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    Sale 12517

    Asian 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    29 May 2016, Convention Hall

  • Lot 382

    LEE UNGNO (Korean, 1904-1989)


    Price Realised  


    LEE UNGNO (Korean, 1904-1989)
    signed 'Ungno LEE'; signed in Korean (lower left)
    oil on straw mat laid on canvas
    175 x 88.5 cm. (68 7/8 x 34 7/8 in.)

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    Rhee Seundja
    For Korean abstract painters, creating art is to form and conceive nature in their own minds, aiming to return to and ultimately to become one with nature. This is a stark contrast from Western artists, who see art as an opposition to nature in terms of the philosophic tradition of dualism. 

    Rhee Seundja (1918-2009) successfully positioned herself as an abstract painter in Paris during the end of 1950s. Rhee’s works, created through a painstakingly time consuming process of recurring meditative brushstrokes, has heavily influenced the development of abstract painting in the history of Korean modern art. Painted in 1969, St Pyer (Lot 384) is from the Geometric abstractions and abstract landscape series (1969-1979). A simple composition with a few geometrical forms in the works illustrates her comment, “I employed geometrical marks to express my subject “Mother and Earth”. I chose triangle, square and circle as universal signs transcending time and borders.”

    Lee Ungno
    Born in 1904 in Korea, Lee Ungno (1904-1989) started painting at an early age and won his first successes in the 1920s. In 1935, Lee moved to Japan with his family in 1935 and studied Oriental painting and Western painting at Kawabata art school and Hongo painting research center respectively in Tokyo. After returning to Korea in 1945, Lee continued art creation while teaching at the College of Fine Art in Hongik University.

    In 1960 he settled down in France where he spent most of his time and where he died after a long career which testifies his pioneer status in contemporary Korean Art and links him definitely to the Museum Cernuschi. Lee Ungno has a very eclectic production. On the whole, the grand prevailing tendencies of his style modify every 10 years. In the 1950s, he put the emphasis on calligraphic freedom with his paint strokes which lead him to produce pieces of work visually close to informal art, the subjects fading behind a surface covered with vigorous lines and colorful stains.

    Upon his arrival in Paris, he carried on his researches on expressiveness and the all-over by the dense collage of creased paper coming from magazines. At the same time, his interest for calligraphy leads him into reviving calligraphic imaginary characters. They form vocabulary based on his work until the end of 1970. The extreme modern aspect of his work, notably in their recourse to arbitrary plastic signs whose connection to hypothetical referents is ambiguous on purpose, remains subtended by the importance of pictorial connection with typical Far Eastern writing. Lot 382 and Lot 383 are great works representing this artistic period.

    Ryu Kyung-chai
    Ryu Kyung-chai (1920-1995) was born in Haeju, Hwanghae-do Province. He made his debut when he was accepted for the Joseon Art Exhibition in 1940, and then he went to Japan to study in the 1940s.

    In 1949, following the establishment of the Government of the Republic of Korea, the first National Art Exhibition was held. At the time, Ryu was teaching at Seoul College of Education, and he submitted Neighborhood of a Bare Mountain to the exhibition. He was awarded the inaugural "President Prize," the Grand Prix, which thrust him suddenly into the spotlight.

    In the late 1950s, a collective effort to transform the Korean art scene was established by avant-garde artists, Ryu Kyung-chai is one of them. He form Creative Art Association together with other same-minded artists, and later became a leading figure in the post-independence Korean art scene. Without completely eliminating recognizable forms, from 1960s he employed subjective colour and simplified natural subjects to create geometric shapes. Aspiration 94-2 (Lot 385) shows the complete artistic development in the 1990s, attaining the harmony between colour, shape, pattern and material.


    Private Collection, Asia