“Fusion of the Art of Subtraction and Addition, Chinese Philosophy to Western Art Form”
Traditionally, photography is a means of recording the outside world using different perspectives under the lens and the camera. It is a selection of momentary actions, a decisive moment. This is very different from paintings, which reconstitute and reorganize symbols into an empty canvas. As summarized by British critic John Berger in “Way of Seeing”, “The photographer’s way of seeing is reflected in his choice of subject. The painter’s way of seeing is reconstituted by the marks he makes on canvas or papers”. There are also sayings that “Photography is an art of selection or Subtraction” while “Painting is an art of Addition”.
Since the invention of camera some 170 years ago, this media as an artistic expression has been rapidly developing.
As Hong Kong Chinese born in the era of Colonial British rule, I naturally adopted photography, a modern media of western origin, as my way of expression. After the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China, I gradually discovered the root native to my bloodline, and treasures in Chinese culture, traditional Chinese literati painting and calligraphy, and its relation to Chinese philosophy. Under the philosophical umbrella of Lao Tzu’s Taoism, the “freehand style – 「寫意」 ” in traditional Chinese literati painting does not emphasize narrative accurate replication of reality. Instead, it stresses the hidden meaning and emotion, an abstract reinterpretation of the visual realism in the paintings. The development of “poetic world -「意境」 ” beyond the visual reality as represented in the paintings is not to reproduce the appearance of nature exactly (realism), but rather to grasp an emotion or atmosphere, and capture the “rhythm” and “harmony” of nature. It is a form of expressionistic art that captures the unseen – 「景外之景」、「立象盡意」.
The integration of the ideals of Taoism into this Western media of photography, the combination of the essences of photography “capturing of decisive moment and choosing of perspective”, with the thinking behind Chinese art, painting and calligraphy is my goal. This, I wish to accomplish by infusion of this Chinese philosophy into my photographic compositions. This, I wish to create the fusion of photograph and Chinese brush painting and calligraphy style, but using photographic techniques.
This had been attempted in the last century by Mr. Jingshan LANG, generally considered as the father of photography in China, who used dark room techniques such as superimposition of negatives films, to put calligraphic Chinese characters onto the photographs, creating photographic images that resembled traditional Chinese paintings. This is an art of fusion of Subtraction and Addition. In the 1980s, Mr. RIli CHEN, another protagonist of this fusion art form, demonstrated another form of fusion of Subtraction and Addition by inviting contemporary accomplished artists to paint and write on his photographs.
In this exhibition, I have chosen Lotus as the subject matter. “Lotus” is a favorite and much adored subject in Chinese culture. It is considered a symbol of noble character. Multiple art forms including poetry, painting are the media used to express the “Love of the Lotus”. I approached my goal of artistic presentation using the subject matter “Lotus” by three photographic expressions: “Colour”, “Light”, “Shade”, to feature a gradual transition from a dazzling lotus pond in a more direct and concrete realism, to a more abstract and conceptual manners figuring a monochromic and yet infinite representations. In the “Colour” section, I intended to present the sensible beauty and elicit the traditional Chinese esteem for lotus ponds. The works are taken by a conventional approach, with visual images enriched through the application of both eastern and western scenic compositions, and the combination of traditional and modern multiple exposure photographic techniques, recreating the visual aesthetic of “freehand style” painting, depicting the “poetic world”. This is the art of conventional photography, mere “Subtraction”.
In the “Light” section, I further applied this technique, and with the integration of different angles, focuses and apertures into one single picture, the vivacity of lotus pond under different weather, season and lighting conditions are consolidated into one image. Through these Cubism-like creations, I endeavour to translate the perpetuity and infinitude of lotus pond into comprehensible images. Thus the final images are not the narrative realism of the nature as in “traditional photography”, but a reinterpretation of the virtual truth, an imaginary world of mine at the time and space when the images are taken. They are yet another interpretation of “decisive moment” of mine, while capturing the very moment of thoughts and emotions when the photos are taken. This is the art of fusion of Subtraction and Addition. The “Shade” section shows a collection of works with non-conventional photographic techniques applied extensively. The multiple exposure technique helps capture my emotion at the moment. This cannot be achieved through post-shooting development. In this way, lotus stems are transformed into forceful and exceptional lines that complement and supplement each other. Crossing over or running in parallel, the lotus stems created some discrete and artistic composition that is impossible to crystalize in reality. The resulting picture is the outcome of new angles and new perceptions that comes not from what we see with our eyes, but from what lotus pond transmitted to our mind. This mirrors the thoughts and rationale of calligraphy, which emphasizes forceful lines, structures, space, rhythm, harmony and infinite soul as far as one can imagine. In this way, I try to infuse the traditional valued beliefs into these images. The reality of the original lotus stems is limited, but through composition, it is infinite.
Lao Tzu said: “It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities.”
“Empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds.”
These compositions attempt to actualize and reinterpret these abstract concepts into a photographic image, not by area of void and emptiness, but by infinite and inexhaustible structures and spaces created by mere withered lotus ponds and ponds alone. It is another approach to the art of fusion of Subtraction and Addition. All the works collected in this exhibition resulted from my efforts to capture and magnify the unique picturesque beauty and features of lotus pond. I instituted the concepts, did the shooting, post-shooting refinement, and even photo development on my own, trying to apply new concepts and elements to portray my profound feelings towards lotus pond, and furnish readers with new ideas, new visions, and new experience. I sincerely hope that you will enjoy going through these works.
It is a great privilege to be able to share this work with you at this exhibition. This will not have been able to materialize if not for the invitation by the Ausmeyer & Gerling gallery. My wholehearted gratitude goes to Mr. Frank BUSS, director of gallery in organising this exhibition. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Mr. Muenkel WOLFGANG. His professional facilitation allows this exhibition to be held smoothly, and my artistic aspiration to be realized. Last but not least, I would like to thank all the co-workers who have participated in the organisation of the exhibition. The final result is a valid proof of your painstaking efforts.
Amy Lai-man PANG September 2016
傳統攝影是比較被動的。作者透過相機，利用光圈，快門，在鏡頭下，呈現自己的 角度，從而表達個人感思，是攝影師按快門那決定性瞬問所捕捉的片刻面貌。這與在空白畫布上塗上符號來表達作者心思的繪畫有很大分別。英國藝評家約翰．伯格 (John Berger）在《觀看的方式（”Way of Seeing”）》的形容最為一針見 血：「攝影師挑選的題材反映了他觀看的方式，畫家則透過在畫布或畫紙上留下的筆觸反映他觀看的方式。」亦有一種說法，說「攝影是選擇或「減」的藝術」，而「繪畫則是「加」的藝術」 。
我生長於英國殖民統治時期的香港，順理成章地以攝影為我情感抒發的媒介。但身為中國人，在香港主權由英國移交中國後，深藏血脈內的根讓我開始懂得欣賞中國 文化，對中國藝術如文人畫及書法及其內藏的傳統哲學思想，都產生濃厚的興趣。 受老子的道家思想影響下，傳統中國文人畫中的「寫意」不講求現實面貌的準確描述，而強調其涵意與感情，將現實斗抽象的手法重現於畫作中。畫作所表達的「意境」並非要將真實的面貌準確呈現，而是將瞬間的感覺與氛圍捕捉，展現大自然的「韻律」與「和諧」，是表現主義中的「景外之景」、「立象盡意」。
「捕捉決定性瞬間和不同角 我希望透過攝影構圖展現這中國攝影之父郎靜山先生於上世紀曾作出這方面的嘗試。他馱重疊負片等黑房技術 將中國書法併入攝影作品內，創作出貌似中國畫作的攝影作品，促成「加」與「減」 藝術的結合。至八十年代，另一位提倡「影畫合壁」的陳復禮先生愛邀請當代知名畫家在其攝影作品上書畫，呈現另一種結合「加」與「減」的藝術。
這次展覽我以荷花為題。這個題材經常在中國的詩詞和畫作中出現，象徵高尚的品 格，廣受文化界歌頌和喜愛。我嘗試馱三種攝影方式表達荷花這個題材，編定為： 「色之相」、「光之相」、「影之相」，由較直接表達荷花池現實的美態，逐漸轉 變為較抽象和非理性的表達手法，以單一色彩展現無限的意象。 「色之相」是最寫實的荷塘面貌，以較傳統的手法拍攝，多運用重拍的技巧，利用 中國和西方的畫意作構圖方式，豐富構圖和視像感觀，藉以表達中國文化對荷的讚 頌。是典型「減」的藝術。
在「光之相」中，我進一步以多重曝光，多種鏡頭運用，不同光圈、角度、焦距，甚至視點，令同一張照片內出現荷塘不同季節、不同時段、不同色彩的斑斕多姿， 就像一些立體派的創作般，用以表達荷塘生生不息、永無休止的生命力。故相片所呈現的結構，造型及色彩，亦非在現實世界所能看到，而是源於我心目中的一個景象，境界。然而，這亦是彰顯我拍攝時那「決定性瞬間」的感思，是先「減」後 「加」的藝術。
這種突破傳統的拍攝手法到「影之相」內更被充分運用，多重曝光的手法令我將當時的感思層層捕捉，而純以拍攝技巧造成的效果，顯示出沉靜的荷枝縱橫交錯地充斥著整個畫面，簡潔的荷枝造成現實視像中無法呈現的構圖。由多角度、多視野的 荷塘景色帶出另一番結構美，馱荷塘本身創造出無窮無盡的新觀點、新構思。這手法與書法強調U線條、結構、空問、節奏、和諧、無限的理念如出一轍。我在作品 中試圖拼入這些珍貴的傳統智慧，讓有限的荷枝，轉化為無限的構圖。
今次能夠舉辦這個展覽，實在需要誠意向Ausmeyer&Gerling展館致謝。沒有他們的邀請，相信我沒機會將本人對荷塘的感思公開展出，與各位分享。另外我亦要 多謝籌備今次展覽的展館總監Mr. Frank BUSS；以及向Mr. Muenkel WOLFGANG 致以衷心謝忱，在他協調與協助下，各項工作得以順利完成；本人希望透過今次展覽帶出的理念，亦得以充分發揮。最後，我想在此向各位參與今次展覽的同工致謝， 每一件工作都是各單位不懈努力的珍貴成果，得到各方配合，今次才可以將荷塘的美用本人主觀但多變的角度一一呈現。