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Transcript: Ding Yi interview

Ding Yi: A Pursuit of Individuality

(Original language: Mandarin)

DING YI: I think the most precious quality in an artist is having their own personal judgement rather than conforming to someone else’s. I want to distance myself from that kind of conformity and remain independent.

I did not intend to bestow any particular meaning to the cross, as a geometric shape. I became familiar with this symbol when I was designing packaging for factories. There, it was just technical signage. I found that it was also a universal sign of intersection. When using a symbol like this, there is no ambiguity. People generally don’t associate it with any physical object. I wanted it to be entirely abstract.

So I began to make art with a ruler and ruling pens. This way, all my passion, everything that I wanted to express, was suppressed and turned ice-cold. I also wanted to subvert typical ways of using colours. I adopted a way of colouring inspired by automatism, painting in whatever pigments I could get my hands on and creating works in those colours.

In my artworks, I want to express myself through rationality and irony. So back [when creating the 'Appearance of Crosses’ series'] I had a very clear idea: to make art that doesn’t look like art. Therefore, I intended to make paintings that have no semblance of paintings; to make my paintings devoid of any meaning.

There were two major schools during the ’85 and ’86 New Wave movement; namely, Expressionism and Surrealism. They were both well suited to a newly opened China and to ways of thinking across all walks of life. There was a lot of frustration and dejection that needed to be expressed in an Expressionist manner. The ’85 and ’86 New Wave movement and the 1989 China Avant-Garde Art Exhibition were events that we experienced and participated in. The artists from the ’80s had a collective mission, hoping to change the course of history so that contemporary Chinese art could germinate and develop.

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