Reality isn’t black and white, but in a world lacking color, finding the light becomes all the more important. This is the philosophy that the works of John Marin orbit around. In his grayscale portraits, he broaches difficult issues such as alienation and spiraling thoughts but does so without sacrificing the dignity of the individuals who he’s chosen for his canvases. In fact, his art looks to empower them.
现实并非黑白两色。但在去掉色彩的世界，寻找光线变得更加重要，这正是菲律宾艺术家 John Marin 的核心创作理念。在他的黑白肖像作品中，他大胆探讨疏离与负面情绪的难题，但依然保持了人物的尊严。实际上，他的艺术作品旨在赋予人物力量。
The Filipino artist stripped all color from his paintings 11 years ago as a self-imposed challenge, and ended up realizing his works were more striking and dramatic without them. Using oil paints and pastels, Marin renders realistic portraits encircled by abstract shapes and text, all of which appear with rough, weathered textures. The people he portrays are based on photographs he’s taken. “They’re friends and strangers,” he says. “I choose images based on feeling.”
11 年前，他挑战自己尝试在创作时摒弃所有色彩。这次的尝试却让他意识到，没有色彩的作品反而更引人注目，更具戏剧性。John 使用油画颜料和粉彩铅笔绘画写实的肖像，再在四周添加抽象的形状和文字，并刻意营造粗糙的纹理。他笔下的人物都是以他拍摄的人像照片为原型创作的。他说：“这些人有的是朋友，有的是陌生人，我都是按着感觉来挑选照片的。”
In the recent series of paintings, Come Home, Marin explores the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, which spread exponentially for months around Manila despite one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns, recently seeing a new surge nearing record levels. The Philippines has ranked among the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia. “This new normal is hard for everyone,” he says. “This unfamiliar environment is alienating and uncomfortable. We need to adapt.” None of this is literal in the work; it’s more of a gut feeling that he transfers to the canvas.
But feelings of alienation are nothing new for him. It’s something he’s dealt with throughout his life and career, being shunned in school and the art world. “Being different reminds me that I’m unique.” Adapting doesn’t mean conforming, being something that he’s not. He respects people’s differences but also seeks out what we have in common.
在最新的作品系列《回家》（Come Home）中，John 深入探讨了疫情所引发的不确定性。尽管马尼拉也实施了漫长而严格的封禁措施，但疫情仍在短短数月之内迅速蔓延，最近感染人数又出现了接近历史最高水平的飙升。菲律宾也是东南亚确诊人数最多的国家之一。他说：“这种新常态对每个人来说都很难。前所未有的情况让人们相互疏远，人人惶恐不安。我们需要去适应这样的新常态。”虽然他并未在作品直截了当地描画任何疫情的场景，但现实的情绪却弥漫于每幅画中。
然而，对 John 而言，疏离感并不陌生，毕竟这是他一直以来在生活和职业生涯中不断在处理的问题，从学校到艺术界，他总是感觉自己被排斥在外。“与众不同也就代表我是独一无二的。”适应并不意味着顺从，也不意味着假装成为他人。他尊重每个人的差异，但也想要寻求人与人之间的共同点。
Marin’s use of Chinese characters in this series serves dual purposes, creating a layer of distance for Filipino viewers unfamiliar with the language while also forcing them to appreciate it on a different level by relating with the texture and mood of the paintings. The script is painted directly over faces, resembling the ubiquitous graffiti of an urban metropolis. The Chinese text that appears all come from Encountering Sorrow by Chinese poet Qu Yuan. “Overcoming loneliness is the biggest challenge of every individual. Most of my works depict this feeling as commonly shared by many people despite their differences.”
The layered marks that often hover over his portraits are a continuation of Marin’s previous works. In these paintings, circular rings nearly fill the entire canvas, spiraling outward from the center of the composition where the subjects’ eyes peer out in a penetrating stare. “The eyes are the window to the soul,” he says. “Everything we perceive in this material world passes through the eyes.” The swirling lines, painted in an improvised fashion and in a loose visual style, represent the ripple of thoughts and ideas radiating outward, one creating another in undying expansion.
The textures and shades of Marin’s work evoke a dark aura, but after a moment’s gaze, it’s not hard to find the warmth within them. Just because light’s presence in the work serves mainly to cast deep shadows doesn’t mean it’s less significant than the darkness. The ripples hide the people within them almost entirely but the eyes are all that’s necessary. And while his new works depict subjects in a sort of definite pause they don’t feel beaten. His work acknowledges the difficulties of life while refusing to let go of hope in humankind.
而层叠于肖像之上的标记，则是对 John 以往作品的延续。在这些画作中，圆环几乎占据整块画布，从画面中心向外盘旋，而人物的双眼则从中向外凝视。他说：“眼睛是灵魂的窗口。我们正是透过双眼来观察外面的世界。”旋涡线条呈现出即兴、涣散的视觉风格，寓意像波纹般向外扩散的想法，一个接一个地不断衍生丰富。