The exhibition “Ding Yi: The Cross-Style” will present a group of large paintings to exhibit for the first time, these paintings were specifically created by Ding Yi for this solo exhibition. The exhibition represents a set of breakthroughs the artist has achieved in his recent work. At the same time, this exhibition will also chronologically organize and present Ding Yi's system of artistic practice since the mid-1980s with the "cross" as its basic pictorial element.
Throughout the different stages of his development the artist has continued to incorporate new methods into his practice. This includes experimenting in multiple dimensions to achieve a distinct visual syntax, grammar, rhetoric, and style of brushwork that enables the "cross" to grow from a basic symbol to a system of expression that embraces a myriad of syntactic structures.
Reflecting on his journey that has lasted for more than thirty years, Ding Yi made the following statement: “My so-called style is constructed by these three factors: first, the grid, where the whole picture is made; second, the lines, everything is expressed in lines; third, the cross symbol or the 米 symbol, these are the three things make up my distinct style.”
Throughout Ding Yi's artistic career since the 1980s, we can see that like many of his contemporaries who entered the art field during the mid-to-late 1980s, they currently find themselves amid a contemporary cultural scene undergoing dramatic changes. At the same time, they are faced with the cultural differences between the East and the West, caught in a tug-of-war between tradition and modernity, and left with the historical legacy of the cultural order established since the foundation of the new PRC. Therefore, they must constantly adjust themselves to establish a foothold. After years of long hours toiling and exploring, Ding Yi has managed to create a contemporary vocabulary of his own and a model for Chinese artists to achieve contemporaneity. Through continuous self-imposed demands and constantly reinventing himself, Ding Yi's different stages of creation are bursting with vitality and vigorous capacity for artistic renewal.
Under the title of “The Cross-Style”, the exhibition and publication aim to imagine Ding Yi's creative system as a set of "fonts" generated with the "cross" as its basic element. This not only develops an ever-changing set of "fonts", but also constructs a "style" of art. It consists of an evolving set of rhetoric and grammar and is far more than just an image. Through this imagery, we can also see Ding Yi's creation as a kind of longterm "writing," using the "cross" as a typeface, with "writing" and “repetition” as the form and significance of this new "style". In Ding Yi's creative career, “The Cross-Style” is also the language he uses to "write", react and express to the art and social scene in China. Since the very beginning, Ding Yi never sought to use the "cross" as a form of identification, but rather to enrich his cultural subjectivity through specific, small or large changes and adjustments throughout each phase of his development. In his practice, Ding Yi also infuses the “Cross” with richness through his sustained production, enabling it to grow and evolve from a symbol into an ever-expanding yet highly open system.
For those who are unfamiliar with Ding Yi, or for those who may be oblivious to the implied dynamics of his paintings due to over-familiarity, an important hint to "reading" Ding Yi through this exhibition is to constantly recognize the artist's determination to set up obstacles for himself during his creative process. It's these obstacles, which drive Ding Yi and his art at every stage of development, pushing it into unforeseen directions, and form a rich notebook of life experiences recoded over a prolonged period of time.