The South Hill, Gullies and Rambling Author:Xu Jiang Date: 2013-10-23 Size:
The South Hill road to the east of the lake is the campus road in the hearts of teachers and students from China Academy of Art. In spring, a light green is splashed on the branches by the rainwater, and then overflows down hastily.

The South Hill road to the east of the lake is the campus road in the hearts of teachers and students from China Academy of Art. In spring, a light green is splashed on the branches by the rainwater, and then overflows down hastily. One water, one green. As summer approaching, the path is gradually shaded over by green trees, whose crowns mingle with their shadow, making the green more luxuriant, as if a solemn protection, in a way of an umbrella, or a great cover.Autumn comes late. The shedding leaves fell lightly and silently. The walkers on the path can not perceive the southern cool. However, suddenly, at one certain dusk, an unusual glow of sunset spreads evenly. Looking upward, a golden vault greets us. In a few days, that gold slides from the branches to the paths and the corridors. The sky and the ground are formed as an integrated mass, bringing an admiring and sentimental sense for people towards the strong autumn.And finally winter comes. Even in snowy days, the South Hill road still constructed a kind of plain integration and fullness with her backbone. There are many people walking on the South Hill road, but the moods of the people from China Academy of Art are different. Passing here hurriedly every day, but what accumulate over a long period in their hearts is the density of green and the wandering of the leaves, which is authentically heavy.Exactly at the shady depths of the south end of the South Hill road, in a green house built of brick, there is the Yan Nan artistic studio, where art exhibitions or relevant activities are often held. Yan Nan, namely Tong Yan Ru Nan, is an artist revitalizing himself with his real name at his original domain. Tong Yan has already been here for many years at the South Hill road.

In fact Tong Yan is young, but he cultivates a nice bit of beard, which connects with his long hair, setting off his somber and sensitive eyes. In addition, because of a pair of glasses he wears, there is not much face left. Therefore, his face is always somewhat vague. However, when one look him carefully, one will have a sense of hurried glance, while turning back, the impression of that face will be felt quite unforgettable.Tong Yan draws a lot of paintings, mainly of scenery and figures. He went to sketch to Zhejiang and south Anhui last early summer, taking back ten-odd pieces of landscape paintings more than two meters high and three meters long, which stuffed his studio while being exhibited here. I once suggested him to exhibit them outdoors where the pictures with such a big scale may merge into the real scene, and through such means the watching of the painter is apt to be felt.There is always a horizon in these pictures, it considerably winds in the remotest place, sometimes linking with ridges or ditches, sometimes flickering among the black tiles or walls in the field or in the forest, and merging with them completely. Scenes seem to be drawn by it, gathering together towards the distance, hastily and vaguely. Those scenes looked as if they were views from a walking train, stretching illegibly but boundlessly.  The mountain ridge is running, the field path is running, the cloud mass is running. The scenery chaos is indistinct, therefore it looks like hills and gullies. Hills and gullies, like swelling or sinking parts of the earth, are vast and boundless, sometimes as if at present, sometimes in the distance.It is the wind that drives the scenes, forms the hills and gullies, and indicates the permanent remoteness. Where does the wind come from? It comes from the heart, from pursuing and catching the meaningful appearance of the nature, and from a kind of sentient attitude with which one will appreciate the usual scenes as meaningful hills and gullies. The wind from the heart breezes over the scene. That is why the word scenery in Chinese is Feng Jing, which means wind and scene. Tong Yan pursues it with his eyes as well as his heart, coming and going in a hurry, but particularly seriously.

The figures created by Tong Yan are coming up to us group by group. More than one hundred figures are created for over ten years. Like his landscape paintings, these figures are also vague, presented in every shape. They are invariable facades, suddenly barging into the viewers’ eyes, however, still, those figures are becoming vague as being watched carefully.The meaningful brushstrokes always draw some trace of vicissitudes of life at the parts of eyes and eyebrows with a bold hand. It looked as if the figures fall into those unruly brushstrokes, sometimes clear, sometimes vague. Finally, those figures are smeared off for no reason as viewers’ hesitating gazes moving on them, the facial features are withdrawn inward, as if the wind is passing over their spiritual bones. It seems that we run into them and then go away in a hurry. These pictures do not written down those people, but the impression of the sudden meeting.What has that pair of somber and sensitive eyes of Tong Yan been seen? In those ten-odd years, these hundreds of figures factually record what he has seen. Painters draw nothing but what he or she has seen. As for Tong Yan, he does not want to do more. He always keeps the figures at a certain moment, a moment far from intact but very true. At such moment, does Tong Yan see clearly? Do we see clearly? Is that momentary and vague clearness possible?Tong Yan is always in a slack state to greet these vague figures appearing suddenly. This kind of figures can not be too clear. They need to be greeted with the slackness of life. Tong Yan and these figures shape each other, and in this way, the former is shaped into a soul-rambler, glancing casually in a hurry.

Therefore, as we are facing the crowds of silent figures entangled with brushstrokes full of vicissitudes and integrated tinge, we are at the same time facing the watching of Tong Yan’s type, or facing a kind of souls in rambling.We do not distinguish those figures with great effort, whereas we try to catch the kind of state still in chaos. We do not pursue the perspicuity in visual focus, whereas we ponder over the moments of the meeting and the merging of thoughts. Such states and moments often overlap and reflect with each other, turning into integrated hills and gullies, and forming a whole silence, as cloudy hills, evening hills, or rainy hills.When the shape of faces turn into hills and gullies, they, also, are silent like hills and gullies, muttering as an meaningful integrated appearance. The facial features fall into the gullies, while the details give way of marks of time, looked like a worn screen wall.The prompters of such turnings are no other than ourselves. It is ourselves rushing through to grasp the vague seen before we see clearly. It is just about this kind of seen that leads us to catch the moments in life, to experience the careless care, and to wait for the uncertain certainty.It seems that we are taken to that spot of watching, to appreciate a certain turning-watching moment. At an unexpected moment, the riddle behind the figures is being caught, and the muttering of the figures or those hills and gullies are being listened. When we feel something from this kind of hills and gullies, to some extent, we are receiving a certain poetics of watching.  

Still in that South Hill road, here comes Tong Yan, with an attitude of a rambler, facile and graceful, as well as of the heaviness and stagnancy of hills and gullies. In the circles of Chinese young artists, there are a lot of fascinating fellows, who catch some feeling characteristics of life, and express with exaggerated sexy appearance; and there are also a lot of cynical fellows, who take the resource from Chinese modern history, and toy with the weaknesses of human nature cruelly.Tong Yan has neither the former's fascination nor the latter’s cynicism. The only thing he has is the independent rambling attitude, an attitude of letting his life alone rambling along the ways of the mortal world, and an attitude of boundless soul-rambling while human and the world merge together. This kind of rambling attitude is exactly the real state of the road in the South Hill, where Tong Yan's figure merge into it. The South Hill road is endless, and we only walk on her everyday image.

Xu Jiang

August 16, 2007

In the Pavilion of Three Windows, South Hill, West Lake, Hangzhou

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[Editor] 纪晓棠