Ting Shao Kuang [Ding Shaoguang]
- Ann Barrott Wicks
Chinese painter and sculptor. The son of Ding Junsheng (b 1903), a Guomindang Parliament member exiled in Taiwan, Ting lived in significantly reduced circumstances with his maternal grandparents and three older siblings in Beijing. In 1955 he joined the first class of an affiliate high school for gifted students established by the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Hoping to escape that institution’s growing emphasis on politically correct art, after secondary school he entered the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, where he studied with Zhang Guangyu (1900–1965), Pang Xunqin (1906–1983), Zhang Ding (b 1917) and Yuan Yunfu (b1932). Upon graduation he requested work in Yunnan Province, preferring a remote and somewhat exotic location to the politically active environment of Beijing. He was assigned to teach at the Yunnan Art Institute in Kunming.
Ting lived in Kunming from 1962 until his emigration to the USA in 1980. At first he enthusiastically introduced his students to the works of 20th-century Western artists like Picasso, whom he had discovered from library research during his college years. He was criticized heavily at the outset of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Warned by former students, he fled Yunnan secretly in 1967, and travelled to Gansu Province, where he spent six months admiring the murals in the ancient Buddhist cave temples of Maijishan (at Tianshui) and Mogao (near Dunhuang). When Yunnan Normal University re-opened in 1970, he resumed teaching, taking seriously his job to teach art to a new class of students made up of soldiers, workers and peasants. As persecution of artists began to ease, a small group of artists sent to Kunming during the first half of the 1970s collected around Ting for animated late-night discussions of art. Weary of academic realism, their goal was to create a new, modern Chinese painting style. This group formed the basis for Shen She, a short-lived but influential art society formally organized in 1979. Shen She members boldly exhibited expressionistic paintings at the Yunnan Museum in July 1980.
In 1979 Ting published 29 ink drawings based on sketches made in the rain forests of Xixuangbanna. Through line alone Ting masterfully conveyed the lush imagery of tropical foliage. His successful approach to line was used again to fill an important public commission, a 9.1 m long painting for the Yunnan room in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. A thin but vibrant gold line defines a hundred different types of jungle plant, as well as figures and houses. Sumptuous colours fill the shapes, foreshadowing Ting’s later brilliant use of colour. After the installation of his painting in the Great Hall, Ting did not return to Kunming, but left China for Hong Kong. Two weeks later, 19 July 1980, he arrived in the USA.
Ting is a prolific artist whose unique style is deeply influenced by the colourful, outlined figures of ancient Buddhist mural paintings. His study of Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani is also reflected in his elongated, pleasingly distorted and flat figures. The complex backgrounds to his figures suggest a knowledge of Klee and Miro, as well as an encyclopedic range of visual motifs from all periods of Asian art. The density of his backgrounds is related to his profound observations of the thickly entwined foliage of Yunnan. His technical achievements include a vibrant rendering of the many shades and textures of human skin; elegant use of line; and exquisite use of colour. His subject matter is devoted to portrayals of peaceful figures in an ideal world. He is among the noted artists whose works were chosen to represent the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.
- Ting Shao Kuang. Xishuangbanna baimiao xieshengji [Album of life drawings from Xishuangbanna]. Kunming, 1979.
- Wicks, A. B. Huihua de tiantang: Ding Shaoguang de yishu. Beijing, 1992.
- Yuan Yunfu. ‘Introduction.’ Selected Paintings of Ting Shao Kuang. Beijing, 1992.
- Gladney, D. C. “Representing Nationality in China: Refiguring Majority/Minority Identities.” Journal of Asian Studies 53, no. 1 (Feb 1994): 92–193.
- Miller, L., ed. South of the Clouds: Tales from Yunnan. Seattle, 1994.
- Wicks, A. B. Painting Paradise: The Art of Ting Shao Kuang. San Francisco, 1998.
- Xie Rong and Ding Li. Ding Shaoguang: xin ling di wei xiao. Beijing, 1999.