Turning Ideas into Images, Form into Essence
Viewing the Paintings of Chi Chia-Hwa

Ko Ying-Ping

"Emotion is really a type of focus, one that strengthen life. It is one of the peaks encountered in the rapids of life". - Susanne langer

Abstract language has evolved in the 20th century, to a point where graphic two dimensional, three dimensional or spatial installation forms of expression have developed an artistically expressive language of their own that transcends the parameters of history, geography and culture. No longer does it relate post war disassociation, reactionary consciousness, or the influence and interpretation of the stylist school under certain western ideas of history. At the beginning of the new millennium, the globalization of information and increasing frequency of cultural exchange have allowed abstract expressionism to gradually combine the multiple layers of intent and depth of communication found in the inner and external worlds of human life. This has in turn created shared and overlapping forms with a key position in both contemporary and future visual art.

Viewing Chi Chia-Hwa's abstract paintings one sees how his apparently focussed and refined tone occasionally reveals a sense of romance, vitality and emotion, through the layering and overlapping of colors and lines and the use of such spontaneous methods as dots, scraping, plastering etc. In so doing, he creates a space made up of shapes and colors that is musical and architectural. A closer inspection shows that Chi utilizes the sense of movement or rhythm conveyed by different thickness, lightness or layers and the positioning of lines and shapes. This realizes a two-way development and expression of ideas based on internal/external radiance, which in turn establishes a relationship of relative tensions between control/spontaneity and focus/extension. His collection of work resembles a musical suite, a visual prayer of the soul and a choral suite, seemingly ordinary and uninteresting but of great appeal.

If we first look at the form of these works, it is immediately clear that many of Chi Chia-Hwa's pieces are square in shape, with an implied cold tone and coming together of elements. He prefers to use single colors, especially gray, white, red and blue, and also likes intercrossing lines, short angular zigzag lines running parallel to each other and net like patterns. These constitute the main elements and basic tone of Chi's work. However long these pieces took to develop, whether they are products of conscious or unconscious action, such formal characteristics constitute an extremely important structure-texture framework for fully appreciating the artist's paintings. His pictures appear to be made from pure expressive brush strokes, but in fact hidden within them we find hints of freedom and romance. Because of this, though these introversive paintings often seem cold in shape, they are in fact replete with emotion and interest. At the same time, the work of Chi Chia-Hwa should equally not be classified by concept, or reduced to a mere extension of one school of art or another. In terms of well developed technique and self discipline in expressive shapes, Chi uses a combination of effects, including layering of colors, the transparency of brush strokes and texture, overlapping, scraping and dripping of color, to create an emotional context that is ambiguous and has multiple meaning. If we now look at how similar approaches have evolved in the artist's work over the last 5-6 years, it is clear that though these works have a single color background and overlapping lines, they should still not be classified too quickly. Hasty conclusions should not be drawn about overall meaning on the basis of their unitary nature, sampling or linear arrangements. Even where there are signs that can be traced, these are just the clear expression of emotion or spiritual atmosphere that comes from the development of work. Thus, it is possible to say that this exhibition follows in the footsteps of the artist's solo exhibition two years earlier. However, a more detailed analysis and comparison shows Chi Chia-Hwa's later works to be more free, diverse, and complex in their interaction and interrelationships. In this context, the example of a musical "suite" is useful in terms of the internal meaning and external extension of the works on show, because it emphasizes the internal rhythm of change and the rich potential of external layers in the work.

Working with the analogy of a musical suite, the brush strokes in these painting are like single notes. The relationship between colored areas and brush strokes is the same as that of musical sections and composition segments. On the other hand, a single piece is analogous to a musical composition, comprising different sections of music. The sectional organization of works in the gallery is like the inter-linking of elements or the performance of a musical suite. Displaying Chi Chia-Hwa's work is always a major challenge for the curator, especially in terms of how to define relationship between the pieces and their spatial layout. The overall meaning of the artist's paintings can be found in their rich diversity of visual possibilities, utilizing the arrangement and connection of musical elements and the construction of an architectural type spatial atmosphere. In other words, the importance of the visual space of these works lies in the way they use the harmony between elements to bring together the field forces of different time and psychological experiences.

The aforementioned different elements and organization of the paintings relate to the aesthetic significance of the work. It is also possible to analyze this from the perspective of Gestalt Aesthetics. The artist's paintings take color as ground, lines as figures; they also contain two dimensional space that is ambiguous and has multiple meaning. Their field of force also contains within it relative interactive tensions such as those between intension and extension. The pictures themselves are made up of a mixture of "similar" shapes, colors, sizes and directions. These create diversity between the works but also a unified rhythm and inter-connection. This connectivity then creates meaning that transcends the "partial harmony" of elements between single pieces. Finally, the holistic structure grasps form and semiotics that represent the context of life. The elements - units - make up the layered structure of the paintings. From this it is possible to transcend the lines and dots of the paintings to interlocking ideas and substance, where we find the infinite extension of meaning.

Although these diverse connections can extend the formal meaning of a single work, that is not to say that Chi Chia-Hwa's paintings do not possess a deeper meaning and spirit, deserving of further reflection in their own right. If we look more carefully at the real creative intent in his work what we find is that in many places basic tone is used to stimulate images formed from the results of having no suppositions. The artist's focus on the process of randomness and degree of freedom, even "incomplete" expression (such as the recent "M./Blue-Awaken" and "M./Blue-Forgotten") has in fact been much praised by Rodolf Arnheim, that is the use of diverse though unified form to highlight "mature" shape and type. In the final analysis probing the real creative force and expressive nature of art, is not to focus solely on the completeness of the form of the work or the way a planned series is controlled. The true meaning of creativity must have internal connections, combining different essences, constantly developing possible combinations, otherwise it is difficult to avoid descending into the replication of narrow forms and techniques. In other words, through process, open and free deduction and accumulation, the work shows what life instinct cannot, and thereby moves us psychologically. Perhaps the Gestalt Esthetics?emphasis that the whole is greater than partial harmony can serve as a foundation from which to understand the meaning of Chi Chia-Hwa's paintings from the perspective of form. However, the real possibilities and potential for his work require us to distill changes in visual images, to bring to life what lies behind "similar" shapes, colors and lines, an endless pool of creative inspiration. This is the mysterious, poetry and expressive kinetic of the artist's inner world.

From the above analysis of form, we see that the extension of an audience's vision comes down to probing the artist's inner spirit, the importance of which lies in re-viewing the intent behind the work and its hidden inspiration. The context of Chi Chia-Hwa's work is an attempt to make the complex simple and practice a form of self focus. In this sense, it is a type of spiritual "alchemy", a refinement of the soul. The founder of symbolist aesthetics, Ernst Cassirer, once said: "Artistic creation is "living form", it is something that allows us to see directly the structure of man's inner life. It could also be described as a game, but one that transcends the form and meaning of the game - creating a power of pure form that stimulates our aesthetic taste buds". A key scholar in this field Susanne Langer develops this point further, by pointing out that art is "life form". It makes use of illusion to convey a "virtual entity" that speaks directly to people's perceptions. The essence realized in the illusory form of art is in fact a portrayal of the reality that lies deep within our human sense of life. Looking at Chi Chia-Hwa's work from this perspective it is possible to elevate our examination and experience of his work and its meaning from an analysis of form and visual psychology to the level of life expression. On the surface these works appear to be "visionary scenes", but from the analysis of form just applied, they also realize the characteristics of life logic and form as identified by Susan Langer: movement, organic unity, rhythm and growth. These stylistic characteristics are transformed by the artist's inner and outer worlds, to be gradually blended with his heart and mind into an expressive world of semiotic shapes and colors.

Chi Chia-Hwa's work makes use of lively and sincere images to express his emotions, evolving the faint experience of life's inner essence. Form and mixture that hints at "incomplete movement" relate to the revelation by Henri Bergson that: between time and psychology "existence" is constantly changing the flow of life impulses - that is the realization of the flow of duration. The vitality that flows through the artist's youthful, passionate body is the source of constant focus of analysis and probing through various knowledge and thought processes. But these are unable to divine the poetic nature of space, because this is the emotional experience and taste of a mixed and integral life. This type of internalization, the emotional expression of the poetry of life, even if indicated in the name of the exhibition and the works themselves, reveals the artist's poet's heart and its experience and observation of life in general and the course of daily life. This provides an interesting contrast with the unnamed images and extended thinking.

The life "seasons" as recognized and understood by Asian civilization do not include the linear coming and going of past-present-future. The external world may have the abrupt changes and vicissitudes of summer and winter, but the artist 's profound and poetic nature conducts a dialogue with something that is not a direct copy of the inner "memory" of a normal individual entity. It is much more the appearance and clarification of the "now" through a life archetype. Adopting a posture that life involves the pursuit of "truth" Chi Chia-Hwa constantly seeks to open up and make clear after first obfuscating. This at least was the idea of Martin Heidegger, and is shared by all those who seek to find the road of truth through the realization of different forms.

In an era when art is leaning heavily towards mixed media, installations and high tech performances, it sometimes seems as if painting has been "marginalized". It is not unusual to hear people suggest that painting is "dead" or "in decline". In fact, as with abstract language, the evolution and possibilities for painting continue, constantly by stealth. It is bias in international or local fashions of expression or types of exhibition that, after an accumulation of "bad news", create the image of exclusion. This then results in the generalizations that painting is "developing but restricted" or "dead". The restriction, decline or death of form is in fact no more than the artist's own limits and as such formal simple/complex, or traditional/now should not be used to differentiate vitality. By interpreting what appears to be true on the basis of surface information one creates a false image, thereby restricting the artist's and audience's vision and judgement with regards art and history. Many of the possibilities in the Chi Chia-Hwa's paintings are for the future The bias of the times detailed above should perhaps make us ponder and reject the value of trends in contemporary artistic expression.



點意成象‧構形 為質的心靈組曲- 觀紀嘉華的繪畫

文 / 柯應平

情感實際上就是一種集中、強化了的生命,是生命湍流中,最為突出的浪峰。— 蘇珊‧朗格



若先回歸作品形式的特質而論,可以顯見紀嘉華多數作品具有:冷調、聚合意味的正方形外幅;以灰、白、紅、藍為主的「單色化」色調;及縱橫、斜向平行的短線、折(波)線和網編狀的線性圖式等元素和基調。無論這些作品發展的數年時間中,是自覺或不自覺地作為,這些形成特質的基調已然是鑑賞其繪畫作品的重要構架與肌質(structure-texture)。畫面似純粹又表現的筆線造形,其實潛藏著自由、浪漫的人文氣息。因此,這些內傾型 ( introversive ) 作品的形態雖似冷靜,實是情感意向濃厚的繪畫;但又不適於概念地定位、削合為某一風格樣式的延伸。從簡鍊、克制的表現形態,紀嘉華透過色層、筆觸的透明性、色彩的肌理,與重疊、滴流、刮痕等綜合效果,烘染出曖昧又多義的情性內涵。若再擴展其近五、六年來類近調性的演變軌跡觀之,作品形式上雖有素色的底蘊和筆線疊構的基調,卻仍不應速簡地歸類,以單一、抽樣或線性排列前後,而集合論斷作品的整體意旨。即使有跡可尋,也僅是作品發展脈絡之間,冥冥散發的抒情氣息與精神性的氛圍。因此,若說此次兩年後的個展,雖似承繼'98年個展的概括調式;仔細分辨對照,卻又可依稀感知他更自由、多元、複式的互動與關聯性──以音樂性的「組曲」譬喻其內涵和外延,即在強調其作品內在活變的節奏及外向層次的豐富可能性。

若以組曲結構類比,繪畫的筆線元素即似單音;色域或筆線關係的串聯如音節與段曲;單件作品則類近結合不同音節的單曲──而展覽空間所呈現的階段組畫,即是組曲般的聯結和展演。就紀氏的作品特質而言,作品關係與空間佈置的整體呈現方式,便考驗著臨場對作品關聯性的調度,以及整體佈局呈現的統籌。其繪畫作品的整體意旨,可說是具備了以視覺──透過音樂性的單元排比的並聯,形構建築性空間氛圍的豐富可能。或說,它們的視覺空間的意義,可藉由單元之和,匯聚出不同時間與心理性體驗的場域 ( field of force )。 以上述不同元素─單位─組畫的層次推衍而闡述其美學意義,或可藉完形心理學美學(Gestalt Esthetics)的觀點析論:紀氏的繪畫特質,具有以色域為基底( ground )、線性為圖形 ( figure );模糊、多義又若即若離的平面性空間。它們形塑的力場兼具內涵 ( intension ) 與外延 ( extension ) 等相對質性的張力 ( tension ) 互動關係。而畫面由形、色、大小、方向的「相似性」組合相加、形成作品之間多樣且統一的節奏與關聯;進而,由關聯性形成單元間超越元素「部份之和」的意涵;最後,整體性結構樣式的把握趨現為象徵生命心境的形式與符號。由元素─單元─組畫形成的繪畫層次結構,至此,便可由筆線的點畫提昇至意象與形質相加相乘的無限延伸意涵。

多元聯結雖能延伸單一作品的形式意義,但並不意味紀嘉華的繪畫作品並無更深層值得關注的內涵與精神。回歸細察其繪畫的創作本意,應多數處於以基調帶動、無預設結果所形成的圖象;而著重過程的隨機性和自由度,甚至「未完成性」的表現 ( 如近期〈M./Blue─醒了〉和〈M./Blue─忘了〉等作品 ),反是阿恩海姆(Rodolf Arnheim ) 所肯定的:以多樣又統一來標誌出「成熟」的造形格式──畢竟,深究藝術真正的創造力與表現性,並非僅是作品形式上的高完成度或控制的計劃性系列可以等約。創造力的真義應是具備內在聯繫、涵容異質相生、不斷發展可能的調性,否則難免淪落為狹義的形式和技巧的複製樣式。換言之,是以過程、開放、自由的推演和積累,湧現生命直覺所不可言喻、又殷殷觸動情理的無限衍變之意態。強調整體大於部份之和的完形心理學,或可作為從形式了解紀嘉華繪畫意涵的基礎;然而,其作品真正的可能性與潛力,反需沈澱視覺意象的變化,復活「相似性」的形色線背後,源源不絕的創作活力─它方是創作者生命內在的奧秘詩性與表現動能!

從上述形式分析、觀者的視野延伸,復歸作者內在精神的探究,其意在重新凝視趨動創作的本原精神及其潛藏的深刻啟示。紀嘉華作品的「語境」(context),是一種化繁為簡的運作姿態及自我集中的鍛鍊形式;就像是心靈修行的「鍊金術」一般,內蘊體驗者在收放心手表現關係的形式性彰顯。符號學美學(Symbolist Aesthetics)的奠基者卡西爾(Ernst Cassirer)曾言:藝術創作是種「活的形式」,它是一種顯現人的內在生命的直觀結構;亦可說是,具有遊戲性又超越遊戲形式與意義──創造激發美感的純形式的力量。繼承的中堅學者蘇珊‧朗格(Susanne Langer)更提示出,藝術是「生命的形式」,它是透過幻象 ( illusion)傳達一種可訴諸於人的知覺的「虛的實體」;藝術的幻象形式所體現的本質,其實是人性深層生命感的真實性。若由此回視紀嘉華的作品,便可使作品意涵從形式分析、視覺心理提昇到生命層次的表現性來審視、體會。這些作品表面似如「虛幻的景致」(visionary scene),卻又由上述形式分析的過程,體現了蘇珊‧朗格對生命邏輯形式所揭示的特徵──運動、有機統一、節奏和生長性。這些造形特質經由創作者心象到外相的轉化歷程,使心靈逐漸融合、統一於符號化的形色表現世界之中。

紀嘉華透過活潑又真摯的意象抒情,演化了生命內質的幽微體驗;「似動未成」的形式、調性,亦如柏格森 ( Henri Bergson ) 所揭示:「存在」於時間與心理之中,不斷運動變化著的生命衝動之流──即「綿延」( duration ) 之流的體現。靜觀流淌於如紀嘉華年輕、熱情生命體內的生命之流,是知識與思想體系所不斷分析探索、卻又無法窮究的詩性空間──它是生命混然整體的心靈體驗與滋味……。這般內化、抒情的生命詩性,即使在展覽與作品的命名上,也處處流露著創作者內在詩心在生命與生活的種種體察,以及莫名意象與衍想的對應滋味。

東方文明所體會、理解的生命「季節」,並非是過去─現在─未來的線性往來。外在世界或有冬夏季節的遞變和起落,然而湧現於藝術創造的奧秘詩性所對話之對象,已非一般個體內在「記憶」的直接翻現,而是生命原型透過當下、「此在」的顯現與澄明;它是生命存在以追求真理之姿,不斷「去蔽」後的敞開與顯現……,海德格(Martin Heidegger )如是說。每一企圖以不同形式體現真理之光的修行者,應也如是想罷。