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The Late Walasse Ting

Renowned Chinese-Western visual artist and poet, Walasse Ting, departed peacefully on May 17, 2010 from a severe brain hemorrhage since 2002 at a tender age of 80 years old. He was formerly known as Ding Xingquan.

Completely self-taught, his signature style is a beautiful fusion of Western art and his Chinese roots. Ting’s paintings were that of Chinese calligraphic black outlines, with fluorescent colors where subjects usually consisted of nude women and cats, birds and other animals. 

Having briefly studied at Shanghai Art Academy, Ting travelled to France in 1946 where he lived as a struggling poor artist for the next 6 years.  It was during this time that he changed his name to Walasse, adopting the last three letters of the Fauvist icon’s name, Henri Matisse whose works he had encountered.

The first few years in Paris saw Ting forging a close friendship with Pierre Alechinsky, a Belgian painter who acquainted him with the momentary but significant northern European avant-garde artists’ group CoBrA, which included members like Karel Appel and Asger Jorn. During this period, Ting was highly exposed to Abstract Expressionism and works of Pablo Picasso, which shaped him as an artist to be.

 The highlight of Ting’s career was in 1964 when he befriended abstract expressionist painter and print maker, Sam Francis whom he was highly influenced by. Together, they worked on “One Cent Life”, a collection of 62 lithographs from 28 artists including famous Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann, James Rosenquist, Asger Jorn, and Karel Appel.
Besides being a painter, Ting was a multi-talented individual who composed poems and even taught himself how to sculpt. However, it was his drawings that earned him the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship Award in 1970. By the end of 1977, Ting had composed 13 publications, which included Red Mouth and My Shirt and My Love. Since 1985, Ting has resided in Amsterdam where he often visits Tahiti in search of exotic colors that he loves to apply to his paintings. 

I believe that one’s roots are what ground us as an individual. In his black and white painting of a woman’s face, one can almost easily tell they are calligraphic strokes influenced from Ting’s heritage as a Chinese. Fusing his roots with his influences from Paris and New York, bright colors and expressive strokes were used as a representation of American Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. Today, we look back at Walasse Ting’s life as one of self-discovery where he dared to take the leap of faith into.

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