From 25 June to 14 August 2022, Jebum-gang Art Center and Tihho Art co-host Ding Yi's first solo exhibition in Tibet, "Multi-Verse: Ding Yi in Tibet," curated by Tibetan scholar Tenzin Ngawang Gyaltsen. The exhibition is presented in the Jebum-gang Art Center and Shide Space and not only reveals for the first time a series of new works created by Ding Yi on the theme of Tibet, but also shows representative works from the 1980s to the present, succinctly presenting the evolution of and newer trends in his “Appearance of Crosses” series.
Ding Yi (b. 1962, Shanghai) is a pioneer of Chinese abstract painting and an important figure in the history of Chinese contemporary art. Ding Yi began to create his "Appearance of Crosses" series of works in 1988, transforming the Chinese character for "ten"(十) and its variant "x" – both derived from industrial printing scale symbols – into his visual language. These two signs form a complete set within his artistic system. Following shifts in the zeitgeist and the artist’s own changes of mood, the “Appearance of Crosses” series has evolved through three distinct stages which he identifies as “steadying,” “overlooking,” and “looking up.” As his work continues to mature, the artist has also gradually broken away from the planar field of easel painting, expanding into sculpture, spatial installation, and architecture.
The story of “Multi-Verse” begins in the winter of 2021 when, upon receiving invitation from Tihho Art, Ding Yi embarked on a 10-day research trip to Tibet. Ding Yi had previously visited in 1989 and again in 2018, making this his third trip. Starting from Lhasa, Ding Yi visited the Palcho Monastery, Shalu Monastery, Sakya Monastery and Gongkar Chö Monastery as well as other sources of Tibetan murals before arriving at the base camp of Mount Everest. On the way, he also had in-depth exchanges with many prominent figures within Tibetan cultural and artistic circles. The religion of the Tibetan people and surrounding nature of the Himalayan region undoubtedly endowed Ding Yi with great perspective on life and instilled in him immense creative inspiration. After returning to Shanghai, he tried to use blue as the main color of his paintings for the first time and incorporated Tibetan paper and mineral pigments as well as other Tibetan painting materials to carry out experiments. The quiet and deep blue sky, the ancient and mysterious murals, and the impression of Everest at night are all transformed into visual images and landscapes in Ding Yi's “Appearance of Crosses” series.
The exhibition is presented using the intertextuality of two spaces, Jebum-gang Art Center and Shide Space. Jebum-gang Art Center, currently operated by Tihho Art, is the only surviving mandala-style building in Lhasa and the first preserved architectural relic to be converted into a public cultural space in Tibet. Shide Space, formerly the regent residence of Tibet, has experienced the vicissitudes of modern history and is now a national-level cultural relic. In the intertextuality and linkage of these two ancient Tibetan buildings, both full of historical memory, the "cross" seen in so many of Ding Yi’s paintings constantly changes, influencing the artist's past 30 years of creativity based around the “Appearance of Crosses,” leading audiences to the spiritual destination of his art and the “ten directions” of the universe.
The launch of the titular exhibition catalogue coincides with the exhibition. In addition to Ding Yi's representative works and new works, the album also contains abundant and detailed exhibition interviews with the artist, as well as essays written by the curator Tenzin Ngawang Gyaltsen and acclaimed scholar Qian Wenzhong. According to Tenzin Ngawang Gyaltsen, Ding Yi's works interweave rationality and mystery, the artist's will and his overall experience in Tibet, "explaining the secret between the sky and the earth." Qian Wenzhong states that Ding Yi is "committed to the abstract expression of the spiritual world" and chose nature and culture as the field of expression in his Tibetan-themed works, constructing a unique color discourse and spiritual discourse beyond religion.
About the artist
Ding Yi, a pioneer of Chinese abstract painting, works primarily with “+” and its variant “x” as formal visual signals, above and against the political and social allegories typical of painting in China. He chose this sign in the second half of the 80s as a synonym of structure, rationality and of a pictorial expressiveness that reflects the essence of things. Ding Yi has exhibited extensively at various institutions and galleries, among many others, The British Museum (London), Power Station of Art (Shanghai), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York/Bilbao), Centre Pompidou (Paris), MAXXI (Rome); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing). His works has also been included in 45th Venice Biennale, The First Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Yokohama 2001 International Triennale of Contemporary Art. He has recent solo exhibitions at Long Museum (Shanghai /Chongqing), Galería RGR (Mexico City), ShanghART Gallery (Shanghai/Beijing/Singapore), Galerie Karsten Greve (Cologne/Paris/St.Moritz), Guangdong Museum of Art, Timothy Taylor Gallery (New York/ London), Xi’an Art Museum, Hubei Museum of Art, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, Museo d’Arte Modena di Bologna, Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), etc.
Founded in 2014, Tihho is one of the most influential art institutions in Tibet, with art spaces in Lhasa and Shanghai. By tapping into the traditional Tibetan spirit, discovering new artists, and continuously holding Tibetan contemporary art exhibitions at home and abroad, Tihho is committed to expressing Tibetan tradition in contemporary language and promoting the innovation and development of Tibetan contemporary culture.
About Jebum-gang Art Center
Jebum-gang Art Center is the first Tibetan architectural relic to be converted into a public cultural space. Completed in the second half of the 19th century, Jebum-gang Lhakang was built in accordance with a mandala structure, the most representative form Tibetan architecture, and was once a landmark of the ancient city of Lhasa, embodying the essence of Tibetan art, architecture, and history. After renovation by the government, Tihho Art has invested funds and strengthened resources towards protective renovation of the site with a planned unveiling in July 2021. Jebum-gang Art Center is open to the public free of charge. Through contemporary art exhibitions, artists' visits and residencies, and public education activities, the center will promote the innovative development of contemporary Tibetan culture.