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Interview with Ding Yi

Interviewer: Cao Weijun 2007-11-10

Time: 10th Nov,2007
Site: Ding Yi's stidio
In this interview, Cao is used as the short form for Cao weijun, the interviewer, while Ding for Ding Yi, the artist.

Cao Weijun (Cao): You have developed your works of "Appearance of Crosses" for almost a score year now, and could you please talk about how you feel about them?
Ding Yi (Ding): The first piece of "Appearance of Crosses" was draw during the last stage of the 85' New Trend, i.e., the year 1988. To put it more exactly, the first piece of works with the "cross" was drawn in 1986. At that time, I was obsessed with a lot of questions, like many other artists.

Cao: What kind of questions?
Ding: Like what king of breakthrough I should make. During the middle 80's, Chinese modern art did not form a style if its own and was in a kind of unstableness. Since it was still a little blur about Chinese modern art, works during the 85' New Trend were basically learned or copied or copied from western modern art, among which, the neo-Expressionism, Super-Realism and photographic Realism brought in great influence. It became a main trend of artistic exploration and expression for artistic to combine their specific experience in real life and various concepts from the west.

Cao: So did you choose the abstract style of "Appearance of Crosses" because of that?
Ding: Right, I was against the everybody was in great favor of the expression of ideal or even illusion. I was, on the other hand, looking for a possibility to make some breakthrough and considering more about how to maintain the endurance of the idea and through an inartistic way, i.e., a way not similar to art, departing from an or on an effort to reduce the artistic element. What I could do at that time was to transform my passion picturesquely so that I could be presented in a more rational and self-belonging way.

Cao: Your Current works tend to be increasingly brighter and livelier now. Are you still working on the extension of your former ideas?
Ding: Of course I am. However, I have gone though different stages and my focus has been readjusted. Foe example, I have presented in my picture the process of urbanization as well as elements of the current fashion and culture, which, compared to the pictures of a score year ago, definitely differs a lot in mood and emotion. My works have gone though about four stage, i.e.:
The stage of precision. During the early stage, my works were hard and cold, finished with assistant tools such as rulers, tapes and ruling pens. At that time, I chose the symbol of "Cross" in order to break away from the influence of tradition Chinese painting and that of the pure painting during the initial stage of western modernism.

The hand-drawing stage. Initiated from the second half of the year 1991, this change was based on the consideration of mental precision. Technical precision of the representation does not mean mental precision. Therefore I tried to set myself apart from the assistant tools to search for a "precision of freedom". I felt more freedom in the atmosphere of the picture and the "verbalization" of the brushwork. I mainly use propylene as the medium at stage.

The stage of materials experiment. By the end of 1993, my desire on experimenting with new materials of the "verbalization" stage, I have put my demand on various experiments up to the schedule. I have created a lot of experimental paper work, followed by the drawing by chalks, charcoal and ball-point pens on corrugated paper, which feels like direct writing and the touch of which associates people with the "book on silk" or unearthed fabric of Chinese ancient time. The uncertainty and randomicity in the pictures actually became important element in my works. Such an effect can make the traditional culture "relicalized". Those experiments almost last to 1998.

The stage of ready-made products. My experiments on materials in the end included the drawing on tartan with the lattice pattern itself, with the application of a layer of transparent grounding on which, I could monitor the tone and composition of the picture in a more flexible way, In this stage, the representation of social and cultural critic elements grew in amount and straightness. For example, the represents a cultural symbol of a specific family identity in Scotland, the special meaning of which disappear in my works. I wanted to touch issues such as "intercultural misreading" in my work. Then, upon the coming of the new millennium, I started to create works with city subjects and the tone and composition of my pictures changed a lot, with a lot of fluorescent colors and more layers in the composition of the pictures. What is more, I began to have some irregularly shaped "main body" in my pictures composed by crosses with more a quiet and gray city in my works. My works started to have more interaction with the surrounding, exterior human beings and subjects. I wanted to demonstrate the clamor and excitement of this city in my works, with fluorescent colors reflecting the materialized prosperity and fashionableness and the chaos and nihility behind he crosses.
Cao: Just now you mentioned about the transformation of passion in your creation. Is it realized because of some kind of strong spiritual existence or support?
Ding: Right. The transformation of vigor needs patience and will power. For me, my body and mind is consistent with my works. The strict restriction on materials and form of representation set up by my-self is very facilitative to the communication of this will power in my picture, and therefore the traces of my daily life experience are all included in this system supporting me with patience and will power. I have set down at the initiation of the series of "Appearance of Crosses" that "the form should be in correspondence with the spirit".

Cao: How do you think about individually free will power since I can sense such power strongly in your works?
Ding: I really want to make it work. Therefore I require myself to go into details for any research. You should star from the small things and stick to your principles persistently, since on matter mentally or picturesquely, the macro atmosphere exists in-between each small pore.

Cao: You really stick to your principles unvaryingly, but what do you expect from it?
Ding: Actually, one can do little in a lifetime. I am seeking for a kind of experience that can touch my-self both in my life and my pictures.

Cao: It's like a mission.
Ding: We do have such a mission in our generation, which is a motive and which is inherent. In the current society, it seems that we have a lot more choices than before, so that people do not care too much whether mission exists or not. But for me, it does exist.

——from issue #3, page 214-219

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