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Ding Yi

Author: Li Xu 2004

Ding Yi was born in 1962 in Shanghai, China. After graduating from the Institute of Applied Arts, Shanghai and the School of Art at Shanghai University, he is now teaching at the Institute of Applied Arts. Ding Yi held a solo exhibition in 1986 at FuDan University, Shanghai. Since 1985 he has participated in group exhibitions including 'Art Today', Shanghai, 1988; 'Documentary Exhibition of 90s Chinese Modern Art', Gallery K, Tokyo, Japan, 1989; 'China Avant-garde', Berlin, Germany, 1993; 'China's New Art Post '89', Hong Kong, 1993; and "Mao Goes Pop: China Post- 1989', Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia, 1993. In 1986 Ding Yi was awarded third prize at the "Inaugural Shanghai Youth Art Exhibition'.

'Shishi' is a technical term used by the trade in colour printing. It signifies the precision achieved by using coordinates to identify a specific spot or place. Since 1988 Ding Yi has appropriated this language to draw attention to his desire to present the appearance of that which is real. The glimmer and rhythm of natural colours construct the commonplace and unregulated visual experience that constitutes everyday life. In Ding Yi's paintings this experience is distilled into grids that are layered one upon the other and which give expression to the artist's desire for free individual, spiritual and conceptual expression.

The early works in the 'Shishi' series were precise, regular and rigid lattice constructions. The complex and repetitive nature of their production created and impression of the artist as a perfectionist. But the irrational choice of colours and an anti-aesthetic tendency inherent in the works mock the painstaking way in which the works have been executed. Ding Yi has successfully created a 'language that has no material form and which has nothing to say'. The formal mission of abstraction is put to rest in the cage that Ding Yi so painstakingly weaves. The conscious blocking, discontinuation and confusion of the line of vision has become the guiding principle of his work.

Having remained faithful to the meticulous resolution of the pictorial surface for three or more years, Ding Yi discovered that 'precise rendering of the painted line/grid obstructed my freedom to respond to life and the world that surrounds me'. Following this realization he slowly abandoned the precise technical and procedural aspects of his paintings and softened the look and feel of the grid. With spontaneous and free-flowing brushstrokes he reconceived the painted surface, creating works that are more chaotic, energetic and dazzling. Ding Yi has stated:

I wish to use more spontaneous and immediate brushstrokes to articulate the spiritual dimension inherent in painting, and the artistic equivalent of colloquial language to explain things word by word, sentence by sentence.

In searching for an independent and pure form of artistic expression, what appears as a meaningless language in fact represents the ultimate significance of artistic practice.



Li Xu


(Asia-Pacific Triennial - The First of Contemporary Art, Brisbane Australia 1993, Queensland Art Gallery)

Related Artists:
DING YI 丁乙

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