(Chinese, B. 1958)
Horses in the Stream
signed in Chinese; dated '1982.6' (lower left); signed and titled in Chinese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
110 x 79 cm. (43 1/4 x 31 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1982
Christie's Hong Kong, 27 May 2007, Lot 386
Acquired from the above by the present owner
L'Atelier Productions Pte. Ltd. & Soobin Art Gallery Pte Ltd., Ye Yongqing: China in the Eye of Scholar Art, Singapore, 1996 (illustrated, p. 9).
Artist Magazine, New China, New Arts: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Artists, Taipei, Taiwan, 2010 (illustrated, p. 363).

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Lot Essay

"As an alternative to the vile city life, my hometown of Guishan, the red soil hills and the dense forests of Xishuangbanna were always the wellspring of my inspiration." - Ye Yongqing
Born in 1958, Ye Yongqing's creative career began in the peripheral city in the Southwest of Yunnan, Kunming. Here, with relatively limited access to books and information comparable to that available in larger cities, his origins in painting developed against the backdrop of the visual language of propaganda posters and magazines of the Cultural Revolution. Apart from that, Ye received much influence and inspiration from pioneering artists such as Yuan Yunsheng and Wu Guanzhong who travelled to Yunnan regularly, as well as the guidance from Ding Shaoguang and Jiang Tiefeng, who were among his teacher's generation. To some extent, each of the artists who have influenced the young Ye relied on formalistic methods, while others reflected a distinctly decorative nature derived from the regional aesthetics of the Yunnan minorities.
When Ye was admitted into the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1978, not only did he have to adjust to life in the more bustling city of Chongqing, he also found the artistic atmosphere very different from that of Kunming. This was a time when Scar Art and the influence of Soviet Realism were at its height at the Sichuan Academy. Uninterested in conforming to the tastes officialdom, Ye showed that his interests lie as an anomaly in adopting a unique personal language based on rustic, symbolic images and a formalistic investigation into painting. Unlike many of his peers at the school, Ye did not have the experience of the "educated youths", who had worked in the countryside, or served in the military, and had prior training in the technical skills in painting, many of whom then showed a critical stance towards their experiences in the Cultural Revolution. His works, nonetheless, carried emotions of a longing for utopia and the return to innocence.
Along with Mao Xuhui and a few other artists, Ye traveled to Guishan, a remote mountainous region in Yunnan, for the first time in 1979 for landscape painting. In recalling the works from this period, Ye said, "I traveled more than half of China with my friends (Mao Xuhui, Zhang Xiaogang), looking for "simplicity" and inner "truth" in those minority districts of Yunnan such as Guishan and Xishuangbanna." (Ye Yongqing, The Basic Ideas in My Different Periods of Creation, 2011). The nature of trip, sketching and painting in plein air, also recalls the journey of the French Barbizon painters. By this time, Ye felt a deep connection towards the aesthetics and compositions of Paul Gauguin and the Post-Impressionists in expressing the natural environment as a reflection of an "inner landscape". He explained, "Painting is not an explanation of nature or reality. What I want to see is the interior world of a natural phenomenon rather than the exterior of it." (Fine Arts, 1986, 6th issue).
For Ye, this period in the early 1980s were marked by two frames of references - the influence of realism predominant in the school environment, and the formalism previously informed by his Yunnan origin. Ye, Mao Xuhui, and Zhang Xiaogang continued to travel extensively along the Yangtze River in 1980, while encountering many famous artists of the time along the way, such as Chen Yifei, Yan Wenliang, Chen Danqing and Ma Desheng, eventually ending up in Beijing. He found inspiration in the various idioms of aestheticisms in these artists and the reaction towards the rapid changes of the socio-political landscape in modern China. This was an exciting time and era of searching and absorbing the influx of Western thought, philosophy, literature, aesthetics, and art history. This helped reshape his mind into expressing nature subjectively, with a straightforward attitude.
Having graduated and remained in academic life in 1982, Ye found greater distillation in his thoughts and artistic direction, with continued contemplation on the methods of modern Western artists such as Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Henri Rousseau, Marc Chagall and Maurice de Vlaminck in expressing the natural environment of his hometown Xishuangbanna. Ye devoured any information related to Western modern art while, at the same time, he was drawn to the natural landscape of dense woods and red earth of Xishuangbanna and Guishan. Painted during this era of new emerging ideas, Horses in the Stream (Lot 2044) is a significant work from the Xishuangbanna series, for its exceptionally well-balanced expressionist composition, solid grasp of abstracted forms and juxtaposing lines, well-executed paint layering of rich red, yellow and green hues, and an internalized interpretation of Western techniques and concepts in art. The stocky tree trunks and branches recall those of Rousseau's; the stylized forms of the horses evoke the beloved motifs of Chagall's; and the angular features and form of the body in the dark-skinned figure indicate the influence of Picasso's African-mask inspired characters. This work also underlines the artist's interest in direct and intuitive experiences, which Ye will continue to develop in his later works, resolving his artistic focus upon a visual expression to a raw, native, ethnic spirit. In a single poignant work, Ye investigates the relationship between his soul and the world, speculates about complicated situations of living and being, and thus is develops a unique visual language all his own.
As Lu Peng has written of this period in Ye's career, "These kind of works are full of emotion and mental cleanliness. They are the products of the influence of early Western modernist painting and a unique personal understanding towards nature." (Lu Peng, Path of the Bird, 2007). They speak of a type of vitality of life and existence, as well as serenity and calm sentimentality.
"I am always thinking of the foggy mornings of Xishuangbanna in my home province of Yunnan. When you walk on those roads, you can only see two or three meters in front of you. You always feel it isn't the road under your feet. It is attractive and full of charm, giving you more passion to pursue. I cannot say it is the best road, but it may be my road." (Fine Arts, 1986, 6th issue)
Ye Yongqing, Zhang Xiaogang and his peers would later form the Southwest Art Research group in 1985, explicitly emphasizing direct life experiences and the cultivation of the soul and artistic instinct. Stimulated by their affection for their hometown and environment, and confounded by the surging excitement of defining new concepts in art during the '85 New Wave Movement in China, Ye and his peers would draw heavily on their experiences of camaraderie, self-exploration and definition of their identities during those formative years in the Sichuan Academy. In their journey of telling a subtle story of the natural state of life and reforming against the "illusion and falsehood" of the realities, it would be the memories of their shared experiences in Xishuangbanna and Yunnan province that propelled them into the paths of this important historical phase in Chinese contemporary art.

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