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Ding Yi

Galerie Karsten Greve AG St. Moritz

Appearance of Crosses
August 23 - October 27, 2012
The Galerie Karsten Greve AG St. Moritz is pleased to present the most recent paintings and works on paper of the Shanghai based Chinese artist Ding Yi on the occasion of this years Art Masters.
Since the end of the 80s, Ding Yi has devoted himself exclusively to working with the theme of the cross + and x which he exploits to its maximum potential. All these works are the proliferation of the small signs repeated according to a systematic principle. Devoid of narrative or symbolic significance, the approach to painting does not seek any sort of emotional expression, but instead is reduced to it’s minimal state. Nevertheless, if Ding Yi painted with an extreme precision at first and used rulers in order to avoid any personal touches, his surfaces are now much more free.
The quasi obsessive simplicity of this choice stands in opposition to the incredible variety of his abstract paintings using acrylic, oil, chalk, wood coal, ballpoint pen and a wide-ranging palette from almost monochrome to vibrations of the most vivid tones. The interlacing of the crosses creates a depth as well as a movement across the canvas with a network of segments which superimpose themselves according to different directions. This weft is all the more accentuated from the end of the 90s, when Ding Yi uses fabric as a base, especially tartan, which already contains its own pattern. The crosses may appear as a weaving of time and space, the point at which two lines meet is traditionally used to mark a location.
A wonderful dynamic is born out of the tension between formal variety and the minimal nature of the structural elements. Animated by an obsession with precision as well as by the irregularities produced through manual realisation, these “technical paintings” according the expression of Hou Hanru, react as a living body. The work is never the result of a mechanical reproduction, but rather of a delicate manual process. His paintings have also been seen as an accumulation of a sort of manual writing, reminiscent of a traditional savoir-faire or of the Chinese calligraphy practice.
If Ding Yi developed a personal type of painting at a very early stage which was largely unknown to the trends, he was also more reactive, since 1999, to his surrounding environment. The urban nature of his work reminds one of the neon signs of Shanghai as well as the excitement of the bustling city. It could be considered as a contemporary Chinese version of Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, as suggested by Jonathan Watkins. Whereas contemporary Chinese art was always intimately linked to the socio-political framework, Ding Yi stayed away from the turmoil and maintained a steadiness in his work. This unique position is witness to a radical independence vis-à-vis the art world and a society governed by the cult of the image.
Ding Yi, born in 1962, lives and works in Shanghai and enjoys international recognition. He participated in the Venice Biennale (1993), the Yokohame Triennale (2001) and in the Guanghou Biennale (2002). An individual exhibition has been dedicated to him at the Ikon Gallery (Birmingham) in 2006 and in the MAMbo Bologna in 2008. The midcareer retrospective exhibitions in 2010 and 2011 in Minsheng Museum Shanghai were accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue.

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