Li Yuan-chia

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Li Yuan-chia (Chinese: 李元佳; pinyin: Lǐ Yuánjiā, 1929–1994) was a Chinese artist, poet and curator. He incorporated installations, works and photography into his art, and was one of a small number of artists of Chinese background active in the UK during his lifetime.[1]

Early life and Taiwan[edit]

Li Yuan-chia was born in Guangxi, China.[2] He was educated in Taiwan from 1949.

Li Yuan-chia was one of the Ton Fan group (東方畫會) that formed in Taiwan by 1956, also known as Orient Movement or Dongfang Huahui.[3][4] It is credited with establishing modern abstract art in Chinese circles. Li was one of a number of students of Li Chung-sheng (李仲生, Pinyin Li Zhongsheng)[5] in Ton Fan, who collectively became known as the "Eight Great Outlaws" (八大響馬).[6][7][8]

Name (Pinyin) Name (otherwise romanised) Traditional characters Comments
Chen Daoming Chen Tao Ming 陳道明 Otherwise Tommy Chen
Huo Gang Ho Kan 霍剛
Hsia Yan 夏陽 Real name Xia Zuxiang[9]
Xiao Mingxian Hsiao Ming-Hsien 蕭明賢 Real name Xiao Long
Xiao Qin Hsiao Chin 萧勤
Li Yuanjia Li Yuan-Chia 李元佳
Ouyang Wen-Yuan 歐陽文苑
Wu Hao 吳昊 Real name Wu Shilu


The group exhibited in 1957 at the São Paulo Art Biennial.[14] In Taipei in November 1957 they held a collective exhibition, including works by Spanish painters obtained by Hsiao Chin. This was the first of 15 shows to 1971, but the group became less active because of the emigration of many of its members. A 25th anniversary show took place in 1981.[15]

Li Chung-sheng later commented on Li Yuan-chia's initial development by a facile calligraphic style, but also as an early Chinese conceptual artist.[16]

In Italy and London[edit]

Li spent time in Italy, in Bologna and Milan; he was a founder of the Punto group, rejoining Hsiao Chin (蕭勤, Pinyin Xiao Qin),[4] and was resident in Bologna in 1965.[17][18]

Li Yuan-chia moved to London in 1965 where he exhibited with David Medalla and later at the Lisson Gallery. He participated in the 1966 Signals 3 + 1 exhibition, organised by Paul Keeler and Anthony de Kedrel, with Hsiao Chin, Ho Kan, and Pia Pizzo.[19]

In the North of England[edit]

In 1968 Li Yuan-chia moved to the area of Brampton (now in Cumbria) in North West England. After two years residence near Lanercost, he purchased a derelict farmhouse at Banks on Hadrian's Wall from the artist Winifred Nicholson. By his own efforts and with scant resources he established the LYC Museum and Art Gallery. A local artist friend was Audrey Barker.[20] The Museum was described by Hunter Davies in his book A Walk along the Wall, who noted among its exhibits a piece by Takis and a painting by Alfred Wallis.[21]

The LYC exhibited artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and David Nash. Rosie Leventon, Rose Frain, Kate Nicholson and Bill Woodrow held solo shows there during the 1980s.[22] It also encouraged the creative efforts of children, some of whom went on to successful careers in the arts.

Gaining increasing recognition for his enterprise, after a year or two Li was awarded funding from the Arts Council, making it possible for the Museum to continue its activities for the ten years he had originally planned.

Death and legacy[edit]

Li Yuan-chia died of cancer. There was a 1998 memorial exhibition of his work in Taipei.[23] A retrospective of his work and career was shown in London at the Camden Arts Centre in 2001.[24]


  • São Paulo Biennale 1957
  • São Paulo Biennale 1959
  • Stadisches Museum Leverkusen 1960
  • Obelisko Gallery Rome
  • White - White 1965
  • Signals London Soundings Two 1966
  • Signals London Soundings 3 + 1 = Li Y - C etc.
  • Lisson Gallery
  • Cosmic Point 1967[25]
  • Camden Arts Centre, 26 January - 18 March 2001; Kendal, Cumbria: Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal 28 March - 3 June; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels 6 July - 9 September 2001


  • Michael Sullivan. Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-07556-6. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  • Guy Brett and Nick Sawyer (2000) Li Yuan-Chia: Tell Me What is Not Yet Said (London: Institute of International Visual Arts)
  • Guy Brett, Li Yuan-chia 1929-1994, Third Text n28/9, Autumn/Winter 1994, 3-4: obituary


  1. ^ A. Robert Lee (30 January 2008). China Fictions, English Language: Literary Essays in Diaspora, Memory, Story. Rodopi. p. 321. ISBN 978-90-420-2351-2. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  2. ^ A. Robert Lee (30 January 2008). China Fictions, English Language: Literary Essays in Diaspora, Memory, Story. Rodopi. p. 302. ISBN 978-90-420-2351-2. Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Michael Sullivan (15 November 1996). Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China. University of California Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-520-07556-6. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Hsiao Chin biography.
  5. ^ Sullivan, p. 89.
  6. ^ Drifting through a Life of Art: Painter Hsia Yang and his Fuzzy People.
  7. ^ (in Chinese) Encyclopedia of Taiwan, Eight Great Outlaws. Archived 2013-04-19 at
  8. ^ Others in Ton Fan are entries in Sullivan (Pinyin): Huo Gang (p. 67); Li Wenhan (p. 86); Li Xiqi (pp. 86–7); Lin Yan (p. 96); Ouyang Wenyuan (p. 120); Wu Hao (p. 176); Xia Yang (p. 180); Xiao Qin (p. 182); Zhang Zhenxiang, exhibited with (p. 234); Zhu Weibai, in Italy (p. 241). Of these Li Xiqi and Zhu Weibai joined later.(in Chinese) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2012-07-04. . The original eight included some others.
  9. ^[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  14. ^ Leap 06/211, article Li Yuan-chia, how far to come home by Simon Kirby.
  15. ^ (in Chinese), Important arts organisations.
  16. ^ (in Chinese) The spiritual mentor - Li Chung-sheng.
  17. ^ Michael Sullivan (15 November 1996). Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China. University of California Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-520-07556-6. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  18. ^ Hsiao Chin, who has been traveling extensively in Europe and sending back reports of new developments in art to artist friends and newspapers in Taiwan, settles in Milan. There he establishes Il Punto (The Point) group with the Italian painter Antonio Calderara and the Japanese sculptor Kengiro Azuma. Hsiao Chin invites artists from Ton Fan to join him in Milan and several (including Li) do."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-01-15. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  19. ^ INIVA chronology. Archived 2013-04-15 at
  20. ^ David Buckman (editor), Artists in Britain since 1945 (2006), vol. 1 p. 84.
  21. ^ Hunter Davies (1 July 2009). Walk Along the Wall. frances lincoln ltd. pp. 205–7. ISBN 978-0-7112-3046-0. Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  22. ^ Buckman, vol. 1 p. 951 and vol. 2 p. 1176 and p. 1738.
  23. ^ (in Chinese) China Times article, 1998/02/24. Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  25. ^ This list taken from a Lisson Gallery catalogue, dated October 1967

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