余友涵:艺术是我最好的生活YOUHAN YU: ART IS MY BEST LIFE

Vantage Shanghai - - CONTENTS / 目录 -

Yu's latest works and some of his earlier works were first seen in his solo exhibition “The Representational and the Abstract" in the ShanghART Gallery at West Bund. It is well known that representational elements and abstract elements blend into each other in Yu's works and are very distinct characteristics in his painting language. It is the distinctive feature of his painting language and style. How did the style of his creation start? Well, that dates back to the 1970s.

In the 1970s, when many of his peers went to the mountainous areas and the countryside, Youhan Yu was recovering from an illness in Shanghai. He drew in his spare time. After recovering, he was assigned to Shanghai Art & Design Academy as a teacher. During the teaching period, Youhan Yu taught students while strengthening his own painting ability. Although the conditions back then were limited, Yu was optimistic. He said with a smile, “My creative conditions were not too difficult at that time. Although there was a slight shortage of goods, there was always a way to solve the problem.”

So, relying on the convenience of being a teacher, Youhan Yu was exposed to more western art information, and doing research on all kinds of traditional Chinese art and the western modernist art genre. At this period, Yu had already started the creation with the theme of a representational landscape and still life. Because where he taught was far away from downtown, he only went back home once a week. Instead, he used time to teach, work on his creations and discuss art with a group of like-minded friends. That was his day to day life.

近日,在香格纳画廊西岸空间的个展《具象 · 抽象》上,余友涵的最新作品以及部分早期作品首次露面。众所周知,在余友涵的作品中,具象元素与抽象性相互交融渗透,是其绘画语言中极其鲜明的特点,而其风格的产生,还要追溯到他投身绘画的上世纪70年代。

当时,许多同龄人在上山下乡的时候,余友涵正在上海家中养病,闲余之时还可以画画。病好后,他则被分配到上海工艺美术学院当老师。教学期间,余友涵一边给学生上课,一边自行加强自己的绘画能力。虽然当时的条件有限,但余友涵却十分乐观,他笑着说道:“当时我的创作条件并没有太大的困难。虽然物资方面略有短缺,却是能够想办法解决的。”

就这样,余友涵依靠着做老师的便利条件,接触到了更多的西方艺术资料,并且着手从各类中国传统艺术和西方现代主义艺术流派中做研究。这个时期的余友涵,其实已经开始了以具象的风景和静物为主题的艺术创作,因为教书的地方距离市区很远,他便一周只回家一次,其余时间一直在教书、创作,和一群志趣相投的朋友讨论艺术,三点合一线地往复。

这段长达十年的自学研究,让余友涵总结出了中西艺术的美学共性——对具象事物的主观提炼后的概括,即是抽象。很快地,他不再只是单纯地去模仿学习,而是开始探索自己的艺术语言。

The ten-year self-study helped Youhan Yu to summarize the aesthetic commonalities of Chinese and western art - the generalization of the subjective refinement of a representational object is an abstraction. Soon, instead of simply imitating and learning, he began to explore his own art language.

Youhan Yu's earliest abstract works, "The Circle" series, was born at this time point. At that time, China was in the midst of rapid modernization and construction, and many new structural forms of ideological and cultural activities emerged in China. Youhan Yu immediately had an idea about the creation with the theme of Modern Chinese Painting. After years of immersion in the art environment, he decided to use abstraction as his main style. “In order to reflect China's modernity at that time, I want to use the brushwork to reflect the artistic calligraphy feature of Chinese painting, with relatively onefold hue to reflect China's aesthetic idea. And the basic shape ‘circle' can reflect the spirit of nature”. In 1985, Youhan Yu established the most well-known classic works "The Circle" series in his early stage, and this also marked the formation of his abstract work style. Simple units were combined in different directions, which resulted in thousands of changes.

The creations of Youhan Yu are both linear and cyclical. In the early 90s, a group of famous Pop series leaders' portraits were born under his brush. In the late 1990s, he created the “Ah! We” series, which were representational works with the theme of the Chinese nation. He expressed his affection for his own people and then turned to the scenery and resumed his exploration on the abstraction. For this, the artist said with a faint smile, “Art is not about how new your ideas are, but how far you can go in this concept, and what is unique to you. The art that blindly pursues new stuff has more ideas and strangeness but also lacks internal value.”

Entering the millennium, the cities developed rapidly. Almost everyone in the city was under pressure from the rapid changes, presenting a state of extreme tension and depression. In the summer of 2002, the school organized an activity to travel to the Yimeng Mountain of Shandong province. This sketching experience made Yu feel a completely different atmosphere from the city. “I like the natural scenery and the simple people there, it's much more intimate than the urban environment,” Yu said with a smile on his face. It is not hard to see that the Yimeng Mountain series is not only the ideal pursuit of Youhan Yu, but also reflects his concerns about reality.

Everything today is as quick as a flash, even faster than “A Thousand Li a Day” back then. Everything goes so fast, and so many people are still holding the deep cultural foundation in their hands. Yu has always distanced himself from any "social circle" and rarely socialized, but he has a clear view of the creative environment of Chinese contemporary art. “In the world of art, you should not try to make a difference with the amount of your works”. Therefore, he always advocated to break the narrow part of art, and intersect different artistic languages on the painting. Using the spirit of innovation, he creates. Whether the Terracotta Army which showed under the sky because it interlaced with modern time and space, or the newly completed Moonlight with great richness, they all reflect the creative way that Youhan Yu's art is closely connected with life.

“So I drew. I can only draw. Because I like it, just like Duchamp likes to play chess. Duchamp said that his life is his best art. But I say my art is my best life.” Yu said painting is the most basic need of his life. Even though he is now over 70, he still holds a brush and paints on the canvas, dedicated to the pursuit of artistic creation.

余友涵最早的抽象作品“圆”系列,便诞生于这个时期。当时的中国正处于现代化建设的热潮之中,涌现了许多新的结构形式的思想文化活动。余友涵当时就有了一个创作以中国现代绘画为主题的想法。长年浸润在艺术环境中的他,决定用抽象作为主要风格特点。“为反映当时中国的现代性,我想用笔触来体现中国画的书写性,用相对单一的色调来体现中国的审美观念,而‘圆形’这个宇宙基本形状则能体现道法自然的精神”。1985年,余友涵确立了早期最为人所熟知的经典作品“圆”系列风格,同时标志着其抽象作品风格的形成——简单的个体通过不同的方向聚合在一起,其可以出现千变万化的结果。

余友涵的创作是线性而又循环的。上世纪90年代初,一批著名的波普系列领袖画像诞生在他的画笔之下。90年代后期,余友涵创作出了以中华民族为题材的具象作品“啊!我们”系列,表达了他对自己民族的情感关怀,尔后转向风景,重回抽象的道路上继续探索。对此,艺术家淡然一笑“:艺术不在于你的观念有多新,而在于你在这个观念里能走得多远,产生了什么自己特有的东西。一味求新的艺术多了观念和奇异,反而少了内里的价值。”

进入千禧年,城市高速发展,都市中几乎所有人都处于快速变化所带来的压力之下,呈现出一种极其紧张和压抑的状态。 那是2002年的一个夏天,学校组织了一次到山东沂蒙山的采风活动,该次写生考察经历,令余友涵感受到了与城市完全不同的气氛。余友涵面带笑容地回忆道“:我喜欢那里天然的风景和淳朴的人民,比都市环境要亲切得多。”不难看出,“沂蒙山”系列既是余友涵的理想追求,也体现了他对现实的担忧。

风驰电掣的今时今日,更甚当年的“一日千里”,万物走得如此之快,深厚的文化根基还有多少人端在手里。一直以来,余友涵总是疏离于任何一个“圈子”,极少社交,但他非常清醒地看待中国当代艺术的创作环境,“在艺术的世界舞台上,不应以数量去说话”,于是他一贯主张打破艺术狭隘,将不同的绘画语言相交于架上绘画,以革新的精神,将旺盛的创造力迸发在笔酣墨饱之下。无论是与现代时空交错而跃然于天空下的兵马俑还是新近完成的极具丰富性的《月色》,无不体现了余友涵对身体力行的艺术紧密联系生活的创作方式。

“所以我画,我只能画。因为我喜欢,就像杜尚喜欢下棋一样。杜尚说他的生活是他最好的艺术。我说我的艺术是我最好的生活。”余友涵说,绘画是他生活中最基本的需要。纵然如今年过古稀,仍手持一杆画笔,在画布上笔耕不辍,致力于艺术创作的追求。

从左图起FROM LEFT展览现场 Exhibition Site《斗兽场》Colosseum

左页起顺时针CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT PAGE《抽象》Abstract《20131231》20131231展览现场 Exhibition Site《静物1979-17》Stationary Objects 1979-17

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