Ding Yi - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • A widely-recognised painter representative of the 1980s artist collective who hoped to change the course of history of Chinese contemporary art, Ding Yi is best known for his independent approach towards artmaking through rationality that reflects the spirit of the times still, and parallel the visual effects of the rapid industrialisation and urban development in China.

    Born in Shanghai, the artist worked in a toy factory as a designer before graduating from the Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts in 1983. He went on to study in the Traditional Chinese Painting department at Shanghai University, where he was influenced by Western modernism. The ’85 and ’86 New Wave was centred on two Western schools of art: Expressionism and Surrealism, in which one explored their own expressions, fantasies, and ideals, yet it lacked an element of rationality, so Ding wanted to use his own method to bring about another possibility – one that was deductive and logical. It wasn’t until 1988 that he began his series Appearance of Crosses that showed his full-fledged experimentation with abstraction and was kind of a confrontational act to him. Adopting the shapes of ‘x’ and ‘+’ as a recurring motif and laying them onto his works as an all-over, grid-like composition, he had declared that the symbol was a formal mark without meaning.

    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.” — Ding Yi

    He first began making these works with a ruler and ruling pens but due to suffering from back pain with the prolonged use of a ruler when painting, Ding began rendering his crosses freehand since 1991. The present lot, Appearance of crosses 2006-B8, is a prime example of this shift, where the crosses appear looser than before, and the grid comes together to create a visual effect akin to stitches in embroidered fabrics.


    Appearance of crosses 2006-B8 (detail)

    Colour is also a particular method that Ding had adopted over the years. Subverting the typical ways of using colour, he was inspired by automatism and would paint in whatever pigments he could get his hands on, creating works in those colours. It is interesting however to see how his use of colour in Appearance of crosses 2006-B8 deviates from his usual reds and parallels Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2023, Viva Magenta 18-750. A shade that is rooted in natural roots, this nuanced crimson tone is brave and fearless, powerful and empowering, and is a pulsating colour that is most expressive of a new signal of strength.

    Always boldly in pursuit of individuality, Ding successfully creates paintings that are entirely abstract and distances himself from conforming, creating an artistic language that is only unique to him.


    • Provenance

      ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Appearance of crosses 2006-B8

signed and dated 'Ding Yi 2006' lower right; titled '"Appearance of crosses 2006-B8"' lower left
mixed media on paper
39 x 53.5 cm. (15 3/8 x 21 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2006.

Full Cataloguing

HK$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for HK$165,100

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 March 2023