Chen Yifei (1946- 2005)
China Guardian HK 2016 Autumn Auctions
20th Century and Contemporary Chinese Art
100 x 120 cm
People's Republic of China (1949-)Estimate:
Painted in 1996;Oil on canvas;Signed in Pinyin on lower left;Provenance:Acquired directly from the artist;Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Hong Kong;Private Collection, Asia.CHEN YIFEI(1946- 2005)Chen Yifei’s 70th Birthday Anniversary Special—Dream on RiversideChen Yifei was one of the first Chinese contemporary artists to shoot to worldwide fame, and a key figure in the development of Chinese contemporary art. He opened a door for the world that knew little about China and the art of Shanghai artists by presenting oriental subject matters in a highly Western realist manner, showing the Western world the beautiful subtlety of the East.Realism at its height makes poetryDr Hammer, founder of the Hammer Galleries, wrote, “[Chen’s] painting is close to poetry because he was just in the instructions rather than affirmation.” After graduating from Shanghai Arts School (Shanghai Meishu Zhuanke Xuexiao 上海美術專科學校), the young aspiring Chen flew to the US. His unique sensitivity and understanding of Western art earned him recognition, exhibition opportunities, a contract with the Hammer Galleries, and, later, one with the world-renowned Marlborough Fine Art. He was good at depicting delicate oriental scenes, using bright, rich oil colours, instead of traditional Chinese ink, to create new impressions for the ladies, Jiangnan water villages and other subjects in his works. The Chinese ladies in this works play stringed instruments, look into mirrors, or throw a glance back or down. The light and shades in their opulent clothing bring out their jade-like complexion, making them mysterious, serene and alluring. His early works on revolutionary subjects were iconic of his surrealist style. He demonstrated his superb composition and creativity through the facial expressions, background and outfits of his subjects, and a particular spirit of China at the time. His work, realistic and Westernized in the Eastern eyes, are “close to poetry” in the Western eyes, revealing the Western exploration and imagination of Eastern cultures.Dream—the master’s artistic soulThe Water Village series is the most representive of Chen’s works. During the summer of 1996 when he stayed in Suzhou, he painted a series based on the theme of a water village, including Suzhou with White House, Old Bridge and the current piece Dream on Riverside. An arched stone bridge, tree on the riverbanks, glint in the water, and fishing boats floating slowly in the river are laid out in an orderly and unhurried manner. Time seems to leave no trace in these plentiful water villages in China at the time. Or are these corners able to stay intact and peaceful because they have been forgotten by time? Water adds a hint of softness to the scene, delicately offsetting the hardness exuded from the stones, trees and wooden boats. Far off, a boat parks calmly by the riverbank, another sweeps across the water quietly, creating ripples on the water surface. It is not clear whether the boat is headed out or towards home—artfully the painter expressed his nostalgia for his hometown when he was back to China after a few years away, aspirations for the world, and a mature, back-to-the-basic state of mind.A special tribute to Chen YiFeiTo celebrate the artist’s 70th anniversary, Dream on Riverside will be auctioned in Hong Kong for the first time this fall. The precious artwork has been in the collector’s careful custody since he obtained it directly from the artist decades ago. It is indeed a rare opportunity to appreciate this exquisite piece of work and commemorate the legendary master.