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  • Writer's pictureYiming Wang

Art and Memory

This is one of my art history class's assignment.

We were asked to discuss how do memory and history intertwine in recent art?

I am truly impressed by this art work, I know I should go to bed now, but I need to post it here before I go to sleep!


Thinking of History at My Space

Chen YiFei (1946-2005) is a Chinese painter, visual artist, and film director. He is considered one of China’s most renowned contemporary artists.[1] He experienced a special period of time in Chinese history, that is Cultural Revolution. He is one of the leading painters at that time. After the end of the Cultural Revolution, he became the forerunner of a new age in Chinese aesthetics.[2] From his works, one can tell his style swift from expressing glorification of the party to what he called “Romantic Realism”. In 1980, he went to New York to study arts and returned to China in 1992 and set up his own “YiFei Studio”. He influenced many areas in China, such as oil painting, filming, and fashion. He is well-known as a Chinese artist both in China and abroad.[3]

Figure 1. Chen Yifei, Thinking of History at My Space, oil on canvas, 1978, 186 x 356 cm.

“Thinking of History at My Space” is a self-portrait type of oil painting, and it is his only self-portrait. The original name in Chinese is “踱步“, which means wandering around or stepping around. The English name is very straightforward, and indeed is the core concept of this piece, but its Chinese name bings out a richer message. Notice the traditional style black chair at the left side of the work, and the artist has his back to us, it’s obvious that he just stood up from the chair, the old days, and walked to the center-right part of the piece. From the audience’s perspective, he stood up then turn around to look at the photos. The photos are washed out, layering up, and showing significant events that happened in Chinese modern history. The photos extended beyond as if he is standing in THAT moment. The dark and sad moments of historical events that Chinese people suffered, such as the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, Opium War, and Eight-Nation Alliance. The artist in the picture, while looking back at the scars of Chinese collective memory, is thinking and reflecting profoundly on modern Chinese history.


1. “Chen Yifei,” Wikipedia, 2. “Chen Yifei.” 3. “Thinking of history at my space,” Google Arts & Culture,

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