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更新时间:2018-8-14 19:53:45 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The colour that means both life and death

Beware of green. It can’t be trusted. Leonardo da Vinci knew, and cautioned his contemporaries against the pigment’s toxic instability. Its beauty, Leonardo warned, “vanishes into thin air”. Volatile and evanescent, green is more than just a colour. It is the energy that connects us to the unknown. Remove green from the palette of art history and a bridge between life and death would disappear. Equal parts morbid and vital, green curdles the cadaverous cheeks of Pablo Picasso’s macabre portrait of his young friend, Carlos Casagemas, who shot himself dead in lovelorn torment at the age of 20, while at the same time ignites with joyous chlorophyllic fire the life-affirming and ever-verdant canvases of Claude Monet.

要提防绿色,它不可信。达芬奇知道这一点,并且提醒同时代人这种颜料有毒,而且不稳定。他警告说,绿色的美会"消失得无影无踪"。由于其挥发性和易逝性,绿色不仅仅是一种颜色,还是把我们跟未知联系在一起的能量。把绿色从艺术史的调色板上去掉,连接生与死的桥梁就会消失。在毕加索为年轻的朋友卡萨吉玛斯(Carlos Casagemas,他在20岁的时候因为失恋而开枪自杀)创作的死亡肖像中,绿色凝固在他苍白的脸上,生与死的气息交织在一起;而同时,这种颜色又以令人欣悦的叶绿素之火点燃了莫奈(Claude Monet)积极向上、绿色常在的油画作品。

To dabble in green is not merely to tread a path between being and unbeing, but to make inroads into the mysteries of each. Simultaneously the colour of putrefaction and of verdurous regeneration, green participates with unbiased vividity in decay and rebirth. Perhaps it is green’s teasing ambiguity that compelled Leonardo himself, against his own better counsel, to clad his most famous and enigmatic subject, the Mona Lisa, in a darkening shade of that colour – one that has since bruised itself to a sublime and submarine blackness in the subconscious of cultural history.


Donning the deepest of shadowy green costumes, La Gioconda night-swims in the vitrine of our psyche and has long been recognised as a mystical commuter between the world of the living and that of the dead. “Like the vampire,” the 19th-Century English essayist Walter Pater once wrote of her, “she has been dead many times and learned the secrets of the grave”. Describing Leonardo’s inscrutable sitter as “older than the rocks among which she sits”, Pater proceeds to imagine that Mona Lisa has, throughout history, returned again and again as everything from “a diver in deep seas” to a savvy operator who has woven “strange webs with Eastern merchants”. Ceaselessly resurgent in her murky green gown, which symbolised her status as a merchant’s wife, Mona, according to Pater, was “the mother of Helen of Troy” and the “mother Mary”.

穿上暗昧的深绿衣服,蒙娜丽莎在夜晚浮游于我们灵魂的玻璃橱窗之中,长久以来,她被视为一个神秘的通勤者,往返与生者与魂灵的世界。"就像吸血鬼一样,"19世纪的英国散文家佩特(Walter Pater)曾经这样描述她,"她死过了好多次,知道坟墓的秘密。"在描绘达芬奇这位神秘的模特时,佩特说她"比她身下坐着的石头还要古老"。他开始想象蒙娜丽莎在漫长的岁月中一次又一次地回归人间,有时是"深海的潜水者",有时是"和东方的商人编织奇怪生意网络"的精明骗子。佩特说,她身穿的墨绿色袍服象征着她是商人之妇,因她的不断复活,她就是"特洛伊海伦的母亲",是"圣母玛利亚"。

Long before Leonardo reached for green, the colour had been assigned a special esoteric place in cultural imagination. Ancient Egyptians reserved green for the bold beryl complexion of their god of life and death, Osiris – ruler of the underworld, who held dominion over the passage of souls between this world and the next. Typical depictions of Osiris, such as one found on the 13th-Century BC walls of the burial tomb of Horemheb, the last monarch of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, portray a skinny, grassy-skinned god, whose false pharaoh’s beard marks him out as a deity of incontestable pre-eminence.


Perennially young, Osiris was believed to be a serial resuscitator, both of himself and of the natural world. Holding sway over the flow of floods and flourishing of flora alike, leafy-cheeked Osiris, it was believed, would eventually show the souls of Egypt’s kings the path to resurrection.


Flora and fauna


For millennia, concocting green pigments was achieved by a variety of artistic alchemies that harnessed the hues of everything from pulverised malachite to the juice of buckthorn berries, from dessicated foxgloves and fraxinus leaves, to soaking yellow saffron in the purple dye of woad, also known as the ‘The Asp of Jerusalem’. Verdigris, among the more common iterations of the colour, and the one of which Leonardo was most wary, is forged in a curious ritual that involves the slow sousing in wine of a brass or copper blade.


An acetic crust of green that scabs to the metallic surface is then scraped clean and ground into pigment. It was a green ghost of similar chemical contrivance that confirmed to scientists digging recently for the remains of the 16th-Century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe that they had indeed found their target. Known to have worn a prosthetic nose to replace the one he’d lost in a sword fight in 1566, Brahe’s aesthetic skull bore traces of copper and zinc when, like a disciple of Osiris, it eventually came up for air in 2012.

浸泡后在金属表面会形成一种绿色的醋酸外壳,将其从金属上刮下来,就可以研磨成颜料。铜绿曾是化学作用产生的一个绿色鬼魂,最近发掘出16世纪丹麦天文学家布拉赫(Tycho Brahe)遗骸的科学家予以了证实。历史记载已知,布拉赫在1566年的一次击剑决斗中失去了鼻子,因此常戴着一个假鼻子掩饰,科学家在他漂亮的头盖骨上发现了铜绿的痕迹。仿佛是俄赛里斯的门徒一般,布拉赫的遗体在2012年重见天日。

Fertile with life, even in death, the invocation of green in countless masterpieces from antiquity to the present day impregnates our eye with expectancy. Everything about the physique, posture and gestures of Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini’s green-enrobed wife, who seems to rest her tired hand tenderly on her tummy’s bump in Jan van Eyck’s famous painting, The Arnolfini Portrait (painted in 1434), leads our modern mind to suspect that she is pregnant, however convinced art historians may be that she isn’t. The great gush of cascading green that capsizes our eye, scholars contend, is more likely a symbol of hope for the eventual blessing of children. Green springs eternal.

绿色不仅表现丰饶的生命,也表现死亡,从古到今的无数大师杰作,不乏使用绿色来满足我们充满期待的眼神。在文艺复兴时期尼德兰的伟大画家扬‧范‧艾克(Jan van Eyck)的名画《阿诺尔菲尼夫妇像》(The Arnolfini Portait创作于1434年)中,穿着绿色长袍的阿诺尔菲尼太太把疲惫的手温柔地放在隆起的腹部上。无论是她的体形、姿态,还是手势,都足令我们的现代思维怀疑她是不是怀孕了。然而艺术史专家们相信,可能描绘的并非是怀孕。学者们认为,瀑布般倾泻而下、涌入我们眼睛的大片绿色,更有可能是象征着画中女子希望子女能够得到幸福。因为绿色是春天的颜色,代表着永恒。

An alternative reading of the riddling portrait only amplifies the eeriness of green’s potential to wed the living and the dead. According to one theory, the depiction of the woman in Van Eyck’s work is herself a composite double-portrait of two successive wives of Giovanni di Nicolao – his first having died in childbirth. Supporters of this view point to tropes of death that haunt the painting, such as the extinguished wick on the candle above her. Certainly the complex convex mirror, bolted to the back of the painting, which warps the couple’s reflection as if into a different continuum of reality, compounds the sense of strangely splitting selves that reverberate from the painting. If ever there was a colour capable of cloaking such a curious compression of life and death, it’s green.


So green goes, sowing into the story of art the mysteries of our own fleeting appearance in the world. The murky green water that laps against the ochre edge of the River Stour in John Constable’s famous Romantic landscape The Hay Wain, delineates a boundary between the world that the artist can see in the here-and-now and one that haunts his imagination from childhood. Look closer at the weave of summer greenness at which the little dog in the foreground appears to pant, and you can barely discern the ghost of a horseman and barrel that the artist had once intended to include in the painting – a spectre that, over time, is re-sculpting itself from the verdurous summer air that Constable has mystically conjured.

绿色的故事在继续,其深耕于艺术的叙述中,撒播着我们在这个世界上稍纵即逝的神秘。在康斯特布尔(John Constable)的浪漫主义风景名作《干草车》(The Hay Wain)中,浑浊的碧水拍打着斯陶尔河黄褐色的河沿,勾勒出艺术家在此时此地之所见,与童年时代就一直萦绕在他脑海中的世界之间的分野。仔细观察画作中层峦叠嶂的夏绿,前景中的小狗似乎喘不过气来,你几乎辨认不出一个骑马人和木桶的魅影,画家曾经有意将他们也放在画里,随着时间的过去,一个幽灵在康斯特布尔用神秘魔法变出的夏日清新空气里,重新浮现出来。

Though rightly celebrated for the accuracy of his carefully observed clouds, Constable is a master too of earthy hues and terrestrial textures. The tapestry of greens he weaves in The Hay Wain is a tour de force of that colour’s ability to convey the vibrancy of nostalgia for a place that ceaselessly shifts in one’s memory between wilting loss and luminous revelation.


Hiding in plain sight


In more recent eras of artistic expression, green has continued to be an enigmatic hue that hides as much as it reveals. Paul Gauguin’s seminal symbolist painting Green Christ (1889) is a teasing tangle of the colour’s contradictory connotations. Over a stone statue of the deceased Christ in the middle distance of the painting, a lucent layer of moss has stitched itself like a second skin. The face of a Breton woman, who stands in the shadow of that sculpture, is tinged a sepulchral green, as if she were slowly turning into the life-in-death and death-in-life statue – as if a kind of chromatic continuum exists between the physical world she inhabits and a mystical one that lies beyond.

在更近一些的艺术表现时代里,绿色仍然是一种神秘的色彩,它隐藏的内容和它揭示的内容一样多。高更(Paul Gauguin)开创性的象征主义绘画作品《绿色基督》(Green Christ,1889年)是对这种颜色矛盾内涵的一种戏弄混杂。在画作的中间,死去的耶稣石雕上,一层透明的苔藓像缝合起来的第二层肌肤。塑像阴影下站着一个布列塔尼女子,她的脸带有阴森的绿色,仿佛正在进入生死不明的状态——就像是存在于她居住的物质世界和未来的神秘世界之间一具颜色鲜艳的过渡性躯体。

Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte’s famous anti-self-portrait, The Son of Man (1964), defies the logic of likenesses by refusing to let the viewer see the key features of the artist’s face by interposing between them and us the greenest of green apples the mind is capable of picturing. “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see,” Magritte observed to an interviewer. “There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of quite an intense feeling, a sort of conflict one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

比利时超现实主义画家马格利特(Rene Magritte)著名的反自画像《人子》(The Son of Man, 1964年)打破了肖像画的逻辑,不让观者看到艺术家面部的关键特征,而是在其面部与我们观者之间插入了一个脑海所能想到的最绿的绿苹果。马格利特在一次接受采访说,"我们看到的每样东西都藏着另外的东西,我们总是希望看到我们看不到的东西。人们对藏起来的东西,以及看不见的东西极感兴趣。这种兴趣可以表现为一种强烈的感觉,一种你可能会描述为隐藏起来的可见物与呈现出来的可见物之间的冲突。"

No contemporary artist has understood more profoundly the rhythms of the visible that is not there and the visible that is, than the Irish-American abstract painter Sean Scully. The bold vertical columns of Scully’s The Bather (1983), inspired by Henri Matisse’s Bathers by a River, painted 70 years earlier, are stripped-down stand-ins for the already over-stylised bodies Scully recalls from Matisse’s work. Intensified by the boxy protrusions that complicate the carpentry of Scully’s work, which physically intrudes into the gallery-goer’s space, the ficus greens of Scully’s torso-wide trunks have succeeded in achieving an effect to which centuries of artists have only aspired: converting green from perishable colour into purest feeling.

当代艺术家中间,没有谁比爱尔兰裔的美国抽象画家斯库利(Sean Scully)更懂得隐藏起来的可见物和没有隐藏的可见物的韵律。斯库利的《浴者》(The Bather,1983)中大胆的垂直条纹,灵感来自70年前马蒂斯(Henri Matisse)画的《河边浴者》(Bather by a River),是马蒂斯作品中本已过于非写实的人体的更为精简替代物。那些四四方方的突出物实体性地侵入了博物馆观众的视觉空间,从而深化了斯库利作品的结构含义。斯库利作品中与人体躯干等寬的条纹所采用的无花果树绿色,成功地实现了数个世纪的艺术家们都希望达到的效果:把不经久的绿色变成了最纯净的视觉感。