(About the author: Senior Colonel Lv Guoying is a writer, literary critic, director of the Culture Department of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily and editor-in-chief of the Long March Supplement and a senior editor. He has written and published many literature works, commentaries, monographs and hundreds of art reviews. His monographs such as Art of the Three Poles, Road to Future Art (Chinese and English bilingual version), Pottery Madman, Shen Diao and Amazing Chinese People have been reprinted for many times. His commentaries such as Password of Jia's Landscape, Only Crazy Heart Makes Artist and Noble Character helps to enter Fantastic Realm have been reposted by lots of media. Many of Lv Guoying’s works have won important national or military awards.)
By Lv Guoying
Qi Mo (literally, “ink as vital energy”) and Ling Xiang (literally, “spiritual form”) are the core themes and soul of this book, which represent new topics in the research of art theories.
Needless to say, the concepts of Qi Mo Ling Xiang had never before appeared in any cultural discourse and art theory, making themselves out of the reach of humanities studies. Growing out of nothing, Qi Mo Ling Xiang are “analects” that mark the new dawn of art.
As a completely new theoretical creation, the art theory about Qi Mo Ling Xiang is mysterious, unfamiliar, and unknown to many people; some even have doubts on it. Interpreting “strangeness” and dissolving “doubts” not only help the construction of the theory, but also represent the essential meaning of the theory.
However, what do Qi Mo Ling Xiang respectively mean? What does “Mo” in “Qi Mo” refer to, as well as “Xiang” in “Ling Xiang”? What does it mean if Qi Mo Ling Xiang are connected together? Where did Qi Mo and Ling Xiang originate? How are they evolving? And what values do they have? These are the questions that the book must first answer.
So, what is the relationship between “form” and “spirit”? How does “ink” become Qi (vital energy)? Why can “spirit” be reflected by “form”? How does “ink” carry the “spirit”? How can Qi Mo Ling Xiang be inseparably integrated? These are inevitable questions that the book must ponder over.
Why does Ling Xiang represent the tomorrow of “form”? What does Qi Mo display the future of “ink”? How does Qi Mo depict Ling Xiang? Why does Ling Xiang become Qi Mo of “ink”? What are Qi Mo Ling Xiang coherent both physically and in nature, and why do they demonstrate the content and form of each other? These are the key questions that the book tries to interpret.
How does “artistic Ling Xiang” reveal the essential law of art and what universal meaning does it have? Why does it need “great knowledge and morality” to achieve Qi Mo Ling Xiang? How do the concepts of Qi Mo Ling Xiang guide art creation? How should we understand the statement that beauty stems from Qi Mo Ling Xiang? Why do artists and spectators both advocate “great beauty”? These are the questions that the book specially discusses.
The value of theory lies not only in its function to look in and interpret phenomena, but also in its capacity to perceive and conform to law, especially to discover trends and foretell the future.
In face of chaos and disorders in the realms of art and literature, the art theory of Qi Mo Ling Xiang aims to retrieve the initial aspiration of art, review the evolution of aesthetics, and look ahead into the future of beauty and the soul of goodness.
It goes without saying that after millennia of evolution, art and literature ever reached the peak of perfection with unprecedented glory and also ever suffered from declines and depressions. However, declines and depressions “incubate” new opportunities. Usually, new art and literature rise at the cost of the decline of old ones. The current malpractices and chaos in the realm of art and literature all demonstrate that a historic “turning point” is approaching.
Looking back at the history of art and literature, we can find that at the end of the 20th century and in the early 21st century, Western avant-gardism has gained popularity alongside the commercialization of art and literature, resulting in the chaotic situation that the “three vulgarities” destroy the “three outlooks” (namely, world outlook, outlook on values, and outlook on life) in the field of art and literature. Those chaos and malpractices featuring negative energy, vulgar taste, and low morality involve various aspects and have multifaceted manifestations, of which the most noticeable are corruption in art and literature administration, creative subjects, and creation environment, vicious expansion of selfish desire, and avoidance and even rejection of artistic responsibilities. In terms of artistic forms and languages, there are plagiarism and copied reproduction; in terms of aesthetics, some confound right and wrong, good and evil, as well as beautiful and ugly, creating lots of cultural and artistic garbage; in terms of the art market, some evaluate an artwork according to the position and title of its creator, and some artists are keen on self-adulation or joint speculation through organizing false auctions or auctioning counterfeits; and in terms of art criticism, some critics take advantage of institutional platforms to tout themselves and flatter those in influential positions by bragging them shamelessly with lavish praises that lack common sense. Those chaotic phenomena and malpractices reinforce each other, forming a vicious circle that continues to evolve to the “critical point”. The fundamental reason for this problem is that art and literature administrators and creators shirk their responsibility for art with the increase of their greed, and the root lies in their impetuous and flighty mentality, which make them fall into ideological confusion and lose direction.
The West has developed the theory about the “end of art,” while China has the idiom meaning “dead end.” The former stemmed from “logical” aesthetics, which was gradually absorbed into art practice and became a “curse” severely undermining easel painting. The debate on the latter (between “survival” and “doomsday”) began with painting, and then expanded to the realm of art and literature, which remains ongoing today. The two similar conceptions either fuel the disorders in the realm of art and literature or pessimistically predict that art will come to an end. On the surface, this issue reflects conceptual differences and academic disputes, but in nature, it is rooted in low-dimensional (dimensional space) positioning and logical dilemma. That is to say, such theories observe art merely through a three-dimensional, two-dimensional, or even single-dimensional perspective and discuss art in abstract logic, which naturally results in misunderstandings and even wrong cognitions of superficial phenomena and inherent laws,let aloneforeseeing the future.
The art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang attempts to see through the chaos and disorders in the field of art and literature, and hopes to explore the law of art evolution. Especially, it eyes on the far side of beauty to achieve an ultimate future.
The establishment of any theory not only depends on the inheritance of traditions, the originality of argumentations, and the completeness of relevant systems, but also relies on the integration of classics, the openness of concepts, the combination of Chinese and Western theories, and of course, the transcendence of its thoughts, the universality of its meaning, as well as the ultimacy of its foresightedness.
As the core and soul of the art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang, its argumentation section consists of several parts, including respective review, integrated review, comprehensive review, supplementary review, and extended review. Those parts have different reasoning and argumentation, but at the same time integrate with each other and go forward into the deep and the far. As the interpretation and extension of the art theory, its explanation section works in concert with the argumentation section, not only clearing up doubts and further expanding the scope of the theory from both macro and micro perspectives but also responding to subjects such as art inheritance, integration, openness, and fusion.
From the perspective of their inheritance and originality, every single word in Qi Mo and Ling Xiang—Qi (vital energy), Mo (ink), Ling (spirit), and Xiang (form)—represents an important philosophical, aesthetical, or artistic concept in traditional culture, and has been included and explained in Chinese and foreign classics concerning literature, calligraphy, painting, aesthetics, and art accomplishment. However, neither Qi Mo nor Ling Xiang had ever been mentioned or discussed in the circles of philosophy, aesthetics, as well as literature and art, from ancient to modern times and whether at home or abroad. Qi Mo and Ling Xiang are totally new concepts. In particular, as an art theory, aesthetical conception, and philosophical and aesthetical topic, they grow out of nothing and have epoch-making significance.
In terms of its completeness, the art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang faces up with the current malpractices of art and literature and concludes that “chaos” is external symptoms and the crucial reason lies in outdated and decayed thoughts and concepts. To solve the problem, finding a “roadmap” and scaling “height” are important, and finding the right “direction” is particularly crucial. Behind this, the logic is that Ling Xiangrepresents the tomorrow of “form”, Qi Mo displays the future of “ink,” and the two concepts together showcase ultimate beauty of aesthetics. Only those with great knowledge and morality can appreciate “ultimate beauty,” and only through the “push-pull” force can the “great art” be formed. In a word, Qi Mo and Ling Xiang represent the beauty of the future.
In terms of its integration, openness, and combination, the art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang observes the evolution of art and looks into the future of art via concepts such as “ink carrying form” and “form bearing ink”. It not only involves “ink rituals” such as linear ink, imagery ink, splash ink, and unsophisticated ink, but also integrates “states of artistic forms” such as representation, imagery, abstract, and real form and incorporates “art theories” of such schools as naturalism, realism, and modernism. In a word, the art theory spans the past and the present and combines Chinese and Western cultures. Just as “harmony between man and nature” and “fusion of nature and humankind” have no end, the art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang represents the ultimate future, namely, the pinnacle of the ultimate and the final destination of the future.
In terms of its transcendence and ultimacy, the limitlessness and foresightedness of the art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang are demonstrated by the fact that the theory transcends itself and walks towards ultimacy. This not only demonstrates the space and time of the theory, but also clarifies the orientation of practice.
In terms of its universality, in Qi Mo and Ling Xiang, Mo refers to “ink,” a material and tool used as the carrier of art in art creations, and Xiang refers to “form,” namely, the embodiment of art in art creations. Thus, the art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang is applicable to not only fine arts and calligraphy, but also literature and drama. Moreover, it provides a reference for other literary and artistic forms.
The significance of any theory lies in the fact that it can dissolve doubts, reveal the nature of things, lead the development of practice, inspire wisdom, awaken spirit, and further form new thoughts and transcend existing concepts from a higher dimension. The latter is the core goal and fundamental value of theories.
The art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang focuses on exploring the essential connotations of aesthetics, art, appreciation, accomplishment, and purity, in a bid to free the mind, pacify the spirit, and inspire wisdom through painstaking efforts and from a higher perspective.
Great ideas steam from high vision. Artistic innovation is vital to the renaissance of art and literature. Ideological and conceptual innovation serves as the foundation of all other kinds of innovation. This is because ideas and concepts have always served as the leader and soul and played a dominating and leading role, compared with artistic practices and elements such as forms, subjects, techniques, and methods. The art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang bears the responsibility of fostering “high vision” and playing the “leading role.”
Soul is the only and ultimate goal. The beauty created by art aims to comfort the soul. The essential meaning of art lies in creating “ultimate beauty,” displaying aesthetics, and demonstrating the spirit and form of life and ideal. Qi Mo and Ling Xiang convey and showcase the spirit of all living beings, thus responding to aesthetical needs and displaying “great beauty” through realizing the value of life and ideal spiritually.
Boundless mind leads to accomplishment. Art is a special being of culture, as well as an important carrier of culture. Cultural integration is an irresistible general trend, so is artistic integration. Qi Mo and Ling Xiang promote a kind of “spiritual” art that integrates the past and the present and combines Chinese and Western cultures. Only through such ultimate integration and combination can art display the state of boundlessness and ultimate beauty.
The more dimensions, the more beautiful. The beauty of the single-dimensional world lies in lines; the beauty of the two-dimensional world lies in planar graphics; and the beauty of the three-dimensional world lies in space. Obviously, dimensionality determines the space of beauty. High-dimensional space can put beauty on full display. Qi Mo and Ling Xiang derived from physical ink lines, then were enriched by ink imagery and splash-ink abstractionism, and eventually reached the future of art. In the process, these concepts have crossed spatiotemporal barriers of history and culture, transcended the integration of philosophy, aesthetics, and art, and demonstrated the most beautiful art forms with ultimate spirit and from the perspective of aesthetical dimensions.
For the practice of any theory, “knowing the truth” is the prerequisite; “following the truth” is the foundation; “explaining the truth” is indispensable; and “understanding the truth” is the ultimate goal. Through integrating “knowing the truth” and “following the truth” and aligning “explaining the truth” with “understanding the truth,” one can “combine knowledge and practice to achieve the goal of ultimate goodness”.
The art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang is both a theory of art creation and a theory of aesthetical accomplishment. It not only involves philosophy and aesthetics, but also is related to art and culture. It discusses the creation of artists and the artistic mentalities (aesthetical needs and spiritual aspiration) of audience, which influence and push forward each other and form an integrated system that transcends the circle of life.
Obviously, art is a kind of ability, in which thoughts and concepts play a crucial and decisive role. Thus, advanced art thoughts and concepts undoubtedly make up the primary force of art. Artistic strength would not exist without right artistic thoughts and concepts. If carelessly, blindly, or obstinately implementing wrong artistic conceptions, the behavior will only lead to an anti-art force, evidenced by current chaos in the realm of art. Culture enlightens people; thoughts are formed through thinking; and conceptions need to be pondered over. Only when Qi Mo and Ling Xiang become thoughts and conceptions, they can occupy a high position in art and then become the primary force of art. This goal can only be achieved through “knowing the truth,” “explaining the truth,” “following the truth”, and “understanding the truth”.
As its name suggests, the art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang has Qi Mo as the ink and Ling Xiang as the form. Whether art and literature can revere the divinity of the heaven and the earth, understand the spirituality of all living beings, sense the spirit of nature, achieve the purity of art, and accomplish the mission of obtaining eternal redemption through aesthetics and finding inner peace depends on artists’ spirit and aesthetical accomplishments, as well as their dedication to regulating the family and ruling the state and the world. Such accomplishment and dedication require deep understanding of the “harmonious coexistence between man and nature” and the “integration between the heaven and humanity,” which cannot be achieved without coincidence reached through “quantum entanglement” and “heart-to-heart unison”. In other words, artists not only need enlightenment and comprehension, but also need to be “entangled” with the spirit of the subjects they depict and reach a state of “spiritual entanglement”. Only in this way can they gain the primary force of art and create the true “form” of Ling Xiang.
It is needless to say that the value of art lies in its uniqueness and non-reproducibility. Its uniqueness stems from multiple facets and elements in art creation. Once an artwork takes shape, it becomes a “being” and enters “history”. Any form of “reproduction” or “copying” blasphemes or has reactionary impact on art, causing the decadency, decline, and retrogression of art. The art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang represents the future of art and aesthetics, and even the future of the futures, and the ultimate of the ultimate. Looking ahead into the future, Qi Mo and Ling Xiang will result in the revival of art and lead it to march toward ultimate perfection.
Simply speaking, culture enlightens people, so does art. Indeed, art is a universal “privilege” for everyone, whether he is poor or wealthy.British art historian E.H. Gombrichever said, “There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.”German conceptual artist Joseph Beuysbelieved that everyone is an artist. Indeed, in humans’ spiritual world, aesthetics is the soul and art is the carrier. A person’s spiritual accomplishment mirrors his or her aesthetical accomplishment, while a person’s aesthetical accomplishment determines his or her artistic accomplishment. The artistic accomplishment bears the state of the mind. Everyone desires peaceful and tranquil mind, so as to achieve inner peace. The art theory of Qi Mo and Ling Xiang erects a “peak” in the realm of art and advocates “great beauty”, which enables artists to reach the zenith of their art creation by themselves and their audience to obtain the “push-pull” force, thus urging each other to transcend the circle of life. This also makes “knowing, following, explaining, and understanding the truth” have both internal aspiration and external driving force, thus forming an energy space-time that erects beauty with great art and advocates aesthetics with ultimate beauty.
Therefore, Qi Mo Ling Xiang represent the “great art” of faithful practitioners.
Therefore, Qi Mo Ling Xiang showcase the “ultimate beauty” of those who understand the truth.
Beijing, May 13, 2019