Lot 5
  • 5

Lee Ufan

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
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  • Lee Ufan
  • From Point 80067
  • signed and dated 80; signed, titled and dated 1980.9 on the reverse
  • oil and mineral pigment on canvas 
  • 145.2 by 112cm.; 57 1/8 by 44in.


Private Collection, Asia (acquired directly from the artist)

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is warmer and the blue is darker in the original. The catalogue illustration also fails to convey the iridescence and three-dimensionality of the blue pigment. Condition: This work is in very good and original condition. Very close inspection reveals tiny hairline tension cracks running intermittently along the extreme outer edges and corner tips. Further inspection reveals some abrasions to the peaks of the blue pigment. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

From Point 80067 is a sublime example of the most sought-after series created by the master of East-Asian contemporary art, Lee Ufan. Created in 1980 it sits at the very end of the succession of From Point works which mark the zenith of Ufan’s celebrated artistic practice. Throughout his decade-long experiment with the From Point paintings he methodically refined his technique, which is attested to in the present work by the crisp edges of the brushstrokes and the assured, pulsating pattern not found in earlier examples from this series. This work elegantly brings together the interlaced elements of Ufan’s complex philosophies in a polished and singular vision, recalling his childhood maxim that “the entirety of the universe begins and ends in one point” (Lee Ufan quoted in: Mika Yoshitake, ‘Chronology’, in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity, 2011, p. 186). Ufan’s monochrome canvases are his most celebrated and widely exhibited works. Unusual for the sheer size of its spots, From Point 80067 is utterly singular within this extraordinary body of work. Being praised for their elegant simplicity in light of their intellectual weight, they are currently held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Tate, London among others. Testemant to the significance of his oeuvre, Ufan was also the subject of a major retrospective titled Marking Infinity at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2011 and in 2010 the Ufan Museum was built on Naoshima Island in Japan.

The artist makes minimal interventions into both his raw materials and artistic gestures so that the resultant works in the From Point series remain pure, refined and immediate. The intense blue colour in From Point 80067 is formed by mixing ground natural minerals with traditional Japanese Nikawa glue, connecting the work with ancient Japanese silk-painting, the bucolic splendour of nature, and concurrently recalling the infinite fading tones of the sky. In this way Lee Ufan aligns his painting with the transcendent, for as he states: “Nature is the realm of infinity where one can continuously bring one’s self back to nothingness” (Lee Ufan, Selected Writings by Lee Ufan 1970-96, London 1996, p. 23).

Nature in its unlimited variations therefore becomes a vessel for the infinite and Ufan develops this idea through sustained and considered repetition in his From Point series. After laying the canvas on the ground he begins to apply points of colour, continuing from left to right with a single paint-load on his brush until the marks dissipate and turn to emptiness. He applies each point without modification or correction according to his philosophy of ikkaisei, which is derived from a Japanese ink-painting tradition where the innumerable elements that constitute a single brushstroke can never be repeated. In doing so, each mark represents a physical manifestation of a specific ‘lived moment’ in time meaning that no two will ever be quite the same. Expanding on this aphorism, the recurring gestures in From Point 80067 intimate the potential for infinite repetition – a notion which is further extrapolated in the present work by the inclusion of fading blue trails along the left side of the canvas which are attached to fictitious starting points in the ambient surrounding space of the work.

To create these entrancing patterns, Ufan makes gradual additions to the blank canvas with his brush in meditative harmony with his hand and the paint. In accordance with his considered method, Ufan leaves vast empty areas on the canvas which are, to the artist, equally as significant as the painted points of blue they surround. This ‘emptiness’, what is known as yohaku, goes beyond conventional conceptions of nothingness, being characterised by the artist as the lingering sound of a drum reverberating through air after it has been struck; likewise “as the brush makes one point, the area around it begins to move and energy-filled air floats low over it” (Lee Ufan, ‘Fragments I, No. 6’, in: Lee Ufan: The Art of the Encounter, London 2008, p. 200). Ufan’s From Point paintings aspire to transcendence through this evocation of emptiness by demanding engagement from the viewer who becomes an active agent in the ‘completion’ of a work. In this way, the painted and unpainted areas interact to form a sort of poetry which is manifested in the encounter between the viewer, painting and ambient space – subsequently bringing about engagement with emptiness in the viewers mind.