Die Fahne hoch! (Hoist the Flag!) might be the most concise of Frank Stella’s well-known early black paintings. Composed of parts of a concentric rectangle, the lines join together at a frame-like right angle. After sketching the work in pencil, Stella painted the black stripes with a brush, leaving the fine lines in between unpainted.
What can this minimal painting make us feel? Stella once said: ‘My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there […] what you see is what you see.’ When examining the black parallel stripes that form this concentric shape, our reaction is based on an illusion. In its overall structure, the canvas is both a flat surface and a three-dimensional object.
For me, Die Fahne hoch! is at once a work of introversion and absorbing and powerful. The restrained colour and brushwork make the painting determined and composed; its purity endows it with a unique spiritual energy.
Ding Yi lives in Shanghai, China. In early 2017, he had a solo show at Timothy Taylor, London, UK. This month, he has a retrospective at the Xi’an Art Museum, China. His work will be included in ‘Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA, from 6 October until 7 January 2018. His solo show at Timothy Taylor, New York, USA, runs from 29 September until 28 October.
First published in Issue 6