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Ding Yi

Author: Hou Hanru 2002

For the last two decades, the Chinese contemporary art world has provided a highly diverse and exciting scene. While almost everyone else has been involved with the radical "cultural revolution" of art language and its turbulent social influence, Ding Yi has remained transcendent, stubbornly holding to his unique language, which has hardly "evolved". Most of his contemporaries use expressionistic or realistic imagery to convey political, cultural, and personal statements. Ding Yi, however, prefers to concentrate on a totally personal, and somehow eccentric, prefers to concentrate on a totally personal, and somehow eccentric, path.

Since the mid-1980s, Ding Yi has produced an immense body of abstract paintings on different supports, from canvas to cardboard, from ready-made fabrics to furniture, using diverse media, such as oil, acrylic, charcoal and ballpoint pen, His colors are also varied, ranging from quasi-monochrome to vast combinations. The results create constantly oscillating impulses on our retinas and therefore highly exciting perceptions. The works are excessively beautiful.

Within all this variation, however, Ding Yi's paintings are also excessively repetitive and systematic. All his works are motifs: 十and示, the two most basic elements in color printing technology. Ding Yi appropriates these "primitive" elements and transforms them into the essential structure, the unique "content" of his painting. Ding Yi's engagement with these simplest marks reduces painting to its minimal state. In other words, the process of painting for him is no longer a search for any narrative or emotional expression. His subject matter is by no means "painterly"; these characters are simply traces of hand-writing.

What is particularly interesting to observe in Ding Yi's work is the dynamics between the excessive formal variety and minimal structural elements. In a way, one can describe Ding Yi's painting in an oxymoron: excessive minimalism.

For Ding Yi painting is a test for his boundless determination. This determination is first and foremost a perennial pursuit for an independent position in art world infatuated with fashions and trends. In this context, his choice to remain unchanged can be understood as a strong reaction against such a "mainsream".

From Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting,  by Barry Schwabsky, published by Phaidon Press Ltd., New York, U.S.A., 2002, Page 084

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