陳惠黛 / 羅芙奧季刊第12期 2015/02 / 2015-01-30
那天友人問起，華人藝術家中有沒有「普世藝術家」？所謂普世藝術家，意指能跨 領域、跨時代、跨文化、超越知識水平的差距，面向全人類的藝術家。就像是西方藝術家中有莫內、梵谷或是安迪‧渥荷，畫風深植人心，一眼即可辨識？仔細思索 記憶，華人的傑出藝術家不少，但要成為「普世藝術家」就必須有知名度及國際性。張大千、趙無極等，或許不能算是。在我的記憶所及，或許有一位比較接近普世 藝術家的標準，他是華裔美籍藝術家丁雄泉，數十年前他的繪畫圖像已普及全世界。
丁雄泉一生走過無數的國度，親身參與當代藝術運動，見多識廣，知名度跨越國際，收藏家遍佈全球。1977年時曾獲得古根漢紀念基金會的繪畫類獎助 金。舉凡世界級重要的藝術博物館大都有典藏他的作品：例如美國的舊金山現代美術館、紐約古根漢美術館、紐約大都會博物館、費城博物館、波士頓美術館、芝加 哥藝術學院、底特律藝術中心、匹茲堡卡內基學院；英國倫敦的泰德畫廊；法國巴黎的東方藝術博物館；荷蘭的阿姆斯特丹市立美術館；亞洲台灣的台北市立美術 館；中國的香港藝術館、上海美術館等。
1929 年(有一說1928年)，丁雄泉出生於江蘇無錫，成長於上海。童年時期開始在街頭作畫，曾經進入上海美專短暫學習，然而天生海派的個性，終究無法適應學院 式的教學，他自詡為素人畫家，隨自由意志創作，成功地創造自我。1946年移居至香港生活，1952年曾於西希爾飯店舉辦個展，發表創作，隨後轉赴法國巴 黎遊學六年，展開他的藝術冒險。
崛起於1940年代末、1950年代初期歐洲的眼鏡蛇畫派，畫派成員與丁雄泉志趣相投，互結好友，在法國巴黎與比利時布魯塞爾的畫廊共同舉辦畫展。 1958年丁雄泉轉往紐約發展，迎上抽象表現主義的時代浪潮，甚至與後來還慧眼發掘安迪‧渥荷的專才，與之成為「普普藝術」運動的一員。丁雄泉的瀟灑浪漫 性格，與眼鏡蛇畫派強調自我表現的風格相得益彰；抽象表現主義不以具象描繪為目標，利用點、線、面、色彩、形體、構圖來傳達各種情緒，相當契合其特質；普 普藝術肯定現世，文化親和的姿態，也和丁雄泉重視趣味、大眾化的特色相近。
從創作形式來看，先擇黑白油彩的抽象畫，之後轉向彩色具象繪畫。而女體使終是 丁雄泉最膾炙人口的主題。1950年代末，丁雄泉探索濃烈的性題材，因對於情慾、女體的迷戀，丁雄泉真誠的在繪畫中傳達他的情感。在紐約時期濃烈的筆觸， 透過形色主觀表達情緒，發展一系列抽象表現主義風格創作。1970年代後畫風從抽象轉變至具象，手法更為流暢。1975年前後他創作一批「愛我愛我」系 列，大量投入美女圖的創作。1975年甚至創作超大幅的《世界小姐》巨畫，寫入個人里程碑，獲得國際級美術機構的認同。
有段時期他的裸女畫也呼應古典題材、賦予新意，例如向西班牙大師致敬的《哥雅的情人》(1977)，和眼鏡蛇畫派好友柯奈爾合作的《阿姆斯特丹維納 斯》(1987)。1987年春天在阿姆斯特丹旅行兩個月，為66位年輕美女模特兒畫素描、拍照，返回紐約之後，憑著記憶，完成一本畫集《美麗佳人》裡的 數十幅畫作，融入異國風情，個人語彙鮮明。這些皆是他的代表裸女畫作品。
1980年代開始嘗試在宣紙上作畫，融合壓克力與彩墨的色彩，風格成熟，線條勾勒輪廓線，注入更多東方的美學概念。1990年代探索中國山水畫，完 成一系列以桂林山水的圖畫。1990年代中期日本遊歷後，創作不少以藝妓相關的畫作，添加東方的元素。經年往返阿姆斯特丹、紐約生活，後期的繪畫充滿花 卉、鸚鵡、馬、貓等歡愉的題材，也使得他的繪畫容易貼近人心。
這些是1974年前後丁雄泉寫的短詩，以鋼筆墨水在明信片上酣快揮灑，文字間透露著多情浪漫，分享給遠方的故舊。他是一位盡情享受生活，喜愛書寫塗 鴉的畫家，信手拈來的短詩，有時讀來臉紅心跳，如同他的畫，大膽、鮮麗而熱情。他畫文字、繪畫歌頌這些美好。丁雄泉說：「每一次我看見美麗的女人就會聯想 到鮮花，鮮花的美使我愛，使我新鮮。我畫上的女人、貓、鮮花、鳥，都在表現新鮮，在新鮮中藏著美。」
丁雄泉從1960年代開始出版詩畫集，歷年代表作如《我的糞及我的愛情》 (1961)、《一分人生》(1964)、《中國月光》(1967)、《酸辣湯》(1969)、《紅唇》(1977)、《採花大盜戲筆─宣紙繪畫》 (1984)、《夢》(1995)等。若想要多瞭解這位才華洋溢的藝術家，除了欣賞他的繪畫演進，閱讀他的詩文，則更能深刻瞭解其中的創作意涵。
在他的詩集中以1964年的《一分人生》尤為重要，它是丁雄泉的抒情詩畫集，由畫家好友山姆‧法蘭西斯編輯，邀請了多位藝術家朋友繪石版畫插圖，製 作費時多年才完成。美國藝術史學家及策展人芮娃‧卡索曼(1930-2014)讚揚此詩集的內涵深度：「此詩集搜羅的範圍包括了來自加州的抽象表現主義藝 術家山姆‧法蘭西斯、西班牙的安東尼歐‧索拉，到表現主義畫家阿雷欽斯基及阿貝爾，再囊括了幾乎所有的普普藝術家，如戴恩與安迪‧渥荷。總計有28位藝術 家創作了62件版畫，是一本令人讚歎的藝術巨作。」
詩集的出版人E‧W‧科恩菲爾德則稱許因為丁雄泉的華人身分，方得適切地完成此著作。他說道：「丁雄泉想要出版一本最具國際性的繪本來發表他的文 字，並藉此集結潑色繪畫法、新達達主義、普普藝術，以及所有其他的藝術風格。他在世界各地累積的豐富閱歷，以及從文化、偽文化、本能上對生存的焦慮、都會 情色、東方智慧等各方面所獲得的深切體認，使他萌生了這個想法。這是一項唯有華人可以勝任的艱鉅任務。」
從 1960、1970年代起，丁雄泉在海外即打開知名度，紐約、哥本哈根、阿姆斯特丹、布魯塞爾、巴黎等地都有合作的畫廊。因為海外華人的身分耀眼，又在全 球的拍賣市場上享有知名度，丁雄泉的畫作遍及歐美亞洲的主流拍場，每年有數百件以上的交易量。近期，更因亞洲經濟的蓬勃，帶動藝術市場走向，各地紛紛尋覓 丁雄泉的佳作，尤其繪於畫布的作品數量稀有，造成收藏家的搶購。過去以香港、台北、新加坡為主的收藏群，近期也擴展至北京、上海、杭州等城市。
《這裡好涼快》一作為台灣資深收藏家所委託，三年前比利時布魯塞爾一家拍賣會 才以681萬台幣(15萬5，000歐元)售出。由於亞洲的行情遠高於歐洲，一時之間，不少畫商或藏家會從歐美拍賣會上標購，賺取其中的差價。但隨著網路 時代資訊愈來愈透明，世界各地的行情接近零時差，歐美拍場的價格也水漲船高，想賺其中差價，愈來愈不容易。
創 作年代、尺幅大小或是主題的豐富性，皆是影響藝術家行情的關鍵因素。放眼那些高掛個別藝術家交易排行榜榜首的畫作，多半是重要時期的大格局畫作，或是難得 一見的稀有物件。據悉，羅芙奧拍賣公司近日已成功說服一位丁雄泉舊友，同意於新年度春拍時委託一幅丁雄泉1975年的大油畫《世界小姐》，此畫描繪了18 位風姿綽約的各國佳麗，畫幅為222乘以396公分，作品曾經刊載於1977年出版的丁雄泉《紅唇》畫集封面。此幅大畫重新現身藝術市場，必然會引起丁迷 們的關注，其預估價應該會超過《這裡好涼快》的成交價，有機會再創丁雄泉的新畫價紀錄。
Walasse Ting had a rich and colorful life, calling himself“Butterfly Gangster”and“Mr. Gallant.”He had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, and was always extremely fond of painting women, pouring all his passion and focus into romance and art. His daring and fresh style serves as an attractive packaging for arresting beauty, and the bold abandon of his paintings and poems oozes romance and affection. An artist of great international visibility and renown, Ting effortlessly straddles a range of genres, cultures, and intellectual spheres, giving his oeuvre a timeless appeal and making him a full-bore“universal artist.”His painting“Miss World”is expected to make quite a splash at the Ravenel Spring Auction this year (2015).
One day, one of my friends asked me whether there was any Chinese artist deserving the moniker “universal.” A universal artist is best defined as someone who transcends the limitations of different domains, epochs, and cultures, and can appeal to highbrow and lowbrow audiences alike. In the Western tradition, names that come to mind include Monet, van Gogh, and Any Warhol, all of whom have an instantly recognizable and genuinely impressive style. Now there are quite a few outstanding artists with a Chinese background, but being a truly “universal” artist also requires international flair and what you might term “brand recognition.” In spite of their great reputation, artists such as Zhang Daqian or Zao Wou-ki probably don’t exactly fit the bill, but off the top of my head I can think of one name that might: Chinese-born American visual artist and poet Walasse Ting, whose work found global recognition decades ago.
Ting has lived and worked in numerous countries, and been part of many modern art movements. Add to this his broad firsthand experience and international outlook, and the fact that his work is cherished by collectors around the world, and you may begin to see why I bring up his name. Back in 1977, Ting was awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and today his work is found in the collections of many first-rate museums and galleries, including the San Francisco Modern Art Museum, New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, London’s Tate Gallery, the Guimet Museum of Eastern Art in Paris, the Municipal Museum Amsterdam, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and the Shanghai Art Museum.
Walasse Ting had a rich and colorful life, and his high international standing is beyond any doubt. Calling himself “Butterfly Gangster” and “Mr. Gallant,” he had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, many of them female. He was always extremely fond of painting women, pouring all his passion and focus into romance and art. Yet fate played a cruel trick on him when a stroke in 2002 left him bedridden for 8 long years, rendering him unable to continue painting. So ended the life of an artist who had given (and continues to give) others so much joy on a sad and melancholy note.
Autodidact and Butterfly Gangster
Born in China in 1929 (some say 1928) in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, Walasse Ting grew up in Shanghai. He began painting in the streets of the city from early childhood, and at one point entered the Shanghai College of Fine Arts for a brief period of study; however, his freedom-loving and spontaneous character made him averse to the strictures of an academy education. Ting always prided himself in being self- taught, and believed in following his impulses and inspirations as the best way of creative self-actualization. He moved to Hong Kong in 1946, where he had a single-artist exhibition at the Hotel Cecil in 1952. After that, he went to Paris for six years, beginning his “international journey of “artistic adventure.”
Ting soon became good friends with several members of the art group CoBrA, which flourished in Europe in the late 1940s and early 1950s, finding the group’s style and outlook congenial to his own nature. During this period, he held simultaneous exhibitions in Paris and Brussels, before moving on to New York in 1958. There he found himself on the cusp of the abstract-expressionist movement, and later became one of the first people to recognize the unique talents of Andy Warhol—Ting himself was also closely associated with the pop art movement. His unconventional character, both debonair and emotional, made the CoBrA group with its focus on free self- expression his natural playground, while abstract expressionism allowed him to give free rein to his penchant for sublimating his moods via the distinctive dots, lines, planes, colors, shapes and compositions that make up the basic vocabulary of his art. Finally, the everyday, contemporary- reality allure of pop art chimed well with Ting’s affinity for striking images with mass appeal.
Beginning in the 1960s, New York’s fast pace and futuristic feel inspired Ting’s acrylic paint phase. From that point on, the artist’s palette shifted towards bright and brilliant hues, with drip and splash painting becoming one of his preferred modes of color application. His style now combined a straightforward variety of abstract expressionism with the mottled tones and decorative patterns of Fauvism in the vein of Matisse, whose work was a dominant influence on Ting’s artistic development.
That development, in terms of format and technique, started with black-and- white oil paintings in the abstract style, and led all the way to extremely colorful figurative art. However, Ting’s favorite subject, whatever the style or genre, was always the female body, often nude. At the end of the 1950s, he began to explore strongly erotic themes. His deep fascination with sexuality and the female form probably make his work of that time the most authentic expression of his inner world and emotions. During his New York period, he conveyed his moods with arresting shapes and colors, executed in powerful brushstrokes to generate a series of exciting works in the abstract- expressionist style. It was only in the 1970s that his approach shifted again, this time towards more figurate forms of painting. In 1975, he created a series of works titled “Love Me, Love Me,” embarking on the large-scale production of pictures of beautiful women. It was also the year in which he painted “Miss World,” a super-sized work that became a milestone of his career, earning recognition from experts and critics around the world.
For a while, Ting’s nudes echoed classical themes, imbuing them with new meaning, a trend that is apparent in works like the 1977 painting “Goya’s Lover,” a reverential nod to the Spanish old master, or the 1987 “The Venus of Amsterdam,” a collaborative effort with his good friend and fellow CoBrA artist Corneille. In the spring of 1987, Ting spent two months in Amsterdam, during which time he made sketches and took pictures of 66 attractive young models. Upon his return to New York, he began to paint dozens of paintings based on his memory, and aided by the sketches and photographs. Titled “Jolies Dames,” this collection of works merges an exotic flavor with a highly individualistic aesthetic style. Many of these paintings are among the artist’s most representative female nudes.
In the 1980s, Ting began to experiment with rice paper, mixing the use of acrylic paint and colored ink to create mature compositions with striking lines and contours reminiscent of Eastern art and calligraphy. During the 1990s, he increasingly explored the possibilities offered by traditional Chinese landscape painting, finishing a series of Guilin landscapes. Around the middle of that decade, Ting traveled to Japan, a trip that provided the stimulus for a considerable number of geisha-themed paintings with a Far-Eastern flair. For many years, the artist divided his time between Amsterdam and New York, and late in life he devoted his creative efforts to delightful subjects such as flowers, parrots, horses, and cats, further increasing his oeuvre’s appeal to a general audience.
Painter and Poet: A Modern Master
Walasse Ting was a poet as well as a painter. His fellow poet and good friend Guan Guan once remarked, “His poetry puts glory in plain sight, and is astonishing in its boldness and daring.”
“The moon is round and hearts are soft. Full of wistful longing, I scratch my belly but feel no appetite. Tears are welling up in my eyes.”
“Everyday I eat oranges, exposed to the wind all the time. Every minute I spend looking at women, every second in the sun.”
“Beautiful women are everywhere in Paris. Still the spring breeze is wafting over blossoming beauties. Gusts of wind presage rain from the mountains, flowers fall on the water like poems.”
All of the above are short poems from 1974, jotted down carelessly by Ting on postcards with a fountain pen. The terse lines are brimming with free-flowing associations and romantic nostalgia, and were his way of sharing his feelings with old friends in faraway places. Ting was a man who drank up life with all his senses, a playful painter who enjoyed doodling and graffiti, and excelled at impromptu poems of a haiku-like quality: they might make you blush and your heart beat faster occasionally, and like his paintings, they are full of dazzling beauty and daring passion. His words, like his visual art, serve to praise beauty and zest for life. Ting once said, “Every time I see a beautiful woman she’ll make me think of a fragrant flower, and the sheer beauty of that flower makes me fall in love, makes me feel fresh and young. Whatever I paint—women, cats, flowers, birds—is meant to capture that freshness, because in freshness there is great beauty.”
Starting in the 1960s, Ting began to publish collections of poems and paintings. Among his better known anthologies are “My Shit and My Love” (1961), “One Cent Life” (1964), “Chinese Moonlight” (1967), “Hot and Sour Soup” (1969), “Red Mouth” (1977), “Walasse Ting—Rice Paper Painting” (1984), and “Dream” (1995). Anybody wanting to gain a more complete understanding of this versatile artist and his work will find that reading his poetry is a good way of appreciating his development as a painter.
The most important among his anthologies of poems and paintings is the 1964 “One Cent Life”, which was edited by his friend and fellow artist Sam Francis, and featured as illustrations a large number of lithographs by various artists. It took many years to complete this book, but the finished work garnered praise from art historian and curator Riva Castleman (1930-2014), who especially admired the compilation’s range and depth, “The gamut ranged from Sam Francis, a California-based abstract expressionist, to Antonia Saura, his Spanish counterpart, to expressionist painters Pierre Alechinsky and Karel Appel, and to nearly all the pop artists, from Dine to Andy Warhol. Altogether, twenty-eight artists made sixty- two lithographs, making for a brilliant art book.”
The anthology’s publisher, E. W. Kornfeld, commented that Ting’s background as a Chinese-born artist was an important factor in making possible the satisfactory completion of this anthology. “Ting wanted to publish the most international illustrated book, intended to illustrate his text, and uniting tachism, neo-dadaism, pop art, and all other artistic movements. The idea was born from global experience, close contact with culture, pseudo-culture, primitive existential worries, urban eroticism, and Eastern wisdom. It was a Herculean task, for which only a Chinese would have been able to muster the perseverance.”
As His Works Rise in Value, Even Forgers Discover Ting’s Art
As early as the 1960s and 70s, Walasse Ting made an international name for himself, a well respected artist with exhibitions in New York, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. Since Ting is one of the best known Chinese-born artists, with a long-standing reputation in the global auction market, his paintings regularly appear at mainstream auctions around the world, with a total annual turnover of several hundred works. In recent years, robust economic growth in much of Asia has further brightened prospects in the art market, with collectors everywhere scrambling for a chance to procure one of Ting’s top-notch works. Competition is particularly fierce for the artist’s comparatively rare works on canvas. And while in the past most aficionados of Ting’s paintings were found in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Singapore, his works now enjoy increasing popularity in places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou as well.
In December 2014, Ting’s 1979 oil painting of two nudes “It’s Cool Here” changed hands for RMB 3.105 million (approx. NT$15.53 million, or US$46,5750), breaking the global price record for a painting by the artist sold at auction, previously held by “Goya’s Lover,” which sold at a 2006 auction by Ravenel Taipei for NT$11.41 million.
As recent as three years, ago, “It’s Cool Here” had been sold in Brussels, commissioned for auction by a senior collector from Taiwan, for NT$6.81 million (EUR 15,500). Since the going rate for paintings by Ting was much lower in Europe than in Asia in those days, for a while a considerable number of art dealers would buy works by Ting at relatively cheap prices at European auctions, and then resell them on the Asian market for a handsome profit. However, with the Internet rapidly leveling out regional differences by offering 24/7 real time information, it is quickly becoming very difficult to earn the price difference on such resale schemes.
Another thing to be wary of are fakes. The rising prices paid for Ting’s work have attracted forgers, and occasionally forged paintings will even show up at auctions, regardless of the size or reputation of the auction house. This has thrown a bit of a wrench into the bullish prospects of the Walasse Ting market. The best collectors can do to avoid being conned is to carefully select their galleries or auctioneers, and in addition to get expert advice in making sure that there are no problems with a lot’s provenance.
On a more positive note, it is commendable that many collectors do not focus entirely on Ting’s highly popular works on canvas. Three of his works on rice paper that sold in Hong Kong and Hangzhou, titled “Blue Horse Among the Petals,” “Two Ladies and Two Horses,” and “Flourishing Flowers,” made it into the top 20 of most expensive works by Ting sold at auction. Evidently, a growing number of collectors are able to appreciate the subtler, more Eastern aesthetics often hidden under all the garish colors. This is particularly true for bidders from China, who are set to add extra momentum to the upward trend of the market.
Miss World”: A Definite Highlight of Ravenel Spring Auction 2015
The going rate for an artist’s work is largely determined by a lot’s year of completion, its size, and the overall variety of themes and styles offered by his entire oeuvre. If you look at the paintings that usually rank at the top of individual artists’ “hit lists,” you will find that most of them are representative works from important creative periods, or otherwise rare works that almost never surface on the market. One of these exceptional specimens will reportedly appear at the Taipei Spring Auction this year, as Ravenel has been able to commission for auction from one of the artist’s old friends the 1975 super-size oil painting “Miss World,” measuring 222 x 396 cm and depicting 18 attractive young beauties against a green background. A small reproduction of the work previously appeared in the 1977 anthology Red Mouth. As one of the artist’s major works, “Miss World” is set to attract many bidders, and expected to sell for a higher price than “It’s Cool Here,” thus setting a new record for a painting by Ting.
Walasse Ting was a widely traveled man, and today connoisseurs and collectors of his art are found all over the world. As the Asian art market continues to grow, works currently found in North American and European collections can be expected to flow back east at an accelerating rate. At the same time, the few main Ting collectors in Asia might also decide to put back on the market some of the more important works in their collections, offering an opportunity for newcomers to try their hand at building a portfolio. Overall, prospects are bright for the Ting market.
After several spurts of substantial growth in the 20th century Chinese masters market, we have now entered a quieter period of observation, and another phase of quick growth is not to be expected in the near future. However, as collectors on the increasingly interconnected global markets are getting savvier and more versatile, comparing the prices for artists such as George Chann, Liu Kuo-sung, Xiao Qin, Walasse Ting, or T’ang Haywen, there is still a lot of room for speculation, and opportunities abound for the keen collector. Turnover should remain stable at a high level.