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Theory of Chinese Painting (V): Elegance and Vulgarity of Chinese Painting

Author/Tianwaike sees kindness

When talking about "elegance" and "vulgarity" in the field of art, people today generally think of the differences in people's appreciation tastes, but this is not entirely the case. Some concepts have mutated with the passage of time and cultural faults, but people have become accustomed to the mutated cognition, so that there are many errors in basic concepts, resulting in conceptual confusion. And this kind of confusion is due to different personalities, hobbies and lifestyles of people, resulting in personal interpretations with strong self-factors and lack of orthodox basis, and aesthetic concepts have become divergent. Therefore, if we want to re-regulate the concepts in this aspect and seek correct views, we need to restore the true meaning from the basic language concepts.

        In the "Mao Poetry Preface", "Ya" is interpreted as "positive", and "zheng" means "standard", so the meaning of "Ya" means "right" and "standard". To put it another way, it is in line with the orthodox moral concept, and only in this way can it be righteous. The word "vulgar" means the habits, etiquette, etc. produced by the local atmosphere. "Hanshu Geographical Records" said: "The nature of the five constants of the people, their rigidity, softness, and urgency, and different voices, are related to the atmosphere of water and soil, so they are called wind; likes and dislikes, movement and stillness are impermanent, follow the desire of the emperor, so it is called vulgarity. "So "vulgarity" is often a characteristic formed from the local customs and people's emotional habits, so the two words themselves are not opposed to each other in a big way. But why later generations will use the opposite of refined and popular? This is because part of the content contained in "vulgarity" comes from human lust rather than rationality, and the orthodox moral concept is precisely to avoid this kind of irrationality. The so-called "beginning with estrus, ending with ritual". Because "Ya" represents the standard of righteousness in moral concepts, these two words are viewed and used subtly and in opposition to each other.

        Why are some people called "ruya" when they show a very polite demeanor? Because in traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism has established the code of conduct for a person, which is the standard that a person should have, "benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faith", which are called "five constants". A person who can fully meet this standard can be called a "junzi", that is, a moral person. So this kind of gentlemanly and elegant demeanor is called "ruya". The reason why it is elegant is because it conforms to the orthodox standard of being a human being. If a person does not follow this standard, but only proceeds from personal emotional desires, then he is a secular person. Why are there these specifications? Because good and evil coexist in human nature, and human evil is reflected in the unrestrained human emotional desire, and the physical desire itself is no different from that of animals, so the establishment of these norms is essentially a separation of human beings and human beings. Birds and beasts are distinguished, and humans and animals cannot be treated equally.

        In ancient times, scholars regarded piano, chess, calligraphy, painting, tea, flowers, incense, etc. as elegant things, and people still think so in today's concept. Why do people have such a concept? It is precisely because the form and connotation of these arts are in line with orthodox standards. Although there are thousands of differences among art forms, they all have one thing in common, which is the observance of moral concepts, embodying and bearing orthodox moral values. On the other hand, the reason why it is vulgar is that it deviates from the orthodox moral concept.

        So how to distinguish between refined and vulgar in Chinese painting? From the basic idea of ​​"vulgarity", in fact, the emergence of many local painting schools, especially the northern and southern schools of landscape painting, their painting characteristics are actually born of customs, not the style difference caused by the technique itself , but different regional geography and customs characteristics have created different expression techniques. For example, most of the mountains in the north are rocky mountains, with many trees growing in the crevices of the rocks, the rain is not strong, and the soil is not rich, so the trees are thin and warped, probably due to the lack of water and soil nutrients. Vigorous atmosphere. Of course, this kind of soil and water characteristics also cultivated the heroic character of the northerners. In contrast, the mountains in the south are mostly earthy mountains, round and thick, rich in water and soil, and covered by lush trees and branches. Therefore, the southern mountains and rivers are full of beauty, and the personalities of southerners are also elegant and refined according to this regional custom. Therefore, this kind of difference itself does not distinguish between high and low, elegant and vulgar, but only the difference in surface form caused by different geographical features. It can be said that these are all characteristics of "vulgarity", so "vulgar" itself has no opposite meaning. In In the Ming Dynasty, Dong Qichang took advantage of his southern regional characteristics and the way of expressing literati paintings. From this perspective, it was quite inappropriate to derogate northern paintings as "vulgar" in order to praise the status of southern paintings. The painters of later generations who were influenced by his concept developed to prevent disciples and disciples from using the northern ax chopping technique to express on the picture, thinking that it was rough. This kind of one-sided and extreme concept stemming from emotion had a certain negative effect on later generations. Influence.

        Another characteristic of "vulgarity" is that people are familiar with it and like to hear it, so it is called "popularity". In fact, those classic works that we know today that have been admired by the past dynasties, from this perspective, they are actually popular, and they are not things that people cannot understand. The content of the paintings is in line with the customs of each place, so people feel that it is real and friendly, so such things will become popular, so in this sense, the classics are also popular, and the popular ones are also popular. Today we look at those handed down works from the point of view of people today, thinking that they are elegant and elegant, but in fact, they were popular and popular in the era when the painting was produced. The reason why it is called a classic is because it has passed the test of history. There is a popular saying in the painting circle of the Northern Song Dynasty: "The scholars in Yingqiu can only imitate Li Cheng; the scholars in Guanshan can only imitate Fan Kuan". It can be seen that Li Cheng's and Fan Kuan's landscape styles and expressive techniques are not only highly respected today, but were already very popular at that time, and there are many scholars, so they are not something that is high-spirited. The reason why we think it is very elegant, and we all learn from him and respect him, is because he has reached the standard of painting and created a paradigm of technical standards. Realm is essentially such a relationship.

        Since "vulgarity" does not mean it is bad, why are many people afraid of falling into clichés when creating? This is caused by the general characteristics of vulgarity. People always like to pursue novel performances. Things that are too common and the same will cause people's visual fatigue, so they are prone to boredom. For example, there are too many people who like peonies, so there are many people who paint peonies, and everyone paints the same ones, which leads to the proliferation of the same theme. For people who are often exposed to this kind of thing, he will feel that there is nothing novel, it is too ordinary! It's not that painting peonies is vulgar, but that many people paint the same peonies, and it's just based on the general level of entertaining the public's eyes, without the display of higher spiritual connotations. If anyone can create unique peony paintings with originality and superior skills, people will also like them and think that they are elegant. It depends on whether there is a higher level, not the problem of the subject matter itself. .

        Because "vulgarity" also has the characteristics of emotional desire, it often shows low interest. In the eyes of people who pursue noble realms and yearn for the spiritual world, they often look down on these things. Most of the ancients lived in the cultural atmosphere of respecting heaven and knowing their destiny, pursuing spiritual contentment and spiritual pursuit. In fact, from the experience of human happiness, the less material needs, the greater the spiritual satisfaction, and pain often comes from unsatisfied desires. People at that time understood the importance of the mind itself more in their belief in God, so they emphasized virtue and believed that the soul came from heaven, so as to preserve the purity of the soul and wait for the final destination of life. Therefore, for believers, death does not mean the end of life, but is the process of life being freed from the shackles of the body and returning to the heaven. For those living around, this concept itself is also the best medicine to soothe the soul blindly. To preserve the purity of the soul, one needs to control desires, because the indulgence of desires will cause people to lose control of themselves, lose their nature, wear and tear their bodies, and when they seriously lose their rationality, they will even do things that corrupt human relations. big evil. Laozi said: "Five colors make people blind, five tones make people deaf, five flavors make people happy, galloping and hunting make people mad, and hard-to-find things make people do nothing." So for those who have faith, he can distinguish the real from the real. The temptation of material interests and the requirements of moral standards, so the concept of dealing with things try not to focus on seeking material surface satisfaction. And those who often only focus on the material surface or personal desires and needs will be denounced as "vulgar". A simple understanding is that "elegance" refers to following "rituals and righteousness", while "vulgarity" refers to following "interests" on the emotional level. When people taste everything from a higher perspective that surpasses human desires, they can often feel extraordinary experience and wisdom. Then over time, they form such a concept that all tastes that stand on the basis of lust are noble. No, so this kind of taste is generally called "vulgar".

        It can be seen that the opposition between "vulgar" and "elegant" is only reflected in the compliance with orthodox standards. In traditional painting, works that abide by the painting rules and pay attention to the law meet the definition of "elegance". Not only must the content of the theme expressed conform to orthodox moral standards, but also in terms of form expression. Just like poetry, different styles have their own certain metrical requirements, which are not random. Those metrical requirements can not only enhance the rhythmic beauty of poetry itself, but also conform to the vibration frequency of music, which is beneficial to the human body and can It enhances people's sense of morality and plays a role in beautifying spiritual sentiment. The same is true of orthodox music. Everything contained in orthodox culture will be of great benefit to the human body and spiritual sentiment. This has also been confirmed in the modern scientific and technological circles. Many people have done some scientific experiments, playing classical music and modern pop rock music to plants, and found that plants listening to classical music grow more vigorously than similar plants that do not listen to music, while plants listening to modern pop rock music have less yield than normal plants a lot. Such experiments include the "water experiment" conducted by a doctor in Japan, which even proves that even water, an inorganic substance considered inanimate by modern science, can communicate with good and evil factors and change, making people feel different about matter. Further discoveries have been made in the cognition of spirit and spirit, and it also reflects the traditional concept of "everything has animism". It can also be seen from this that the benefits of orthodox culture to life are real. Moreover, the requirements of each art form itself also make it difficult to become an artist, and there are boundaries for distinction.

        From the perspective of specific painting, "vulgarity" in painting techniques is manifested as non-compliance with the law, many technical shortcomings, or lack of proper technical knowledge, resulting in poor ink and ink, inconsistent tones, and unstable structure. Then there is the heavy habit, what is habit? It is a common technique, which refers to the degree to which one is only proficient in a certain technique, relies heavily on a certain technique, and uses the same technique to express different things, and the technique or the same type of works are flooded. For example, painting different trees, but using the same brushwork to express different textures, but different types of trees have different shapes, so this will cause visual repetition and single technique, which will appear mediocre and ordinary. Painting is different from industrial manufacturing. It not only focuses on technology but also on heart. The heart of the painting process is to seek tranquility, and only tranquility can express profound meaning. Some large-scale productions are very labor-intensive. If every link is not in place, it may cause the failure of the entire work. If you are eager for success, it will inevitably lead to anger in the picture, which will not sink, and the impetuous picture will make people feel uncomfortable and make the viewer feel uncomfortable Restlessness, like a fire, where does elegance come from?

        In addition to the technical level, the vulgarity embodied in the creative concept does not follow the correct aesthetic concept. It’s not that some painters don’t have the proper modeling ability, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t know what beauty looks like, but that they don’t want to express things according to the orthodox aesthetic norms, perhaps because of their unconventional desire for fame. Maybe it is to follow the trend for profit, or even out of mutated psychological behavior, he deliberately does not show the beauty of nature, but he regards distortion, weirdness, and even ugliness as beauty, and euphemistically calls them "innocence", "Qigu", "Old and clumsy". Without any orthodox painting standards and orthodox aesthetics, arbitrary creation is very popular nowadays, seriously disrupting people's correct understanding of painting art. For many people who call themselves professional, their aesthetic taste is actually not as good as that of ordinary people, because they have lost even the natural aesthetic attributes of life, and it is also because of the degeneration of moral concepts that they dare to insult and destroy A thing of sacred art. Therefore, if you want to return to orthodoxy, you must not only be solid in skills, but also realize true self-return in xinxing. Otherwise, everything will be in vain, and you will deviate from tradition. Those works that are full of rough brush and ink, violate the requirements of technique without paying attention to similarity, or do not care about the connotation and content of moral constraints, no matter who created them, and no matter how many years they have been handed down, they are all vulgar.

        In fact, the measurement standard has always been very simple. With the passage of time, the expression of lust has become more and more dominant, and with the destruction of traditional culture, many language connotations have deteriorated, and language can shape people's thinking , That's why people's ideas are confused, so all of these need to be rectified and corrected from the source, in order to clarify the cause, return to the orthodox painting mechanism, and purely elegant and vulgar concepts of painting.

*This article is published with the authorization of the author

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