• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12511

    20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

    22 October 2016, Shanghai

  • Lot 219

    DING FANG (CHINESE, B. 1956)

    On the Path Towards Faith: Resurrection

    Price Realised  


    DING FANG (CHINESE, B. 1956)
    On the Path Towards Faith: Resurrection
    signed ‘dinfang’; signed and titled in Chinese; dated ‘1988’ (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    150 x 180 cm. (59 x 70 7/8 in.)
    Painted in 1988

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    “Must it be? It must be! It must be!” declared Beethoven, under the introductory chords of the last movement in his String Quartet No. 16 in F major. These words, written into the last substantial work that the composer completed before his death, boldly proclaim his acceptance of fate, and his own role in the grand scheme of the universe. This message is fully expressed in the grandeur of the music, played to listeners who will never hear the words spoken during a performance.

    Like Beethoven, Ding Fang uses his art as a means of expressing his personal philosophies towards life. His work is filled with an emotional truth and grandeur that is designed to express the artist’s perspectives on the universe at large, imparting a clear message to the viewer. A classical Greek saying states that, “Flesh is of the earth, but the spirit is a flame.” Ding Fang’s work seeks to capture both aspects, grounding his work in the physical and corporeal while also conveying a distinct energy and spiritual vitality.

    On the Path Towards Faith: Resurrection showcases the influence of Western Expressionism on Ding’s work; the coarse brush that Ding used to apply the heavy pigment across the canvas surface captures both the texture of the mountainous landscape, as well as the muscular form of the figure that emerges from it. Man and mountain carry the same weight and gravitas, while the diagonal composition and radiating lines draw the audience’s attention firmly towards the centre of the painting. Although the title of the work evokes inevitable associations with Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus, Ding’s work may be explored in the context of themes that transcend faith, as we witness the emergence of a human figure from the folds of the earth.

    In his graduation dissertation, Ding wrote, “When, bit by bit, you blend shades of red, yellow, blue and green so that they disappear here and reappear there, the colours begin to devour, digest and blend with one another, weeding each other out, resulting in a mixture that is capable of expressing deliberate and profound emotion.” This sensitivity towards colour, and interest in the dramatic interplay of contrasting elements is clearly evident in Ding’s work, heightening the drama that we observe depicted in the painting. Resurrection appears to capture the titanic struggle of a human figure trying to free himself from the mountains that weigh him down, recalling the drama and tragic heroism expressed in the dramatic frescoes painted by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco. Orozco’s depiction of Prometheus – a demi-god from Greek mythology who was punished for giving humanity fire – uses a similarly bold and graphic style of painting, depicting monumental struggle as a means of celebrating and expressing a greater hope for humanity.

    In the spring of 1989, the landmark exhibition “China/Avant Garde” was held at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. As the first major exhibition of works by Chinese avant-garde artists organized after the ‘85 Movement, the show served as a major landmark in the history of contemporary art in China, and included Ding Fang’s four-part series On the Path Towards Faith. The work not only marks a turning point in Ding’s own creative output and artistic career, but it also alludes to the rebirth of contemporary Chinese art. The valiant struggle of Ding’s figure suggests the historic struggle of China’s artists, as they sought to carve out a new path within the modern art landscape.

    Ding Fang’s work profoundly captures the spirit of the tragic hero whom we both pity and admire, exploring the broad universality of concepts such as faith and resurrection. Men, mountains and cities are all depicted in the same plane of existence, yet each exerts its own distinct presence on the overall composition. Every one of Ding’s brushstrokes is filled with the artist’s conviction in his own beliefs, resulting in a work that proudly and boldly states the universal truth that, “It must be!”

    Special Notice

    This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.


    Private Collection, Asia


    Initial Issue of Art Currents, Art Currents Magazine, Hong Kong, China, 1992 (illustrated, p. 47)
    The Works of Ding Fang, Art Currents Magazine, Hong Kong, China, 1994 (illustrated, p. 124)
    Ding Fang, Sichuan Fine Art Publishing, Chengdu, China, 2007 (illustrated, p. 79)


    China/Avant-Garde Exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Beijing, China, February 5-19, 1989