Sun Dongdong


Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said a joke in his lecture: A little boy helped a Sister cross the street; the Sister then thanked the boy. The boy gave the puzzling response, “You are welcome, Sister. All Batman’s relatives are my friends.” The humor of this story stems from a pun of the visual image—the contour and color of Batman’s cape resemble those of a nun’s robe—and that fact builds a rhetorical and perceptional relationship between the two unrelated identities in this situation. Apparently, in this joke, the emphasis on communication from eyes to vision is more crucial than such from ears to vision. McLuhan has always exploited the concept of “sense ratios”— meaning how much one depends on the relative relationship of multiple perceptions—to discover and describe people’s physical, sensory, and psychological changes when media mix. McLuhan’s mentioning of this witticism aims to remind the audience that humanity has entered the electronic age; this is a new era, and an all-synchronized world. However, humankind is always a slow accepter when confronting a brand-new era of media, just like the little boy in this joke, who catches an old image (the nun) from the shadow of a new image (Batman). It is just as McLuhan states: “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”


Sister Wendy is a nun in real life. Because of a book titled Sister Wendy’s Story Of Painting, Gao Ludi got to know this British nun, Ms. Beckett, when he was 12 years old (2002). Gao had just begun to learn drawing in his hometown of Zhengzhou, Henan. It was his first teacher—a young man who had just graduated from the painting department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in the mid-1990s—who had recommended this illustrated book about the history of Western painting to Gao, then still a child. Opening this story about the Western masters of painting, he learned of this eight hundred-year stretch of history—from the European Renaissance to the 1990s. These luminaries appeared in front of the boy: Giotto, Uchello, Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Dürer, Bruegel, Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Poussin, Goya, David, Angell, Delacroix, Turner, Courbet, Miller, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Seura, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Daly, Roscoe, De Kooning, Newman, Stella, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Hockney, Bacon, Freud, and Kiefer. As he flipped the pages, images of every artwork refreshed the little boy’s knowledge of painting. “The medium is the message,” according to McLuhan; medium is the extension of humanity, and that medium was now acting on the physical body of Gao Ludi.


Sister Wendy’s writing spreads the general knowledge of painting to the public from her perspective of humanism. The art amateurs read the introductory texts while referring to the illustrations—the avatar of original work—and therefore build up their own sense of the history of painting. However, most of the readers wouldn’t realize they are confronting an environmental effect that derives from a combination and interaction of multiple media: high-definitional image, exquisite printing, and moderate price—a whole set of related media technological forms providing their experience with the artwork. Readers pay attention to the meaning of the content, without noticing the modern methods used to help us see the content. They are able to see details for each piece of artwork, given as examples in the book, without realizing the synchronization between this editing method and the production of a television show—don’t forget that Sister Wendy herself is a host of an art television series on the BBC. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Walter Benjamin had cheered the arrival of an artistic democracy—an era of mechanical reproduction in which the “aura” of the original work had lost its ruling power—while nowadays, paintings replicated as images have to descend into an image-based world, gathering their congregation and inviting them to listen to their sermon.


Gao Ludi has made reference to how Sister Wendy’s Story Of Painting has, frequently, directly influenced him. For example, the works of his teen period have demonstrated the style and language of early Modernism. In accordance with the convention of academic art education in China, Gao should have been training hard in the representational and realist skills of drawing required to pass the college’s entrance’s examination at that time, but should not have considered the idea of the medium being a real painter. Apparently, Gao was artistically premature. In other words, he determined early on the direction of his practice. When Paul Klee said, “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible,” he might have explained how fascinating modernist art is. In fact, after “the end of painting,” painting itself seems to be returned to the hands of “painters.” The boundaries of the medium have also become part of the presentation; in some ways, the so-called “end” is not a solution to the formalist dilemma, but rather a catalyst for freedom from this kind of narrative. Therefore, the contemporary act of painting is no longer an existence beholden to “formal issues” but a kind of practical practice of the aesthetic form. Unfortunately, when painting enters the outside world, the traditional technique of making images must still confront the era of technology. As Hegel remarked that all great historical events occur, as it were, twice, to this Marx added: “[t]he first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”


The difference between those two situations stems from the disappearance of the existing “nature.” Many successors worship Paul Klee as a master of the 1930s, because with just a few seemingly simple strokes, he creates a complete parallel universe to ours on his flat canvases. However, his principle of figuration is an ancient mysticism that connects to the natural. He believes that a supernatural reality is hidden by the representation of nature. Sister Wendy also extols Paul Klee, and interestingly, has never mentioned Gerhard Richter or Sigmar Polke in her volume of 1994—among many other stars that belong to our common memory of painting. The gap between narrating one history and another, of course, shows that the contemporary is an unresolved state. When we accept those who were written in the history, it also verifies, in reverse, the cultural convergence when we perceive our modern visual scenes. Whether Richter’s “aesthetic cynicism” or Polke’s radical irony—although they hold different positions—they are looking at, at the same time, the daily imagery of landscapes and the aesthetic metaphor of the overall perception.


The “end,” from the philosophical sense, does not mean that normal life will stop. On the contrary, we more and more capture and understand our epoch from our daily life. Just as most Chinese people recognize the concept of modernization, for the generation of Gao Ludi’s teacher—or two or three generations before them–modernization is the ultimate dream; whereas for Gao and his generation, the image of modernization is the artificial ready-made world—a gift from this age. They live a media-saturated life, surrounded by computers, networks, smart phones and apps, experiencing every day a reachable and iterative future. In fact, the economic expansion in China over the past 30 years has changed a lot of systematic ecologies. The promotion of the market economy in China has allowed Western culture and art to spread from a privileged class to a generalized urban culture. Staying in between the past and future, the common perception of Gao Ludi, thus, as a painter, as his work increasingly displays an affinity between painting and image, is at the same time linked with a sense of shared global culture.


With cold-toned saturated, fluorescent colors, Gao’s paintings constantly prompt the question of how daily digital display equipment disciplines people’s perception of seeing—the color-matching principle of LED display, image presentation of the backlight, as well as the industrialization of the artificial visual mechanism, are subtly transforming the public’s aesthetics through the visual display world. Industrialized sensory production not only has changed the boundaries of technology and art, but has also changed the boundaries of people’s general and artistic feelings. For instance, a skull, according to Benjamin, is an image full of aura: “Incomparable language of the skull: complete expressionlessness—the blackness of the eye cavities—together with the wildest expression—the grinning rows of teeth.” But when we look at Gao’s images of skeletons (Twelve Skeletons, 2015), Benjamin’s religious sentiment and its sense of distance are eliminated in a fashionable Alexander McQueen-style atmosphere. The collision of color, translucent texture, and rich representational language transmit to viewers the aesthetic pleasure of tactile consumer culture, a plethora of sensory information during the process of materialization from the sensory to the canvas shielding the image that has been eager to be redeemed.


Without redemption, Gao Ludi deliberately suppresses the meaning of images as content. As “the weapon of criticism cannot replace criticism of the weapon,” from the practical perspective, Gao Ludi is still a painter in the narrowest sense. His painting spans the zone between image and reality, breaking the mirror that connects them; those plausible images are the remnants that the painter extracts from the world of imagery. Sometimes, he will try to utilize the same subject repeatedly; in the series of Yellow Peaches, for instance, similar shapes generate different forms of structure. Thus, Gao’s painting is a superposition of a variety of shapes with different features. Sometimes, there even is a seemingly central image in his paintings, though it is still difficult for us to stare at it directly. For example, in Princess (2015), the original image is from a doll design on a music box; in his painting, however, the shadow of the figure is superimposed with a medical 4D scan pattern of organs. The whole image turns out to be a combination of other shapes, and through changing colors and textures, the shapes determine the relationship between plane and space. On the middle-left side of her peplum, a purple plane slightly suppresses the upper half of the white arch and the blue column next to it. Another blue line, farther away from the viewer than the previous one, echoes the blue contour of the central figure. A series of formal arrangements as such continues to extend viewers’ visual depth from the canvas’ plane, until their gazes fall onto the rose hexagon in the center of the painting. In Airport (2016), viewers can clearly perceive Gao’s control of the formal language even though they can hardly distinguish the outline of the airport from the six-meter-long painting. The full integration of the picture is divided into three parts: left, middle, and right. The composition radiates from the middle part outwards to both the left and right sides. The triptych format of the composition, coupled with its complex form and texture give it a resemblance to the material flow of the Big Bang—and the order of the space has naturally existed in the moment of its eruption.


Painters have never faced a blank canvas, because the world has already weaved a structure for them via visual inertia. Gao once made a small painting titled Pharaoh’s Mole (2014), which features a gradually changing color bar that stretches across the Pharaoh’s mask in the middle, reminiscent of Matisse’s famous portrait of his wife. The commonality of these two works across centuries is their subjective use of color. When the experience of perception and epoch are infinitely close, the memory of painting keeps Gao Ludi the painter at a distance from the outside world, in the sense of time. As for the mole on Pharaoh’s mask, let us appreciate a life without any time pressure.



Yang Beichen


Before starting the discussion of Gao Ludi’s artistic practise, I have, from the beginning been abducted or tempted by a certain route of thinking: Before starting to compose this text, out of the blue, I decided to tell the story in reverse. That is, to start from the “conclusion”, although I had no idea then what the ending–or even the starting point—would be, let alone the distance between the two, and the leap it would take to bridge the two. This is more or less a form of inverted detective story: To me, the artist stages in his painting a “crime scene”, as if demonstrating the final outcome of a “crime” regarding painting—you will even be able to find, should you focus on certain details, the artist’s long, cruel, obsessive tortures of this form of art, leaving “evidence” of his crime scattered everywhere; the historical institution and grammar of painting is here dismembered, shattered, and unidentifiable, attached onto which is the artist’s heavy gaze, fingerprints, and the complicated traces of new “criminal” apparatuses. I, on the other hand, have to tread lightly, placing myself in the scene, and forced to imagine and deduce the whole of the “murder” gradually, detail by detail. If the historical mission set by Yves-Alain Bois for paintings from the 1980s onwards was a “difficult task of mourning”[1] a total, irrevocable decay, then Gao’s generation of contemporary painters seemingly is at the moment of reversing the mourning, transforming it into a celebration for the further “appropriation” of painting. The new historical mission they are attempting is exactly the constant “putting to death” of painting: “putting it to death”, constantly, anew; putting it to death “simultaneously” in different moments in time–atemporally. In this sense, contemporary painting is made a “dead” art that is always fresh and energetic, and maybe by assuming this identity, it can, from this moment on, escape from the destiny of zombification that happens in the loop of “death” and “resurrection”.




In an exhibition of Gao Ludi’s paintings, you will first realise that the gallery room is filled with unnamable structures, shapes, and colours, and that a simple label cannot fully describe the work; the formal aspect of a surface comes from an irregular “silhouette” that is itself a slice of reality and “forcefully” placed behind a screen or a filter. One may say “silhouette” or in fact “structure”; this reminds me of David Joselit’s discussion of Duchamp’s 1912 Le Passage de la vierge à la mariée, wherein he explained his concept of a “passage”. To Joselit, “passage” is the infrastructure of modern paintings: “…a continuous, organic infrastructure out of which any number of effects might emerge. In other words, the painting consists of pure relationality without beginning or end.”[2] “Passage” relates to apparent in various material elements in the painting, and it connects the trace to the artist’s subjective handling of the canvas. The passage, therefore, becomes the channel through which the internal interchanges with the external, the subjective interchanges with the objective—in classic modernist paintings, for instance, a passage is formed between the powerful, expressive subject of the artist and the pure form of anti-representation; due to the operation of painting, this passage that comes to the foreground between the persons and the things portrays those elements’ reconciliation and motion. Joselit further proposes that, via “a passage of force through matter”[3] comes one of the greatest inventions of modernist painting: subjectobject. In late abstract expressionism, however, force in the passage gradually becomes “speed” or “velocity”, and this complicates the sign system that was initially pure. Additionally, temporality starts to transcend the spatial demarcation that separates the internal from the external of the painting, and becomes itself a passage that is more significant. In Pollock’s works, for instance, two temporal passages are made possible, at once, as a result of the artist’s exploitation of a unique sweeping technique: The dynamic of a painting as such comes from the fact that it is a visual event that is a sudden compression of itself into a moment of a lot of material handling. Or, the other way around: In the continued, intensive interchange of signs, the painting is infinitely forming, apparently endless—these two affective times that are going in totally opposite directions are simultaneously at work in Pollock’s paintings—the temporal instance par excellence of modernist painting.


After abstract expressionism, seemingly it becomes difficult for painting to maintain its Greenbergian integrity and medium specificity. Instead, it dwells upon a post-medium state of self-reflexivity—now with the acknowledgement that modernist painting is occupied with its own historicity; all “passages” have become historical knowledge’s or art history’s “tour guides”; the “zero degree” canvas that is the quest of the “abstract” is now fully covered by systematic constructions. Anxious on its path to perpetual self-renewal, Douglas Crimp says, modernist painting reveals and amplifies its logical tendency of reduction and reaching a final destination. [4] Post-medium emphasis on deconstruction, on the other hand, merely intensifies painting’s endless debates and struggles with its own convention. Painting, therefore, falls into a pit of discursive medium.[5] How should painting work, after reaching the “end point”? How can it avoid being a zombie on the wall, and operate again as an active medium? Perhaps, contemporary painting can only initiate a new phase in a “network” that is formed by various intersecting “passages”, by placing itself between the networks, yielding itself constant transitions, dislocations, and activations. Only in such a fashion can painting again arrive in the immediate present, and, at once, be beside itself.[6]


A number of paintings shown in Gao Ludi’s exhibition at WHITE SPACE BEIJING in 2015 were based on pictures found on the internet and social networks—anonymous, unreasonable, unidentifiable. One could, however, still feel some “historical” elements: “abstract”, “expressive”, or “pop”, that could not be easily expelled. The geometric forms that are either blown up or shrunken; the intensified yet restrained lines and the rich, saturated colours—all these tell of associations with certain historical . However, unlike the classic use of images in paintings—such as Rauschenberg’s “materialistic” appropriation—Gao attempts to establish a passage to another dimension of the pictures, which goes beyond channeling his own vision through either the artist’s subjectivity or the objecthood of the pictures, and even beyond forcing a rendezvous between these two in the plane of the painting—which, in most cases, produces In short, the artist tries to distill a style that pertains directly to his “message”, or a style that is transitivity itself. The message starts with a specific, worldly scene, is then processed and circulated via social networks; arrives at the interface with which the artist encounters it; and, eventually, is presented on the canvas in the form of a painting. During the process, a number of invisible social and digital networks leave distinctive marks on this piece of message—the eventual painting now merely a record or integration of the marks in a certain moment; on the other hand, painting itself is anticipating a place in the perpetual dislocation that is inevitable in a network: a place in the picture/message/product. Gao’s paintings’ response to Joselit’s description of contemporary painting as a “broadcast medium”[7] (in a recent article, he took the description a step further and called “painting” a “live medium”[8]) is this: Not only is painting spreading its own historical discourse, but it is also operating as an agent, playing a part in a larger network, and at once, simultaneously, feeding this operation back into the system of painting—compelling us to reconsider the existing definition of the internal of the painting. “Abstract” and “expressive”—are these specific to and only specific to painting? Isn’t transmission itself capable of being “abstract” and “expressive” (for instance, the “search by image” function available online, or the image rendering technologies provided by Photoshop)? Upon observing Gao’s multifaceted handling of pictures from social networks, must we then only produce judgments from painting’s perspective? Must we not also acknowledge the various elements with which the transmission takes shape—human/non-human, subject/object, social/technological, for instance—that influence these paintings of distortions? Further, are discussions of “brushstroke”, “the artist’s hand”, or the “bodily aspect”—that is, foundations of medium specificity—still convincing, legitimate?


Furthermore, is it not so that the artist and his subjectivity will have to be altered during the process? In a piece of writing by painter Michael Krebber, the author argues: “In the context of the ‘new spirit of capitalism,’ digital networking, and its socio-cultural effects, the Neo-Expressionist interpellation has grown from an artistic into a social imperative.”[9] It was proposed by a participant of the 2014 MOMA Forever Now roundtable discussion: ”The notion of subjectivity has been changed by the Internet and digital culture in that we are now ‘curators’ of our own influences…Information gathering (research) resulting in strategic positioning has become as big a part of one’s subjectivity as any other social marker or life event.”[10] Under new historical conditions, artists have to face the non-subjective components that are within his or her own subjectivity; be affected by the network; or be placed in a “image obect post-Internet” [11] condition. At the same time, however, he or she will also be able to, through painting, offer us an image with a social life. We can imagine an artist facing the social images: While he or she will be attempting to put experiences and creative skills into practise, he or she will also be touched by the socialised aspects, affects, and possible narratives embedded deep within the image—and “to paint”, perhaps, is exactly the critical moment when he or she struggles with such indecision.




Gao Ludi has recently finished a new painting called Airport (2016). It may be the largest paintings of Gao’s that I have seen; the artist seemingly is obsessed with the motif of the airport, as we have seen a number of existing paintings by the same prolific artist which feature the same motif—though those paintings are much smaller, and therefore appear to be studies for this larger work, or “details” of it. Reading these pieces all together makes things more interesting. Taking the three smaller works as a whole, we see the picture is effectively the spatial relationship between the runway and what is above it, and the two are clearly separated. The rigorous geometrical separation and careful colouring of the runway is in stark contrast to the cheaply digital, cloudy area of colours. The former gains horizontal, extended tension (the zigzag and the arrow-shaped coloured area in Airport C and Airport B especially reinforce such an effect), and the latter brews an illusion of departing from the former, vertically. The whole picture therefore gives birth to a strange sense of speed and of perspective, as if the “Airport” is stretched by horizontal and vertical forces at the same time, possibly moving in both directions—the artist’s signature circular shape here becoming the point at which the whole is balanced. But in the new, large painting, the entirety of the picture appears “speed-less“: it is not because it is stretched horizontally, or that both the sky and the ground are expanded, or even because that the vertical picture is now placed horizontally. Instead, it is because suddenly we are to recognise the special “realist” principle that it observes strictly here: the motion is broken down by the meticulously arranged lines, and the clear cuts between the lines and the coloured areas make the picture proportionate, stable and balanced. Even though there are still strong contrasts from one area to another, the picture remains peaceful, elegant – the only object that has with it an evident sense of motion is the sphere(s) to the right of the painting; because it stays on an angled line, it is going towards the upper right of the painting. If we were to assume that the four paintings of the same motif describe exactly the same place in the same moment, maybe we can conclude that this airport is placed in a state of moving still.


Since viewing Airplane, I have been to the artist’s studio to see the photo after which these paintings were executed. It is just like any other printed cellphone photo, lying on the working table casually, insignificantly, surrounded haphazardly by brushes, paints, and tools. The paintings share with the photo a visual structure; besides the highly individualistic colouring, everything else about the paintings stays loyal to this photo—and as alleged by Gao, “casually”. Judging by the paintings, the photo indeed is careless, even “lifeless”. There is not much composition there, and it is rather dark, with large pixels. But upon close examination, one sees that the paintings resemble the photo’s layering structure and atmosphere; together, they share a moment of “aura”. It is not a sketch in the common sense of the word, of course. It comes close to an experimental visual vivisection with different technologies of examination, due to highly operative, constantly changing locus of the airport. This operation reminds me of László Moholy-Nagy’s claim in the famous Painting Photography Film: “Rather than dying, painting had already been put under the sign of the photography.”[12] To modernists such as Moholy-Nagy, the sequence from painting to photography, then, eventually, to film means a development of motion and progression, and the in-between state of photography places it in a possibility of “dialectics”: “[Photography] ties painting to film, points forward from one to the other, in which the one is at once continued and preserved, transformed and overcome by and in the other.”[13] In other words, this is expanded photography: On one hand, the cellphone picture tries to escape from the historical context provided by painting, such as the laws of composition, image formation, et cetera. On the other hand, it must embrace its medium specificity as a light-sensitive surface. Moholy-Nagy therefore mentions photogram, something like a frame of film, which effectively affiliates photography with film, that is, stillness with motion, and this comes close to the aforementioned moving still.


There is a profound history of painting with assistance from photography. It took a long and gradual development to transition from silver-salt-based photography to film photography, and it also involved the complex visual collaboration between light and man. This comparability brings to early photography a potential, a radicality in terms of the speed of image formation and the scale of observation—apparent in the works of artists, such as some Surrealists, who attempt to abandon the tardiness and imprecision of painting. But contemporary artists like Gao Ludi attempt to, yet again, depart from photography and arrive at painting. From where comes this will? Or, why “paint” a picture, at a time that is infinitely overwhelmingly pictorial?


In my opinion, the four airport paintings create perfectly a metaphor for contemporary pictures. The author of Soft Image points out: ”The moving still is image that displays a paradoxical distribution of stasis and movement via image motion techniques. No longer displaying a fixed view limited by a fixed photographic frame, the digital screen functions as a ‘viewing window’ of a seemingly endless photographic space of which an ever-changing fragment appears within it. But while moving across the screen, the objects remain frozen into their photographic stasis, which means that what is moving here are not the objects themselves but their image: The moving still is both a still image that moves and a moving image that is still.”[14] Cellphone photography, as the most important means of contemporary image production, makes it possible to carry out visual captures of the world. Given our own physical movements, social networks, and easy access to cloud technology, we will also experience half-heartedly that we are carrying the world with us—stillness and motion now absolutely relative. On the other hand, each step of the process of image formation is delivered to us with automatic, immediate digital equipment, and processed and displayed with software. This brings about an utterly “non-human” image, while painting is still fuelled with traces of man’s intervention and fabrication. Photography and painting, therefore, no longer share a basis of collaboration: They are no longer similar to each other in terms of time, speed, and precision. As a result, when a painter “paints” a cellphone photo, or a picture that is a jpeg, he or she faces in fact a “thing” that is utterly objectified—just as is a loaf of bread or a car—and he or she has to grasp the spatio-temporal relationship between himself or herself and the “thing”, but no longer the relationship with the represented content of the photo. Just as Roland Barthes puts it in the famous Le Monde-Objet: “Behold then a real transformation of the object, which no longer has an essence but takes refuge entirely within its attributes.”[15] The world is overwhelmed by photos, and the photos in turn become the only world-object. Gao Ludi’s airport is such: Be it the smaller paintings in motion (though I cannot be certain at the moment whether they are based on a jpeg photo or not), or the larger painting that stands still, the difference between them is not determined by the artist’s specific spatio-temporal perspective, but the live traces or archives of the world in jpeg; regarding a “painterly” expression, besides the artist’s own “sense” and aesthetic handling, the technological aspects of jpeg (for instance, totally digitalised, compressed colours and pixels) are absorbed by the paintings as well. And it forms gradually an invisible but effective system of reference—it becomes natural for the artist to work against the visual effect that is produced as such in photos, or, one may even proclaim that the painter’s task is to, in the language of the plastic art, give birth to a tangible form of a painting of the pixels. As the digital becomes the hegemonic means of observation, and becomes the fundamental apparatus with which the eye and the heart is connected, contemporary painters cannot be onlookers. Their affect regarding the world inevitably enters into a mode of jpeg.



Is it the end or the new beginning of painting? It is like asking whether sketching or still-life is more important, or whether one should work with a raw file or a compressed jpeg file. We are facing merely a new painting object and set, and they are, with their unique properties and standards, already returning to an artist’s creation, Maybe an artist should be starting his or her work by emphasising exactly this, as a new strategy of self-reference. Thomas Ruff’s JPEGs could be a point of reference here. In his series, Ruff compresses a regular digital photo to an extremely small size, then enlarges it to an extremely big one. Each pixel of the jpeg is now fully exposed. Or, in other words, the image disappears in such a process; all that is left is the format. Everything becomes anonymous: Be it the one who takes the photo or the represented content, nothing can be discovered anymore—Ruff perhaps tries to reveal the true nature of image in our time. But does compression necessarily entail loss? Joselit speaks of gain during the process: Meaning accumulates as image loses, regenerates, and further circulates. As demonstrated by Gao’s paintings, we can find anywhere in the world, with any means, a lively way of retrieving a world, though maybe not the original world.




Skulls are proofs of death, and Gao Ludi seemingly is interested in the subject. In the artist’s studio, on a working table, is a model of a skull, shiny because it is made of metal. When I first saw it, however, the first thing that came to mind was a special theme in Western classical still-life: Vanitas. Vanitas focuses on the skull as a symbol of death, surrounded messily and repeatedly by many other objects, such as rotten fruits, scattered instruments, hourglasses, or pocket watches—basically a theatre of depressive objects. Jean Claire speaks of 17th-century Vanitas: “Accumuler les objets, s’en faire une forteresse, bâtir une muraille d’objets inertes et silencieux pour ne pas voir la nuit du monde et ne rien entendre de sa rumeur, tel est le projet mélancolique de qui, sous la richesse apparente, n’entretient jamais que le goût amer de la solitude…”[16] Interestingly, formed on Gao’s working table is a still-life: Surrounding this skull is a number of objects: brushes, pigments, tapes, delivery packs, beer… Haphazardly and silently, they surround this model, not revealing a bit of depression or bitterness, nor are they enclosed or bored. This is the theatre of an industrious artist. His skull model also reminds me of Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God (2007), the luxury that is soaked with pride and glory. The contrast between the Vanitas and Hirst’s piece comes not only from the similarity between the two, but also from Gao’s casual, relaxed, and even retaliatory attitude. Thirdly, I was reminded of Mark Quinn’s Self series. This one might be far-fetched, but I contend: He who is obsessed with and constantly describes faces and heads eventually will try to arrive at he “himself”, the mystery that is he himself.


Gao once talked about his interest in the state of death. But after viewing his skull paintings, I do not think much of this except of his fascination with the particular experience of departing from death to life. The motif of skull, therefore, expresses in his paintings a cheerful sense of vitality. This is especially apparent in the recent Fifty-Five Skeletons: The skulls crowd into a five-story structure that reminds one of a Parisian vault, but emerging from this picture is a layered bustle—and even, thanks to the artist’s meticulous handling of the shapes of the skulls—an illusion of waves. The artist delineates the abstract yet lively individual expressions of the skulls with dots, circles, and coloured shapes, so much so that it looks funny; even those that are not facing the viewer or those that are deliberately left vague are placed carefully in the beauty of the total structure, a beauty of liveliness and elegance.


In other paintings of a singular skull, the relationship between skulls and faces is rendered ambivalent. For instance, a painting titled Face(2016)shows, in fact, a skull. These works are smaller, about the size of a human face. Gazing at these pieces long enough, one is likely to be overwhelmed by a complex feeling; the theme of the paintings becomes serious, all of a sudden: By a twist in time, they become portraits that deal directly with death. One is reminded of Levinas’ solemn interpretation of the double-nature of face: Skull becomes the face of the face, a face of the other that is invisible. It at once resists my regard and power, and seeks a profound association with me—and this gives one chills.





  • Painting is a blind man’s profession.
  • ——Pablo Picasso


The term “Ommateum” comes to mind recurrently since my first visit to the artist’s studio. A sense of ommateum in painting means that the artist’s command of visual expression is incredibly sensitive and broad. He handles with ease new ways of seeing, and—though he is very young—manages to initiate contemporary painting projects that are multifaceted in nature. As Picasso says, a true painter might need to learn to be blinded first. Blinded better, blinded more precisely. This blinding compels new languages, and this means the opening of a truly radical sight.



[1] Yve-Alain Bois, Painting as Model, The Mit Press, 1993, p.243.

[2] David Joselit , “Reassembling Painting”, Achim Hochdörfer (Eds.), Painting 2.0: Expression In the Information Age, Munich: Prestel, 2016, p.169.

[3] Ibid., p.170

[4] Charlotte Mullins eds, Painting People: Figure Painting Today, D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 2008, p.12.

[5] Laura Hoptman, The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, New York:The Museum of Modern Art, 2014, p.22.

[6] David Joselit, “Painting Beside Itself”, October, no.130 (Fall 2009), p.125

[7] David Joselit, “Signal Processing”, Artforum, vol.49, no. 6(Summer 2011).

[8] David Joselit, “Making, Scoring, Storing, and Speculating (On Time)”, Painting beyond Itself: The Medium in the Post-medium Condition, Isabelle Graw, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth (Eds.), New York:Sternberg Press, 2016, p.12.

[9] Tonio Kroner, “Ridiculous Creatures”, Achim Hochdörfer (Eds.), Painting 2.0: Expression In the Information Age, Munich: Prestel, 2016, p.252.

[10] Carrie Moyer,

[11] Artie Vierkant, The Image Object Post-Internet,

[12] László Moholy-Nagy , Painting Photography Film, The Mit Press,1973, p.41.

[13] Carol Armstrong, “Painting Photography Painting”, Painting beyond Itself: The Medium in the Post-medium Condition, Isabelle Graw, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth (Eds.), New York:Sternberg Press, 2016, p.133.

[14] Ingrid Hoelzl, Rémi Marie, Softimage: Towards a New Theory of the Digital Image, Bristol:Intellect, 2015,p.21.

[15] Roland Barthes, Essais Critiques, Paris:Edition du Seuil, 1964,p.23

[16] Jean Clair, Mélancolie. Génie et folie en Occident, catalogue de l’exposition, Paris:RMN/Gallimard, 2005, pp.202-203.




  • Detached in any case, they concern us/look at us, mouth agape, that is, mute, making or letting us chatter on, dumbstruck before those who make them speak (“Dieses hat gesprochen,” says one of the two great interlocutors) and who in reality are made to speak by them. They become as if sensitive to the comic aspect of the thing, sensitive to the point of imperturbably restrained hilarity. Faced with a procedure [demarche] that is so sure of itself, that cannot in its certainty be dismantled, the thing, pair or not, laughs.
  • —Derrida, Truth in Painting


  • Language speaks and asks:
  • “Why am I beautiful?
  • Because my master bathes me.”
  • —Paul Eluard, Capitale de la Douleur(1926)


Actively or passively, the objects in Gao Ludi’s paintings respond to man’s movements, rendering them into various states of abandonment that are not easily identifiable, and in this process indirectly establish relations with men. On the other hand, men’s being there is no less ambiguous; since “there” is a suspended position, we cannot be perfectly certain whether she is “there” or not (and of course we will have to be, as we always are, cautious regarding the placement of quotation marks and parentheses).


The floating sofa, for instance, pertains to an absence Pink Sofa (2015): Be it the one who was here or the one who is about to come, there has to be a subject, specific and irreducible to a faceless figure, with whom the sofa establishes a relation. Although ownership or property is not the most manifest relation here, we will have to, as Heidegger or Shapiro did when they were dealing with Van Gogh’s still lifes of shoes, try to deduce the identity of the owner of the sofa. Or the lack of one.


This pink sofa is definitely not just one piece of furniture among many others. Obviously, its colour speaks before its other properties: Nobody should be owning a pink sofa, in any case. If we are suddenly to take up a conservative position (as so compelled by today’s problem with painting : Before today’s paintings, we can swing, one moment after another, from conservative to radical stances, from one extreme to another. Whether or not the history of painting is terminated, this should at least be part of the significance of the end of painting), we can even proclaim that the aesthetics is immoral, degenerate (what can stop us from using the language of the ethical and the political here?). The functionality of the sofa is enveloped and covered by its strange aesthetics, the hard lines and colour planes together cancelling its comfortability. By definition, comfortability of a sofa comes from its enveloping gesture, “in the sofa”: the state of being totally enveloped by this object, becoming one with it, confused, indefinite, chaotic (though these seemingly are not what Gao is interested in). The moment of the sofa is a moment when I cannot be too sure about my subjectivity, especially because this moment more often than not means other’s invasion into it as well. In this sense, the specific, pink sofa is uncanny – I should be inserting myself into it, making an en-trance, but am instead unwillingly enveloped by this object that comes towards me, and I am fearful of its enveloping movement. Nonetheless, we are reminded of the following message via a certain aspect found in both Gao’s paintings and Paul Eluard’s lines: The role of the owner is not simple, naive; it is also the master, the host, and in many cases, the creator. We are also reminded, at least indirectly, by Woody Allen or Samuel Beckett: The relation between the painting and the sofa is not insubstantial.


Owner, master, host as the creator. My relationship with the sofa is not confirmed on a later date, but is originary. I am the owner, master, host of the sofa, the sofa desires me, camouflages my presence, writes, on behalf of me, my will (“I want to be one with the sofa,” and envision that moment as one appropriate point at which “my” life is terminated) – only because I create out of the void this sofa; I create this thing (the previous relation between me and the thing), because I am the owner, master, host of the thing (the future relation between me and the thing). The opposite statement is not only more provocative (because it is counter-intuitive) but is also more reasonable: I will always be granted the identity of the creator, because of my identity as the owner, master, host.


This double identity alludes not only to Christianity (God’s relation with me). Discursively, we arrive at the Safe Safe (2015), when the problem is further complicated: Maybe we can still claim that I am the owner, master and host of the safe, but I cannot casually name myself the creator at work here anymore. This thing does not relate itself to handicrafts anymore (and thus is no longer even related to the idea of taste). This object is necessarily the result of mechanical reproduction, not of human craftsmanship – there is a difference between the two processes. More importantly, the no-less-colourful but empty safe desires not to keep, maintain or protect, but instead conveys a deserted state of abandonment and even expulsion of its contents (open door, hollow interior – Lao-Tzu’s bowl).


This safe does not desire as the sofa does. Interesting to the empty safe is apparently a movement of externalisation that is known chiefly as banishment. Said Dominique Laporte in History of Shit, “If that which is expelled inevitably returns, we must trace its circuitous path: Shit comes back and takes the place of that which is engendered by its return, but in a transfigured, incorruptible form. Once eliminated, waste is reinscribed in the cycle of production as gold.” In this sense, the possibility of maintenance and protection is secured by the second half of the circular movement: “expulsion”, “banishment”, and “sublimation”. From now on, regarding the framework of painting, we will have to imagine one that fits Gao’s work better than the typical rectangular frame: a circular framework. We can start imagining it now: Gao’s paintings are circular, and make circular movements.


These circular movements circulate the paintings, the manifest traces of such being the circles and round planes on the canvases. We see on the pink sofa two black dots (their presence making the sofa also look like a gas oven); on the safe a number of coloured round planes; many large round planes above the twelve skulls Twelve Skeletons (2015); a furious monkey standing by a large, oppressive coloured circle Monkey (2015); even a small red dot in the foreground of the forest Forest (2015). We can firstly confirm that the circles and round planes in the paintings function as purely geometrical forms. They are visual leads and cues, demarcating the centre of the painting from the margins, and balancing or unbalancing the overall visual effect of each picture. Unlike the numerous straight lines available in the paintings, the circles, dots, and round planes are definitely void of thematic significance. They don’t serve the painting thematically, in other words; the unidentifiable things in the picture could not be reduced via the circular movements to what they are in reality.


Gao seemingly agrees to this point (which point? A circular point?): The circular is to the artist “at hand”, familiar and easily accessible. In a specific but uncertain moment, Gao almost parallels Barthes’ discussion of the metaphor of the eye in the Story of the Eye: freely flowing and taking each other’s place.


In the Story of the Eye, Bataille speaks of the one-becoming-the-other of eyes, eggs, bull’s balls, and many other round things. To Barthes, this free, flat, and steady flow of the circular cannot make this famous novel “deeper” than it is; this is definitely not very “deep” literature. But what is important now is to point out that a similar flow of the circular works in and on the paintings of Gao’s. These circular forms not only disturb the meaning of the act of representation (for example, the cliché of Holbein’s skull, as that which does not belong to this world), but they also assume identities, incarnate in objects: the moon that stares at the panda (Big Panda, 2015), which is a good example of the selective distortion of reality: a “pure” white field that becomes gradually distorted for unknown reasons; the golf ball that is floating behind the player Golf (2015) (again, this is, in all aspects, unreal); the dark-skinned woman’s flashy green earring Female Vocalist (2015), which we will discuss right now); the single internal ball beneath the banana-ribs Banana-ribs (2016); the pink sphere that is simply otherworldly Pink Circle (2016); the two suns on the futurist airport (Airport, 2016); the two spheres in the painting of the purple crow that covers the feathers of the bird and grants the bird with vision – double light Purple Crow (2015): one coming from the sun, the other coming from within – and the comparison between the two portrays strangely the relation between the painting and its subject. These spheres are rendered materialist, bodily, fetishistic, and decorative.

And the decorative nature of the spheres – just as Derrida stated in the first chapter of The Truth In Painting – cannot be ignored. The purely decorative green earring is man-made – unlike the wild flower of Kant’s, which is natural (the background behind the dark-skinned woman, for this reason, becomes very interesting) – but it manages to bring our attention to the idea of internal frame: Starting from this delicate, disproportionately small green earring, to other planes (especially in the smaller paintings: The circular movements within those pieces are seemingly even freer. And, in passing, it should be pointed out that the intimate relation between the smaller paintings and the digital screens in general is another interesting topic), to Bataille and Barthes, we are speaking nothing other than a special trace that manages both to affirm and to cancel the independence and verisimilitude of the paintings. Internal frames and frames as they are conventionally defined regulate the paintings, and together they move to observe and guarantee the illusions and disillusions regarding paintings. Simply, and unexpectedly, the internal frames are circular.

Among the circular internal frames, one that deserves slow and careful examination is the bloody sun Bamboo Forest (2015). The sun is important to the Story of the Eye, and the sun here in the serene scene of the bamboo forest – who can say for certain that this sun, one that shed light on all but is not reflexive by definition, is not a crimson eye? This floating eye, circular as it is, ignores laws; even in the series of circular forms, it is irregular, abnormal, gouged out from its socket, “blind” – but if it were indeed staring at anything at all, it is probably us – the ones blinded by the paintings.

8 12月 2017





  • Detached in any case, they concern us/look at us, mouth agape, that is, mute, making or letting us chatter on, dumbstruck before those who make them speak (“Dieses hat gesprochen,” says one of the two great interlocutors) and who in reality are made to speak by them. They become as if sensitive to the comic aspect of the thing, sensitive to the point of imperturbably restrained hilarity. Faced with a procedure [demarche] that is so sure of itself, that cannot in its certainty be dismantled, the thing, pair or not, laughs.
  • —Derrida, Truth in Painting


  • “语言如是说:
  • 为何我如此美丽?
  • 因为主人将我洗。”
  • —P. 艾吕雅:《痛苦之都》









在巴塔耶《眼睛的故事》中,我们见证了眼睛、鸡蛋、牛睾丸等圆形物件在文本中的转换。如巴特所说,这种自由、平面而稳定的流动并不能让这著名的色情小说变得深邃——这一定不是一个深奥的文学作品。但对于现在的我们重要的是,某种圆形、圆环的流动同样发生于高露迪的众画作之中。这些圆环不仅如上所说在某种意义上干扰了画作中景象的现实意义(就像荷尔拜因那扭曲的骷髅一样——在各种意义上,这不应属于这个世界)但是这些圆形充满野心地继承身份,变成现实的物件:这圆环也是与熊猫相望的月亮《大熊猫》(2015) 对于现实的选择性扭曲在此得到充分的体现:所有的“纯粹的”白色出于不明显的原因被逐一扭曲;飘浮于球手身后的高尔夫球(再次地,这白色圆形的无动态状况选择直接扭曲现实,《高尔夫》(2014);圆环成为了那位深色皮肤女歌手几乎不可见的左耳下的抢眼的绿色耳环(我们将马上讨论这重要的装饰性,《女歌唱家》《2015);香蕉组成的肋骨之下的单一、存于体内的睾丸状圆球《香蕉肋》(2016);那不知是何物的粉色圆球《粉圆》(2016);那未来主义式充满速度感的机场上的两个太阳《机场》(2016);紫色乌鸦画中的两个圆环不仅如光一样遮盖了乌鸦的羽毛,也给予了这乌鸦以视觉——双重光《紫乌鸦》(2015):来自太阳的以及来自自身的,将这两者提出相提并论已逐渐地将这画作与画作主体乌鸦自身的特性置于一个奇异的对立关系之中……这些圆环因而为自身附上了物质属性,身体属性,商品属性及装饰属性。






在对于高露迪创作展开的可能讨论中,我从最初便受到某种思考路径的挟持或者诱惑——在开始写作这篇文章之前,我便凭空决定要为其采取“倒叙”的形式,即从“结论”出发逆推,即便当时我并不清楚终点与起点到底是什么,以及它们之间存在着怎样需要被跨越的距离。这大致是一种倒叙推理(inverted detective story)的方法:于我而言,艺术家在他的绘画中布置了一个“案发现场”,仿佛在展示一场针对绘画进行的“犯罪”的最终成果——你甚至可以从某些局部发现他对于这个媒介漫长、残酷、执迷的刑求与折磨,到处都是散落的“证据”——绘画的历史体制与语法已被肢解,击碎,不可辨识,其上附着着艺术家浓重的视线、指纹以及采用新“作案”工具介入时遗留的复杂痕迹;我则必须非常小心地将自身置于这个场景中,从细节层面逐步去想象以及复原这场“谋杀”的全过程。如果说Yves-Alain Bois为1980年以来的绘画制定的历史任务是“艰难的哀悼”(difficult task of mourning)[1],哀悼一场无可挽回的衰败,那么高露迪这一代的当代画家似乎在将这种哀悼反转为对于进一步“剥夺”绘画的庆祝,他们试图完成的新的历史任务恰恰是令绘画不断“死亡”,不断以新的方式“死亡”,在不同的时间——非时间中(a-temporality)—— “同时”死亡。从这个角度出发,当代绘画(contemporary painting)将是一位永远鲜活、充满能量的“死者”,也许可以就此摆脱在循环往复的“死亡”与“复活”(resurrection)之间沦为“僵尸”的命运。





步入高露迪的绘画现场,你首先会发觉其间充满了难以名状的结构、形状与颜色,却无法以简单的标签命名这些作品——画面的造型感来自于现实世界的切片被“强行”拖入某种透镜或滤镜视野后构成的异常“轮廓”,或者说“结构”——这让我联想起另一个艺术史家大卫·乔斯利特(David Joselit)在分析杜尚1912年立体主义时期的作品《童贞女到配偶的过程》(Le Passage de la vierge à la mariée)时采用的概念,“通路”(passage)。乔斯利特认为“通路”是现代绘画(modern painting)的一种“基础结构”(infrastructure):“一个连续、有机的基础结构, “通路”即是具备独有特征(mark)的关系性:一方面作为画面内部各物质元素运动的轨迹,另一方面又将艺术家对于画布的各种主体化操作与此轨迹衔接,这令其成为了画面内外以及主客体转化的发生渠道——比如在经典的现代主义绘画中,艺术家强大的表现性主体与反再现的纯粹形式之间便构成了一条通路,人(persons)与物(things)的关系由于绘画行动的进行而呈现出一种调和(reconciliation)与运动(motion)的趋势。乔斯利特进一步提出“经由物质的力的通路”(a passage of force through matter)[3] 而产生的“主-客体”(subjectobject)是现代主义绘画的伟大发明之一。然而在晚近的抽象表现主义中,通路中的“力”逐渐转向“速度”(或“速率”,velocity),速度使得原本纯粹的符号系统变得混杂,而时间性开始超越画面内外之空间区分,成为更为显著的通路。例如在波洛克的作品中,由于艺术家独特的卷入方式令两条时间通路同时成为可能:画面中的动能来自大量物质操作被迅即压缩入一个瞬间而形成的视觉事件,或恰恰相反,在不同符号(sign)持续、剧烈的相互转换中,画面始终处于无止境的生成之中,显得永难完结——两种逆行的情动时间(affective time)共存于其中,成为了现代绘画的经典时间样式。


在抽象表现主义之后,绘画似乎再也难以保持其格林伯格意义上的整全性(integrity)与媒介特殊性(medium specificity),而是愈发陷入一种高度自我指涉(self-reflexive)的后媒介(post-medium)状态——即便是现代主义绘画也已具有自身的历史性(historicity),所有“通路”都业已成为历史知识或者艺术史“导览”路线,“抽象”所试图实现的“零度”(zero degree)画布早已布满了前人留下的系统性工程。在不断追求自我更新的焦虑中,正如道格拉斯·克兰普(Douglas Crimp)所言及的,现代绘画“‘逻辑上’趋向于减少并最终到达一个终点” [4]的特征愈演愈烈;而后媒介条件下对于解构的强调其实只是强化了绘画与其惯例(convention)之间无尽的辩论与斗争,绘画因此愈加跌落入一种话语媒介(discursive medium)[5]的境地。在“终点”之后绘画如何行动?如何避免沦为挂在墙上的“僵尸”,而再次更新为能动的媒介?也许只有在由不同“通路”交错形成的“网络”(network)中,在网络之间的传动(transmission)中,在不断的转场(transition)、异位(dislocation)、激活的过程中,当代绘画中才能启动新的面向——只有这样,绘画才能又一次成为直接的现场,并处于“自身之外”(beside itself)[6]


高露迪去年于空白空间的同名个展上,很多绘画的原型图片(picture)来自网络与社交媒体,匿名,无来由,无法识别。然而在展览现场,我们依然可以明确体会到某些“历史”因素——无法驱散的所谓“抽象”、“表现”或“波普”意味:那些或膨胀或收缩的几何结构、充满张力又极为克制的线条以及鲜艳、饱和的色泽,似乎都在向我们提示这些作品与某些历史通路的关联。不过,与经典的绘画征用图片的方式不同——比如劳申伯格的“物质性”挪用(appropriation)——高露迪试图与这些图片的另一层次建立通路,而这个通路既不仅仅通向艺术家的主体性,或者图片的物性(objecthood),甚至亦不是它们在绘画平面相遇而滋生的艺术史投射。艺术家在此试图提炼某种关于“信息”本身的风格,或者一种传递性(transitivity)自身的形式感。这个信息从一个具体的现实场景开始,经由社交媒体的处理、流转,再到艺术家接触到它的界面,并最终以绘画方式呈现在画布上,此过程中众多不可见的社会与数字网络都在该信息上留下了自己的印记,而绘画则仅仅是在某一特定时刻对于这些印记的“记录”或“整合”;而另一方面,绘画本身也在等待进入网络带来的永不停歇的异位之中,成为一张图片/信息/商品。在这个意义上,高露迪的绘画正呼应了乔斯利特将当代绘画称之为一种“广播媒介”(broadcast medium)[7]的断言(在最近的一篇文章中他甚至将绘画定义为“实况媒体”(live medium)[8]):绘画不仅在传播自身的历史话语,也同时作为一个行动者(agent)充当外在更庞大网络中的一个环节,同时亦将这种行动反馈回绘画的系统中——这使得我们需要重新审视绘画内部的既有定义:“抽象”与“表现性”难道只是绘画的专有属性吗?难道这种信息传递本身不就带有“抽象”与“表现性”的特征吗(比如互联网的图像搜索功能或Photoshop的渲染技术)?当我们观察高露迪作品中对于来自社交媒体的图片进行各种图像层面的操作时,难道我们只能从绘画的立场出发进行判断?而不是认为这些变形同时也携带着复杂传递过程中那些人/非人、主体/客体、社会/技术因素的影响?进而“笔触”(brushstroke)、“手感”或者“身体性”这些媒介特殊性的立论基石是否还具备说服力?


甚至,艺术家以及他的主体性在这种进程中不也连带产生了变化?在一篇关于画家Michael Krebber的评论文章中,作者强调:“在‘资本主义的新精神’——数字网络及其社会[9] 而在2014年纽约现代艺术博物馆的展览“Forever Now”的相关圆桌会议中,一位与会者亦指出:“主体性的概念已经随着互联网与数字文化——于其中我们是施加在自己身上的影响的‘策展人’——改变了……作为策略配置的信息收集(研究)在一个人的主体性中已经变得与其他社会标签或生活事件一样重要了。”[10]在新的历史条件下,艺术家不得不持续面对自身主体性中的非主体部分,被网络的各种情动力(affects of network)所波及,或处于后网络式的“图像客体”[11]处境,但同时,他亦可以通过绘画给予图像以某种社会生命(social life)。我们可以想象,艺术家在面对那些社会图像时的状态:当试图运用他磨炼已久、富有创造性的绘画技艺时,他亦被这些图像内部深层次的社会化属性、情感以及可能的叙事所触及——而“去绘画”也许恰恰是他在二者之间迟疑不决(indecision)的瞬间。





高露迪刚刚完成一张名为《机场》(2016)的新作,也许是我目前看到他尺幅最大的作品——艺术家对于“机场”这个意象有着独特的迷恋,在他之前的大量创作中我们也能发现几张以机场为主题的作品,但尺幅小许多,显得仿佛为准备这件新作进行的习作,或者可视为新作的局部“特写”。然而将它们一并观看可以得到更加有趣的体验:在三幅小画作中,画面其实被处理为跑道与其上部非跑道之间的空间关系,且二者的区域有着明确的分隔。跑道严格的几何规划与谨慎的配色,与非跑道近乎劣质数字渲染效果的云团状斑驳色块泾渭分明,前者在水平方向获得了延伸的张力(尤其《机场C》与《机场B》中梯形箭头状色块强化了这种效果),后者则在垂直方向涌动着脱离前者的错觉,进而画面内焕发出某种奇异的速度感与透视效果,似乎“机场”正在被同时发生在水平与垂直方向的两股力量拉扯,在两个方向上都存在运动的可能——而艺术家标志性的圆点此时便成为了稳定整体的节点所在。然而在新作中,整个画面呈现出“失速”的状态,却并不因为横截面被拉长,天空与地面的部分都得到了扩展,抑或将原本纵向的图像横置造成的颠倒感,而是我们突然察觉到其遵循着特别“纪实”的原则:线条与线条之间的紧凑铺排“拦腰截断”了动势,线条与颜色圈拢的区块之间明确的边界使得比例的调配稳定且平衡,即便相近区块的颜色对比强烈,也无法掩饰整体散发出的安静与典雅的气氛——唯一带有明确运动趋势的是右侧的(双)球体,因为与一条倾斜的主线条相切,其作势向右上方离去。如果假定四幅画作都在描绘同一地点的同一时刻,那么我们也许可以说这座机场正处于某种“运动的静物”(moving still)状态。


后来我在艺术家的工作室发现了这幅新作的原型照片,就像任何一张被打印出来的手机照片一样,它毫不起眼的与其他绘画工具一起被散乱的摆放在工作台上。画作与照片确实有着非常吻合的视觉结构,除却颜色方面艺术家进行了富于自己特色的调整外,其他部分基本忠实于这张据说是“随手拍摄”的图片。如果从绘画反观,照片无疑是漫不经心的,甚至可以说“了无生气”,构图并不甚考究,颜色沉暗,像素颗粒明显,但仔细观察,画作中的层次感与氛围都与照片相仿——它们似乎分享着共同的“灵韵”(aura)时刻。当然,这不并是一种“写生”,而是接近于利用不同类型的观察技术,对机场这个处于高速运转、时刻发生变化的地点进行的视觉切片实验。这令我想起拉兹洛·莫霍利-纳吉(László Moholy-Nagy)在他的名著《绘画-摄影-电影》(Painting Photography Film)中的主张:“与其说绘画正在死亡,不如说她被置于摄影的签名之下。”对于莫霍利-纳吉那一代的现代主义者而言,从绘画经由摄影抵达电影的序列是一种动力与进步的进程,而摄影的居间状态令其处于某种“辩证”的可能之中:“(摄影)将绘画与电影连接起来,将一方指向另一方,最终实现一方对另一方的扬弃([13]换句话说,这是一种处于扩张中的摄影(expanded photography):一方面试图摆脱绘画为其提供的历史语境,诸如构图原则,成像机制的原理等,另一方面,又必须拥抱自身作为光感界面(light-sensitive surface)的媒介特殊性。莫霍利-纳吉因此提到了底片曝光片(photogram,或译为“黑影摄影”),类似于胶片的一格,其将摄影与电影的属性统一起来,即集静止与运动于一身——与上文我们提及的“运动的静物”异曲同工。




在我看来,高露迪的四张关于机场的作品完美缔造了一则关于当代图像的隐喻。在《软图像》(Softimage)一书中,作者敏锐地指出:“手机摄影作为当代图像最重要的生产工具,随时可以令我们对世界展开图像层面的捕捉,而随着我们的移动、社交媒体以及云端的存在,我们亦恍惚感到自己携带着世界而行——静止与运动在此都变得无比相对。在另一层面,数码技术将成像的整体过程交付于数字设备的自动性与即时性,以及软件/应用对于图像的处理与保证,而这恰恰造就了一种彻底“非人”的图像。绘画则依然充满了人的介入与塑造的痕迹,进而摄影与绘画在最初阶段得以合作的基础已然消失:在时间、速度与精确度方面,它们已毫无共性可言。而这造成的结果是:当画家去“画”一张手机照片,或者说jpeg格式的图片时,他面对的其实是一个彻底对象化的物(thing)——如同面对一块面包或一辆汽车一样——他需要把握的是自身与该“物”之间的时空关系,而不再是与图片中再现内容的关系。类似罗兰•巴特在其讨论荷兰静物画的著名散文《世界客体》(Le Monde-Objet)中阐述的:“这便是对象的一种真正的转移,该对象不再具有本质,它完全躲进其属性之中。”[15]世界彻底隐没在照片之中,照片成为了唯一的对象-世界(world-object)。高露迪的“机场”便是如此,无论处于动势的小幅作品(虽然我目前仍然无法确定它们是否也是根据jpeg照片绘制的),还是处于静态的大幅作品,动静的差异并非来自艺术家特定时空的主体视角,而是世界于jpeg格式中存留的即时痕迹或档案;而“绘画”层面的表达,除却艺术家自身的“手感”与审美操作以外,那些jpeg格式的技术特征(比如完全数字化的压缩色彩与像素)亦同时进入了绘画,且越来越成为不可见却具有效力的参照系统——艺术家已经在不知不觉“临摹”由此产生的图像效果,甚至可以说,画家的工作是利用造型语言的方法给予像素以某种可见的绘画形式。随着数字技术越来越成为观察世界的霸权方式,成为连接我们“眼与心”之间的基本工具,当代画家亦无法置身事外,他们对于世界的情动感应业已不可避免地进入到一种jpeg模式。


这究竟是绘画的末日还是新的起点?这就像追问到底户外写生重要还是室内静物素描重要,抑或应该选择无损的原始图像(raw)还是压缩的jpeg一样,我们面对的只是一种新的绘画对象与情景,且这些对象与情景已携带着自身的属性与标准回返至艺术家的创作中,亦成为一种重置与激活的过程。也许艺术家恰恰应该针对这种情景或对象展开工作,一种新的自我指涉的策略。托马斯·鲁夫(Thomas Ruff)开启的JPEGs在此可以成为一种参照。在这个系列创作中,鲁夫将一张正常的数码照片压缩至极小的分辨率,再解压为极大的分辨率,在这种极端的操作下,jpeg的像素格彻底被暴露出来,或者说,图像本身已经消失,而格式成为了唯一的在场。一切都变得匿名,无论是它的拍摄者,还是其再现的内容,都已无从考据——鲁夫在此也许试图揭示的正是我们这个时代图像的真正本质。但压缩仅仅意味着“损失”(loss)吗?乔斯利特在一篇文章中便强调压缩在损失的同时亦带来了一种“收获”(gain):意义会在图像不断丧失、再生与进一步流转之间获得进一步的累积。正如在高露迪绘画中呈现的那样,我们可以在任何地方、以任何方式找到寻回一个世界的生动方式,即便那已不再是原有的世界。





骷髅是死亡的证据,而高露迪似乎对展示这种证据情有独钟。在艺术家工作室的一张工作台上有一个翻制的骷髅头模,由于是金属锻造,其上一直散发着明亮的光泽。然而我在第一次看到这具骷髅头时,首先想到的却是西方古典静物画的一个特殊主题,“虚空”(Vanitas)。“虚空”画总是以象征死亡的骷髅头作为画面的中心,围绕其散乱、重复地布置上诸多不同事物,衰败的水果,散置的乐器,意喻生命短暂的沙漏与怀表等等——类似于一个忧郁的物的剧场。让•克莱尔(Jean Claire)有一段对一幅17世纪虚空画的描述:“储集物,打造一座堡垒,建一堵由惰性与寂静事物构成的墙,为了不看到世界的黑夜,也不再听见她的嘈杂,这就是一种忧郁的方案:在表面的丰富之下,永远难以延缓的孤独的苦涩滋味。”[16]有趣的是,在高露迪的工作台上也自然形成了一幅静物画:围绕这具骷髅头同样布满了物件:画笔,颜料,胶带,刚刚收到的快递,啤酒……它们杂乱无章又默默地环绕着这模具,却丝毫不忧郁或苦涩,亦不封闭与厌世,显现的是一处艺术家兴奋工作的剧场。他的骷髅模型给予我的第二联想则是赫斯特的《For the Love of God》(2007),那件彻底渗透着胜利感与荣耀感的昂贵之物。这与第一联想极端冲突的印象似乎并非只来自二者形态上的近似,而是高露迪对于骷髅这种不祥之物同样采取了一种轻松甚至反噬的态度。第三个联想则是Mark Quinn的《Self》系列,也许这一次过于牵强,但我始终认为:一个对于人脸或者头部执迷并不断强迫性描述的人,其最终试图抵达的是他“自身”,他的自我之谜。









  • “绘画是一项盲人的事业。”
  • Painting is a blind man’s profession.
  • ——巴勃罗•毕加索