Chen Yifei, Tianjin Yangliuqing Fine Arts Press, Tianjin, 2008, p. 75, illustrated in colour
Chen Yifei, Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Shanghai, 2010, p. 137, illustrated in colour
Chen Yifei, Marlborough Gallery, London, p.166, 167, illustrated in colour
LISTENING TO BIRDS SONG
The 1990's was a successful period for Chen Yifei. He developed his subject matter with his Chinese Ladies series and discovered a whole new world through his artistic creations in the early 1990's. In 1992, Chen made his first movie Dream back to Shanghai. He used the camera as his paintbrush to paint on the big screen instead of a canvas to fulfill his dream of making his own movie. In 1997, he was invited to the prestigious 47th Venice Biennale and the year after his work was chosen for the exhibition China: 5000 Years held by Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Listening to Birds Song was completed in this glamorous era. In the late 1990s, Chen further developed his Chinese Ladies series created in his early years of the 1990's drawing from the old Shanghai theme, blending it with his affection for the culture of the city, and his imagination and his memory. He started his Old Dreams of Shanghai series in which he depicted the history and the people in Shanghai in the 1930's. Art critic Gong Yunbiao said: "The colors, lines, brushstrokes, light, shadow and composition arrangements of the series are all closely related to Chen Yifei's disposition and emotion. They are symbols of his personality and emotion: to pursue elegance, serenity, romanticism, aesthetics, leisure, relaxation, gentleness and tenderness with a sense of sorrow and nostalgic feeling."1 These characteristics are all demonstrated in this work Listening to Birds Song, completed in 1999.
Beauties on Promenade is a similar work completed ten years ago. In this work, four beauties wearing beautiful and delicate qipaos are walking side by side with birdcages in their hands. Melting into the dark background, the figures are depicted and stylized in an unnatural pose by the artist as if they are performing models. Compared with Beauties on Promenade, Listening to Birds Song contains an air of livelihood. The focal point of the painting leads the viewer's gaze to rest on a single figure. Chen uses his classic sfumato (blurring) technique to depict an Asian woman wearing a qipao and holding a fan. With the use of light and compositional arrangement, Chen draws the viewer's eyes to the figure's face, hands and the birdcage on her right side. Although the title of this painting is Listening to Birds Song, the artist has deliberately left the birdcage empty. He portrays this beautiful figure listening to a bird song. Through the expression and emotion in her eyes and also her posture, Chen ignites the viewer's imagination to engage with the woman and almost hear the melody without seeing the singer.
Chen Yifei once said: "Painting the beauty is my fundamental goal. I can spend my lifetime to paint the details of the beauty." In this work, the minor changes of light and shadow and the detail arrangement of glowing areas and bright spots lend the work a classical style. While an Eastern romanticism, a poetic Realism and a Shanghai luxurious and relaxed lifestyle are demonstrated vividly throughout the composition. Originally from the Marlborough Gallery in London, this rare masterpiece has been in a distinguished private European collection for nearly ten years. As a classic and important work completed by Chen in the 1990s, its appearance on the market will definitely arouse interest among collectors.
 Gong Yunbiao, ed., Chen Yifei - Chen Yifei in the Art History, Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Shanghai, 2010, p. 360
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