DING Qiao (b. 1986, Yantai, Shandong) completed her MFA in 2017 at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, specializing in the theory, methods and aesthetics of Song Imperial Court painting including the ink landscape painting methods of the Northern Song and the gongbi or “meticulous brush” bird and flower painting methods in which mineral pigments such as azurite, malachite, lapis lazuli, lead, cobalt and cinnabar are mixed with animal glue and applied with a fine brush on silk or paper. Ding Qiao’s contemporary exploration of this pre-Modern visual art language focuses on the syncretic and synaesthetic nature of East Asian painting in which the experience of image and sound from the allied arts of poetry and music is reciprocally encoded—through both the artist’s expressive creation and viewer’s imaginative perception—with the visual experience of space, line, form and color.
Water | Gnossienne
In her Gnossienne series, Ding Qiao addresses a recurrent theme in China history, philosophy and art—namely, water. Water is the most common ideographic element found in the Chinese written language and is the primary philosophical and literary metaphor for the processes and dynamics of change and transformation. In the art of painting, water is one of the key material and semiotic elements of the medium shuimo or “water and ink” and half of the diad shanshui “mountain water” or landscape painting which is itself a metaphor or metonym for nature or the cosmos. Gnossienne refers to the 1890 compositions for solo piano of the same name by the French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). In his Gnossiennes Satie experimented with form, rhythm and chordal structure and composed largely in “free time” eschewing the use of time signatures or meter bars. Ding found Satie’s cyclic yet non-metered exploration of time strikingly compatible with Chinese notions of rhythm and resonance, process and cycle, change and transformation embodied by the qualities and behavior of water. To bring her painting in synaesthetic resonance with Satie’s “free time”, she played a recording of his Gnossiennes continuously on a loop while painting her eponymous series. Not surprisingly, Ding explores her theme of water through the classical Song landscape subject but instead of rendering solid and stable mountain forms she depicts rising clouds and rolling waves in cycles of unending motion.
Lotus | Ondine
In her Ondine series, Ding Qiao explores the spiritual and literary resonances between the European mythopoetic image of the ondine or water nymph and the Buddhist religious symbolism of the lotus. Ondines are a category of elemental beings associated with water, stemming from the alchemical writings of Renaissance alchemist Paracelsus (1493 – 1541). In the literary tradition that follows, ondines are depicted as immortal water nymphs who gain an eternal human soul when they fall in love with a mortal man but who die if betrayed by the man they love. In contrast, because its blooms rise from the mud and silk of marginal waters, the lotus signifies purity of body, speech and mind in Buddhism as if floating above material attachment and physical desire. The lotus is also closely associated with Avalokiteshvara, also known in China as Guanyin, the sometimes male, sometimes female bodhisattva of compassion. Ding Qiao renders her lotus in classic Song style using malachite, azurite and cinnabar to depict the pure, dilute blues and greens of the broad lotus leaves and delicately graded pinks of the opening blossom rising above still waters. Ding Qiao’s aural inspiration, on the other hand, is the first movement—entitled Ondine—from the famed piano suite Gaspard de la Nuit composed in 1908 by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). To convey the haunting and tragic undertones of Ravel’s Ondine myth she employs a harmony of vivid and contrasting mineral and earth pigments—use of "color", or in musical terms, timbre, being one of the extraordinary and innovative qualities of Ravel’s music.
Ding Qiao has exhibited internationally at Yiguan Art Center, Nanjing (2022), Langkong Art Museum (2021), Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery, New York (2017, 2016, 2015), Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2017), J. J. Lally & Co., New York (2014), Today Art Museum, Beijing (2014), Aura Gallery, Taipei (2013), Pékin Fine Arts, Milan, Italy (2012), Songzhuang Art Museum (2012), Times Art Museum, Beijing (2011, 2010), Liu Haisu Museum, Shanghai (2009).