Text by: Monica Chung
Image Courtesy of: NUO Gallery
‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.’
－－Marcel Proust, French novelist (1871 – 1922)
Wang Yabin’s ethereal portrayals of vertiginous landscapes, and everything that travels through such resplendent beauty, is informed and inspired by the rich cultural heritage of a bygone China. His monochromatic paintings resemble colour reversed photographic negatives, distilled contemplative visions that could have been captured in our past, present or future. If Marcel Proust were alive today, perhaps he would be an acquaintance of Wang’s, and been inspired by his oneiric landscapes, which have borne witness to everything, yet remain untouched and transcend time.
For centuries, nature, the great muse, with its unforgiving and eternal beauty, has consistently challenged and lured artists, and Wang is very much a part of this hallowed tradition. His pastoral observation of nature, and mankind’s isolated position within its cosmology, serves as a spring from which his impressions of another place and time are called forth. In the finest examples of the European Romantic Tradition, such as Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog’ with its figure, upon a rugged precipice, looking down to a burgeoning sea, we find an expression of the duality of man’s place in this world, his life both significant and insignificant. Wang Yabin’s depictions, albeit in less tumultuous natural environments, possess the same contemplative disposition, and embody the same spirit. His ‘Hailar’s Elm woods’ presents to us a cloaked figure, deep in wildwood, where familiar Chinese octagonal Ba Gua motifs are seen to float beside the long and wide vertical brush strokes, suggesting a cosmological harmony between man and his surroundings. Through such expressive forms, one begins to sense a kinship with Leon Spillaert whose brooding self portraits, look towards vast horizons and assess man’s relationship with nature.
Closer to home and where we find Wang Yabin working today, the Henan Province in the Eastern Central part of China, is steeped in more than 5,000 years of history. The birthplace of Chinese civilization, it remained at the centre of culture, politics and the economy up to 1000 years ago. Ancient ruins, relics and artifacts are still found throughout the region. To the West are a range of gentle sloping mountains, including the sacred Songshan (Song Mountain) which guards and protects ancient Buddhist temples and shrines; namely the Songyue Pagoda, the oldest example to be found in China. Zhengzhou, the province’s capital sits close to the foothills of these mountains. An hour’s travel out of the city, the roads begin to fade into the mist and disappear, and one has the sense of traveling through time…
許多世紀以來，自然，這個偉大的女神，用幾近殘酷而永恒的美麗，引誘並挑釁著藝術家。王亞彬當然是這個神聖傳統的一員。他將整個自然視作自己的牧場，並在那裡看見了人類在宇宙中的孤獨，喚醒了自己對另一個時空的印象。在歐洲浪漫主義傳統的典範作品，比如弗雷德裏希(Caspar David Friedrich)的《霧海上的漫遊者(Wanderer above the sea of fog)》［註2］這幅畫裡，一個人站在崎嶇的山崖頂端，望著澎湃的雲海，折射出人在世界中的位置，以及不凡卻又渺小的生命。王亞彬描繪的自然環境雖然更加平和，卻有同樣的冥思氛圍和同樣的精神。他的《海拉爾的海拉爾》裡面有一個批鬥篷的人，身處森林深處。長而寬的筆觸似乎在那裡形成一種接近八卦圖形的韻律，暗示著人與周圍的一切的終極關係。這幅畫讓人想起萊昂·斯皮拉爾特(Leon Spillaert)那些沈靜的自畫像，裡面的形象望著遙遠的地平線，琢磨著人在自然中的位置。