為修復設立標準

回溯時光的修復師──蔡舜任
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2019 / 4月

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧莊坤儒


2014年,蔡舜任發起「帶著門神去旅行」,4扇由知名廟宇畫師潘麗水繪製的門神作品,經過他與團隊巧手修復,得到國際建築彩繪裝飾藝術研討會(APR)認可,赴瑞典發表,除了讓國際社會知道台灣的修復技術外,也代表蔡舜任團隊一直以來堅持的修復標準為國際承認;在眾多的聖母、聖子、天使的環繞中,色彩繽紛華麗的台灣門神圖像一眼就吸引眾人的目光,與會者殷切地詢問這件作品來自哪裡?──台灣。

 


 

旅居歐美近十年的蔡舜任,習得西方的修復概念與技術,回到台灣。他參與修復潘麗水(1914~1995)、柯煥章(1901~1972)、陳玉峰(1900~1964)、陳壽彝(1934~2012)等傳統彩繪大師的作品,再現當年大師筆下雅緻綺麗的世界。蔡舜任修復過的作品,每一件都在他手上華麗轉身,恢復文物舊有的面貌,又保留時間淬鍊的痕跡,也讓下個世代能親睹台灣特有的宮廟彩繪藝術。

處理「時間」的問題

「我很能感同身受哆啦A夢的辛苦,他常因為要幫倒楣的大雄,必須搭時光機回到過去,他就是以時間回溯的方式解決問題,我也是。」蔡舜任打趣地比喻修復師的工作。

就讀東海大學美術系時,因為自己的畫作受損,讓蔡舜任興起念頭,遠赴義大利翡冷翠學藝,除了修習史賓內利宮修復學院內的課程,他用所會不多的義大利文挨家挨戶找尋能收他做學徒的修復工坊,只求有更多修復實作的機會。之後轉往美國爵士之都紐奧良,完成17世紀初的小公主肖像修復,這件作品讓他取得投入國際知名油畫修復大師Stefano Scarpelli門下的門票,進而得以進入烏菲茲美術館,修復文藝復興之父──喬托的畫作。

儘管擁有傲人的經歷,蔡舜任最終選擇回到台灣,成立TSJ藝術修復工事,修復的文物從西方的油畫擴展到東方傳統廟宇的門神彩繪,處理的文物不盡相同,「時間」始終是修復師的重要命題。

早期尚未引入專業修復技術的台灣,傳統廟宇10年一小修,20年一大修的慣習,多是請工匠、藝師處理,常有保存狀況差的作品直接被重繪,刷子一過,前人的藝術被掩蓋,時間的醍醐味也一併被抹除。晚近,修復界也曾經出現過「修舊如舊、復舊如舊」,一味復舊的做法,似是而非的概念,對文化資產亦是傷害。

「時間是無情的,材料會老化,顏料會變化褪色,都是時間造成的。時間同時也是無敵的,經過時間的淬鍊,才會有好東西出現。」蔡舜任說。修復師的任務是透過藝術史的知識、對材料的瞭解,閱讀時間在文物留下的線索,慎重地清潔表面的髒污,再以加固、清潔、填補、全色等工序,將文物恢復成原初的樣貌,但保留時間在其上淬鍊的痕跡。而且修復可說是一場與時間的等價交換,「基本上,我們是用青春去換取文物的壽命。」蔡舜任玩笑地補上一句。

為修復工事建立標準

初到義大利時,蔡舜任在Andrea Ciprian的工坊實習,兩年多無止境重建畫布肌理的練習,練就他深厚的基本功。之後又投入國際油畫修復大師Stefano Scarpelli的門下,成為唯一的台灣弟子,蔡舜任赤手空拳在歐洲全是金髮碧眼的修復同業中競爭而出,足見他對修復的用功與堅持。

回到台灣後,他仍以同樣的標準要求自己、面對待修復的文物。台灣廟宇的彩繪作品,除了承受高溫多濕的氣候外,常被馨香薰上厚厚一層油垢。再加上壞了才修的慣習,通常交到他手中的門神多是表面脫落斑駁,慘不忍睹,岌岌可危。

但不管任務多艱鉅,TSJ團隊總是細細考究,做足事前的準備功課,或以溶劑謹慎地清潔,或拿著手術刀以0.1公分為維度,慢慢清潔刮除髒污或不屬於原作的重繪,以填補材料加固,再用筆細細補色,讓大師手中的門神又恢復昔日的光彩,復原被污漬掩蓋的線條、細節與色彩,連門神不到0.1公分的鬍鬚細線,都一根根栩栩飄逸,讓人驚嘆。

立下這望之彌高的標準,「很多人一定感受到標準逐漸增高了,但問題是不這樣做,受害的即是文物,是藝術品。」蔡舜任語重心長地說。因為修復決勝的面積往往小於1×1公分的範圍內,任何不適切的工序、材料,都會對文物造成難以彌補的傷害。

品質來自於技術,也來自於對細節的講究。

他一手培訓自己的團隊。每天早上9點整南北分部的例會,耳提面命提醒各修復案必須注意的細節。採訪中,他不時盯著修復室裡的狀況,團隊成員一有疑慮,他便起身去說明,或直接拿起工具示範。工作過程中沒有音樂,因為每一個動作、工序都要仔細思索,極其專注,不容干擾。

就像是球賽裡的教練,蔡舜任設下高標門檻,要求團隊努力達標,也不時向團隊精神喊話,建立修復師們對自身手藝的自信、對自己專業的驕傲。

位於台南的修復總部剛啟用不久,空間是蔡舜任邀請一石設計共同設計打造。溫、濕度的控制,利用玻璃磚牆引入自然光源,專業的抽氣設備,各式顏料、溶劑齊全的實驗室,處處可見他對修復工事細節的講究。蔡舜任近似吹毛求疵地要求環境的整齊,從電線的收束,棚燈的位置,器材的收納,都有方法規矩,他笑稱在IG上分享的工作照,一定會怎麼拍都好看,盡是專業的姿態。

修復的藍海市場

從他立下的高標門檻,聊到台灣修復工作的未來,「我比較在意這些年輕人未來何去何從。」他一瞥身後的修復團隊,口氣略微嚴肅。

修復的訓練讓蔡舜任能與藝術極度靠近,卻又切出一條清楚的分界線,讓他理性思考。他知曉修復工序中每一筆背後的成本、技術、知識;也深切體悟藝術服務終歸必須考量商業機制才能生存。

因此,在國內多數修復工作仍停留在專案發包,囿限於業主有限的時間與經費;蔡舜任已在思索公司生存的商業模式,他請設計師重新設計TSJ的LOGO,包括整套的CIS企業識別設計;同時也設計公司的新式制服,兼具機能性與美觀,並以顏色區分資歷級別,凸顯團隊的專業性。他每天強迫自己閱讀艱深的書(包括經營管理、財務報表等),認為這是經營者的必修課題。

國內諸多修復的觀念,尚缺乏前置調查、維護的思維,仍停留在修後不保養、等壞了再修的循環中;蔡舜任已經超前百步,規劃TSJ要成為亞洲最知名且最有規模的修復公司,提供從作品倉儲(storage)、藝術品修復(restoration)、物流運輸(transport)、安裝(installation)、展示(display)等服務,未來成為藝術及文物的醫療中心,另外,尚有一間修復相關的美術館在他的腦中盤旋構築著。

蔡舜任認為打造專業的修復環境須從教育著手。時間回溯是複雜的問題,修復領域內人才培訓、專業認證、修復專業的定義、修復的標準、推廣教育等等,均是政府單位需著力之處。

在修復室的玻璃上,刻印蔡舜任對團隊的期望:「做喜歡的事,讓喜歡的事有價值。」價值除了文化資產保存的意義外,商業上的獲利,亦是修復得以走得長遠的契機。

為台灣藝術史補一塊拼圖

「我真正想要做的事情就是讓這些物件(門神彩繪)有一天能堂堂正正在美術館裡展出。」蔡舜任說。

回國後的蔡舜任,初次接觸傳統門神的修復,在他細細抹除被香燻黑的表層後,才看見大師的筆觸靈活,氣韻生動。但如此精彩的藝術表現,長久被忽視,藝術價值被輕估,這一切只因為長期被認定只是「廟裡的東西」。

長久以來對本土文化的認識不足,台灣藝術史尚在重建討論的當口,藝術的認定掌控於學院專家之手,但缺乏理論支持,宮廟裡面誰是真正的藝術家,尚莫衷一是。

但是,「我用修復『藝術品』的方式修復它,或許可以成為一個證實其為藝術品的論點。」蔡舜任說。

把文物的價值留給時間去證明,修復師能做的是在時間的手中搶救每一件岌岌可危的文物,回復其原初的樣貌。蔡舜任跟TSJ團隊在業主的支持下,要為下個20年把文物留下來,讓下一個世代欣賞到大師級作品,認識台灣特有的宮廟藝術,而非等到文物已殘缺佚失了,徒留遺憾。

「我希望有一天台灣的孩子能自信的說出誰是心中最喜歡的台灣藝術家。」蔡舜任說出他的心願。這個在歐洲幾乎每個人都能給出答案的提問,在台灣卻因為藝術教育相對薄弱,而難有答案。

2018年,蔡舜任接受台北艋舺龍山寺委託修復三川殿的門神彩繪。艋舺龍山寺去年剛得到文化部「遲來的肯定」,晉升為國定古蹟,是訪台外國旅客必遊的景點。

三川殿的門神彩繪出自大師陳壽彝之手,繪於1966年,算一算,6位門神已守護佛寺接近一甲子的時光了。但受濕氣、西曬、香火的影響,損壞程度不一。

在這台北發跡之地,人來人往匯集之所,只見TSJ團隊駐守在修復中心,靜靜地、低著頭、彎著腰,在燈光下,專注手上的工作,跟時間對話。

時間成就文物的經典,他們則用青春換取文物的壽命,一場無止盡與時間的拔河,他們是回溯時光的修復師。

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近期文章

英文

Art Conservator Leo Tsai

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Phil Newell

In 2014, Leo Tsai (a.k.a. Tsai Shun-jen) launched his “traveling with door gods” activity. He and his team had deftly restored four paintings of door gods made by the famous temple artist Pan Li-shui, after which they received endorsement from Inter­national Architectural Paint Research (APR) to exhibit the restored paintings in Sweden. This showed that there is international recognition of the restoration standards upheld by Tsai and his team. Amidst numerous images of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and angels, it was the beautiful, brightly colored door gods that attracted the attention of the public. Visitors eagerly inquired where these works had come from, and the answer was “Taiwan.”

 


Leo Tsai, who lived in Europe and the US for nearly ten years, learned Western art restoration concepts and techniques before returning to Taiwan. He has partici­pated in the restoration of temple artworks by traditional painters including Pan Li-shui (1914‡1995), Ko Huan-jang (1901‡1972), Chen Yu-feng (1900‡1964), and Chen Shou-yi (1934‡2012), uncovering the refined and enchanting worlds produced by these masters in days gone by. Each piece has been beautifully transformed by his craftsmanship, which restored the original ap­pear­ance of these cultural artifacts while preserving the marks of their tempering by the passage of time, thereby allowing the next generation to see first-hand the homegrown Taiwanese art of temple painting. 

Handling the problem of “time”

“I feel for Doraemon. He often has to take the hapless No­bita Nobi back in time on his time machine. The problem he faces is that of going back in time, and mine is the same,” says Leo Tsai, selecting a humorous analogy for the work of an art conservator.

When Tsai was studying in the Department of Fine Arts at Tung­hai University, some of his own paintings got damaged, which gave him the idea to go and study at the Institute for Art and Restoration (Palazzo Spinelli) in Florence, Italy. While taking classes there, despite not being able to speak much Italian he went door to door looking for someone to take him on as an apprentice at a restora­tion workshop, asking only the opportunity to do more hands-on restoration work. After entering the studio of the internationally famous oil painting conservator Stefano Scarpelli, he was able to proceed to the Uffizi Gallery, where he worked on restoring paintings by Giotto di Bondone, considered the father of the Renaissance.

Despite his impressive resumé, Tsai ultimately decided to return to Taiwan, where he founded TSJ Art Restoration.

Before specialized restoration techniques were introduced into Taiwan, traditional temples mainly hired ar­tisans or artists to handle “restoration” work. However, this was less restoration than repainting the work, and once the brush had passed over the piece, the former art was covered up, and the feeling created by the passage of time was swept away. Later, the appealing but misguided notion of “restoring old objects to their old appearance” also caused damage to cultural assets.

“Time is ruthless. Materials will age, paint will change or fade. These changes are all caused by the passage of time, yet only with the tempering of time can good things appear,” says Tsai. The duty of a conservator is to apply their knowledge of art history and their understanding of materials to carefully clean impurities off the surface, consolidate the original paint where it has begun to flake, and fill and retouch the areas where the paint has been lost, returning the artifact to its original appearance while preserving the evidence of the passage of time.

Setting standards for restoration work

In Taiwanese temples, besides being exposed to a hot, humid climate, the paintings are often covered by a thick layer of greasy dirt from the burning of incense and candles. When you add in the habit of only initiating restoration after works show obvious signs of damage, the door god paintings that come into Tsai’s hands are mostly in a parlous state, peeling and mottled and on the verge of being irreparable.

But no matter how challenging the task, the TSJ team members always study the work in great detail to prepare for the task ahead. They first use solvents to carefully clean the work, and then, advancing millimeter by millimeter, they use a scalpel to carefully scrape off the dirt, and any paint that has been applied by repainting over the original work. Next they use filler to consolidate the existing paint, and use brushes to carefully paint color into areas where the paint has been lost, returning the door god to its former luster and radiance. It’s amazing how they can restore even the fine lines (less than 1 mm thick) of the door gods’ beards and whiskers strand by strand to vivid elegance.

Setting such high standards means that “many people surely sense that the bar is gradually being raised. But if you don’t do this, the victims are the artifacts and artworks,” says Tsai earnestly. Because the success of restora­tion is determined within areas of a single square centi­meter, the use of any inappropriate procedures or materials can cause irreparable harm to the artifact.

Quality comes from skills and technology, but also from meticulous attention to detail.

Tsai has personally trained his own team. At the routine video­conferences between his firm’s northern and southern branches every morning at nine, he sincerely reminds the conservators what details they must look out for in each of the restoration procedures to be conducted that day. During our visit, Tsai periodically checks out the situation in the restoration studio, and if any member of his team has questions or concerns, Tsai goes over and explains, or even directly takes the tools in hand to demonstrate the proper approach.

Tsai sets high standards and requires his team members to work hard to meet those standards, but he also periodically gives pep talks to his team, to build up their confidence in their own skills and their pride in their profession.

The Tai­nan headquarters of TSJ Art Restoration has not been in operation long. Tsai invited Lab B Design Company to work with him to design and build the workspace. Everywhere you can see his meticulous attention to the details of restoration work, from the temperature and humidity controls and ventilation system to the fully stocked laboratory with its paints and solvents. He fastidi­ously requires that the working environment be neat and well-kept, with methods and rules for everything from binding electrical cables to putting away equipment and materials. He quips that whenever he shares photos of the workshop on Instagram, every photo looks good, because this is what it means to be professional. 

A blue ocean market

From the high standards that he has set, the conversa­tion turns to the future of restoration work in Taiwan. Tsai says: “I am mainly concerned about where these young people will end up in the future.”

He is familiar with the costs, techniques, and know­ledge behind every brushstroke in the restoration process, and he also understands that ultimately, art services can only survive by taking account of market forces.

Therefore, most restoration projects in Taiwan are still handled as one-off contracts, limited by the time and funds available to the art owner. Tsai is already thinking about what business model will keep his company afloat. He has hired a designer to redesign the TSJ logo and corporate identity, and he has participated in the design of new company uniforms to highlight the profession­al­ism of his team. Each day he forces ­himself to read heavyweight books on subjects outside his discip­line (such as management or financial reporting), con­sider­ing these to be required subjects for managers.

The concept of restoration that largely prevails in Taiwan is still stuck within a mindset of not initiating conserva­tion until a work has badly deteriorated, and doing nothing to maintain works in good condition after they are restored. Tsai is already far ahead of his competi­tors, and he plans on making TSJ Asia’s largest and best-known restoration company, providing services that include storage, restoration, transportation, installation, and display.

Tsai’s expectations for his team are inscribed on glass in the restoration studio: “Do what you like and create the value.” Value refers not only to the significance of preserving cultural assets, but also to commercial profit­ability, which is key to restoration work’s long-term ­viability.

Filling a gap in Taiwan’s art history

“What I really want to do is to enable these things [door god paintings] to one day take their rightful place and be seen in art museums,” says Tsai.

The first time Tsai worked on the restoration of tradi­tional door gods after returning to Taiwan, it was only after carefully removing a dark layer of incense smoke residue that he saw the deft brushwork and distinctly vivid style of the master painter who had created them. But the artistic value of these magnificent works was under­estim­ated, all because they have long been deemed to be merely “things from a temple.”

Knowledge of Taiwan’s native culture has long been inadequate. While the art history of Taiwan is still in a phase of uncertainty, determination of what is art lies in the hands of academic experts. But without theoret­ical under­pinnings, the question of whether the works created by temple artists are genuinely “art” is still under discussion.

However, says Tsai, “I use the same methods to restore temple art as I use for acknowledged ‘artworks,’ and perhaps this can become a point in favor of confirming their status as works of art.”

Leo Tsai and the TSJ team, with the support of owners, aim to keep these artifacts around for the next 20 years. They want the next generation to have the chance to ap­preci­ate these masterpieces and get to know Taiwan’s homegrown temple art, rather than waiting until these arti­facts are badly deteriorated, and all that is left is regrets.

“I hope that one day the children of Taiwan will be able to say who their favorite Taiwanese artist is,” says Tsai. This question, to which virtually anyone in Europe can give an answer, is still hard for people in Taiwan to respond to because art education is comparatively weak.

In 2018, Tsai accepted a commission from Long­shan Temple in Tai­pei’s Wan­hua District to restore the door god paintings on the doors of the temple’s front hall.

The paintings were made by the master artist Chen Shou-yi, who completed the work in 1966. But through the impact of moisture, sunlight, and incense smoke, the paintings have suffered varying degrees of damage.

Here in the cradle of Tai­pei’s history, in a space where people come and go, you see the TSJ team hunkered down in the restoration center installed in the temple’s basement. There they quietly concentrate on their work under the lighting, heads down and backs bent, engaged in a dialogue with time.

It is time that makes classics out of cultural artifacts. The TSJ team, meanwhile, are devoting their youths to extending the lives of these artifacts, in an endless tug of war with time. They are conservators who travel back in time.

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