Beneath the Surface, Moment of Truth
Documenting Jason Chi's Voyage through the Southern Lights

Pei-Ni Beatrice Hsieh  Director, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts

Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.      -Genesis, the Old Testament

To me, this is the most crucial and dramatic moment documented amongst all narratives in the Bible. Without light, there will be no distinction between Heaven and Earth, night and day, or changing of seasons; without light, there will be no colors, shapes, hues or shades; culture , without light, there will be no culture, civilization, knowledge or hope.

By stepping into a studio full of Jason Chi's art works inspired by his voyage to Antarctica, one also takes on a journey through extraordinarily dazzling colors. It was a long arduous passage, says Chi, setting off from California on the edge of Pacific Basin, down through Argentina en route to the Antarctica by car, plane and ship; with the scenery along the way swiftly changing, it was as if all four seasons had gone by in one day. However, for an artist with an ardent passion for colors such as Chi, the drastic changes in temperature, humidity and landscapes are pale in comparison with the astonishing morphing of light. From the series presented in this exhibition, one can recognize Chi's endeavor to capture the dazzling light with his paintbrush, filtering impurity with skillful and accurate laying of paint, so the purified light could be cast on the canvas. Chi has fully grasped the principle essential to mastery of landscape painting - the principle of light. Therefore, we can say A Perfect Moment in Time series is Jason Chi's journal of his voyage through the Southern Lights.

To prevent snow blindness, Chi had to wear sunglasses the whole time during the expedition. However, hidden behind the lenses that shielded against powerful ultraviolet rays, was an artistic vision eagerly scanning through the landscape, constantly searching for the next object to place its focal point on - this is very much a practical application of multi-point perspective, characteristic of Chinese landscape painting. As such, the strokes falling along the horizontal and vertical lines also display the artist's undistracted determination and vigorous spirit, which are not at all different from the method applied to illustrate mountains and rocks in traditional Chinese painting. The wrinkle-like lines, one on top of another, form into colorful and splendid images rich in texture, documenting frame after frame the beautiful scenery along the oceanic voyage. This journal of light seems like a stroke of insight as a result of the artist's unceasing introspective contemplation, constantly moving back and forth of his intention and attention between representing the physical property and expressing his own perception, and between putting brush to canvas rationally and composing the images with sensibility - thus forming a synthesis luminous body that combines both mental images and material figures, and is both abstract and concrete.

Paintings of icebergs and aurora almost can only be found in seascape paintings done by a minority of explorers during the Romantic Era. Perhaps it was due to the difficulty in grasping the constant changing of light and colors of the ocean, besides the Dutch art works custom-made for ship companies and merchants that flourished during the Age of the Great Voyages, seascape paintings are a rarity even in the West. To fully bring out the vast expanse of ocean, long lines of seafaring merchant vessels stretching beyond the horizon or the majestic presence of the royal fleet, the artists at the time developed " P frame," a special frame size for panoramic seascape paintings, which is still in use today.

To capture the fleeting lights in the kaleidoscopic world, the Impressionists mostly sketch from life or find ways to seize the natural light, especially in painting the glistening light of waves. In this regard, no artists had better mastered seascape painting than the British national treasure J.M.W. Turner. Be it the seemingly ever enshrouding mist in the calm before the storm or a lone ship swaying in the stormy ocean, engaging in a struggle to survive the violent wrath of nature, Turner's solemn paintings tell the most thrilling epics of all times. On the other hand, A Perfect Moment in Time series, as seascape paintings, is not about bringing out the powers greater than human, nor extolling the vastness of Nature through the paintbrush, but rather the Oriental intellectuals acquiring enlightenment through studying the nature of things, and being able to henceforth stand undaunted even when faced with roaring waves, feeling at home wherever they are, blissfully wandering between the heaven, earth and the ocean. As a result, sentiments of "Great Liberation" and "Absolute Freedom" illuminated in Chinese Buddhist landscape paintings also emanate from Chi's depiction of Antarctica.

The interdisciplinary experimental art theory developed by Russian artists during early 20th century tries to find corresponding colors for each tune in music; however, its efficacy remains to be proven. Still, Chi's color scheme, if fitted into this structure, could be translated into a splendid symphonic poem. This invokes Friedrich Danielis' masterpieces inspired by Gustav Mahler's compositions, which is in every way analogous to Jason Chi's interpretation ofthe Antarctic Ocean.

To conclude, I would like to sum up my commentary of Chi's works by quoting Willem Sandberg's discourse on one of De Stijl's principal members Piet Mondrian in their book L'organisation de l'espace: Painting was no longer a medium for individual expression or a way of grabbling things he (Piet Cornelius Mondrian) saw; it became a way of organizing space. In 1917, Mondrian wrote, “We need courage and strength to weather this period of resonance. It is because we are afraid of that dissonance and wanting to adapt to the past that we are not moving forward. The goal is not to adapt: it is to create."



浮光掠影中的真章 - 紀嘉華南極極光之旅藝術記行

文 / 謝佩霓 高雄市立美術館館長

上帝說:「要有光」,便有了光。          ————舊約聖經《 創世紀》



冰山極光及地的風景畫,幾乎只見於浪漫時期的少數探險家的海景畫。而海景畫Seascape 縱使在西方,可能因為瞬息萬變得難以捉摸,所以除了大航海時代的荷蘭藝術家,基於在運商、船公司量身訂製,出現大批出現蔚為時尚的榮景之外,不可多得。彼時藝術家甚且為了充分彰顯遼闊汪洋的浩瀚遼闊,與船舶商旅的綿延不絕如縷、王室艦隊的數量驚人而氣勢宏偉,彼時的藝術家甚且開發出所謂全景式「海景畫」P 尺幅的特殊規格,繼而沿用至今。

除此之外,在印象派畫家因講求掌握大千世界浮光掠影,而大量利用寫生或攫取自然光的做法,捕捉湖泊江洋稍縱即逝的波光粼洵,最重要的海景詮釋者,大概莫過於英國國寶級藝術家透納(Turner )了。大氣氤氳,萬般迷離,暴風雨前的寧靜,抑或風雨飄搖,水天一色,汪洋中的一條船,隻身赤裸的與天爭、與海爭,儼然形成最震撼人心的史詩畫面。但紀嘉華的作品,即便可置於海景畫系統討論,卻不在於澎湃彰顯折服於超人的力量,斷不是為了歌頌大自然的無垠偉岸,而是描繪出東方名士因明心格物,所以大山大水依然無畏無懼,可以隨遇而安,徜徉於天地汪洋而充滿喻悅,以至於他的這系列作品很有釋家山水繪畫明心見性的「大解脫」、「大自在」的絕妙況味。

俄羅斯藝術家在廿世紀初的實驗性藝術理論,因為係跨領域,所以曾設法為每個調性找出相對樣的色彩,然則究竟獲致多少績效,仍有待商榷。誠然,紀嘉華的色彩計畫,若置於此體系,亦斐然可觀,猶若可對應傳譯譜出一部交響詩。若然,斐德烈赫 (Friedrich )以馬勒 ( Gustav Mahler )為藍本繪製的名作,何異於紀嘉華南極冰洋中曠世的身影?

終了,或許可藉桑德伯格(William Sandberg ) 在 【L'organisation de l'espace 】 一書對風格派大將蒙德里安(Piet Mondrian )的論述為終,作為對紀嘉華作品的詮釋提要:

Painting was no longer a medium for individual expression or a way of grabbling things he (Piet Cornelius Mondrian) saw; it became a way of organizing space. In 1917, Mondrian wrote, "We need courage and strength to weather this period of resonance. It is because we are afraid of that dissonance and wanting to adapt to the past that we are not moving forward. The goal is not to adapt: it is to "create."