Lot 114
  • 114

Lee Ufan

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Lee Ufan
  • From Line No. 780210
  • signed and dated 78; signed and titled on the reverse
  • oil and mineral pigment on canvas
  • 91 by 116 cm. 35 7/8 by 45 3/4 in.


Private Collection, Japan (acquired directly from the artist circa 1979)
Private Collection, Japan (acquired from the above circa 1985)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is warmer, deeper and richer in the original. The catalogue illustration also fails to do justice to the iridescent nature of the pigment. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Extremely close inspection reveals a few thin, stable and unobtrusive tension cracks running intermittently along the edges, and evidence of light handling to the left edge and the lower half of the right edge. Further extremely close inspection reveals evidence of very minor rubbing to some of the thicker areas of pigment towards the upper edge. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultraviolet 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

One of the world’s foremost Korean artists and minimalists, Lee Ufan has enraptured the global public with his poetic artistic language. The present work is an exceptional example from one of his best-known series: From Line, produced between 1973 and 1984, which documents his important experimentation on the ephemerality of mineral pigment and laying the foundation for his ground-breaking minimal work for the next four decades to come. In the present work, deep powdery blue emanates from the raw canvas in a cascade of waning pigment. Each mesmerising line contains within it the traces of the artist’s physical movement at the moment of creation and acts as a visual record of the gradual passing of time as the work was produced. Synchronising each brushstroke with the careful rhythm of his breathing, Lee Ufan formed the From Line works as a physical exercise in meditation, each drawn out line dissipating into nothingness as the artist expels the last of his breath before the process begins again.

Extending the ideals of the Mono Ha - or ‘things school’ sculpture movement - which Lee pioneered in the late 1960s, From Line No. 780210 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.

From Line No. 780210 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’.