乘著樂聲尋美 藝術傳教士──江賢二

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2017 / 9月

文‧劉嫈楓 圖‧林格立 翻譯‧Robert Green


任職亞都麗緻董事長時期,即和藝術家江賢二認識的公益平台文化基金會董事長嚴長壽,如此形容他:

「若用櫻花來比喻人生境界,江賢二便是累積了一生的能量、淬煉的體驗、美學的素養、人生的圓熟,窮一生的追求,只為一次最美的綻放。」

以抽象畫作展現精神性的江賢二,歷經五十多年創作生涯,依舊不改其志的追求著心中嚮往的藝術之道。


台東東海岸的金樽,太平洋的海浪一波波打上岸邊,晴朗無雲的天際,遠方的綠島隱約可見。夏日清晨,大片陽光已灑滿江賢二蓋了七年多的工作室。

清瘦的江賢二,穿上衷愛的藍白格子襯衫走入工作室,伴著外頭池塘水聲和最愛的古典樂曲,在偌大的畫布上揮灑繽紛色彩。

陽光、大自然、色彩,這幾項名詞在江賢二過去五十多年的藝術生涯裡鮮少出現,近來卻成為創作裡不可或缺的元素。

2008年,他和太太范香蘭來到東海岸的台東金樽蓋起工作室,與巴黎、紐約幾個定居過的城市步調不同,偶爾悄悄現蹤的意外訪客獼猴、庭園小徑綻放的花朵、湛藍無際的海洋……,一點一滴改變江賢二,原來畫作泰半只有黑、白、藍、灰的晦暗色調,開始多出紅、黃、綠的顏色。

看見江賢二作品出現顏色,向來是第一位觀眾的太太范香蘭,感到驚訝不已;熟悉江賢二作品的朋友,有人老是取笑他「臨老入花叢」。外界的詫異絲毫不讓人意外,不過,就連江賢二自己也說:「一輩子都沒想過作品裡會出現顏色。」

何以有如此轉變?這幾年心情、神態都多了份自在的江賢二給出的答案很尋常,他微笑地說:「大環境不同,也是年紀、時候都到了。」

在抽象畫作尋求精神空間

一句「年紀到了」說得輕鬆,卻是年少就立志成為藝術家的江賢二,歷經巴黎、紐約旅外生活,而後返回台北,直至定居台東,一生不改其志,淬鍊藝術極致的總結。

2006年江賢二為中華電信設計公共藝術工程,「交通部中華電信公共藝術工程設置計畫」紀念冊上如此形容他:

「江賢二的畫作總以線條及色彩的抽象語彙,營造神秘且千變萬化的畫面空間,藉此描述抽象世界的深度和藝術家的心靈介面……。」

「作品是創作者和其生命的化身」江賢二說。作品裡抽象畫風,和從中流露出的一絲孤獨,江賢二自承和自己的個性有關。

出生在台中,父親長年在外經商,幼時喪母,生性敏感的江賢二不像其他青春正盛的年輕人,外在的花花世界對他全無吸引力,多愁善感的他,一勁兒地朝著內心探索,無邊無際地漫想著。

家族的親戚長輩瞧他胡思亂想的模樣,總是「憨賢、憨賢」地喚他,殊不知眼前的寡言少年,腦裡想的早已超脫俗塵現實,直直往更上一層的抽象世界邁去。

抽象的精神性究竟是什麼?江賢二拿出自己最愛的古典音樂作比喻,「就像聆聽德布西的《月光》、馬勒的《第九號交響曲》,你無須言說,就能從中感受到創作者的精神。」

台灣省立師範學院藝術系(今國立師範大學美術系)畢業,而後旅外追夢,尋求「精神性」始終是江賢二期待企及的藝術之道。然而,他所嚮往精神性,全遲遲無法透過手中的畫筆展現。在完成《巴黎聖母院》之前,江賢二對於心中定義的藝術,始終不得其門而入。那時的他,充滿困頓、疑惑,更多時候是失意的落寞。「除了個性使然,一方面也是年輕時候的自己,苦於無法展現心中嚮往的藝術形式。」他說。

轉至紐約定居後,江賢二的畫風朝向極簡主義風格發展,然而經過六、七○年代的發展,極簡主義的美學觀,已逐漸在美國藝術市場退燒。那時他的經紀人艾文‧卡普(Ivan Karp)看了他的畫作後,對他提出提醒,更直指他的作品並非大眾一看就懂得欣賞、喜愛、收藏的風格。聽聞如此一針見血的點評,絲毫沒有動搖江賢二的選擇。

彷彿一位追求藝術真理的傳教士,江賢二身上時時背負了與創作相伴、衝撞拉鋸的痛苦。不過,五十多年的藝術生涯,仍有幾個時刻,江賢二感到一絲的滿足。「那樣的喜悅,並非自滿於完成作品,而是被畫中展現的境界所觸動。」他說。

江賢二心中第一個代表作《巴黎聖母院》系列,就是其中之一。1965年選擇前往法國實現藝術夢想,而後幾度往返,街區隨處可見的教堂,一直是江賢二最愛流連的地方。

每每走進去,教堂陽光傾溢,神聖而寧靜的氛圍總是觸動著他。1982年,江賢二在巴黎的拉丁區,租下一間閣樓,他封起窗戶,在阻絕一切的環境下創作。而後,江賢二不僅完成心中極為滿意的《巴黎聖母院》,當時將窗戶以布全部遮蔽,杜絕一切導致他分心的聲、光、影,也成為日後獨特的創作習慣。

乘著音樂起飛

空間的孤絕,猶如他和外在世界互動的寫照,在紐約生活時,除了太太范香蘭,江賢二甚至刻意阻絕一切人事物的接觸,過著離群索居的生活。

然而,在江賢二搭起的藝術孤域中,唯有一項事物准予進入他的世界,那便是年少時期,一直伴他度過歡欣、苦悶的古典音樂。「音樂可能是比我太太還要陪伴我更久的朋友。」2016年江賢二應台中亞洲大學現代美術館之邀舉辦畫展,在10分鐘的自介短片裡如是說。

「從年輕開始我就很喜歡古典樂。」江賢二說。高中時,因病休學一年,音樂家德布西受詩人保羅‧魏爾倫作品啟發,所創出寧靜而憂傷的《月光》,伴隨他度過多愁的年少時光。

旅居巴黎、紐約時,江賢二最愛聆聽巴哈、馬勒的音樂,而來到台東,心境輕鬆了許多的他則改愛上作曲家孟德爾頌輕快愉悅的樂曲。「每回走進工作室,第一件事情就是播放古典樂。」江賢二說。

猶如朋友般的古典樂,近年更成為他創作的重要主題。搬至台東3年後,江賢二受到作曲家孟德爾頌《乘著歌聲的翅膀》樂曲觸發,創作出同名畫作。他以顏料瓶蓋沾塗各式顏色,在畫布上按壓、堆疊出大大小小的圓圈。

江賢二在2014年出版的個人傳記《從巴黎左岸到台東比西里岸:藝術家江賢二的故事》,形容這幅作品:「最難的是表面上看來沒有肌理,看起來很溫柔,沒有什麼鋼筋水泥,卻可以是很嚴謹的創作。」

除了《乘著歌聲的翅膀》,江賢二也創作《向巴哈致敬》、《德布希‧鍵盤》等以古典樂為靈感的作品。

在比西里海岸一圓藝術夢

自完成第一個代表作《巴黎聖母院》,而後1995年《百年廟》、2007年的《銀湖》、定居台東時期的《比西里海岸》等眾多作品,每五、六年,江賢二就會推出新系列的作品。

「熟能生巧對藝術家是很不好的事」。無須言語提醒,一旦熟悉了環境、技法,心裡的感覺就會告訴江賢二。因此,江賢二一生總是不斷轉換工作室,或是離開熟悉的環境,誘發心中不同的感受。

例如,同樣被他視為重要代表作的《百年廟》,也是江賢二1995年為了探視生病父親返台後,前往龍山寺上香祈福時,看見各地香客在香火繚繞的廟裡,虔誠祝禱的景象,所引發的靈感。寺廟龍柱、燭火焚香,全都化為《百年廟》神聖寧靜的朦朧光芒。

比起其他人的歷程,江賢二不算是早慧的藝術家,若將作品進入拍賣市場視為是創作者正式出道的時間標的,江賢二直到五十多歲,才賣出第一幅作品,無疑像是「大雞晚啼」。

如此晚才進入藝術市場,江賢二絲毫不以為意。「年輕時,最好不要靠著畫作謀生,那將會扼殺、限制了創作。」他說。如今回望過去,不論初訪巴黎、叩關紐約,而後返台的幾段歷程,在江賢二眼裡都成為餵養他藝術創作的重要養分。「少了年輕那段探問藝術本質的衝撞、疑惑,都不會讓我成為現在的我。就算重新再來一次,依舊會選擇如此。」江賢二微笑地說。

走過五十多年的藝術生涯,今年七十多歲的江賢二,仍在藝術之路走著,除了每天日出而作、日落而息的創作著,還有一個藝術夢等待實現。

未來台東金樽的工作室,將擴大為面積共2甲的藝術園區,除了設有作品陳列展示區,另一頭也將成立雕塑公園,擺放江賢二的雕塑作品。

站在工作室的天台上,太平洋的海風,吹散了夏日午後的燠熱,江賢二的藝術夢從巴黎漂回台灣,在比西里海岸,找到落腳之處。依舊一身輕瘦的他,望著遠方,臉上揚起輕輕淺淺的笑容。

英文

Inspired by Music, Pursuing Beauty: Paul Chiang, High Priest of Art

Liu Yingfeng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Robert Green

While president of the ­Landis Tai­pei Hotel, Stanley C. Yen, now chairman of the Alliance Cultural Foundation, met artist Paul ­Chiang, and described him thus:

“If we take the cherry blossom as a metaphor for the potential of a life, Paul ­Chiang has accumulated a lifetime of abilities, refining experiences, aesthetic cultivation, and consummate skill—a life of dogged pursuit, all for a single flowering of aesthetic perfection.”

Paul ­Chiang’s spirit is captured in his abstract paintings, and for more than 50 years his determination to follow the artist’s path has never wavered.


At Jin­zun on the eastern coast of Tai­tung County, Pacific waves crash against the shore, the horizon welds the sea to a cloudless sky, and Green Island (Lü­dao) is faintly visible in the distance. On this early summer morning, light is already pouring into Paul ­Chiang’s studio.

His lean frame clad in his favorite blue-and-white checked shirt, Chiang enters his studio as strains of classical music mix with the splashing of an aerator in a nearby fishpond. On a giant canvas, colors flow from the strokes of his brush.

Sunlight, nature, color—these elements rarely appeared in his past half-century of painting, but recently they have become indispensable in his artistic creations.

In 2008, he and his wife, Fan Xiang­lan, came to Jin­zun and set up a studio quite different in character from those in other places he has lived, such as Paris and New York. Occasionally they discover the silent traces of unexpected visits by macaques, flowers bloom along garden paths, and they are surrounded by the endless azure of the ocean…. Little by little, it has changed ­Chiang’s work. In the past, he relied mostly on moody hues in black, white, blue and grey. But now he is also employing reds, yellows, and greens.

His wife is always the first to see his new paintings, and she was quite amazed by his use of brighter colors. Friends familiar with his paintings tease him that in old age he has finally discovered flowers. The surprise of others is shared by ­Chiang himself. “In my whole career I never thought such colors would appear in my paintings,” he says.

What explains such a change? In recent years, ­Chiang’s disposition and bearing have become more carefree and relaxed, and his own explanation is quite simple. “I’m in a completely different environment, I’ve reached a certain age, and the time had come,” he says with a smile.

Expression in abstraction

In 2006 ­Chiang designed artworks for a public art program organized by Chung­hwa Telecom and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The brochure for the program included the following passage on ­Chiang:

“Paul ­Chiang’s paintings invariable employ the abstract vocabulary of contour and color to create mysterious and infinitely varied tableaux, through which he depicts the connection between the profundity of the abstract world and the soul of the artist.”

Chiang explains that the sense of solitude present in abstract painting reflects aspects of his own personality. “A work of art is the manifestation of the artist and his life,” he says.

Chiang, who was born in Tai­chung, lost his mother at an early age, and his father was often away on business. Sensitive by nature, he lacked the youthful sociability of other youngsters. The temptations of the outside world held little fascination for him, and he devoted his energies to exploring his inner self. 

When adult relatives caught him daydreaming, the called him a fool. Little did they know that thoughts of the taciturn youth before them were soaring toward lofty realms of abstraction well beyond pedestrian realities.

What, after all, is the essence of the abstract? ­Chiang finds an answer in the classical music that he is so fond of. “When listening to Debussy’s Claire de Lune, or Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, words are superfluous: you can feel the spirit of the artist through the music itself,” he says.

After graduating from the Department of Fine Arts at Taiwan Provincial Teachers’ College (today’s National Taiwan Normal University), ­Chiang traveled abroad, constantly searching for the essence of art. However, he felt that his brush failed to express the artistic essence that he pursued. Before he painted Notre Dame de Paris, ­Chiang felt that he could not realize his own artistic ideal. His life in those days was full of hardship and doubt, and he often felt the loneliness of failure.

After Chiang moved to New York, his painting style began to show minimalist influences. Yet after rising interest during the 1960s and ’70s, enthusiasm for minimalism was already waning in the American art market. At the time his agent, Ivan Karp, looked at his work and didn’t mince words when he warned that Chiang’s artworks weren’t painted in a style that the public would readily appreciate, admire, or collect. But hearing this pointed criticism didn’t cause ­Chiang to waver in his stylistic choices. 

Like a religious seeker for truth in art, ­Chiang persisted along his arduous artistic path. But in his more than 50 years as an artist, ­Chiang has found moments of satisfaction. The painting of the first artworks that lived up to his ideals, his Notre Dame de Paris series, was one such moment. In 1965 he traveled to France in pursuit of his artistic dreams, and in several subsequent visits he discovered that churches could be seen everywhere. These became the places where ­Chiang most loved to linger.

Whenever he entered a church, he was moved by the way the light filtered in and the sacred, serene atmo­sphere. In 1982, he rented a loft in the Latin Quarter, covered the windows and worked in the sealed-off space. There ­Chiang painted Notre Dame de Paris, one of his proudest accomplishments, and initiated his unusual creative habit of painting in cloistered rooms.

Soaring on the strains of music

The isolation of his workspace was reflective of his own relationship with the outside world. Later, while living in New York, ­Chiang intentionally cut himself off from other people, save his wife, and lived a life of solitude. 

The sole thing that ­Chiang allowed into his world of lonely creation was classical music, a companion that had kept him company through the high and low points of his life from his youth and continues to do so to the present. “Music has been my close companion even longer than my wife,” ­Chiang said in 2016 in a short introductory video presentation after being invited to exhibit at Asia University Museum of Modern Art in Tai­chung.

While living in Paris and New York, ­Chiang preferred the strains of Bach and Mahler, but after moving to Tai­tung he found that the brisk, cheerful music of Felix Mendelssohn better suited his more carefree temperament.

Music, that boon companion, had been percolating in his mind for many years, and more recently it has become a more prominent theme in his art. Three years after moving to Tai­tung, ­Chiang was inspired by Mendelssohn’s On Wings of Song to paint a work of the same title. He created the painting by pressing the caps of paint tubes to apply various colors in layers of circles both large and small.

Aside from On Wings of Song, ­Chiang has created other paintings inspired by classical music, including Salute to Bach (2011) and Debussy (2013).

Artistic perfection on the Taitung coast

From Notre Dame de Paris, his first truly representative work, to The Hundred Year Temple (1995), Silver Lake (2007), and Pisilian, a series painted while he lived in Tai­tung, ­Chiang has produced a new series of paintings every five or six years. 

Without being told, ­Chiang can sense when he has become too familiar with an environment and a set of techniques. Thus he has continued to relocate his studio throughout his career and to leave behind surroundings that have become too familiar, in order to have new experiences. “Relying on familiar techniques is not a good thing for an artist,” ­Chiang says.

For example, The Hundred Year Temple, which ­Chiang considers an important work, was inspired by a visit to Tai­pei’s Long­shan Temple after ­­Chiang returned to Taiwan in 1995 to visit his ailing father. While burning incense at the temple, he became fascinated by the devout worshipers and the curling incense smoke that filled the building. This scene became his inspiration for the painting. The temple’s dragon columns, flickering candles, and burning incense were represented in their tranquil opaque radiance in the painting.

After a career spanning more than a half-century, ­Chiang, now in his seventies, is still busily pursuing his art. Working from dawn until dusk, he is still attempting to realize his artistic vision.   

Chiang is planning to expand his studio at Jin­zun to make a park covering nearly five acres. It will include a gallery to display his artwork and a garden gallery that will provide a home for his sculptures.

As we stand on the roof of his studio, the Pacific breeze dispels the heat of a summer afternoon. ­Chiang’s artistic dreams have come full circle from Paris back to Taiwan and found a permanent home on the Tai­tung coast. Still slender after all these years, ­Chiang gazes into the distance, a smile floating gently across his face.    

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