Li Yuan-chia

27 March - 3 June 2001

Li Yuan-chia ranks among the most original and radical of post-war artists and his work embraces the ordinary and everyday at the same time as it offers a glimpse into the cosmic and the universal. The exhibition draws together different strands of Li Yuan-chia's career and production, from his early drawings and paintings through to his installations, sculptural reliefs, photographs and films.

Born on April 6 1929 in Kwangsi, South China, LYC spent his childhood growing up in orphanages, ending up in Taipei, where he went to art school. He did not like the academic atmosphere there and learned more from the independent artist, Li Chun-son. Having grown up without parents, Li was self-reliant and he turned to art as a means by which he could "express my own inner freedom". Li Yuan-chia studied art in Taiwan where he is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Chinese abstract painting of the 1950s. Travelling from Taiwan to Italy and then to England, Li Yuan-chJa arrived in London in the 1960s to exhibit at David Medalla's and Paul Keeler's Signals gallery and later showed with the Lisson Gallery.

Li Yuan-chia had moved to London at the height of the swinging 1960s, yet he left London in 1968 and ultimately chose to make his home in a rural part of the Lake District. He bought a run-down farmhouse from Winifred Nicholson (the painter and first wife of Ben Nicholson) at Banks by Hadrians Wall. This he gradually repaired and extended, doing much of the labour himself and in 1972 he opened it as the LYC Museum and Art Gallery. He spent the remainder of his life in Cumbria and had a profound impact on the lives of the local people and on the cultural scene.

The LYC Museum, for which he charged no entrance fee, was active for 10 years and showed the work of many of the leading artists working in Britain today. His generosity of spirit led him to create opportunities for over 300 artists and poets including Andy Goldsworthy, Shelagh Wakely, David Nash, Joel Fisher, Bill Woodrow, Frances Horowitz and Tom Pickard. The LYC Museum was a remarkable creative and participatory experiment, open every day of the year. Despite its isolated location in rural north Cumbria, the museum was often crowded with visitors, and particularly children; he provided exhibitions, a library, performance space, printing press and a children's art room.

The exhibition has been curated by Guy Brett, co-author of a new fully illustrated monograph Li Yuan-chia: tell me what is not yet said, published by the Institute of International Visual Arts (inlVA). The exhibition has been produced by inlVA in collaboration with Camden Arts Centre, and it travels from Abbot Hall to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (6 July - 9 Sept 2001). Li Yuan-chia is supported by the Arts Council of England with National Lottery Funds, Northern Arts, London Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation and The Henry Moore Foundation.

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