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Li Yuan-chia

  • CountryChina
  • Born1929
  • Died1994


Li Yuan-Chia is an artist, archivist, poet, and curator born in Guangxi province, south China in 1929. He studied art in Taiwan before moving first to Bologna, Italy and then England, arriving in London in 1966. It was in Bologna that he first produced his folding painted books and began developing the idea of the ‘cosmic point’ that would later become a central feature of his work. He is considered one of the founding fathers of Chinese abstract art.

During the 1950s, Li collaborated with a pioneering group of Taiwanese abstract artists called Ton Fan. Aside from painting, he also used calligraphy, sculpture, environmental art, participatory installations and photography to explore ideas around life, time and space. For Li, the cosmic point represented the beginning and end of all things. Born as a calligraphic mark, it evolved into a small circle that was sometimes collaged to the surface of his work. His palette was kept to four colours: black for origin and end, red for blood and life, gold for nobility and white for purity. 

During the 1960s Li exhibited at David Medalla and Paul Keeler’s showroom, Signals London and later in the Lisson Gallery. In 2001 Iniva, in collaboration with the Camden Arts Centre, produced a touring exhibition which drew together different strands of Li’s career and production from early drawings and paintings to installations, sculptural reliefs, photography and film. The first fully-illustrated monograph of the artist’s work, Li Yuan-Chia: tell me what is not said, was published on the occasion of this exhibition.  In 2017, Iniva and Black Artists & Modernism (BAM) collaborated to bring together a study day which focused on the work of Li with a view to generate new readings of his work.

In 1968, Li left London and spent the remainder of his life in Cumbria where he established the LYC Museum in his own home, creating opportunities for over 300 artists including Andy Goldsworthy, Rosie Leventon, Shelagh Wakely, David Nash and Bill Woodrow. 

In November 1994, Li lost a battle with cancer at the Eden Vale Hospice in Carlisle.

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