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Repetitious Craze

Author: Wang Min'an Dec,2011

The cross as a symbol always appear in Ding Yi's paintings repeatedly. Each of his paintings is composed by numerous crosses, as if each painting just mean the accomplishment of lots of crosses. However, each accomplished painting seems to mean that more crosses need to be done, to be presented to the next work. The painting is a story about the journey of drawing cresses. Ding's painting is often inappropriately regarded as termination by Beholders who gaze on it forever, as if it were an independent work. In fact, on the contrary, Ding's each painting is not a finished project, never and ever, which forms a part of cross series that experience a long painting process—lift from this view, his work would be meaningless. If Ding just only made a cross painting, what was its significance? For Ding, who holds up cross paintings in various ways again and again, their significance is to be repeatedly drawn. Ding's each painting must be related to each other, which relationship is about repetition and postponement: one picture is postponed by another one; one picture always links the former and the later one; a cross painting is often the moment of during painting the crosses. That is all there is in Ding's painting. He adopts a repeat device to achieve the postponement, represents the cross in his paintings over and over. Ding postpones his painting without day.

So painting cannot be stopped. Beholders also cannot find extra meanings in Ding's works—he definitely rejects them from the beginning. When he starts to paint, he attempts to combine painting with a sheer technique together, then to remove any painterly effects. For him, painting is just mapping, a cartography that use all kinds of tools and techniques. Painting is a kind of objective act ruled by external icons, as if it is a machine-like reflex action. It is a "zero degree writing" that clears any artificial signs. Therefore, a work is not to symbolize, and the meaningless rises from the cross sign. Moreover, the cross is composed by the simplest lines, which forms the purest installation. Any paintings and composition are based on lines; two lines meet at right angles, compose a brief and clear pattern. The vertical lines reject every roundabout and metaphor; each of them is monotonous, cannot stretch out unlimitedly, needs to assort with the other line, and complies with a scientific method with indifferent right angles. Therefore, the lines, that certainly make up an inseparable installation, are neglected. Beholders just look at the cross, as if the cross were the starting point or the origin of painting. Beholders always emphasize the cross and the composing space in Ding's works. The cross is either a sign, or a space. Each cross need to be separated from the picture, therefore. It is not Deleuze's "smooth space", but a stripe one. Each cross gains the self-independence; of course, they also overlap each other, whose relationship is coped with in various methods by Ding. That is why beholders gaze on crosses. But it is the line that makes up the cross and constructs the space. Ding draws line, the straight line first. He devotes himself to the lines. These straight lines also give themselves to the cross. Such painting remains bounded. The bounded lines and bounded crosses resist lyric expression in the painting. The persistent lines meeting with right angles totally destroy the desire to imitate the Nature, and also hinder their self-expression. They indulge in the accuracy of pure crosses. The lines represent nothing except themselves, same to the cross. The lines in paintings are not ideographic, but resistance to any notional stuff.

Ding is the one who repeats the cross sign again and again. Actually, we can say, Ding is growing this sign. In this sense, Ding's painting is postponed, a postponement of the cross sign, which is repetitive. What does the repetition of crosses want to state? The repetition of crosses does not mean each work is look-alike exactly. Because of sharing the cross, in character, these paintings strike a chord, which are not dominant. During the postponement of cross painting, the former picture does not dominate the later one, and the later is also not the result of the former. Between them, they are non-progressive, and beholders had better not divide his works into several steps, because it will create an illusion that a step is the inevitable premise or result of the next one. Beholders should throw away this causality illusion, and realize that Ding's painting is a pictorial resonance from first to last: a resonance without the hierarchical relationship among the signs. They are responding. A picture resonates with another one; similarly, in the inner of a picture, crosses resonate with each other. The relationship of postponement is of the resonance. Thus they are placed into a common space—all of these pictures and all of the crosses in paintings just as belong to a huge space. Maybe beholders should explain Ding's paintings from the view of space rather than chronological order or time clue. On the contrary, Ding's paintings should be perceived as a space where the resonance of the signs exists.

The repetition of crosses is the condition of the resonance. Then, what does the repetition of the cross sign mean? To artists, repetition often means losing creativeness. An artist's career can be seen as the variation between tone of creativeness and of melancholy. Creativeness is a power burst out suddenly, which is invested and radiated by a kind of totally new energy, which gives birth of a work. However, after the releasing of energy, the sense of emptiness emerges. Most artists just burst out once in their whole life, so someone criticized that they only created one or two works in their careers. Thereafter, they are gloomy: they does not have creativeness, and fall into a repeat vicious circle, gloomy circle. Beholders judge an artist according to his will and ability, and his creativeness and divergent thinking. So artists always attempt to change, attempt to free themselves from melancholy through creativeness changing. They try different kinds of styles, abandoning previous one—they expect a brand-new painting suddenly come out. There are other artists who are not so radical. They make gradual changing. The artists who gradually change themselves are usually regarded as stylized artists.

Ding seems to have got out of the two modes. He threw away the genetic relationship between creativity and melancholy, and was not misled by the creativeness. He uses the repetition to replace the creativity. Here, repetition is neither the counterpart of creativity nor the path to melancholy. Ding invested repetition with new significance. In Ding's, repetition is also a kind of initiative, the same as creativity. He regards it as a positive power, attempts to restore its popularity, and what he expresses is its strong will. For Ding, repetition has a strengthening force, which does not mean exhaustion and doing nothing. Otherwise, repetition is positive as well as strengthening, and it extends the will, also accumulates the energy. Repetition can be regarded as returning—just like what Nietzsche said. There are two different ways of eternal returning: returning as repetition and positive returning. What is the point when all go round and round?  Ding's repetition is Zarathustra's, a positive one: all crosses need to be drawn again and again as if everything is destiny. Why does he draw crosses repeatedly? The answer is self-affirmation, to confirm the cross itself and its painting process, or to confirm the painting act and the life at last. Ding's artistic career—is the life career to a great extent—self-affirmation through cross painting. Each cross, each moment needs to be devoted fully—life is formed by such innumerable moments.

Ding repeats the crosses. He makes differences by repetition. In this sense, repetition is creative. Ding's repetition also means deviation at the same time. Repetition becomes an experiment. He found the freedom in the experiment. Thus repetition itself has a great autonomy, and surely we have seen the cross on everywhere in paintings, but it is a repetitious object. The cross is the excuse of repetition rather than the purpose of it; "Repetition" needs the cross to complete self, to make it repeatable; of course, it is an excellent excuse that can make the desire of repetition come true. In this sense, the cross is still non-painterly but the opportunity and impetus of repetition. So hereon, most important stuff is not the cross but repetition. Or more precisely, repeating the cross is foremost, as well as matching relationship between repetition and the cross which are perfect couple. It is hard to imagine what will be without the repetition of the cross in the paintings.

Back to repetition, we should say that painting is not attempt to depict an object, but a pictorial act. It is not a medium to connect the outside world but a pictorial object itself. It refers to the next or the former painting as a link in the chain of painting. Its duty is to resonate with other paintings—what we see is a brand-new pictorial ethics which beyond the traditional. Hereon, painting is neutral—it involves neither tragic criticism nor pleasing or enjoyment. It has no relationship with idea of value or psychology. It transcends emotion. Repeating is a lonely act. Repetitious painting is totally an individual act. It seems that repetition produces loud echoes by emphasizing repeatedly; however, it is also a self-murmuring that is unheard by others.

Considering Ding's paintings as a whole, we will find that the repetition of crosses do not adhere to any rule. On the contrary, Ding tries to keep the paintings different. He creates differences by repetition. How to keep the differences? By keeping forgetting.  To forget means a new birth. "In repetition, forgetting can generate a positive force, and unconsciousness becomes positive and lofty." Ding doesn't want to recall something, but to forget something, by the repetition. So, when he makes repeating, an extraordinary power emerges from the forgetfulness. He constantly conceives new composition of the cross and produces different pictures. Ding says that he is always afraid of the habit, so he wants to change and forget his own painting habit, and attempts to use different painting methods to generate different ways of drawing the cross. But changing and criticizing habit is exactly completed through repetition.

Repetition generates forgetting, and asks paradoxically for transcending. Regarding as a positive return, repetition is also a kind of overflowing, of proliferating, of spreading of a sign, of a difference. Finally, repetition does not lead to an intact naturalization but a multiplying difference. In this course, the cross proliferates. Ultimately, the cross sign which seems calm and silent is full of adventure, competition and craze.

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