Li Lida Biography
In 1949 when Shanghai fell to the Communist government, Lida moved to then British colony, Hong Kong. Excited to be in a city straddling the East and the West, he studied ballroom dancing, opened a dance studio, and earned the nickname “Chinese Fred Astaire.” He also began studying Western style painting under Kuang Yaoding ( 鄺 耀 鼎), a renowned artist. In 1963, Lida’s impressionistic and evocative oil paintings of Hong Kong were well-received in a solo exhibition at Hong Kong’s City Hall.
The success of Lida’s de Young exhibition paved the way to a series of solo exhibitions at many major art museums and institutions. With renewed confidence that his art was being positively reviewed and recognized, he was determined to transform Chinese Calligraphy into an abstract art. He said that “Chinese calligraphy should absorb Western influence, experiment with new methods, create a new form or forms and eventually contribute to the mainstream of world art.”
In the late 70’s, Lida went on a trip to Mexico. He remembered how he loved painting scenery and people which led him to create sketches and drawings of Mexican landscape, architecture, and people he met. These became a new basis for integrating his western art training with Chinese calligraphy to create modern abstract calligraphic art focusing on his dynamic brushwork with unconstrained self-expression.
In the first phase of his graffiti-calligraphy works, he painted words with colorful acrylics on large canvases, integrating western expressionistic style with a mixture of freestyle calligraphy. In this series you will decipher words such as “Love,” “China,” “California,” “Fantastic,” “Sweet,” and “Beautiful” along with tributes to foods from his favorite Berkeley diner: “Cappuccino,” “Cole Slaw,” and “Sunny Side-Up.”
At the final stage of the evolution of his art, his vision was to create a new kind of calligraphy by synthesizing the ancient Chinese art form with the spirit and spontaneity of his Tai Chi dance. He called his new art “Calligraphy in Motion.” Unfortunately, his restless spirit led to a mental breakdown, and he was unable to fulfill his dream. In 1982, at age 60, Lida died by suicide in Berkeley, California.