傅文俊在《空山新雨后》、《小楼咋夜又东风》、《行到水穷处》（图2-4；数绘摄影，100 x 100 厘米，2017─2018)中挥洒墨水，绘出一组三乘三的浮凸方格，反映阴影与空间把主图墨迹层层延伸。众多作品中所展现的分层效果，可见他力求打破摄影规范。对傅文俊而言，一张照片可被切割和延展，在它与空间和光线互动时，创出一个全新的艺术角度。在同一个光与暗互相辉映的立体图像中，不同色调的灰色与深黑色的变化并置呈现。
《不二法门》、《宝马》（图5-6；数绘摄影，100 x 100 厘米，2017─2018）等作品以抽象的构图描绘佛陀和唐代宝马。两张作品并非直接描绘佛陀或宝马，而是一个侧面描绘，主题就像被一层轻纱遮盖着，与画笔下如梦似的图像非常相似。傅文俊作品的传统面貌不仅限于技巧表达，更包含融合了当代摄影和古代中国艺术形式，特别是立体雕塑的图像；这就像上文提及的光影意趣，实为平面与立体之间的对话。
傅文俊在《缘来缘去》和《无人私语》（图7-8；数绘摄影，100 x 100 厘米，2017─2018)）两幅摄影作品中，运用颜色来丰富创作主题。他的单色影像与水墨画产生强烈共鸣，其彩色摄影却散发出中国木刻版画的特征。那代表宝塔的淡蓝色调，构成一个由木版墨痕造成的和谐统一的影像。这种特质和重叠的环形图案，塑造出另一种立体的幻象；又或者可以说是一幅帘子或一块动人的面纱。
傅文俊作品中另一项值得关注的地方在于他对色块的运用——那让人联想起新水墨运动的元素。《大珠小珠落玉盘》和《更待江南半月春》（图9-10；数绘摄影，100 x 100 厘米，2017─2018）两幅色彩配搭看似简单的作品里，墨韵气息相当浓厚；傅文俊并非只是简单地混合色彩，而是利用在不同的独立方块区域来创造画面的深度和饶富趣味的并置效果。立体对象的描绘、光影的意趣、对比色彩的联想等多层元素，组成一幅深入而层次丰富的构图。
这一系列的作品分析，进一步带出几个额外、且并非傅文俊作品或一般摄影所独有的事实。傅文俊的作品呈现出技法和大小相同的影像，所有的摄影都是由九个体积较细小的方块组合而成的大方块（100 x 100 厘米），以达致多层效果。这种方块设计营造出一个工整规范、重复密集的视觉效果；当中只有作品的主题有所变化。每张摄影的内容与其他摄影的并非必然相关；唯有当个别方块在特定大主题下组成一对或一组时，它们才算属于同样的主题。由此可见，傅文俊的数绘摄影所呈现的并非传统设计构图上的协调，而是技巧的统一。观众能从中明白，他的摄影带来一种印制和装裱摄影的新方法。该方法本身就是一种艺术，一种能将视觉表现方式独立于描绘主题的方式。
Fu Wenjun's Digital Pictorial Photography
By Florian Knothe
The visual quality of Master Fu Wenjun’s Digital Pictorial Photography is apparent in terms of both its composition and presentation. As artists make reference to the past and its continuous development, Fu has related his own painting-like presentations to the painterly quality of Louis-Jacques Daguerre's (1787–1851) photographs from the early 1820s. Beyond this reference and lineage, his contemporary work is neither technically limited in the way that Daguerre's was, nor is it merely pictorial. In both mono- and polychrome applications, Fu has developed a language that is indicative of a rapport with deeply engrained layers of Chinese culture.
Fu's digital work has been described as poetic. Poetry is a text based medium that describes in words and evokes the readers’ fantasy to think of images to illustrate the verbal dialogue. In Fu's form of digital photography, the image comes first and the pictorial content suggests a narrative. Rather than a story in pictures, Fu’s viewer engages more philosophically with the visual content. Text and image become one and provoke each other to complete, in a viewer's mind, the historical or cultural connotations being displayed.
Exhibitions of Fu’s work (Figure 1), such as the recent display at the University of Hong Kong, demonstrate how his creative output can be summed up through the concept of ‘Digital Pictorial Photography’, which is his reworked term for the traditions found at the core of the photographic arts. By blending elements of other modes of fine art into the photographic process, he has created a new form of aesthetic pleasure that embraces a range of artistic media.
Fu’s technique puts forward cultural references on both a technical and historical level, as his pictorial compositions relate to Chinese ink painting in both technique and subject matter, as they depict Chinese art and architecture or include symbolic elements. By demonstrating the complementary relationship of photographs and other modes of fine art, Fu is able to transform a seemingly inaccessible message into a highly approachable idea that then can trigger critical thought about history, society and humanity.
Artworks such as After Fresh Rain in the Mountains, East Wind Blew Again Last Night and Where the Water Ends (Figures 2–4; digital pictorial photography, 100 x 100 cm, 2017–2018) showcase Fu’s lavish use of ink, which here forms a set of squares that reflects both shadow and space, further expanding the inked image. The effect of layering found in much of his art is a prime example of how he strives to break photographic norms. For Fu, a photograph can be dissected and expanded so as to interact with space and light in the creation of new artistic perspectives. The differing shades of grey and gradation to a deep black are juxtaposed within the same three-dimensional presentation of light and dark.
As in traditional black-and-white photography, contrast brings liveliness to the images. The visual relationship with ink painting further reminds the viewer that the saturation of the black and the (brush) flow’s darker and lighter traces are of consequence. For centuries, painters trained the handling of the brush to master the application of solid to diluted watery ink. The culture of applying the traditional ‘five ink tones’ (dark dry ink, dark heavy ink, heavy ink, light ink and bland ink)—as well as the nuances found in dry and wet ink, or the blurred spread in ink-wash paintings—are eluded to in Fu’s interplay of light and shadow.
Images such as The One and Only Way and Precious Horse (Figures 5–6; digital pictorial photography, 100 x 100 cm, 2017–2018) combine the abstract composition with depictions of a Buddha and Tang era horse. Both images are not straight forward depictions, but instead illustrate artworks that appear as if they are being seen through a veil, reminiscent of the dreamy representation of the brush. The traditional aspects of Fu’s work reach beyond technical skill and incorporate an iconography that relates these contemporary photographs to ancient Chinese art forms, especially to sculptures—objects in the round—that, like the earlier shadow play, return to a dialogue about two and three dimensions.
In the photographs Come and Go and Nobody to Talk With (Figures 7–8; digital pictorial photography, 100 x 100 cm, 2017–2018), the master photographer expands his theme by employing colour. Whereas his monochrome images are strongly related to ink painting, his colour photography resembles the characteristics of Chinese woodblock printing. The seemingly subtle application of blue to represent the pagoda suggests a uniform image created by the inked impression of a printing block. This quality, together with the overlaying ring motif, creates another illusion of three-dimensionality; or, put differently, a curtain or emotional veil.
In Nobody to Talk With, this ‘veil’ is composed of a string of Chinese characters; a traditional aphorism which proposes that painting and calligraphy are related, as they both arrive with the brush and ink. Whether deliberate or not, Fu’s photography extends this theme, as his modern medium relates to and extends these traditional techniques of image transfer.
A further development is the introduction of patches of colour, an element in Fu’s work that is reminiscent of compositions from the New Ink Painting Movement. In Dancing Notes and Stay More in Spring (Figures 9–10; digital pictorial photography, 100 x 100 cm, 2017–2018) an inky quality prevails through the seemingly simple application of colour in adjacent, though separate, individual areas. A depth and interesting form of juxtaposition are created by working within these discrete areas, rather than by simply mixing the colours. As with the layering of elements, the representation of three-dimensional objects and the interplay of light and shadow, the association of contrasting colours evokes a deep and multi-layered composition.
The quality of Fu’s artistic production lies in its multiple connotations: his photography creates a link between conventional painting styles and techniques, between traditional iconography and a less defined expression that may seem like a veil but, actually helps to bind together the media. While the ostensibly fluid ink is entirely Chinese, his wood block print-related images may relate to Eastern as well as Western forms of culture, as they contain stylistic precedents that are also found in the work of Man Ray (1890–1976) and Andy Warhol (1928–1987). However, the incorporation of sculptural and architectural topics, as well as Chinese characters in contemporary photography with abstract painterly tones, is the trademark of Fu’s innovative art form.
The analytical focus on this series further highlights a number of additional facts that are neither particular to Fu’s work nor to photography in general. His project presents images of identical technique and size. All of the photographs are large squares (100 x 100 cm) that incorporate nine smaller squares to achieve this layered effect. In so doing, Fu displays a highly regular structure in which the effect is repeated—and intensified—while only the subject matter differs. The contents of individual photos do not necessarily relate to one another, as only certain pairs or small groups within the larger project adhere to similar themes. The artist presents a unity via technique rather than a traditional graphic composition. Viewers come to realize that Fu’s photography introduces a way to print and mount photographs that is an art in itself, which prevails as an application that leads the visual presentation independently from the depicted subject matter.
With such an array of varied cultural and artistic connotations, visual relationships and mounting techniques, Fu’s photography challenges viewers and presents something quite unexpected. His images are neither predominantly abstract nor documentary in nature. The combination and interpretation of his photographic influences offers a new employment of a form that was originally introduced—in Daguerre's days—for the reproduction of nature. These various elements realign in his visual work by incorporating texts so as to stimulate a fantasy that leads viewers beyond conventional forms of digital photography.
Florian Knothe, May 2019
About the author: Florian Knothe is an art historian and museum professional. He directs the University Museum and Art Gallery at HKU, and teaches art history and museum studies.