EAST WIND NO. 821102

EAST WIND NO. 821102
signed and dated 'L. Ufan 82' (lower right); signed and titled ‘Lee ufan No 821102’ (on the reverse)
oil and mineral pigment on canvas
160 x 130 cm. (63 x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1982
Private Collection, Asia
Sale room notice
Please note this lot is withdrawn.
此拍品已撤拍 ◦

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Annie Lee

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Lot Essay

In my work expression is not privileged as expression or representation of the self but is neutralized as a relationship with the other to form a nonobjective place. My recent paintings bring out responsive relationships with minimal touches and strokes, operating in an undefined peripheral zone to become a place that evokes a sense of infinity.
- Lee Ufan1

As the one of the leading artists and main theorists of the Japanese avant-garde movement Mono-ha (School of Things), Lee Ufan has is celebrated as a distinguished artist, thinker, and philosopher. In the late 1970s, Lee gave up his systematic approach of mark making which had thus far characterized his pivotal series From Point (Fig. 1) and From Line . He relinquished the seemingly mechanic methodology and shifted to making spontaneous and loose marks with ample amount of empty space in between. From Winds from 1982 to 1986 and With Winds from from 1987 to 1991 therefore marked a new era in Lee Ufan’s artistic career. His brushstrokes were charged with energetic fluidity, expressive power, and organic dynamism. The new series reflected Lee’s increasing interest in painting as a visible structure of invisible forces.

The 1980s was an important period for Lee UFan. Early in the year of 1980, after nearly four-year exile under close surveillance by Korean Intelligence Agency, Lee moved to Kamukura, Japan together with his family. He described the dark time and the deep feeling he experienced as “a great internal rupture.” The external as well as internal shift propelled him to break through the regimentation of systematic application of dots and lines, usually rendered in a one-direction accumulative manner. Lee began to use much larger and thicker strokes and delved into more gestural, undulating, back and forth compositions. This new and vibrant creative process in his From Wind series is characterized by a compositional structure that is inundated with rhythmic dancing motion and the poignant use of empty space.

To certain extent, each singular mark in the From Wind series in the first half of 1980s was comparable to Lucio Fontana’s slashes in his Concetto Spaziale paintings (Fig. 2), in particular in the “affinity between the rawness of the surface and the primordial character of the gesture itself.”2. On the other hand, it was also reminiscent of Yves Klein’s famous act Leap into the Void (1960), which resulted in one of the most iconic photographs in the 20th century; as well as Klein’s other performance Anthropometries of the Blue Epoch (1960) (Fig. 3), in which the artist acted more as a director rather than an actor. The difference was whereas Klein used his own body as intervention and disruption of the void space, or conducted naked models drenched in his trademark ultramarine blue as human brushes to make paintings, Lee used his calligraphic marks, at once forceful and lighthearted, to attack the void canvas. Lee Ufan came across many of Fontana and Klein’s works while he was exhibiting and traveling in Europe for an extended period in early 1970s. What Lee found intriguing in these artists’ works was the power of art in connecting the self and the outside world, and the surrendering of the creator’s self and its ego to the notion of the repetition of the infinite.

Lee Ufan’s experiences abroad in both Japan and Paris undoubtedly shaped his artistic identity and trajectory, as he once remarked, “Koreans see me as being Japanized, the Japanese see me as being fundamentally Korean, and when I go to Europe, people set me aside as an Oriental…I am left standing outside the collective, seen on the one hand as a fugitive and on the other as an intruder…The dynamics of distance have made me what I am.”3 As a leading figure in the Dansaekhwa movement in Korea, Lee has formed a distinctive visual language in his From Wind series by incorporating Zen thoughts, minimalist style, and calligraphic freedom. The current lot, Untitled (East Wind 821102) from 1982 is a masterpiece from this period. It captures the unfathomable and unquantifiable natural phenomenon of wind in two dimensional space. The saturated and decisive blue strokes set the tone of the work, almost like vehement slashes on the canvas’s surface, while the dry and quivering marks pay homage to the highly esteemed “flying white” (feibai) technique in Eastern calligraphy. The juxtaposition of dark and light tonalities gives the painting spatial depth, volume, and sense of musicality. Alexandra Munroe makes a very interesting observation in the catalogue for the 2011 Guggenheim exhibition Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity , “It is telling that Lee admires the seventeenth-century Chinese monk painter Bada Shanren (Fig. 4), whose political exile, madness, and life of ‘alienation and contradiction’ deepened the artist’s solitary pursuit to find ‘salvation in the mysterious universe of painting.’”4 The appearance of the current lot also taps into the Eastern aesthetics of subtlety, effortlessness, and simplicity. Each touch bears traces of slight awkwardness and sense of being unfinished, a rare quality that can also be seen in Cezanne’s Cubism precursory paintings, and deeply challenges our perception and comprehension.

Lee Ufan’s Untitled (East Wind 821102) presents a world in motion, striking parallel with Monet’s waterlily paintings. In Lee’s own writing, he compares the work of Monet and Fontana, “both Monet and Fontana present a world in motion, Monet using color to suggest the infinity of time that changes with every passing moment while Fontana cuts slits in the canvas to suggest the infinity of space. They brilliantly give visual form to the existence of the outside world and relationships that are formed with it.”5
Comparable in size and composition as the From Winds (1982) in the Tate Collection (Fig. 5), Untitled (East Wind 821102) was painted on canvas laid flat on the floor rather than held in an upright position. Lee first primed the canvas with an underlayer of translucent cool toned oil paint, and then mixed ground mineral pigment with animal-skin glue traditionally used in East Asian silk painting before applying the mixture to the canvas. Each work is the physical embodiment of the artist’s grace as he used his whole body to glide across the canvas’s surface in a concentrated and orchestrated effort.

1. Selected Writings by Lee Ufan 1970-96 , ed. Jean Fisher, trans. Martha McClintock (London: Lisson Gallery, 1996), pp. 103-14
2. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/fontana-spatial-concept-waiting-t00694/text-summary
3. Lee Ufan, "The Man in the Middle" (1991-97), in The Art of Encounter , edited by Jean Fisher, translated by Stanley N. Anderson (London: Lisson Gallery, 2008), p. 17
4. Alexandra Munroe, "Stand Still a Moment" in Lee UFan: Making Infinity (Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 2011), p. 21
5. Lee Ufan,"Mugen nit suite/On Infinity", in Selected Writings by Lee Ufan 1970-96, ed. Jean Fisher, trans. Martha McClintock (London: Lisson Gallery, 1996), pp. 103

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