Blending elements of both Chinese and Western art is what enabled Yun Ying Li to develop her unique painting style that includes soft, colorful lines and writhing torrents of paint and fabric.

An exhibit of about 15 new paintings by Li opens with a reception at 3 p.m. Saturday, February 11th, at the JKD Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Admission is free. An introduction to the artist will be made by Madame Sylvia Wu, restaurateur and founder of Madame Wu’s Garden.

Li’s paintings remain on display at the gallery until Saturday, March 4th.

Li, who grew up in China’s Jiling province, attended the Tianjin Art Institute, where she studied the techniques of traditional masters of Chinese and Western art and fused the two.

Li often fuses Chinese paper, ink, and cultural ideas with Western oil paints, canvas and imagery.

“In China, my art was influenced by a lot of the atrocities in life, things that happened during the Cultural Revolution and Tianamen Square to friends,” says Li, who spoke of one of her art professors being jailed.

“My paintings were pretty dark,” she says. “Since I’ve moved to the U.S., I’ve made some more colorful, more bright paintings full of happiness,” she says.

In China, Li says she felt constrained by the style of socialist realism acceptable to the Chinese government.

“In China, artists had to be very careful, because it was not clear what will upset the government,” she says. The artist must weigh the threat of a prison sentence in their minds with the content of each piece they contemplate painting, she says.

Sometimes people would see subversive art, contemplate its meaning, but then say nothing, she says.

Li came to the United States in 1995 after winning the Chicago Artists International Award for top new international artist, an award sponsored by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. Word of her artwork had reached the United States after officials at the American consulate saw an exhibit at the Guangdong Museum in the Guangdong Province, she says.

Although the award provides only for a visit to the United States, Li wound up getting married and staying in the United States.

“She pushed the boundaries of Chinese art by blending in contemporary Western idioms and developed a quiet following of collectors hungry for more daring expressive power and beauty,” says Li’s husband, Peter Andrews, who met her during her trip to Chicago.

Before leaving Chicago and winding up in the Los Angeles area, she exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Chicago Cultural Center, Satori Fine Art Gallery and Akainyah Gallery. She also guest-lectured at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University.

Ying’s work first gained acclaim in China when Chairman Dung Shao Ping’s daughter became a collector of her work. With this approval from a figure with government ties, Li says she felt more free to express her creative ideas.

While in China, her work was shown at China’s Museum of Art in Beijing, the Guandong Museum in the Guangdong Province, the Shenzhen Museum in Shenzhen City, Guangzhou’s Museum of Art and the International Exhibition Center in Beijing.

Her works have also been exhibited in Taiwan, Japan, England, France and Canada.

Li’s other passion is music and she sings and plays electric guitar in a world music group, Flamingo, that often performs at her art openings.

Information, (310) 998-5888.

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