The Scoop on Xiaoqing Ding and Her Rainbows: Exclusive InterviewJuxtapoz // Monday, 18 Oct 2010
Your upcoming solo show, At the End of a Rainbow, features all new paintings done in oil which is a new medium choice for you. You seem to test out and experiment with different mediums regularly, a transition which is usually very challenging for an artist. Why do you switch up your medium use?
I like to try switching medium every two or three years, to keep from getting bored. It's very challenging, even scary if there's a big show waiting ahead and you are not sure how things will work out. I used to think that Egg Tempera is hard to work with, but now I realize it's actually not that hard compared to oil paint. It takes a lot of experience and skill to master oils.
I was pretty freaked out several months ago when I realized that I couldn't get work done in the amount of time I wanted to, and almost had a heart attack when I made a mistake with varnishing. But I always really enjoy learning something new and it makes me very happy to know that I'm still growing.
What does the exhibit title, At the End of a Rainbow, reference?
I've been living in the city for a long time; there are things you don't see in the big cities, like rainbows or shooting stars. For me, rainbows are romantic, a beautiful surprise after a long dark raining day—like magic and sweet memories from childhood.
I also like the folk tale about a big pot of gold hiding at the end of a juicy rainbow. I used to dream about biting into a rainbow when I was a kid, I thought it might taste like some kind of ice cream with the smell of rain.
You are from Beijing and moved to the U.S at the age of 28. Previously, you have stated, “Coming to the U.S. was actually the biggest and scariest thing that ever happened in my life. I didn’t have any close friends and no relatives in this country, so I had to face all the challenges by myself.” What made you want to move to America and do you think it was a good decision? Do you feel your work is heavily informed by your Chinese heritage?
I am an American now, and very proud of it. A couple of my ex-classmates and people that I know actually went back China after studying or working here for a while because they didn’t think life here fits them well. It's kind of hard to live in a place so different from your own culture; I totally understand some people just can't live without their families and friends.
The reason that I like this country is that you are free to live the life that you want, as long as you don't break the law, no one will force you listen to the thing that you don't want to listen to or watch the thing you don't want to watch. You have tons of choices here. I am also proud that I am a Chinese-American. I really have no idea what I would paint without my Chinese heritage.
Your art is surreal in that you blend humans, animals, and foliage into a sort of never-ending, fluid conglomerate of imagery with no beginning and no end. Does this reference metaphorical commentary on human and natural connectivity or something else?
I believe life is an infinite circle, with no beginning or end. This circle shows everything in the natural and human world. I don't think that much when I paint; just put my daydreams and feelings on my panel. Although my head is pretty much empty when I don't paint.
I try to make my work interesting—interesting for me to paint and fun to viewers to look at. I prefer to leave the meaning open to interpretation.
Your work has progressed and changed quite a bit throughout the past decade. Would you agree with this statement? Is this intentional or a natural progression?
I have changed a lot in the past 12 years and I think I’m still continuing to change in some ways. Thank you for mentioning that, it’s actually another reason that I enjoy staying in this country. I learned a lot from other artists and I know I still have so much more to see and learn.
New York City can change anybody, from inside out. Natural progression might give some people white hair and a big belly, but nothing good will happen with your work if you don't keep working hard and absorbing from whatever you view to be better than you. It makes my heart ache when I see talented people run out of ideas and keep creating the same stuff. I'd be very sad if one day I were to feel stuck in the same spot.
What do you hope viewers take away or experience during and after looking at your paintings?
I’ve had friends mention to me in the past that although they like my work, they can't hang some of it in their homes, because they have children and the subject matter isn’t always appropriate.
Well, this time most of the work is kid-friendly so you are welcome to bring your kids to see this exhibition! I hope viewers can share the happiness and sadness in my work. It would be nice if you can hear the echo.
After this show, do you have any other future plans or projects we should be on the look-out for?
I will be working with oil painting for at least another 2 or 3 years, I'll try my best make my work better and better. My plan for now is taking a long vacation, go to some places with real rainbows, and eat some fattening fried food. I believe a little bit in prophecies of something bad happening in the year 2012, so I have to see more of the world and enjoy life first!
At the End of a Rainbow
Solo Exhibition - Full details on the exhibit here
Oct 23—Nov 20, 2010
Opening Reception Saturday, Oct 23, 7—9pm
Jonathan LeVine Gallery
529 W. 20th Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10011
Portrait of the artist by Vlad Voloshin
Art images courtesy of Jonathan LeVine Gallery