Lee Ufan - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gallery Takagi, Nagoya
    Private Collection, Tokyo (acquired from the above in the late 1980s)
    Private Collection, Nagoya (acquired from the above in 1997)
    Gallery FuTaBa, Tokyo (acquired from the above in 2006)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Lee Ufan is a Korean painter, philosopher, and poet best known for his devotion to minimalism and leading roles in the avant-garde movements Mono-ha (literally ‘the school of objects’) in the mid-1960s, Japan’s first contemporary art movement to gain international recognition, and later Dansaekhwa (‘monochome painting’), the late-1970s movement that marked the liberation of South Korean art from its strict artistic traditions. For Lee, Mono-ha was a rejection of traditional ideas of representation in favour of depicting the world ‘as is’. Relying predominantly on the use of natural and industrial materials, it was an artistic practice largely derived from modern European phenomenology and Eastern philosophical beliefs concerning the nature of being and nothingness.

    After years of developing his Relatum series of sculptural installations, Lee Ufan returned to painting in 1972, profoundly influenced by the Barnett Newman retrospective which he visited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Newman’s vertical, white abstractions had a materiality and a strong sense of space which transcended the paintings two-dimensionality and motivated Lee to draw the medium into his overall project of marking time and space. Spending approximately one month on each of his paintings, Lee’s slow and introspective painting process reflects his experience and consciousness of time: ‘My paintings are not a direct representation of an image, nor are they concerned with a particular meaning, rather they are the phenomenological result of a temporal gesture created by neutral actions.’ (Lee Ufan: From Point, From Line, From Wind, Pace Gallery, London, 2015, p. 27)

    Lee started his first signature series of painting, From Point series and From Line series in 1972-1973. Recalling the literati principles that he had absorbed as a child, he returned to the notion of the point and line in search of a new abstraction. Summoning the principles of classical Eastern writing and painting, Lee saw point and line as the basic units of the universe, the primordial basis for the origin of the cosmos. Lee once articulated his idea on point and line, ‘A line always has a beginning and an end. Space appears with the passage of time, and time disappears as the formation of space comes to an end. Because each mark and brushstroke, which creates its own space-time, has a strong presence, I cannot be permitted to paint over or touch it up. Each moment of time occurs only once, but because everything is a continuation of single moments, it is necessary for them to repeat and resonate with each other’. (Lee Ufan, The Art of Encounter, Lisson Gallery, London, 2004).

    From Point No. 7901256 belongs to the artist’s From Point (1972-1984) series of works executed over a period of 12 years. In this series, he restricted his palette to a single pigment applied onto the white canvas: cobalt blue or burnt orange, evoking sky and earth respectively. Lee also began using the East Asian method of painting with the work surface flat on the floor, involving his entire body as he hovered over the canvas. This particular work is covered with the artist’s characteristic squared dots applied methodically and repeatedly until the paint on the brush has run near-dry. Unlike the more common linear compositions from the same series (see for example the artist’s work of the same name from the same year and series), it belongs to the group of works created from 1977 onwards in which the red spiralling composition creates a delicate, pulsating tension, enveloping and drawing the viewer into the heart of the painting. These paintings involving points spiralling out in circular forms were first presented in July 1978 at his first European solo museum exhibition at the Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf. In these works, Lee draws a fine balance between the painted and unpainted, with progressively larger amounts of empty space left between points, allowing the interaction of negative and positive space to transcend the canvas surface.

    This dynamic balance inherent to Lee’s work lends his vision a transformative, timeless quality, whilst the denial of a subject encourages a contemplative relationship to flourish between the work, the site and the observer. Lee explained that, for him, 'What you see is what you don't see.' (Lee Ufan quoted in Lee Ufan, Inhabiting time, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Paris, 2019). Lee Ufan's work is an invitation to slow down, step outside the world - with its endless influx of imagery and communication - and focus our attention on perception itself.

    Throughout his career Lee Ufan has been honoured with numerous solo exhibitions and major retrospectives at distinguished public institutions around the world, including the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul (1994), the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007) and the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2011). He was awarded the Praemium Imperiale for painting in 2001 and the UNESCO Prize in 2000. The author of 17 books, he has written seminal essays on contemporary art, Asian culture and democracy. In 2010 the Lee Ufan Museum designed by Tadao Ando opened in Naoshima, Japan. He will soon open a foundation in Arles, housed in the Hôtel Vernon, a seventeenth-century building located near the city's Roman arena, remodelled by his friend the architect Tadao Ando. The artist currently divides his time between Kamakura, Japan and Paris, France.


From Point No. 7901256

signed and dated 'L. UFAN 79' lower right; further signed and tited '"From point NO. 7901256" lee ufan' on the reverse
mineral pigment on canvas
90.3 x 90.3 cm. (35 1/2 x 35 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1979, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by gallery FuTaBa.

HK$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019