Li Hou

Li Hou, aka Xiao Sun, was born 1938 in Shanghai. Part of family heritage, Li studied, under his grandmother and father, the traditional Chinese art of painting and calligraphy. As a teenager, Li started to study Western oil paintings under the oil master Yan Wenliang. Soaking himself in classic studies and traditional Chinese art forms throughout the Cultural Revolution, Li emerged as a well-established ink wash painter and calligrapher in the 70s. Li started experimenting with abstract and expressionist methods while using traditional Chinese media of ink and rick paper. Though controversial at the time, he persisted with his explorations. In the mid-80s, Li was invited to travel abroad to Europe and the US as a visiting scholar, in first hand contact with the Western classics and the contemporary art for the first time, and his new work started to come of age. His art bridges east with west, past with present, is both deeply profound in nuances and thoroughly captivating in emotion. Li currently resides in the suburbs of Boston MA and travels to China freely. He enjoys jazz, writes calligraphy and paints, and continues the pursuit of his unique art form as a true free spirit.


Starting from 1990, in various occasions, I visited Germany, traveled to the United States, and came back to China. For more than twenty years, I traveled back and forth, between the East and the West. The artworks that I observed and studied in the process, brought some inexplicable changes to me, and pushed me to pursue changes and development in artistic forms. During the same period, the traditional Chinese calligraphies and ink paintings that I once studied closely — the regular scripts that was developed in the Jin and Tang Dynasties, the running scripts that was perfected in the Song Dynasty, the landscape paintings that reached its peak during the Yuan Dynasty — were introduced to a wider audience outside of China.

The“strokes” in traditional Chinese calligraphy and ink painting, mixed, collided, and were eventually merged with the points, lines, surfaces, and structures in modern western paintings in my mind, a process during which paintings that I considered inspirational came together almost in an instant, as if guided by some mythic force. Looking back, I could only have painted those works in the specific environment, and with the specific inspirations, back then, just as an ancient Chinese poem says: our feelings and emotions become lasting memories, but the moment itself is lost. I could not explain it any more, once my feelings were put down on paper.

Looking at my old works, I thought, just like myself, each one of my paintings has its own life stories, and is living through various situations and circumstances. Who could feel their feelings?

The truth of art is unique. Perhaps chaos is the clarity in arts. Perhaps vague is the accuracy in arts…

This is an era with wide open possibilities and opportunities for art and artists. My artistic experiment and exploration was driven only by my personal experiences in life and arts, and everything I wanted to say is already in my works. I will let you be the judge.