- Lee Ufan
- From Line No. 790178
- signed and dated 79; signed on the overlap; signed and titled on the reverse
- oil and mineral pigment on canvas
Jiyugaoka Gallery, Tokyo
Sale: K Auction, Hong Kong, Summer Sale, 8 June 2011, Lot 52
Kukje Gallery, Seoul
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2013
Extending the ideals of the Mono Ha or ‘things school’ sculpture movement which Lee pioneered in the late 1960s, From Line No. 790178 focusses on the original beauty of materials, reducing each component to its most natural form to affect a compelling organic engagement with the viewer. In creating these works, Lee mixes ground minerals with nikawa animal-skin glue before applying it to unprimed canvas with a round headed brush. Lee gives equal importance to the painted and unpainted areas, reinforcing his focus on materiality as well as alluding to the significance of ‘nothingness’ in Buddhist philosophy.
This emphasis on the material quality of the work as well as the experience of the viewer is central to Lee’s practice. Lee understood mimetic or expressive artworks as containing ‘totalitarian’ hierarchies whereby the representation of an artist’s ideas and concepts are imposed on the implicitly passive viewer. For Lee therefore, the making of the work forgoes its traditional role as the concluding act in the artistic process, instead becoming the starting point of an ongoing collaborative dialogue. By reducing the artist’s input, the work’s significance arises, not in the structure or form of the painting, but in the encounter between viewer, painting and ambient setting. In this sense, it is the viewers’ artistic labour and reflexive contemplation which conditions the work thereby reversing the hierarchy of power.
From Line No. 790178 chimes with aspects of traditional Eastern aesthetics, notably the sentiments of ‘thinking with the brush’ and the Zen Buddhist teachings of Kitarō Nishida. But as a Korean émigré who arrived in Japan at a time of particular tension and unrest between and within both countries, Lee opted for a harmonic outlook; finding solace in the philosophies of both Eastern and Western teachings. In spite of mounting cultural incompatibility, Lee pioneered a new artistic language through his philosophical approach which spearheaded the Dansaekhwa monochrome painting movement, forming ‘pure experience’ and showing ‘the world as it is’.