Born in 1955 Changsha, China, Yi Kai showed an affinity for art and drawing at an early age. In 1970, at the age of fifteen, he was drafted into the People’s Army at the height of the Cultural Revolution and spent nine years building railways in the countryside and creating art propaganda for the People’s Republic of China. In 1979, he was chosen as one of thirty-five from four thousand applicants to attend the Art Institute of the Army of China in Beijing earning a Bachelors of Fine Arts in traditional Chinese painting. During the late 1970s and early 1980s as China opened to the West, he became exposed to Western culture, particularly American culture. In 1985, Yi Kai attained his Masters of Fine Arts from the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing. In 1989, he immigrated to the United States. During the last twenty years, Yi Kai’s art has transitioned from his artistic education in China to abstract and colourful works that reflect the influence of American culture and expression that inform his current direction.
Alisan Fine Arts first exhibited Yi Kai’s works in 1990 as part of Landscapes, Figures, Flowers & Birds: Variation from China held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Since then the gallery has organised three solo exhibitions for the artist. More recently in 2015, the gallery presented What Goes Around Goes Around a travelling solo exhibition, which visited Claremont Graduate University in California and 53 Art Museum in Guangzhou before coming to Alisan Fine Arts. In a letter to the gallery, he noted, “in the autumn of 1984, Liu Jian, my colleague at university, introduced me to Mrs. King who was in Beijing for a business trip. At first, I felt nervous but after having met her, I realised she treated people as equals. Her thoughtful and elegant temperament impressed me. My friendship with Mrs. King over the years has been based on her treating people equally, with good intentions and respect.”
Yi Kai’s paintings have been collected by the Minnesota Museum of American Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Art; SAP American, Philadelphia; Museum of Fu Tan Po, Osaka; Beijing Art Institute; and Hang Seng Bank, Hong Kong to name a few.