Lee Ufan, ‘From Line, No. 80033’, 1980, Phillips

Property of an Important Private Collector

From the Catalogue:
The present lot, painted in 1980, is a stunning example of Lee Ufan’s signature From Line series, of which the artist dedicated over ten years of his life between 1973 and 1984. A leading figure of the Japanese avant-garde movement Mono-Ha, Ufan sought to abandon traditional western notions of representation in response to the rapid industrialisation of Japan occurring in the 1970s. Instead, Lee meditated upon his Confucian roots, drawing upon calligraphy and Nihon-ga (Japanese-style painting) as sources of inspiration in his art. In From Line No. 80033, twenty-two vertical lines extend across the canvas, each one varying in thickness of stroke, and ultimately evaporating as the paint is used up. The rich blue hue, which the artist fashioned himself by mixing powdered cobalt pigment with glue, vibrates against the pale yellow wash of the canvas. Equal importance is placed on the line, and the deliberate absence of line, lending both a sense of rhythm and stillness to the composition as a whole. To create these works, the artist rotated the canvas 90 degrees, pulling the brush horizontally from left to right in repetitive, fluid motions. In describing his practice the artist notes, “Before working, I calm my breathing, correct my posture, and hold my brush quietly” (Lee Ufan, quoted in Lee Ufan, exh. cat., PaceWildenstein, New York, 2008, p. 7). The act of painting thus becomes a ritualistic, meditative process, resulting in a work of art that possesses a dramatic, yet exquisite simplicity.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated “L. UFAN 80” lower right; further signed and titled on the reverse

Private Collection, Tokyo
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1995)
Sotheby’s, New York, 13 May 2010, lot 229
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

About Lee Ufan

A pioneer of the Japanese Mono-ha (School of Things) movement, Lee Ufan arranges his installations and sculptures to emphasize the equal relationship between the artwork, the viewer, and the space, a philosophy best illustrated by his “Relatum” series, a series of stretched canvases on the floor, each topped by a single stone. Ufan uses materials including glass, steel, rubber, and stones in shades that are usually subdued and often monochromatic. His paintings exhibit a similar logic, applying muted color on a light, plain background in a style reminiscent of East Asian calligraphy, whereby the brush stroke fades as it ends.

Korean, b. 1936, Seoul, South Korea, based in Kamakura, Japan; Paris, France