"The visual language of Ye Yongqing is in form of a symbolic poem that intends to represent a morbid and fragile reality", quoted the Chinese art critic Lu Peng. In mid 1980s, Ye Yongqing together with Zhang Xiaogang, Mao Xuhui and other artists established the Southwestern Art Group to escape the chaotic metropolis and seek a new spiritual world in the rural countryside. Ye Yongqing's early works often depicted abstract twisted figures amid an imaginary yet realistic setting.
Since 1987, Ye adopted oil, cloth, Chinese rice paper, newspaper, handmade paper, papyrus, and other materials into his works. No longer constrained to details, Ye started to explore more forthright and free ways of creation, resulting in works that embodies broader perspective and richer content. Nude (Lot 1558) and Raining in the East while Sunny in the West (Lot 1559) describe the alienation of the newfound metropolis and the conflicts between civilization and savagery, representing the collective memories of the Chinese society in the 1990s. This is particularly evident in Raining in the East while Sunny in the West where the loosely connected collage of figures and objects parallel the isolated and faltering society in China. Exhibited in 1990's Chinese Art: Experiment at Sichuan Art Museum, China (1993) and ChinArt Gallery in Germany (1995), Nude describes the social circumstances of China in the 1900s and people having to adjust to the rapidly booming economy through the yellowed newspaper serving as a symbolic tool in providing a historical backdrop. With his extraordinary imagination, Ye combines figures, coconut trees, oxen, lotus leaves and seedpods, with modern symbols such as skyscrapers to create a composition reflective of the psychological tension between the natural and manmade order. The clock, light bulb and opened book are symbols of lapsed time, records and memories of certain periods.
As critic Lu Peng described in 2000, Ye Yongqing began to reduce the content in his works by choosing certain elements and individual symbols from his earlier graffiti-like works, and reinterpreting them through two distinct but compatible approaches. Influenced by Duchamp's imagery and ideology, Ye Yongqing deconstructs the image of the bird into abstracted forms that consequently become pure symbols of the 'non-object'. He combines this with a Chinese sensibility by paring the image down to emphasize its very essence, a trait often seen in the uncomplicated and refined styles of traditional literati painters. Painted in 2007, Bird (Lot 1550) is a work that can fully represent the artist's unstrained personality. Ye Yongqing used the spirit of Chinese literary style and calligraphy through the use of simple and swift lines to create a lyrical abstraction of the bird.