紅塵浪裡,孤峰頂上

書畫家朱振南
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2020 / 5月

文‧蘇晨瑜 圖‧朱振南


離開了家以後,才漸漸懂了什麼是鄉愁。

書法名家朱振南1996年公費到法國留學,初抵藝術村,環顧四周只有一張行軍床跟一張簡單的桌子,想像中的藝術之都,起居竟是那麼克難,讓朱振南有點落寞。


心境上的孤寂,讓巴黎的留學生涯,有一點苦澀。為了給家裡打電話,朱振南某天跨過瑪利橋,來到塞納河畔的另一端,聖路易島上唯一的郵局。窮學生身上沒有錢,投了幾枚法郎,好不容易電話接通了,卻又瞬間斷線。含著淚,朱振南形單影隻地再走回橋的這一端。

然而,藝術的孤旅與淬煉,成為朱振南藝術生涯上,最重要的一個轉捩點。「當時我是帶著一杯文化主體的東方茶,到西方去與那邊的咖啡混混看。」出國前,朱振南在東方水墨畫的技法早已底蘊深厚,但是對西洋畫的挑戰卻是全新的開始。舉目無親的留學生活,「語言不通,文化差異又這麼大,苦澀的美感一時湧上心頭。」這種茶與咖啡調和的苦澀,成為人生獨一無二的歷練,漸漸融入他的書法與畫作。

2019年朱振南在巴黎寫《道德經》,全長18公尺,飄逸娟秀的字體一氣呵成,「道沖而用之或不盈。淵兮似萬物之宗。挫其銳,解其紛,和其光,同其塵。」在西方的異地寫東方的哲學,美學與文化上相互衝擊,在如是的心境中,朱振南完成了這幅長卷作品。

用筆穩健,行草恢宏

朱振南兼擅書畫,尤擅行草,國內多個機關館藏及公共空間都有他的作品。「台北車站」上方四個工整的魏碑題字,桃園國際機場、台灣東部鐵路站名等,都是出自朱振南之手。2004年我國駐梵蒂岡教廷大使杜筑生到任,致贈給教宗若望保祿二世聖座的賀禮,亦是由朱振南恭謹筆錄的隸書作品《信經》,至今仍懸掛在梵蒂岡。

桃園第一航廈機場的出境長廊,與方文山跨界合作的《在旅行的路上》文學光牆,以行草書寫下「在旅行的路上/有些事我們慢慢講/有個熱情的地方/名字叫台灣。」飛揚的行草書法令無數旅人驚嘆。

朱振南不只寫書法,也畫山水。他畫很多台灣的山、台灣的水,尤其畫玉山,以抒思鄉之情。他的「抽象水墨畫」自成一格,線條帶有書法筆墨的筆韻,又引入西式的賦彩,「以水破墨、融墨賦彩、以書作畫、書畫匯流」,既有詩的書卷氣韻,呈現東方的水墨畫境,又有現代語言的光彩。

一幅紐約《中央公園晴有雪》,畫了一群人在冬日溜冰,黑白枯枝間,一位女子嬝嬝婷婷地走來,「這位女士我畫她172公分,30歲到40歲之間,穿的是香奈兒外套,走的是相思步。」360公分的畫心上,已經畫了不同方向的人物,還需要加上一名正向走來的人物才畢其功,為了挑戰自己,朱振南可是喝了紅酒才畫。

追求頂峰定位,必得法乎上

朱振南的行草書法非常出名,離相得形,悠然自在,拜皖南名書法家謝宗安為師。拜師時,謝宗安說:「振南啊!你不喝酒,你那個行草書就甭寫了。」從此朱振南早上11點鐘去上課,先讓老師批改作業,再陪老師小酌,12點再一起看新聞、論書藝。「如果追求一個孤峰頂上的定位,法乎上得乎其中,所以我定調一定要法乎上。」

「我個性比較豪放,比較不拘小節,因此特地拜擅長隸書、魏碑、篆書的碑學大師謝宗安。」因為碑學嚴謹工整,朱振南刻意「找自己的麻煩」,拜最好的老師,就是要磨礪自己的心性。

與前輩請教、取經,也是自小養成的學習態度。朱振南出身貧寒,光復後的石門是遠離台北的窮鄉僻壤,在什麼都沒有的年代,連要過日子都不容易。「要怎麼度過今天呢,就要學會變巧(khiáu,閩南語聰明之意)。」從小看人臉色長大,朱振南很快就學會變khiáu,中午要吃什麼,往海裡走一回,就可撈到很多蝦子顧巴肚。抬頭看看天上的雲彩,就知道颱風會不會來。春天插秧,秋天收割,觀察潮汐,朱振南樣樣都會。

「所以道法自然,以自然為師,我對於山川的脈理跟水的流動,跟別人有不一樣的觀照。」朱振南隨手捻來一詩:「月到天心處,風來水面時,一般清意味,料得少人知。」畫山水,他有自己的純情浪漫,「我可以用一張紙、一支筆,在那邊點畫、宣洩,你在那種時候觀察就比別人更敏銳,因為你對山川事物不是那麼遲鈍,不是那麼不解。」

多情自惱,創作必須心無罣礙

大師滿腹詩書,兒時卻無法綻放光彩。務農人家凡俗瑣事很多,種田最重要,每個孩子都要做。趕鴨覓食,牽著母雞去找公雞交配,「沒有把家事做完,你說要讀書?門都沒有。」

朱振南還記得,兒時把母雞夾在腋下,前山後山走一遍,「看到雞冠很高的公雞,就把母雞往公雞身上一丟。」成事後母雞開始孵蛋,一個禮拜後,媽媽開個門縫用小燈泡「驗收」,手指頭算算,一二三四五,有五個蛋沒有受孕,沒有把工作做好的朱振南,這時就知道該拔腿就跑,不然就得竹掃把(家法)伺候。

朱振南的母親沒有讀過書,靠著堅忍的個性,把七個孩子拉拔長大。「家母養育我,她不識字。但是她說一句話,讓我受用一輩子。」每每講到親愛的母親,朱振南懷抱無限感恩。母親的常民智慧:「做人什麼都要趁早,死不能早。」無形中影響他的做人處事,母親離世後,朱振南在巴黎讓自己進入孤寂的狀態,因為多情易感,只有進入簡單的境界,才能做好創作,濃濃的鄉愁就只能寄於筆端。

年近70,朱振南創作小畫,也畫大畫。「畫大畫的氣派,沒有那種很大器的性格做不到,你必須無視於一切的存在,無視於利害攸關的問題。」朱振南可以站著寫大字幅的行草書,氣納丹田,一氣呵成,毫不停頓,意在筆先,錯落高低,都有一個主意,「中間停下來就寫不好。」這種寫法全靠個人的心領神會,學生至今有些人還是學不會。

紅塵浪裡,虛名如浮雲

藝術家如朱振南,除了追求頂尖的藝術定位,也必須入世紅塵,在養家糊口之餘,追求生命的華彩,歷練久了,漸漸心境也開闊了。「利他無我的境界或是老莊的思想,與我的行徑其實是不謀而合。」總是感恩惜福的他,不斷回饋母校。在巴黎時,為了替教堂籌措資金,在金髮外國人前振筆揮毫。日本311大地震時,朱振南飛到岩手縣山田町,為災民們用毛筆書寫組合屋門牌,暖心舉動,感動當地的災民。

「我就是有多情的特質,會比較多的付出跟關照,也比較容易受到干擾,有太多的罣礙。」例如前幾天,本該很輕鬆地回到畫室創作,朱振南卻一直問二哥中午跟誰吃?哪一個兒子回來陪他吃?「二哥已經80歲了,他跟我比較親一點。」朱振南無奈笑笑,生活有太多牽掛就是苦惱,在創作中就不得安寧,這就是受無所不在的多情所苦啊!

深深曉知自己的軟肋,怕牽掛學生,朱振南已有近20年沒有收學生,「我讓學生們原地解散,他們都得再去拜師學藝,因為我也需要再學習,我沒有東西可以教了,應作如是觀。」

紅塵浪裡,孤峰頂上,朱振南還沒達到峰頂,卻已看破名利,「何用虛名伴(絆)餘生?」他用這句話,為自己的豪情下了註解。               

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EN

Alone on a Mountaintop

Calligrapher and Painter Chu Chen-nan

Sharleen Su /photos courtesy of Chu Chen-nan /tr. by Phil Newell

It is only after leaving home that we gradually under­stand what homesickness means.

In 1996 calligrapher Chu Chen-nan was awarded a government scholarship to study in France. When he first arrived at the Cité Internationale des Arts, he looked around and saw only a camp bed and a simple desk. The rigors of actual life compared to the splendor of the capital of fine arts that Chu had imagined left him feeling somewhat at a loss.


Chu Chen-nan’s feelings of loneliness made his period of study in Paris rather painful. One day, in order to call home to his family, Chu crossed the Pont Marie to the Île Saint-Louis and went to the only post office on that small island in the middle of the Seine. As a poor student he had little money, but he inserted several one-franc pieces and after some difficulty the phone call went through, but then it was abruptly cut off. Eyes filling with tears, the solitary Chu walked back over the bridge.

However, the rigors of this lonely journey became a major turning point in Chu Chen-nan’s artistic career. “Culturally speaking, I was bringing a cup of Asian tea to the West, to blend it with coffee and see what I would end up with.” Before going abroad, Chu already had a strong foundation in the techniques of Asian ink-wash painting, but was making a brand new start in taking on the challenge of Western painting. The anguish of this mixing of “tea” with “coffee” during Chu’s isolated student existence overseas became a unique learning experience in his life, which he gradually incorporated into his calligraphy and painting.

In Paris in 2019, Chu wrote out the Daoist classic Dao De Jing, a work of some 5000 Chinese characters, on a scroll 18 meters in length, completing the elegant and graceful calli­graphy in long bursts of total concentration. “The Dao is an empty vessel; it is used, but it is not filled up / So deep! It seems to be the source of all things / It blunts the sharpness / Unravels the knots / Softens the glare / Merges with the dust.” Writing Asian philosophy in a foreign land created aesthetic and cultural collisions, and it was with this in mind that Chu created this scroll.

Magnificent cursive script

Chu Chen-Nan is skilled at both painting and calli­graphy, especially semi-cursive script (xingcao), and his works appear in many institutional collections and public spaces in Taiwan. The four neat regular script (weibei) characters on Taipei Main Station and the characters for Taoyuan International Airport and train stations in eastern Taiwan were all produced by Chu. When Tou Chou-seng took up his post as ROC ambassador to the Holy See in 2004, he presented a clerical script (lishu) copy of The Apostles’ Creed by Chu to Pope John-Paul II as a gift, which hangs in the Vatican to this day.

Chu also undertook a cross-disciplinary project with the writer and lyricist Vincent Fang to produce an installa­tion artwork for the departure hall of Terminal 1 at Taoyuan International Airport—an illuminated wall of semi-cursive-script calligraphy entitled On the Way: “We can talk about so many things on the road / There is a place full of hospitality / Taiwan is her name.” This soaring work has delighted countless travelers.

Chu Chen-nan is also a painter of landscapes. His creative achievement has been summarized as follows: “He immerses color palettes of the West with the aesthetics of Chinese ink and brush. He harmonizes calligraphy with painting through his mixtures.” His work manifests the nature of Asian ink-wash painting while also possessing the luster of a modern artistic vocabulary.

In his Winter of New York, painted in that city, Chu depicts a group of people skating on a winter’s day. Amidst the bare branches in black and white, a woman walks gracefully toward the artist. “I painted this woman to be 172 centimeters tall, aged between 30 and 40, wearing a Chanel jacket, and walking with elegance.”

Aiming high

When Chu Chen-nan went to study under the famous calligrapher Shie Tzung-an, Shie said to him: “Chen-nan! If you don’t drink alcohol, you needn’t bother doing semi-cursive calligraphy.” Thereafter Chu went to class at 11 each morning so that Shie could assess his work. Then he would sit with his teacher drinking, and at noon they would watch the news and talk about the aesthetics of calligraphy. “If you want to pursue a uniquely high status at the top of the mountain, you have to aim high, so I decided to set a tone of aiming high.”

“My personality is rather unconstrained, and I tend not to pay attention to details. That’s why I made a point of studying with Shie Tzung-an, a master of beixue [the study of engraved calligraphy] who was skilled at clerical script, regular script, and seal script [zhuanshu].” Because beixue focuses on exacti­tude and neatness, Chu deliberately “made trouble for himself” by seeking out the best possible teacher for this school, as a way to temper his own disposition.

Chu Chen-nan comes from a very poor background, and in the 1950s and 1960s Shimen on Taiwan’s north coast was a remote and impoverished place, far from Taipei. In an era when no one had anything, it was tough just to get by day to day. “If you wanted to get through the day, you had to learn to be khiáu [Taiwanese for ‘smart’].” Growing up having to be deferential to others, Chu learned very quickly how to be khiáu. To get some lunch to eat, he would walk to the sea, where he could catch a lot of shrimp to fill his belly. Looking up at the clouds in the sky, he could tell if a typhoon was coming. In the spring he planted out rice seedlings, and in the fall he harvested the crop, while also knowing the tides—Chu could do everything.

“That’s why my approach is natural, one of learning from nature. I see different things from other people in landscapes or in the flow of water.” Chu then effortlessly recites a poem: “The moon hangs in the sky / The wind blows over the water / There is a feeling of clarity and freshness / But few people can sense it.” In painting landscapes, Chu has his own kind of pure-hearted romanticism. “I can take a sheet of paper and a brush and paint freely, because at that time your observations are keener than other people’s, because you are not so insensitive toward nature, not so lacking in understanding.”

A mind free of hindrances

Today Chu’s mind is filled with poetry and book learning, but as a child he had no chance to indulge his brilliance. There are a lot of chores to be done on a farm. Cultivating the land comes before everything else, and ­every child had to pitch in. Herding ducks in search of food, bringing hens to mate with roosters, “how could you even talk about studying when there was still work to be done around the house? There was no way for that to happen.” 

Chu still remembers how as a child he walked through the mountains with a hen under his arm. “When I saw a rooster with a high cockscomb I just threw the hen onto the rooster.” After that the hen started to brood a clutch of eggs, and a week later Chu’s mother opened the door a crack and used a small lightbulb to inspect them. She counted on her fingers, one, two, three, four, five—five eggs were not fertilized, for Chu had not done his work properly. He knew it was time take to his heels, or he would be in for a beating with the bamboo broom.

All glory is fleeting

Chu, who has always been grateful for others’ help and his own good fortune, has invariably been a gener­ous alumnus to his old university. In Paris, to help a church raise money, he wielded his brush for a foreign audience. And at the time of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Chu flew to the town of Yamada in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture to use his writing brush to produce name plates for the houses of survivors re­loca­ted to prefabricated housing. This kind gesture really touched their hearts.

“I’m sentimental by nature, so I will do more and care more for others. But I’m also more easily unsettled, and have too many hang-ups.” Chu laughs helplessly. It’s distress­ing that there are so many attachments in life, and he can’t find calm for his creative process. This is the downside of being so sentimental!

In this mortal world, when you possess paramount ability or are greatly successful, there’s a feeling of being alone, like standing on top of a mountain. Though he has not yet reached the mountaintop, Chu Chen-nan has already perceived the transience of fame and fortune. “What’s the point of being trapped by reputation?” With these words, Chu writes a footnote to his bold and gener­ous spirit.                                                                   

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