A spiritually weak nation has a hundred reasons to reject Ding Fong's art, however, this might be exactly what make Ding Fong insists on his own artistic precepts. In this sense, the choice of Ding is a heroically sad one. What follows are naturally the criticisms and queries. I am always fascinated by the complex meanings of Ding's art. In his works, I see a mind perplexed by confidence and disappointment, solitude and mournfulness, pain and delirium. These are all what appear when someone stands up to criticize the insufficient quality of an era.
Perhaps it is contributive to review Ding's life and artistic development. He was born in 1956, in a place called Wugung in Shaanxi Province, where he spent his childhood. The landscape and people of Northwest China has left their insignia in the artist's youthful mind. This also prompted him to take the Losses Plateau as his theme of creation. Later, he followed his family to Nanjing, a city of glorious history as six times capital of dynastic China. This is also where the Taipings and the Japanese left their brutal marks. Nowadays, the respectable status of the past is gone, people rather take this city as a tourist site of nostalgia. Culturally speaking, it lacks the hubbub of Beijing; in terms of commerce, it matches not the richness of Shanghai. Merely a transitional station on the Beijing-Shanghai railway, it nevertheless process every traits of a peaceful consumerist city, though lacking the somewhat decadence that identifies Suzhou or Hangzhou. The cultural identity of Nanjing is basically sensational and nostalgic. This is where history left a narrow gap. A gap that invites and suggests something, but before people can get anything, this gap is closed.
The Sword-shaped Will, Power of Tragedy No.6 (Lot 580) and the Path to Belief series are regarded by me as the artist's heroic attempts to triumph the extreme of painful experiences through his spiritual momentum. I cannot say, such attempt would ultimately take the artist to his aspired goal, he might be hindered by obstacles, die in the making and cease to be remembered. However, it is such rarely seen spectacle of the artist that left its mark in this lowly era. In these works, the classical icons from different cultures of the world are drawn. The concept of passion and redemption of Christianity is one of the salient characteristics of this period of his works. The pyramidal composition and the agitating feelings created by the flow of colours present a sharp contrast. Every stroke of warm colours radiates out powerfully, at the end of such force, it explodes and glitters.
'When you paint on the canvas again and again, red, yellow, blue and green, they are taken up by others and reappearing here and there. They are in fact devouring, digesting and merging a rough passion, transforming it into a sophisticated, solid emotion. From here, step by step, the aspired layer of expression is approaching.
From He Yi 'Re-welcoming New Hanging scrolls for a Fallen Era: Ding Fong and His Art', Chinese Contemporary Art Connoisseur Series, GuangXi Art Publishing House, GuangXi, China, 1994.