These illustrious points, or evanescent moments embodied within cadenced ellipses, are repeated with potentially infinite recurrence across the blankness that consumes them. Indeed it is exactly this infinite emptiness, what the artist characterizes as yohaku, that underpins Ufan’s potent minimal aesthetic. Yohaku goes beyond a mere negation of form or substance; it is more akin to the endless expanse of the sky, the immaterial lingering resonance of a drum, or the vast emptiness of space that contains the entirety of the universe. Yohaku transcends the picture plane, it reverberates with the walls and the space in which it is found, the effect expands outwards and establishes a triangular relationship, a particular resonance between viewer, artwork and space, and likewise between the natural, the physical and the infinite. It is here that the ‘art’ is found: not beyond the painting’s physical surface, but in the invisible essence of its encounter, the meditative reflection of its forms such that, conformant with Ufan’s philosophy, From Point “lead[s] people’s eyes to emptiness and turn[s] their eyes to silence.” (the artist cited in Press Release, London, Lisson Gallery, Lee Ufan, 2015)
The process of creating these works is integral to Ufan’s aesthetic philosophy: everything except the necessary is omitted. Beginning by mixing ground natural minerals with nikawa, an adhesive medium conventionally used in traditional Japanese painting, Ufan aligns his cultural history with the infinite materiality of nature. The artist then places the canvas on the floor so that he can feel the physical weight of his body standing over it before slowly applying a brush impregnated with the mesmerizing blue mineral mixture to the surface of the canvas. Ufan repeats this gesture with a single paint load until the marks eventually dissipate into emptiness, timing each succession with the rhythm of his breathing so that the pulse of life vibrates through the arrangement of painted points. Comprising his raw materials and pervading his artistic methods, nature in its unlimited potential variance is therefore central to Ufan’s praxis, being described by the artist as “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)
The effect of these converging aesthetic principles is profound. It is no surprise then that Dansaekhwa paintings like the present work have been celebrated on a global stage, finding their way into the most revered and illustrious collections worldwide. Further to the inclusion of his monochrome canvases 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, Ufan’s life’s work has been surveyed in a major retrospective Marking Infinity, at the Guggenheim New York in 2011, and was immortalized further when the Lee Ufan Museum on Naoshima Island, Japan, was constructed in 2010.
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