Private Collection, Korea (acquired from the above in the late 1980s)
Private Collection, Japan
Acquired from the above by the present owner
The measured and meditative creative process of these elegant paintings is integral to Ufan’s aesthetic philosophy: everything except the necessary is omitted. Loading his brush with a powdery emulsion that combines ground mineral pigment with nikawa animal-skin glue (a traditional adhesive medium used in Japanese silk 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 mesmerising red 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).
Each individual mark is gracefully composed at the beginning of a specific moment, a meditative gestural stroke that represents a physical affirmation of existence and is a visual testimony to the gradual passing of time. As the artist himself explained: "because each mark and brushstroke, which creates its own space-time, has a strong presence, I cannot be permitted to paint over, to touch it up. Each moment of time occurs only once, but because everything is a continuation of single moments, it is necessary for them to repeat and resonate with each other" (Lee Ufan cited in: Jean Fisher, Ed., The Art of Encounter, London 2004, p. 202). Equal compositional importance is given to the unpainted areas of the canvas. Alluding to the Buddhist notion of ‘nothingness’ – the artist refers to this as yohaku, or the art of emptiness. 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. Transcending 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. In line with Ufan’s philosophy, From Point No. 790316 is therefore a mesmeric visual reflection on the very essence of abstraction.