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#10 (1952) by Mark Rothko
#10 (1952) by Mark Rothko (Photo credit: wordherder)

Quite often, I heard some of my students asking me “Can I do this?’ or “Can I do that?” I repeatedly told them, that in this class, they have 100% freedom to do whatever they want to do with their projects. The question that “bugs” me even more is “Can I paint background black” or “yellow” or “orange”, some of them even asked me with a expression of ridiculousness, implied that there must be something you just CANNOT DO. Of course, my answers would always be: of course you can, if YOU REALLY LIKE IT!

Seemingly these are questions long for freedom, but somehow I saw just the opposite: they are asking for permission, asking for demand. These students really wished me to give them a certain rule to follow so they could be successful with every single projects. I often see this attitude among those whose parents have the highest expectations, those who also have high expectation on their teachers (in this case it’s me). And these students would be  frustrated or discouraged, even stressed if they could not reach their goal in very short period of time.

Since the beginning of my art classes (2009), I was clear with what I could and could not do with my teaching. What I could do is teaching students some basic techniques and giving them opportunities to discover themselves; what I could not do is giving them inspiration, making them “talented”. I told my students that I do not teach “how to paint a tree”, “water”, “mountain”, or any specific subject, rather, I only teach “how to paint”. In other words, I teach basic rules (such as perspective, shading, color principles, etc.), and let students use these basic rules to deal with subjects by themselves. Most of students (especially those self-motivated) could understand this idea quickly, put themselves in “experiment” and have fun with it, but some students couldn’t seem to understand, only feeling lost when there are no certainties to rely on.

Averagely, I found younger students seemed to welcome this teaching method more than older ones. Also same students could change through time. i.e., one girl was very creative when she just came to my studio a few years ago, now she is over 10, she seemed to try very hard to find some rules to follow, and confused when I refused to give her specifics.

Sometime I would feel impatient when facing such kind of questions too often, especially when I saw the mental laziness or complete dependence (on me) in their attitudes. But sometime I would remind myself that they are still too young and could be very confused by all different kinds of influences surround them. So I took a deep breath, be patient again next time.

Freedom is a good thing, is the soul of art, soul of joyful life. Unfortunately, it is not always comfortable. I knew this when I first read Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom (and later my life experience seems to prove his point). Now, teaching young kids, I realized, that even at this early ages, freedom is not welcome to everyone.


Posted on: November 15, 2012



Hobby (Photo credit: Sergey Yeliseev)




灵感是造化给人的礼物,所以不是每个人都会大量拥有的。那么,没有灵感的时候,人是否应该强迫自己创作呢?我的答案是否定的。我认为,在艺术创作的过程中,如果没有灵感,就应该停止创作,等到灵感来临时再创作。我在生活中看到太多的人强迫自己搞创作,而这个“强迫”在我眼里其实就是在“伪装”- 伪装创造力。比如,很多畅销书作家在开始写出一两部好作品之后,就开始源源不断地继续写,写出的质量越来越差。为什么同样一个作家前后的作品差别那么大呢?其实这就是灵感和“吃苦”之间的区别,最早的作品往往是有感而发,后来的作品,却是为了保护自己的“名誉”而“强迫”自己“吃苦”的结果。






Inspiration Vs. “Working Hard”

I often don’t understand why people complain about “working hard” on their hobbies, such as writing, painting, playing music, gardening, cooking, etc. For what I understand, “working hard” means we are forced to do something we don’t enjoy, or something go beyond our energy limit, so it makes us feel more or less suffering, which is just opposite of the purpose of “hobby”. I understand that people work hard for their jobs, to survive, because that’s something they have to do, regardless they like it or not, but hobbies, if we feel suffering, why don’t we just quit?

I grew up with the notion of “working hard”. Trust me, the whole mainstream Chinese education to me is all about “working hard”. As my father put it, “if you don’t work hard, you would never be anything!” I still remember how he interpreted my quick interest shifting as “not capable of working hard”. He was right. I am not able to do that, but what he may not know is, not only I am not capable of working hard, but also I dislike doing it, and furthermore, I even “despise” those works done by “hard working”.

I think there is a giant difference between “working hard” and “working passionately”. For me, the former is suffering, the latter is totally a enjoyment, even both can be sweating – about which many people confused. Maybe the most famous saying about “working hard” is Thomas Edison’s quote: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” I CANNOT DISAGREE more. I think it should be 50% and 50%. And among 50% perspiration, there is not a slight amount of suffering. For me, all true masterpieces were done by “inspiration”, not by so call “hard working”. I like to be a little more “specific” about the difference between these two: “inspiration” for me means a perfect LOVEMAKING between a humans mind and “God” (I am not a believer so “God” here means our “Nature”), and “hard working” means RAPE, committed by an empty human mind to an exhausted human body. So whereas “working hard” is unpleasant, suffering and often futile, the creative process under inspiration is always productive and full of pleasure. No doubt whoever gets inspiration do not mind “working hard!”

Inspiration is a gift. Not everybody has abundant amount of it. So, if we don’t get inspired, what do we do? Nothing! I see so many people force themselves working on so call “creative works”, but for me, what they were doing is nothing more than pretending to be “creative”. I do think, pretending to know things we don’t know, to do things we are not capable of, truly is one of the most foolish things humans “committed”.

And the thing is, life is so much more than just “being creative”, and sometime it does require our absolutely “doing nothing” to see this (probably the most) wonderful part. “Doing nothing and everything is done”, lazy Lao Zi got it all.


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Posted on: November 15, 2012


“Until I saw johnny I never knew a man could be so beautiful”
— by 7827melody, from Youtube



English: 2008 World Championships. Johnny Weir

English: 2008 World Championships. Johnny Weir (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


本文要说的,就是这样一个意外:一个和很多美丽的女人一样美丽,甚至比很多女人还“女人”的男人 – 江尼·威尔(Johnny Weir)。


其次,威尔打动我的,和沙霞·科恩(Sasha Cohen)一样,是他的艺术感染力。和那些只会在冰上比赛跳跃,或者机械地呈现一些规定动作,而在动作之间什么都没有的选手所不同的是,威尔总是能和音乐同步。似乎,他的身体本身就是被旋律和节奏所构成,所以无论是跳跃,转身,还是平稳的滑步,他的每一个移动,都像是一次生命之花的全新盛开,让人目不暇接。


2010年温哥华冬季奥运会上,江尼·威尔的表演极其优美,技术难度虽然不算最高,但都完成得天衣无缝。我个人觉得他至少应该拿到一个银牌或铜牌。但遗憾的是,他最后只排名第六。这在当时算是引起了公众的争议。从我看到网上的一些讨论来看,之所以他的排名如此落后,主要是因为他的艺术部分(performance score)得分太低。这就明显地表示出裁判对他的风格的“歧视”。

2010 – 2012年,威尔停赛了两年,之后又宣布复出,参加2014冬季奥运会。2010年威尔也公开了自己的同性恋身份。为此我为他高兴,因为这显示出他并没有被歧视压倒。我也衷心地希望在下界奥运会上他得到他应有的“报酬”。

Good luck Johnny!



Stunning Beauty – Johnny Weir

Until I saw johnny I never knew a man could be so beautiful
— A comment from Youtube by “7827melody”


For me, to say every man should be like a man, every woman should be like a woman, is almost like to say every Chinese should be good at Kong Fu, every American should be rich. Truth is, the reality often is much more complicated than we humans can categorize it. There are always plenty of exceptions and surprises that break human rules, give this world some diversity, which make this world less boring. Here comes a man, who on ice acts as gracious as some of the most beautiful women. His name is Johnny Weir.

As a figure skater, Johnny Weir struck me first with his natural beauty of feminine. I’ve seen lots of “feminine” male figure skaters, many of them only appear to be too “soft” to me. Their “softness” seems to be a quality of “less masculine”, or “less powerful” than “regular” male skaters’ style. But Johnny Weir is different. He is not “less masculine”, because that’s simply NOT what he is. What he is is FEMININE. He doesn’t care about “masculine”, instead, he freely expresses his elegant nature without a slight confusion. When you watch his moves on ice, the elegance is totally natural. What’s even better, is that Weir’s “feminine” quality is rendered by some “muscle power”, which means better control on ice, thus as an art form, it is even closer to perfection.

Secondly, Weir impresses me with his artistic style (just like Sasha Cohen!). Different from many skaters who just pose some jumps and required positions, and in between fill with “nothingness”, Weir moves along with music, as if his body is charged by melody and rhythm, each move comes with a full “blossom” of life.

Last, probably most importantly to my “philosophical” view, is that all Weir’s performance displayed a great confidence. Not only he is naturally feminine, but also he is fully aware of it, and he intends to exhibit it with a giant confidence. I personally do not take this for granted, because for me, it is easier to gain confidence for those popular celebrities who easily receive approval from majority, than for those who are different, especially different by “nature”, different from social ideology or “common sense”. For the latter, being confident dose take a totally different measure of courage. That’s why I have to appreciate Johnny Weir with extra respect.

In 2010 Vancuver Winter Olympics, Johnny Weir finished in the Sixth place. It was a huge controversial. For me, he deserved a silver medal, or at least a bronze. According to some source I read online, the reason he was so underrated was because his “performance score” (aside from “technique score”) was marked very low. This obviously shows that judges indeed disliked Weir’s style.

I heard Johnny Weir has announced his coming back for 2014 Olympics. He also came out as an openly gay. I am glad, because all these actions showed that he was not discouraged by the mistreatment he received from last Olympics. I wholeheartedly hope he gets what he deserves next year.

Good luck Johnny!


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“山丹丹开花红艳艳”– 来自黄土高原的生命之歌

一年一度,秋天又悄然来临,耳边不觉响起了自己最喜欢的信天游“山丹丹开花红艳艳”,高昂而又起伏有致的旋律一时间带我回到了阳光下的陕北 —

在“少读中国书的五大原因”一文中,我提到的第一条就是“在绝大多数的中国传统文化和现代及当代文化中,我几乎看不到对生命的正面歌颂。” 我很高兴自己用了一个“几乎”二字,因为,对生命的正面歌颂,在中国的民间艺术中仍然处处可见。

很久以前去贵州云南收集民间艺术,大量的木刻版画和剪纸艺术都体现了一种在中国主流文化中看不到的自然情趣。第一次看“黄土地”,虽然对整部电影不以为然,但却从此爱上了信天游。电影“人生”中的几段插曲也更加令人难忘 – 独唱和合唱的优美结合,把歌曲中的情感内涵宣泄的淋漓尽致。后来去敦煌收集创作素材,回来时沿黄河流域而行,听到秦腔和山西民谣,其风格和信天游有着异曲同工之妙 – 似乎都和那一带的自然景观一样,给人一种大气而舒展的印象。

中国的文艺主流被士大夫艺术所垄断,大都清淡萧条,情绪低落而色调苍白。这也是我为什么认为中国文化缺乏生命力的主要原因。不过,在中国的“下里巴人”的民间艺术中,却可以看到一种非常不同于士大夫艺术的风格 – 一种生活在远古时代的华夏民族曾经禀赋的一种天然野性。虽然中国南方的民间音乐大多都属阴柔美,但沿黄河一代的民乐,似乎有着非常不同气质 – 高昂而充满原始激情。这也许说明了华夏文明源于中原一带的原因 – 极其强健的生命力。而这种生命力至今仍渗透在民间艺术之中。

信天游大概应该是黄河一带的民谣之最,也是风格最奔放,最野性的民歌。印象深刻的信天游,除了很多有名的如“南泥湾”,“走西口”等等以外,还有“天下黄河九十九道弯” – 其粗狂而又大起大落的旋律本身就是一片无垠的令人荡气回肠的陕北高原。


“山丹丹开花红艳艳”是根据信天游改编的革命歌曲。民歌代代相传,虽然歌词经常都在民间更换着,但曲调不变,其渲染的情绪也不变。这正如同苏珊·朗格在“艺术问题”中说的,歌曲中音乐和歌词的结合不是平等的婚姻,而是不平等的“强奸” – 音乐部分对词汇部分的“强奸”。这个话的意思就是在歌曲中音乐部分的感染力具有绝对的统治力,而歌词的感染力是附属的,甚至可以被忽略的。所以,虽然这首歌的歌词充满政治意义,但由于曲调仍然是信天游的原始风味,其音乐的传达的情感内涵仍然丝毫无损。





《山丹丹开花红艳艳》 殷承宗钢琴独奏·陕北民歌

山丹丹开花红艳艳 Red Flowers Blooming All Over the Mountain- Wang Jianzhong


“山丹丹开花红艳艳”– 来自黄土高原的生命之歌



仔细想来,这个网球魅力究竟在哪里呢?我后来意识到,我的“糟糕”的第一印象,其实正是网球的真正魅力所在:因为慢,我们可以感受到乒乓和羽毛球中没有的力度;因为慢,我们有时间回味每个球员的技术套路 – 或底线大力拼搏,或灵巧地上网拦截,或兵不厌诈地临时改变战术等等;因为慢,我们可以看到球员丰富多彩的个性。当然,还有很多我这个不打网球的“伪球迷”看不出的内涵。总之,慢,这个我一开始不喜欢网球的理由,反而成了我后来喜欢网球的原因 -让我在其中看技术,看力度,也更看人的个性美。

而在这么多的技艺精湛的选手之中,最能体现网球的所有魅力的,我认为非费德勒莫属 – 全面的技术,对技术的灵巧的运用,以及非凡的人格魅力,成了网球运动的标志。

费德勒的成就是不可否认的,除了大满贯的数量(17),其他各方面的职业网球纪录都是令人口瞪目呆的。其中连续进入半决赛和八强赛的纪录等,不但前无古人,也将是今后非常难以被超越的(甚至无法超越,除非另一个天才出现)。然而,这些,都不是我喜欢他的原因。我个人之所以对费德勒情有独钟的最主要原因,是因为他把这项运动彻底艺术化了 – 在那么消耗体力的网球场上,他能显得如此飘逸,动作轻松得如同行云流水一般。所以他的球风被称为“芭蕾网球”(当之无愧!)。而在费德勒的“艺术”中最重要的一点,就是他“简化”风格:力求简洁,决不无端耗费精力。

简洁(simplicity),是艺术的最高境界,也是几乎所有人类精神创造劳作的最高境界。那么,什么是简洁?我认为,简洁是一种风格,是指在处理或表现事物的过程中尽量用最简单的方式达到我们的主观目的一种倾向。比如在文字表达中,能用最少量的词汇表达最丰富的内涵的风格,就是简洁,数学就不必提了,我认为整个数学就是简化的学问。物理学中,爱因斯坦的E=MC2 应该是科学的简洁美的最高体现,因为它把最深奥复杂的内容用最简单的方式表达出来了(注:我并不精通物理学)。

要能够做到“简洁”,我认为有两点:以文字为例,首先要求作者必须要有足够的丰富的词汇。我们不可能把一个儿童写出的简单文句称为“简洁”,因为儿童本身没有足够的词汇来供自己选择;其次,对使用效率的把握 – 有了丰富的词汇而没有效率的运用,就成了“赘述”,而只有对自己想要表达的内容有充分的认识之后,对所有文字的意义有了准确的把握之后,才可能对文字的运用做出正确的选择。所以,好的文学作品,总是能让人在有限的文字中作无限的猜想,如海明威所说的,冰山之所以美,是因为其只有八分之一露在水面。


费德勒在网球场上的表现就是“简洁”。之所以如此,就是因为他既有“丰富的词汇” – 全方位的技巧,又能有效地利用自己的“词汇” – 在不同的形式下做出正确地判断,以选择出最佳的打法,从而最有效地得分。在网球选手中,具备全方位技巧的人本来就不多,而能在比赛中冷静地做出判断,最后做出合理选择对策的人,更是少之又少。这是因为在激烈的拚搏中作出合理的选择所要求的,不光是体力和技术,还有迅速的反应和判断,即“智慧”。所以费德勒具备了几乎所有的这些特点- 全面地技术和智慧,才使他的球风最终成为“艺术”,才让人在看他打球时感受到各种出其不意的享受。相比之下,纳到(以及很多其他打法单调的力量型选手)的风格,就是一种单一的力量感,使人难免觉得乏味。所以我认为相比之下,纳到的风格就是汉语中的“简单”(或者说“单调”,既英语中的monotonous),而费德勒尽管是纳到手下的绝对输家,但却是网坛中的真正艺术大师 – 一方面技术多样全面,另一方面又能智慧地合理运用。






费德勒 – 超越网球艺术的艺术大师


Posted on: December 6, 2011








不久之后中国社会突然“变天”,艺术市场越来越“活跃”了:艺术评论天花乱坠,画家个个都成了 “大师”,作品张张都被炒成“杰作”,祖国上下,顿时一片“艺术繁荣”的气象。这个时候,“创新”都是要退居二位的考虑事项,唯一最能保障“成功”的,就是要紧跟“市场需要”。比如现在市场上写实的农村题材最红火,那么大家都你追我赶地到大巴山或到西藏体验生活,攀比谁的画更“土气”;而过一段时间,政治题材比较抢人眼目,于是大家都刻意来点伤痕怀旧的题材,攀比谁的画更能唤醒人的痛苦记忆;再过一段时间,又大肆流行所谓“前卫艺术”,于是又出现众多的“敢于突破”的“艺术家”,一会儿把破砖烂瓦推在一起成现代雕塑,一会儿又干脆自己赤身露体地站在展厅里大搞所谓“行为艺术(注1)。

其实,所有这些流行在当今中国美术界的各种流派风格,再“前卫”前“新颖”,都不过是在西方人后面“爬”。打着“创新”的牌子,中国艺术家们走着的是一条西方人在一百年前就走过的路,不管是从内容上,还是形式上;无论是从写实技巧上,还是从艺术的“纯粹”和“抽象”的内涵上。有人把中国的当代艺术“繁荣”和文艺复兴时代相比,或者或欧洲的现代艺术出现的时候(印象派和后印象派时期)相比,我认为几乎没有可比性。即使有点可比的,也是表象的,如市场的活跃,画家的“积极”探索,等等,但无法相比的,却是在艺术的最根本最重要的属性上- (前面已经提到的)艺术家的创作动机和目的。欧洲的文艺复兴和现代艺术兴起时,绝大多数的艺术家们对艺术是执着和真诚的,在创作的动机和目的上都是“自我”的,而现在中国的艺术市场上画家们的动机和目的,基本上都是“他我”的,即:为着他人的承认而作画(成功),为着金钱而作画。所以,即使这些当代艺术红人即使是在欧洲人后面爬,这个爬的大方向也都被搞偏了。

然而,我认为这些当今中国的画家们实际上根本不在乎“偏”,因为中国文化本身就充满了“物欲”的传统 – 把人类的一切精神活动都看成物质生活的附属,看成达到荣华富贵的手段,所以对他们来说,艺术动机之“纯粹与否”根本就不是值得追究的问题。从这一点来看,中国当今大多数艺术家其是“功成圆满”的。他们的经济状态,不管是当代世界各地的艺术家都无法相比,就是一百年前,甚至历史的各个时期的艺术家们都无法“与之媲美”的。

从来在历史上,或者在任何一个地方,艺术,由于是最没有实际用途的一种“职业”,所以职业艺术家(除了极少数幸运儿以外)很少有生活稳定的(所以笔者从来认为艺术不应该成为职业)。艺术,也因为它的这个“不管饭”的特点,成为一般人最不愿意选择的“职业”。但当今的中国,不但艺术院校每年高考红火,毕业出来之后的“艺术家”们也的确少有贫寒之辈。这个原因当然是多方面的:1,中国现在大兴土木,所以雕塑,装修以及各种实用美术等等都是非常实用的技艺;2,中国在改革开放之后,由于一些艺术品能反映一个政治宣传以外的中国,所以很多乡土题材的写实绘画深得西方世界的好奇,导致了不少艺术家在经济和名誉上的成功;3,最后还有一种原因,我认为就是虚荣的需要 – 大批暴发户需要一些“高档艺术品”装点自己的精神。而比较滑稽的是,这个精神的高雅程度,由于其“模糊性”,所以只有用金钱来衡量。于是艺术品的市场炒作成了当务之急,于是本来在世界其他地方可能只有当“饿死的艺术家”的人,在这样的环境中一时间成了命运的宠儿。












商品艺术:人性虚荣的最佳装饰品 —兼谈中国当代艺术界的堕落


Posted on: December 2, 2011

在伟大与平凡之间 被遗忘的画家关紫兰





关紫兰主要画油画,但其风格却是非常“中国式”的 – 从她的画中我看到典型的中国山水画的意境。我个人从来认为,介于中国画的材料的特殊限制,当代中国致力于创新的画家,应该大胆放弃中国传统材料,全盘接受表现力强的西方材料和技巧。记得我还在当学生时,看到很多国画家(和学生)苦于在国画中探求新意,但却总是“词不达意”,因为材料本身对效果的限制。而相比之下,油画的材料却能轻易地达到很多不同的效果,给人以表现上的极大自由。并且,由于材料和技巧(在我眼里)从来不是艺术风格的精髓,所以我认为,对很多富于个性力图创新的艺术家来说,中国画的精神(意境),完全可以通过西画的技巧来表达。换言之,中国画的精神,可以在西画中得到继承。我的这个观点,在关紫兰的画中找到了证明。

关紫兰以她的才气一度闻名于中日美术界,但在共产主义时期的中国,她却让自己回归于平凡。在生活中人们渐渐知道的,不过是一个很早就丧夫的家庭主妇(她的丈夫在她55岁时去世)。1949年以后的中国艺术,几乎完全成了政治的传声筒,绝无“为艺术而艺术”可言。也许,这就是她英年搁笔的原因?或许,她不再画画仅仅是因为一个简单的原因:她在作为妻子和母亲的平凡生活中找到了“激情”?总之,中国的艺术界不再提起她的名字。1986年,她因心脏病逝世。她的骨灰,按照她生前的遗愿,被撒进西湖 – 融进这个曾经给她的风景画带来最多灵感的湖光山色之中。




在伟大与平凡之间 – 被遗忘的画家关紫兰

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