Lee Ufan - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Sunday, June 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Asia
    Seoul Auction, Seoul, Contemporary and Modern Art Sale, 12 December 1998
    Private Collection
    Seoul Auction, Seoul, Contemporary and Modern Art Sale, 1 May 2002
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born in Korea in 1936, Lee Ufan originally trained as a philosopher and this schooling has informed his art ever since. It led to Lee becoming one of the founders, and the chief theorist, of the Mono-ha ("School of Things") group in the late 1960’s, along with artists such as Jiro Takamatsu and Kishio Suga. Much like the artists associated with Arte Povera in Italy, Mono-ha artists explored the encounter between the natural and the industrial: stone against steel; cotton versus sponge; oil and water. These dialogues were arranged in mostly unaltered, ephemeral states, focusing the viewer’s attention as much on the interdependency of these various elements and the surrounding space as on the materials themselves. Lee Ufan made works employing only steel and stone; a sculptural practice he still employs today.

    The Mono-ha school of thought rejected Western notions of representation, choosing to focus on the relationships of materials and perceptions rather than on expression or intervention. A complete departure from the tenets of the Guitai movement, which dominated the previous decade in Japan. The movement's goal was to embrace the world at large and encourage the fluid coexistence of numerous beings, concepts and experiences. It is this intellectual trajectory that best informs Lee Ufan’s paintings. Lee began to paint in earnest in the early 1970’s and his first major series of paintings are his From Point works, executed between 1973 and 1984. From Point no. 760128 (1976) is a hauntingly beautiful example of this series.

    The rhythmic litany of painted daubs of crystalline cobalt blue paint, all executed with the same loaded brush, belies an equally regimented process and intellectual approach to the mechanics of painting and the philosophy of mark-making. Lee, always starting from left to right, makes almost identical marks with a paintbrush, always executed in the same manner with the same pressure, until the brush has no more pigment left to share with the canvas. Once the brush is empty the artist repeats the process over and over again until the canvas is full. This simple gesture graphs the passage of time, much like our unconscious breathing does. One can employ the language of Minimalism as a lens through which to explore Lee Ufan’s works: seriality; the grid; the monochrome and even the dynamics of phenomenology come in to play here. But the Performative element of their production thrusts Lee Ufan’s paintings in to a different aesthetic and intellectual space.

    As much as anything Lee Ufan’s paintings emerge out of a dialogue between Performance, philosophy and painting. The 'points' he marks on to the canvas are both of departure and arrival; of a phenomenon both physical and metaphysical; a concrete note demarcating the present yet also evanescent whispers of the past. As the artist writes, 'Each spot is a momentary encounter between me, the canvas, the paint and the brush, the continuation of discontinuity. Their singularity and repetition create a lively pictorial through the relationship between identity and difference. They are traces of life, endlessly similar but endlessly changing, a system of time.' (Lee Ufan in Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunstmuseum, Lee Ufan: Gemälde 1973 bis 2001, June-September 2001, p. 92).


From Point no. 760128

oil on canvas
60.6 x 72.7 cm (23 7/8 x 28 5/8 in.)
Signed and dated 'L. Ufan 76' lower right. Further signed and titled 'Lee Ufan "From Point 760128"' on the reverse.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £233,000

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2016