(Chinese, B. 1962)
Appearance of Crosses
signed in Chinese; dated '1996' (lower right); signed in Pinyin, titled in Chinese, dated '1996' (on the reverse)
mixed media on canvas
139.7 x 160 cm. (55 x 63 in.)
Painted in 1996
ShanghART, Shanghai, China
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1996

Brought to you by

Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

"I hope people will keep their minds on the color, the stroke and the structure of a painting rather than dig into the implication of what they see in a work. Only when they brush aside the so-called meanings can they open themselves up to the new feelings a piece of art brings forth." - Ding Yi

While many contemporary Chinese artists have gravitated to political pop, symbolic realism and expressionism, others are devoted themselves to exploring theoretical abstractionism. Ding Yi is a representative of the latter class. Like Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun and Wang Guangyi, Ding is among the first group of Chinese artists to participate in international exhibitions beginning as early as 1993 participating in several momentous exhibitions on contemporary Chinese art, including the 45th Venice Biennale and the China Avant-Garde exhibition that toured Europe. At the Venice Biennale, his works were described as "a breathtaking manifestation" of Chinese abstract art. In 1994, he held a solo exhibition, "Exhibition of Ding Yi's Abstract Art Works", in the Shanghai Art Museum. All these accomplishments have placed Ding in a prominent position in the world of Chinese contemporary abstract art. In Appearances of Crosses (Lot 2432) painted in 1996, Ding marks out the Chinese symbols "Q" and the Western symbols "X", precisely united on an imaginative grid. The entwinement of these symbols results in an orderly composite which points to an impeccable sense of structure and a coolly analytical visual sensibility. The inspiration, in part, is provided by the process of chromatic printing, which uses "Q" as a reference mark for precise coloring, whereas "X" is a variant, and a distorted form of "Q". Both symbols are, for Ding, pure, devoid of association or symbolic meaning. This is the idiom of the artist consciously acquired: it calls for rationality in creation, in representation and, what is more, in appreciation. It directs the audience to contemplate on nothing more than the expressiveness of colors, lines and structures. In other words, the works serve as a counterpoint to fashionable symbolist and expressionist art, and has thus delineated an unhackneyed way of expression in contrast to those that revolve around pictorial distinction and the manipulation of sentiment. The "Q" of Ding is an abstract expression in the form of symbols, a make-up that echoes with the "+/-" of Piet Mondrian and the colored dots of Damien Hirst. Appearances of Crosses, moreover, demonstrates the evolution of Ding's techniques after 1996. The use of adhesive tape and a ruler, which characterize his early creative phrase, is abandoned in favor of freehand drawing, so that the symbol "Q" is now slightly slanted and blurred, and the artist's creative motif - "precision within freedom" - is more readily articulated. This has also brought the work closer to traditional Chinese art, in which the technique of outlining and the use of ink lines are plentiful and, as is described by the artist himself, the work is "archaeologized" resembling the silk manuscript of the ancient past. This peculiar effect is enhanced by the blank spaces that surround the piece, and with lines stretching over and beyond the main body they form the severed edge of the canvas, suggesting even stronger resemblance to the fragments of unearthed textiles or calligraphy. Appearances of Crosses has in this way epitomized the breakthrough and refinement of Ding Yi's art in the mid-1990s, for it manifests the way Ding transforms the symbol "Q" to be ingrained in the work as an attribute of abstraction, illustrative of modern Western art and further supplies it with the nuance of Chinese art form.


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