Lee Tsai-chien was born in 1928 to an established artistic family in Xianyou County, Fujian Province (Mainland China). From a young age, he was inspired by the creative accomplishments of his father and grandfather, both of whom were skilled calligraphers, and received orthodox instruction in the fine arts. By adolescence, he had already attained an impressive command of painting and calligraphy. In 1948, upon arriving in Taiwan, Lee enrolled in the Department of Fine Arts at Taiwan Provincial Teacher's College (now known as National Taiwan Normal University) and was formally introduced to sculpture as an artistic medium.Read More
At the start of his career, Lee worked at the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center for nearly a decade. He became keenly engaged in promoting artisan designs and went on to establish the Six Arts Design Company. Over the years, Lee also taught design courses at several local tertiary institutions, such as the Chinese Culture University, Shih Chien University, and Ming Chuan University. In the 1970s, he co-founded the renowned Zodiac Sculpture Group with a number of other eminent sculptors, including Yuyu Yang, Ju Ming, Chiu Huan-Tang, Kuo Ching-Chih, and Chen Ting-Shih. This collaborative venture resulted in ambitious exploration and manipulation of a wide variety of materials, heralding a new era in Taiwanese contemporary sculpture. From the 1960s onwards, Lee began working with new materials—such as copper, sandstone, fiberglass, and stainless steel—and demonstrated great creative finesse with steel in particular.
In the 1970s, having come under the influence of post-Bauhaus artistic styles and minimalist art, he ventured into the realm of geometric abstraction. As if by coincidence, Lee discovered that minimalism, at its core, shared certain key tenets with Chinese Taoism and Zen Buddhism, and was also consistent with his own in-depth understanding of The Book of Changes. As he explored these underlying interconnections, his creative work took on a precise and deliberate mathematical logic but, at the same time, grew ever more steeped in Eastern philosophical contemplations. According to the artist, the spatial aesthetics of each sentient and non-sentient thing in the Buddhist universe—in point, line, plane, and body—reflects a distinct natural order and individual set of principles, and can thus be reconstructed through the visual arts. Drawing on mathematics, aesthetics, and philosophy, Lee has continuously engaged in a tripartite dialectic to develop a singular, integrated artistic style and has ultimately become one of the most representative sculptors of contemporary times.
As an artist, Lee remains active to this day. His works are featured in the collections of numerous prominent art museums, including the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts. Among his notable exhibitions are Philosophy and Poetry—Exhibition of Eighty Sculptures by Lee Tsai-chien, which was held in 2008 at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, and Minimalism & Sensibility—Exhibition of Tung Ho Steel International Artist Residency Program, which was held in 2018 at Taipei's Museum of Contemporary Art. Aside from sculptural works, Lee has also produced multiple written publications: Greek Sculpture, On Sculpture—Iron Scraps and Dust: Compilation of Lee Tsai-chien's Essays at the Age of 88, and Minimal, Infinite—Improvisation 89: The Sculpture of Lee Tsai-chien among others.
Text courtesy Asia Art Center.