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Li Yuan Chia in his studio at the LYC Museum and Art Gallery, Brampton, Cumbria, 1969. Image courtesy of Demarco Digital Archive University of Dundee & Richard Demarco Archive.

Works of 'captivating' artists displayed in West Court exhibition

The Jesus College West Court Gallery is hosting a free display celebrating experimental artist Li Yuan-chia (1929-1994) as part of a Kettle’s Yard exhibition dedicated to his work founding the LYC Museum and Art Gallery.

The Kettle’s Yard exhibition, which a four-star review in the Guardian called "bright, beautiful, hopeful" and "captivating",  is the first to celebrate artist, poet, and arts organiser Li, whose LYC Museum and Art Gallery (1972–1983) had a profound impact on the history of British art. The free West Court exhibition, open every day until 18 February from 10am to 6pm, is dedicated to Li’s calligraphy and works on paper made throughout his career. For those who cannot attend, there is a scrollable photo gallery at the end of this article. 

An important artist of the mid-century avant-garde, Li experimented with ink painting, calligraphy, kinetic sculpture, photography, and performance. The LYC Museum, which he opened in Cumbria in 1972, offered more than 300 artists an experimental space for showing and making art. At both Kettle’s Yard and West Court Gallery, Li’s work is displayed in relation to artists in the network he established at the LYC and contemporary practitioners working in his spirit.

"While at Kettle's Yard, the exhibition is a consideration of the sociality of art, at Jesus, we have an opportunity to re-focus on creative experiment", said exhibition co-curator Dr Amy Tobin. "Making New Forms is the first exhibition to showcase Li Yuan-chia's extensive calligraphic practice. Most of these works have never been exhibited before, complementing the story of Li's art and his LYC Museum and Art Gallery on display in the companion exhibition Making New Worlds at Kettle's Yard”. 

Jesus College's Master, Sonita Alleyne, said: "I found Making New Forms: Li Yuan-chia and Friends both uplifting and inspiring. Jesus College has a strong history of supporting the visual arts and making it accessible to all, and we’re delighted to welcome this Kettle’s Yard exhibition to our West Court Gallery, where it is free for anyone to visit".  

'Ink on Film' screening 

Alongside Li's work, the West Court Gallery also featured the work of three contemporary artists connected to Li's legacy: Bettina Fung, Charwei Tsai, and Madelon Hooykaas. 

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, British-Chinese artist Fung performed 'Towards All or Nothing', a live drawing performance developed through the processes of researching and remembering Li's work and the LYC Museum. Tsai, a Taiwanese multidisciplinary artist, has installed a new commission in the Gallery, 'Ancient Desire', to which visitors are invited to contribute by placing their own small offerings into the clay vessels Tsai has created. 

On December 8, Jesus College and Kettle's Yard hosted 'Ink on Film', celebrating the work of Madelon Hooykaas, one of the most important video pioneers in Europe. 

Tobin said: "We were excited to welcome Hooykaas to Cambridge for 'Ink on Film', a programme of her film works ranging across her five-decade career and including her collaborations with the artist Elsa Stansfield”.

At the screening, Hooykaas introduced each film and was joined the curators of the Making New Worlds: Li Yuan-chia and Friends exhibition to reflect on her friendship and creative working relationships with Li and others connected with the LYC Museum, including Stansfield. She screened film works originally shown at the LYC Museum in the 1970s as well as some more recent work, which was premiered in the UK.

Exhibition supporters and symposium

The exhibition has been organised by Kettle’s Yard with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

Many thanks to the alumni and supporters of the arts exhibitions programme at Jesus College.