“I have always had this interest in a purely American mythological subject matter.”
Roy Lichtenstein

Flash Art Magazine, October 1989, illustrated on the cover, 《Flash Art》雜誌,1989年10月號,封面載圖

E nigmatic and theatrical, blazing colours radiating from meticulously painted Ben-Day dots, Reflections: Mystical Painting (1989) is a quintessential example from Roy Lichtenstein’s important series, Reflections Paintings (1988-1993) in which the artist continues his interrogation of perception and the abstract nature of reality. Lichtenstein presents the image as if viewed through a glass frame, using diagonal strips that slice through the canvas to suggest the reflection and refraction of light, urging the viewer to make sense of its various fragments. Fastidiously executed in the comic strip aesthetic for which Lichtenstein became known, Reflections: Mystical Painting immediately engages the viewer in the narrative of the work, with the artist’s love for moments of high drama exemplified by the gaping mouth yelling into the pointillist ether. Significantly, the present work has been featured on the October 1989 cover of the high-profile international contemporary art magazine, Flash Art, which was subsequently included in Maurizio Cattelan’s sculptural work, Strategies (1990)—a house of cards composed entirely by Flash Art magazines—testament to Reflections: Mystical Painting’s powerful visual appeal and its importance in both art history and popular culture.

Maurizio Cattelan, Strategies, 1990, metal and magazines, 莫里吉奧・卡特蘭,《策略》,1990年作,金屬及雜誌

Lichtenstein’s Reflections Paintings exemplify the artist’s interest in the notion of perception and reproducing the ephemeral, having previously incorporated reflections in his early Pop works, Modern paintings and most markedly in his Mirror series (1969-1972). In his Mirror series, Lichtenstein employs his characteristic Ben-Day dot aesthetic—a common commercial printing technique in which small dots of colour are used to create areas of shading and varied tonal hues—to reproduce the image of mirrors as found in mirror catalogues and the media, formulating a distinct visual strategy for the imitation of reflections. Lichtenstein describes: “My first mirror paintings didn’t really look like mirrors to people. It required a little learning to make them understandable as mirrors. I think the same thing was true of the brushstroke paintings. I like to make very concrete symbols for ephemeral things. Reflections, for example” (the artist cited in “An Interview with Roy Lichtenstein”, in Roy Lichtenstein Graphic Work: 1970-1980, New York, 1981, n.p., reprinted in Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1993, p. 183). Using diagonal stripes of gradating dots and wedges of colour, Lichtenstein successfully captures the wave-like effect of reflections and the appearance of light, establishing his own ‘concrete symbol’ that he went on to incorporate in his Reflections Paintings.

“It started when I tried to photograph a print by Robert Rauschenberg that was under glass. But the light from a window reflected on the surface of the glass and prevented me from taking a good picture. But it gave me the idea of photographing fairly well-known works under glass, where the reflections would hide most of the work, but you could still make out what the subject was...I started this series of Reflections on various early works of mine...It portrays a painting under glass. It is framed and the glass is preventing you from seeing the painting. Of course, the reflections are just an excuse to make an abstract work, with the cartoon image being supposedly partly hidden by the reflections.”
Roy Lichtenstein (the artist cited in 1995, reprinted in G. Bader, ed., Roy Lichtenstein: October Files, Cambridge, 2009, p. 69)

Roy Lichtenstein in his studio at 36 West 26th Street, New York, 1964. © Ken Heyman/Courtesy The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Archives, 羅伊・李奇登斯坦在紐約西26街36號的工作室,1964年

In Reflections: Mystical Painting, Lichtenstein presents a comic strip scene, obscured in part by the Mirror motif of black dots that slashes through the right-side of the composition. As such, the viewer perceives the painting as if placed under a glass frame, compelled to interact with the image to make sense of its hidden sections. Master of the melodramatic, Lichtenstein often chose to reproduce climactic moments from comic strips in his oeuvre, selecting an amalgam of suspenseful imagery, symbols and characters from popular culture that he would edit and recompose to enhance the emotional potential of the work. As compellingly argued by Graham Bader, the illusory effect of the glass barrier serves to create distance between the viewer and the work and intensify the inherent narrative and emotions: “[The paintings] foreground their beholders’ separation from the content they present. The series illustrates not the deep space of mirror illusion but impenetrable surface laid bare by reflected light. Lichtenstein accentuates the blockage by deploying his reflective streaks over particularly loaded or emotionally charged scenes” (Graham Bader, Roy Lichtenstein Reflected, Exh. Cat., Mitchell, Innes & Nash, New York, 2011, p. 49).

Installation view of Reflections: Mystical Painting at Castelli Gallery, West Broadway, New York, Roy Lichtenstein: Reflections, October 21 – November 11, 1989 © Castelli Gallery, Artwork © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, 《反射系列:神秘的繪畫》在紐約西百老匯卡斯泰利畫廊展覽「羅伊・李奇登斯坦:反射」中展出,1989年10月21日至11月11日

Here, the artist intensifies the drama of the scene by magnifying the face of a screaming superhero, focusing on his cavernous mouth, placing the portrait at a diagonal angle and cropping its edges with razor-sharp points that mimic the triangular wedges of colour, lines and dots that whizz around him. The vivid hues of tangy yellow, ultramarine blue, pine green and crimson red complement and contrast, adding to the heightened dynamism and vitality of the scene. In the upper-left quadrant on the painting, Lichtenstein’s superhero yells out in distress, the force of which almost quivers from the surface. Perhaps the image of X-Men’s Cyclops character who is depicted wearing similar yellow goggles and a royal blue suit in early Marvel comic books, the direction of the protagonist’s head guides the viewer’s gaze to the pyramid on the right, highly ambiguous in its depiction as either falling to the ground or soaring up into the air. The puzzling imagery and snippet of text both intrigue the viewer, teasing understanding from prolonged contemplation of the work, and reinforce the painting’s nature as ‘mystical’, presenting an exciting spectacle of the supernatural.

“I had been interested in the comic strip as a visual medium for a long time before I actually used it in a painting. This technique is a perfect example of an industrial process that developed as a direct result of the need for inexpensive and quick colour-printing. These printed symbols attain perfection in the hands of commercial artists through the continuing idealisation of the image made compatible with commercial considerations. Each generation of illustrators makes modifications and reinforcements of these symbols, which then become part of the vocabulary of all. The result is an impersonal form. In my own work, I would like to bend this toward a new classicism”
Roy Lichtenstein (the artist cited in Michael Lobel, Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven, 2002, p. 155)

Roy Lichtenstein, Reflection on Thud!, 1990, oil and manga on canvas, Sotheby's Hong Kong, 19 April 2021, sold for US$14,173,212 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, 羅伊・李奇登斯坦,《反射系列:Thud!》,1990年作,油彩及Magna壓克力彩畫布,香港蘇富比,2021年4月19日,成交價:14,173,212 美元

Roy Lichtenstein is a pioneering figure in Pop art, using images from comic books, advertising and popular culture to push the boundaries of what was considered fine art. Adopting the dot pattern found in comic illustrations and printed media, Lichtenstein replicates the mechanical process of printing by hand, achieving highly-finished, wondrous visions that startle and beguile the viewer. Liechtenstein’s Reflections series significantly draws on elements and techniques from his earlier paintings and his understanding of art history to create a mature, self-reflexive body of work, examples of which can be found in The Broad Museum, Los Angeles; Tate Modern, London; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; National Gallery, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; and Israel Museum, Jerusalem. A preeminent example from the series, Reflections: Mystical Painting transcends traditional distinction between high art and mass culture, establishing Lichtenstein’s status as an influential, iconic figure in the canon of art history.

Roy Lichtenstein Works in Museum Collections | 博物館館藏之羅伊·李奇登斯坦作品
  • London
  • San Francisco
  • Berlin
  • Los Angeles
  • New Haven
  • Los Angeles
  • Tate Modern
    Whaam!, 1963, oil and magna on canvas, Tate Modern, London © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    《Whaam!》,1963年作,油彩與瑪格納涂料畫布,倫敦,泰特現代美術館
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
    Reflections: Whaaam!, 1990, oil and magna on canvas, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    《Reflections: Whaaam!》,1990年作,油彩與瑪格納涂料畫布,舊金山,舊金山現代藝術博物館
  • National Gallery, Hamburger Bahnhof
    Reflections On "The Artist's Studio", 1989, oil and magna on canvas, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, National Gallery in the Hamburger Bahnhof, Marx Collection © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    《Reflections on “The Artist’s Studio”》,1989年作,油彩與瑪格納涂料畫布,柏林,Hamburger Bahnhof博物館,Marx珍藏
  • The Broad
    Reflections: VIP! VIP!, 1989, oil and magna on canvas, The Broad, Los Angeles © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    《Reflections: VIP! VIP!》,1989年作,油彩與瑪格納塗料畫布,洛杉磯,布羅德博物館
  • Yale University Art Gallery
    Reflections on the Gift, 1990, oil and magna on canvas, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    《Reflections on the Gift》,1990年作,油彩與瑪格納塗料畫布,新天堂,耶魯大學美術館
  • The Broad
    Reflections on "Interior with Girl Drawing", 1990, oil and magna on canvas, The Broad, Los Angeles © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    《Reflections on “Interior with Girl Drawing”》,1990年作,油彩與瑪格納塗料畫布,洛杉磯,布羅德博物館

「我一直對純粹的美國神話很感興趣。」
羅伊・李奇登斯坦

《反射系列:神秘的繪畫》作於1989年,充滿光怪陸離的神秘元素和戲劇張力,密密麻麻的班戴圓點(Ben-Day dots)工整地排列出鮮豔奪目的圖案,無疑是羅伊・李奇登斯坦「反射」系列的精彩範例。此系列橫跨1988至93年,當中包含了藝術家對現實感知及其抽象本質的探討。他的作品模仿玻璃倒影的視覺效果,以貫穿畫面的斜線代表光線反射與折射,幫助觀眾從眾多碎片中理出頭緒。他擅長連環漫畫風格,本作沿襲了這種美學特質,讓觀眾迅速投入作品所描繪的世界。畫中人張開嘴巴,對著佈滿圓點的虛空嘶吼,可見藝術家非常喜歡這類扣人心弦的緊張戲碼。李奇登斯坦是二十世紀其中一位最有創意的藝術家,他的作品辨識度極高,幾乎是普普藝術的標誌。他在「反射」系列中加入部分早期作品的元素和技巧,例如1969至72年的「鏡子」繪畫。他在藝術史方面的知識,助他塑造出許多帶內省意味的成熟作品,當中不少成為世界各地美術館典藏,包括洛杉磯布洛德博物館、倫敦泰特現代藝術館、三藩市現代藝術博物館、柏林漢堡車站美術館、紐黑文耶魯大學美術館及耶路撒冷以色列博物館。

李奇登斯坦曾在早期的普普作品、「現代」和「鏡子」系列中加入反光效果,並於後來的「反射」系列中,延續對視覺感知、以及對捕捉瞬逝光陰的執著。他在「鏡子」系列裡使用標誌性的班戴圓點,重構商品目錄或大眾傳媒裡的鏡子意象。班戴圓點本來是一種常見的商業印刷技巧,以細小的色點組成深淺不一的陰影和色調。李奇登斯坦形容道:「我最初畫的『鏡子』看起來並不像鏡子。為了讓觀眾知道它們是鏡子,我確實下了一番功夫。我認為這種努力同樣適用於強調筆觸的畫作。我想以實在的符號,詮釋鏡花水月般的事物,例如反射」(引述自藝術家,〈羅伊・李奇登斯坦訪談〉,《羅伊・李奇登斯坦:平面作品 1970-1980年》,紐約,1981年,無頁數;重印於黛安・瓦爾德曼,《羅伊・李奇登斯坦》,紐約,1993年,頁183)。大小、深淺緩變的圓點和楔形色塊呈斜線狀排列,營造出波浪般層疊湧現的反光和光線,「實在的符號」由此成形,並應用在幾年後的「反射」系列中。

「這一切緣於我那時候嘗試為羅拔・華森堡的版畫拍攝照片,而版畫放在玻璃下面。但是,從窗戶透進來的光線反射在玻璃表面上,使我無法拍出好照片。我靈機一觸,萌生了在玻璃下拍攝知名作品的想法,反光會令作品的一大部分被掩蓋,但仍然能夠分辨出主題……我以自己早期的作品為題材,開始了這系列的『反射畫』……它展現一幅玻璃下的畫作。它鑲嵌在框中,玻璃阻擋人觀看畫作。當然,影像的反射只是創作抽象畫的藉口,因為反光理應會把部分卡通圖像遮蓋。」
羅伊・李奇登斯坦 (引述自藝術家1995年的話,重印於格雷厄姆・巴德編,《羅伊・李奇登斯坦:十月檔案》,劍橋,2009年,頁69)

在《反射系列:神秘的繪畫》中,李奇登斯坦刻畫了一格漫畫場景,畫面右方有部分區域被黑色圓點組成的鏡子覆蓋。如此一來,觀眾彷彿看到一幅裱在鏡框裡的畫,從而迫使自己認真思考隱藏的部分。李奇登斯坦是營造戲劇氣氛的高手,經常在作品中重現連環漫畫的緊張時刻。他從流行文化裡擷取劇力萬鈞的圖像、符號和角色,重新編排,以累積作品的情感深度。正如藝術史學家格雷厄姆・巴德所言,鏡面反射帶來的阻隔在觀眾與作品之間拉開距離,令固有的敘事和內在情感更加強烈:「(這些畫作)強調了觀者與它們所呈現內容之間的分隔。該系列闡明的並非鏡子錯覺造成的深層空間,而是被反射光覆蓋而無法穿透的表面。李奇登斯坦通過將反射條紋部署在充滿情緒張力的場景上,凸顯當中的阻隔」(格雷厄姆・巴德,《羅伊・李奇登斯坦:Reflected》展覽圖錄,米切爾-英尼斯及納什畫廊,紐約,2011年,頁49)。

李奇登斯坦把本作中放聲大叫的超級英雄的五官放大,黑洞洞的嘴巴成為臉龐焦點,他的面部角度傾斜,邊緣修飾得如剃刀般稜角鋒利,筆直的斜線與周圍的三角形色塊、點線互相呼應,作品的戲劇力量因而呼之欲出。鮮黃、艷藍、松綠、赤紅彼此交織碰撞,令畫面迸發活力。左上角的超級英雄大聲悲呼,幾乎引起畫面震盪迴響。這個超級英雄也許是《X-Men》的獨眼龍,他戴著黃色框的眼罩,身穿寶藍色戰鬥服,與早期漫威漫畫中的形象相似。他的頭傾向一邊,將觀眾的目光引向右方的金字塔,然而,金字塔究竟是墜落地面,還是衝上半空,仍然沒有定論。充滿謎團的圖像和一串意味不明的字母必定勾起觀眾的好奇心,彷彿在調侃拼命解讀作品的觀眾,在鞏固「神秘」內涵之餘,還上演了一齣壯觀的超自然短劇。

「早在我實際將連環漫畫用於繪畫之前,我已經對這個視覺媒材深感興趣。這個技巧正好顯示了在廉價且快速的彩色印刷需求下,一個工業過程的發展成果。為了迎合商業考慮,這些印刷符號經過持續不斷的改善,最終在商業藝術家手中臻於完美。每一代插畫家都對這些符號作出修改和潤色,令這些符號成為藝術語彙的一部分。結果出來是千篇一律的形式。在我自己的作品中,我想扭轉這個情況,向一種新的古典主義進發。」
羅伊・李奇登斯坦 (引述自藝術家,邁克爾・洛貝爾,《影像複製者:羅伊・李奇登斯坦與普普藝術的崛起》,紐黑文,2002年,頁155)

李奇登斯坦被譽為普普藝術先驅,他透過漫畫、廣告和流行文化圖像,大膽試探藝術的傳統界限。他還借用漫畫和印刷品中出現的彩色點陣,以手繪的方式重複機械印刷的工序,創造出精美細緻的作品,令觀眾嘆為觀止。一如本作,李奇登斯坦的作品超越了高雅藝術與大眾文化的既有分野,奠定他在主流藝術史上的堅實地位。