Ye Guozhi dedicates his work to the story of the city, “an enormous space” that offers him a chance to express his inner world. As Vincent van Gogh found his spiritual dwelling in the starry skies, so Ye finds his in the urban jungle.

Ye doesn’t have much work available for viewing online, but what is available is all about the city. Each image contains a warmth that is hard for cameras to capture.

“My city works are based on real-life scenes. Whenever I see a beautiful place, I snap a photo. But those photos can never capture my original emotion, and that’s where my paintbrush comes in,” Ye said.

Night scenes are Ye’s preference. Some people have said the darkness gives his work a depressive feeling, but Ye insists that there is still warmth to be found in the cold night. He says the lost, dark days in the city reflect a formative trauma when he was neglected by his parents. That experience became his primary incentive for artistic creation.


“When I was in elementary school, I spent a lot of time shut up in my home and watching the pedestrians go by. I yearned for freedom, and all the merry things I saw outside my window,” Ye said. One of his earlier works was Blue May, which depicts a car’s red taillight fading into the distance on a lonely highway.

“It seems like only by running away can I be away from that time,” Ye said. “Every time I see my old painting, it reminds me of some bittersweet memory.” Roads appear in many of his paintings as a symbol for hope.

Ye’s recent work experiments with oil paints. The latest is a graduation project titled A Lonely City, a very geometric and abstract way of describing his favorite space.

“I hoped to present more grandiose cities in a 2d space with this painting. The little man on the right side of the picture was a figure from my early works,” Ye said.

Ye said that in spite of his recent studies, he has no plans to shift from watercolor painting to oils, though he has considered ways in which he might mix the two.

According to his website, Ye has completed five collections. In addition to the city theme, Ye is also working on a series of watercolor paintings of people spotted on the street.

“I want to hold a solo exhibition when the city theme comes to an end. I want to pull others into my world – to feel what I feel,” Ye said, “Then I can stop working on the city creations and pursue another inspiration.”

Karena Hu

About Karena Hu

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Karena was born with the English name Karen but decided to add an “a.” She dreamed of a career in astronomy, but bad scores in physics kept her out of the science department. She seeks other worlds in reading and writing and is a super fan of the Hunger Games trilogy.

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  1. Haunting work. It seems to be a nostalgia for the present.

    Christopher Johnson / Reply

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