takes on two particular forms of imagery: mirror images and mosaics. The mirror image is, in fact, the ideal sought by Mimeticists, and additionally is a common method in Realist art (one can observe how Realist masters from the Central Academy of Fine Arts would paint a Realist oil painting full of complex mirror images, just in order to vaunt their superior mastery of technique). Yet, Wang Wei’s mirror images have at least two distinctive aspects. First, he chooses not to reflect any “interesting” scenes; instead, he often picks up on only one aspect from what the exhibition venue looks like. Second, his mirror images are not mimetic; he merely produces a derivative copy of a “real image” with cheap mosaics. His aim is to have people finally discover that what the work reflects is the very space they are in, and thereby get them to pay attention to and reflect on the space anew.

In contrast to Wang Wei, Ko Sin Tung did not receive a Realist art education. Yet Ko Sin Tung, born and raised in Hong Kong, is equally concerned with how art deals with reality, much like artists from her own generation and before. Such concerns — in an environment like Hong Kong where art is continually hemmed in by commerce and utilitarianism, and where social conditions have fluctuated over the long term — most naturally appear especially pressing. Much like Wang Wei, Ko Sin Tung’s point of departure is to observe the world around her. The imagery she employs comes for the most part from everyday life, while the focal point she recounts happens to be the inspirational revelation uncovered in a wide array of everyday appearances.

In this exhibition, Ko Sin Tung will produce a series of related works: she will paint on the warning lights that ordinarily remind us to be aware of road safety the same “protective colour” as on the walls, thus conferring to them an entirely opposite role. She will also present a ready-made advertisement promoting work safety with superimposed images of safety helmets and sunflowers, while the only thing connecting the two might be the virtually identical yellow; the colour imparts the painting with an eerie harmony. Additionally, she documents how traditional road lighting has switched to LED lighting. In theory, with this half-sorrowful elimination of incandescent lighting, the new lights will illuminate the streets all the more clearly — and hence more “mimetic”. Finally, on two high-definition TV (HDTV) screens, which are utterly commonplace today, she plays two videos about standard definition. This gesture, imbued with a sense of evolution, very directly spells out the simple and satisfying strides onwards along the path of Mimeticism.



逼真主義(Mimeticism)是一個為這個展覽而發明的思想工具。逼真主義與現實主義的區別在於:後者有無窮無盡的可能定義及實踐方法,而前者則只沿著一條狹窄的道路一往無前——逼真只有一種技術性標準,一種迷人的讓人不斷往之靠近的完美境界。有一個廣泛流傳的故事,宙克西斯(Zeuxis)和帕拉西奧斯(Parrhasios)是兩位了不起的希臘畫家,某天,兩人想一較高下。宙克西斯先展示他所畫的一幅葡萄藤樹,其精緻逼真的程度竟然吸引了小鳥,小鳥誤以為那是真的葡萄,紛紛飛下來朝向畫面啄食,宙克西斯洋洋得意。接下來,輪到帕拉西奧斯,他邀請大家進到房間裡,他的作品是在房間的牆上畫了一大塊簾幕,而不知情的宙克西斯進入房間時,便說:“那麼,現在讓我看看你在那後面畫了什麼?”當宙克西斯此話一出,兩人之間高下立判。宙克西斯的畫只能吸引小鳥、欺騙小鳥,而帕拉西奧斯卻成功地欺騙了宙克西斯。這個故事說明“逼真”這個技術標準是純生物性的,並不講求思想內容。

這個展覽提出的構想是:在通往逼真主義的道路上幾乎總是會出現一些靈感,讓我們有幸地走上歧途。從這個構想出發,王衛和高倩彤的工作,正是在不斷給我們示範背離逼真主義的靈感,當然,也經常透露出逼真主義本身的可親可愛之處。

現實主義對於王衛及其同輩中國藝術家絕不陌生。他畢業於中央美術學院,新中國現實主義教學的總部。王衛的前輩,那些八十年代掘起的中國藝術家,早已以背離“現實主義”(其實很大程度是一種逼真主義)為解放藝術和思想的方法,他們發展出新的藝術形式,抽象藝術、裝置、行為藝術、錄像、文本等。而王衛一代跟他們前輩的區別在於,他們更為清醒地意識到,需要背離的是逼真主義,因為中國的現實主義藝術教育只停留在技術訓練,而並沒有對現實進行更深入的研究,這種形式主義(無論何其當代)的麻醉力不比逼真主義少。對王衛來說,回到現實是藝術的當務之急,但他並不急於發現新的藝術形式,而是如何使用不同的當代藝術語言去介入新的社會現實。

於是,王衛致力於觀察現實,並在其中不斷發現一種常識之中的真實的夾縫和邊緣。他觀察日常景觀中最不被注意的部分,像個普通人以他們最簡樸直觀的判斷,逐漸構成了我們身處其中的世界的龐雜的毫無“中心思想”的樣子,這是王衛關心的核心議題,也是我們所處時代的特點。為了這次展覽,王衛動用了他慣用的兩個意象:鏡像和馬賽克。鏡像其實就是逼真主義者所追求的境界,也是現實主義藝術的常用方法(看中央美術學院畢業的現實主義大師,會以畫一幅充滿複雜鏡像的現實主義油畫,來彰顯他們高超的技藝)。但是王衛的鏡像有至少兩個特點,其一,他所選擇反映的不是任何“有趣”的景象,而往往只是展覽現場本來樣貌的其中一塊;其次,他的鏡像並不逼真,只是用廉價的馬賽克砌成的真像的一個次等拷貝,他的目的是讓人們在終於發現作品反映的是他們所處的空間之後,得以重新去關注及思考這個空間本身。

與王衛不同,高倩彤並未接受現實主義藝術教育,但在香港成長的她,與其同輩及上一輩藝術家都同樣關心藝術如何處理現實,這樣的關切在香港這個藝術不斷被商業及功利主義思想擠壓及社會狀況長期處於變動之中的環境裡,自然而然地顯得特別急迫。與王衛一樣,高倩彤以觀察身邊世界作為工作的出發點,她所動用的意像大多來於日常生活,而她講述的重點恰恰是在種種日常面貌中發現的啟示。在這次展覽中,她將製作一系列有連貫性的作品:她將平時提醒人們注意路面安全的警示燈塗上牆面一樣的“保護色”,讓它們扮演一次完全相反的角色;她又帶來了一張現成的廣告,這張廣告足以令任何受到美術教育的人歡樂:這張宣傳工地安全的廣告,將工地安全帽和太陽花重疊放在畫面之上,兩者唯一可能的親屬關係只是它們幾乎一樣的黃色,畫面因此達致了一種奇異的和諧。再之後,她紀錄了傳統路燈被更換成新式LED燈的過程,理論上,在這場半帶感傷的淘汰中,新式路燈將會將街道照得更為清楚,更為“逼真”了。最後,她以兩台在今天已是絕對普遍的高清電視,播放兩段關於標清的影片,這個帶進化論意味的動作非常直接地說明了逼真主義道路上的簡單的讓人滿意的長足進步。