Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Fighter

A real fighter must never look back. The road he sallies forth his pilgrimage, trudges pass all obstacles and comes striding into the battlefield where the fate of his game is decided- this road should, for the present, remains merely a faint lustre of a fading rainbow: diaphanous, forgettable within several blinks of eyes. The fighter is a loner and sole player of his own game.

The contortions on a fighter’s face give an impression of a child blowing up a balloon, but the fighter is more like the balloon than the child. His immortal strength is what the gods are most envious of. At any moment the fighter is expected to transform into a sacred figure; that the harder he fights the lighter he feels. Eventually everything is levitated.

However, when a fighter is defeated it is like a monolith that collapses. The spectators are at a loss of what to do but gape, until slants of scintillating gaze strikes the fighter like the bitterest mockeries. Thus the fighter is made to stand on his feet, or, in some critical situations, totter to his balance on the scorching ground, trembled by a succession of the audience’s beastly howls.

Those human figures by Francis Bacon are often blown up in violent disruptions and eruptions. When depicting a figure in accelerated movement the painter did not do so at the expense of its substantiality- what is presented on the canvas is still a concrete, fleshy being. Titled Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle (1966), Bacon appropriately made cycling a dizzying sport. Even the ground swirls as if in a circus arena. The painting reminds me of Degas’ Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, but it isn’t too marvelous a spectacle as a sight of desolation: a quixotic cyclist circling in his immurement. An invisible, unknown somebody seems to be playing a very cruel trick.

An exciting tournament should be fizzed with sweats and vigour. George Bellows’ oil depictions of wrestling channel the masculine beauty inherent in the paintings and sculptures of the Old Masters. The colours fleet with movement. The tense muscles, the ruddiness of complexions and contortions of faces- the captured moment is in an apparent stalemate. A spectator with a cigar in mouth looks amusingly on; just the facial expression of any onlooker who gloats over the pain and toil of the sufferers.

Sportsmen can be performers whose only function is to entertain the impassive audience. The play they put upon is their ultimate guise, dissembling their weary souls of which spirits are destitute. Edgar Degas was obviously more interested in the backbreaking rehearsals of ballets than the performances. From those self-same ballet oils we gather how professional the ballerinas are as dancers and actors. Offstage is a world unimaginably grim: dancers stroking their sour backs and yawning uncontrollably. But even in their most torpid state the ballerinas still look effortlessly attractive. A man in suit gazes in entracement by aids of the intervening light coming from the foreground; the gaze suggests utter voyeurism.

Even after the fight the shadows of the fighters hover around the battleground. But the spectators take no notice of the lingering shadows as they file out, leaving an empty stadium swallow bitterly its echoing emptiness. The fighter with his body covered with wounds hobbles towards the battleground to face his Shadow, positively the most invincible opponent he’s ever met in his life. Without any soul witnessing the game the fighter fights on. And always will the fighter persists in fighting until the Shadow dissolves.

Monday, 11 February 2013


I always liken the control of rage to the cradling of an animal infant- one has to keep a vigilant eye on its unpredictable mischiefs, and the task is made difficult when all the time the carer imparts a language alien to the baby, and the baby the carer. Rage rarely speaks in a language I comprehend and often appears in a manner of extreme intractability. In images or visions rage is, typically, the abrupt fire that burns all, leaving the barren land that parches under the ruthless sun. Rage can be also found throbbing fitfully in every visible vein of one’s pallid skin, and sooner or later one’s body of map will be crisscrossed with an army of red snakes. Fire and red are principally the two words that epitomize rage. When confronted by the formidable presence of rage, even the most glacial ice bows down in defeat and cries the waxen tears that leave an imperceptible trace on the scorching ground.

The title of a Cy Twombly’s painting sums up all: The Fire that Consumes All before It (1978). The juxtaposition of white and red makes the latter look more like flaming blood than fire- a blotch of flaring red bleeds into the slightly-tainted white. If it were a fire then it must be a destructive fire of envy. It is with such aggression and impetus that the fire of envy is keen on destroying everything that it is not: I am thinking about some clichéd fairy-tale of a misunderstood monster gruesomely defiling an innocent maiden when the later is stubbornly unresponsive to the former’s awkward, persistent courtships. This then becomes not so much a painting of encroachment but the natural law of affection.

Colours are not the only manifestation of rage, for it also leaves its temporary marks on human faces sometimes. The creation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Caricature Head Study of an Old Man (c. 1500-05) was only a matter of a few scrawls and strokes, but rage is self-expressive. This old man’s rage is visibly tinged with a Job’s desperation: both eyes and chin direct to the Heaven; the glint of menace in his eyes speaks positively of indignation and bitterness that only those who spend a chunk of their lives being misjudged and underestimated will know. Leonardo da Vince is one of the few who illustrate sundry human emotions like some drolleries read in the Canterbury Tales; not without some pathos of a great Medieval tragedy.

To a certain extent rage can appear in a form that utterly betrays its essence. Call it a reckless misinterpretation but Yves Klein’s output in the Blue Epoch seems to me a phalanx of the artist’s pent-up anger. Executed solely in the patented International Klein Blue (IKB), the colour expresses a feeling of extreme disquietude. Mostly those IKBs are bestowed with lives and souls, but what resulted on the canvases display no harmonious melodies that frequent Jackson Pollock’s. Some of them are rhythmically violent and chaotic. The colours are flung onto the canvases disdainfully. Slowly, however, when eyes are patient enough to dwell a considerable period on those paintings, the desultory morass of IKBs seem to come into a specific form, and at length we might want to land in the context, the concept, a beguiling story.

Rage might express itself in the most indecipherable, and sometimes when it chooses to appear in the form of a spitfire that sputters and spews despite others’ incomprehension, esoteric language. But always the image of rage cannot be more obvious and clear. The art of rage is a three-stage transmutation: the artist translates his abstract feelings into a concrete art piece and as the viewers witness the artwork, it is allowed to transforms back into an impression that installed in their memories. And thus the fire of rage proves to be indistinguishable. It seethes until the time is ripe and there everything unleashes.