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Dr Janette Martin writes:

On Monday 17 October 2016 staff at The John Rylands Library were delighted to welcome three researchers from Taipei, Taiwan, who are making a documentary film about the Chinese artist Li Yuan-chia (1929-1994). Our three visitors were Lia I-Ling (Maggie), who will direct the film, Po-Ying Chu (Alfie) who is a photographer,  and  Dr Hu Hui Ju (Ruth) who is an independent researcher currently working  in Germany.

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From left to right: Chu Po-Ying, Lia I-Ling and Hu Hui Ju.

In 2014, Taipei Fine Arts Museum hosted a major exhibition on Li Yuan-chia,  View-Point: A retrospective of Li Yuan-chia. This was the first large-scale exhibition of Li Yuan-chia’s work in Asia. While View Point focused on Li as an artist, it is intended that the film will consider Li the man and have a stronger biographical element.

Born in China in 1929, Li emigrated from Guangxi to Taiwan along with the Chinese Nationalist Government in the aftermath of World War II. He settled in Taipei and received an art education at Taiwan Provincial Normal School. During the 1950s Li Yuan-chia was an early proponent of conceptualism in the Taiwanese abstract art community playing an active role in the Ton Fan Art Group. Yet for decades he was barely known in Taiwan due to restriction on information from abroad during a period of martial law. After leaving Taiwan, Li Yuan-chia’s artistic journey took him to Bologna, London and Cumbria. The film will investigate how these different places shaped his life and art.

When I asked Dr Hu Hui Ju why she found Li’s life so fascinating she replied: Li Yuan-chia proclaimed himself to be “a poet, a sculptor, a thinker, a mathematician, a dreamer. I am everything”. Li devoted his life to a “faith” that continues today.  We are fascinated by his art creations and his legend too.

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Hu Hui Ju and Lia I-Ling examine objects from the Li Yuan-chia archive

Li Yuan-chia has attracted much attention in recent years and his work is currently on show at The Saltoun Gallery in London. A review of Li’swork and the Saltoun exhibition can be read here. Objects from Li Yuan-chia archive held at the John Rylands Library will also feature in a Library exhibition curated by Stella Halkyard, provisionally called Lives of Objects, in the spring of 2017. Watch this space!

The John Rylands Library cares for the archive of Li Yuan-chia. They are, as yet, uncatalogued, so please contact us if you would like further information about them. The Li Yuan-chia Foundation cares for Li Yuan-chia’s works of art.  Highlights from Li Yuan-chia’s diverse artistic range and more details on his life can be found on the Foundation’s website: http://www.lycfoundation.org/.

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Li Yuan-chia. Image by permission of the LYC foundation and The University of Manchester