Ding Yi: A Pursuit of Individuality

The most precious quality in an artist is having their own personal judgement.

Ding Yi

The plus signs and crosses in the abstract paintings by Ding Yi (born 1962, Shanghai) are intended to be universal symbols of complete abstraction, allowing him to move away from any social and political contexts. Through careful execution with a paintbrush, ruler, and tape, the ‘+’ motif is articulated in a structured and disciplined manner.

Ding Yi participated in China’s 85 New Wave art movement, which took place in the beginning of the mid-1980s. In this movement, artists advocated for departure from the official standard of Socialist Realism and experimentation with new artistic languages. Their goal was to renew Chinese art.

In this video, Ding explores his work in the context of the two art styles that dominated during the New Wave: Expressionism, emphasising subjective personal expression, and Surrealism, which channels the unconscious through, for example, automatism. However, Ding’s paintings reject symbolic content and narrative meaning as defined by Western expressionism and abstraction. Instead, he pursues an artistic purity and openness free of the perplexities and burdens of traditional Western theories.


Objects from the M+ Collections featured in this video:

Ding Yi. Appearance of Crosses 2008–1, 2006. Oil on canvas. M+, Hong Kong. ©Ding Yi
Ding Yi. Appearance of Crosses, 1997. Acrylic on textile. M+, Hong Kong. ©Ding Yi
Ding Yi. Appearance of Cross 89–4, 1989. Oil on canvas. M+, Hong Kong. ©Ding Yi
Ding Yi. Appearance of Crosses 95-19, 1995. Oil on canvas. M+, Hong Kong. ©Ding Yi
Ding Yi. Appearance of Crosses 97-B18, 1997. Oil on cardboard. M+, Hong Kong. ©Ding Yi

Video Credits

Produced by M+
Camera: CPAK STUDIO
Editor: Anafelle Liu
M+ Curatorial Research: Isabella Tam, Ethan Cheng
M+ Video Production: Chris Sullivan, Jaye Yau, Elaine Wong
M+ Transcript and Closed Captions: LW Lam, Ellen Oredsson, Amy Leung
Special Thanks: Ding Yi