Lee Ufan’s painting and sculptural work with its sparing and repetitive gestures fits in between American minimalism and an Asian restraint of artistic self-expression. This occurs in favor of a relationship to an unformed exterior, to the vast realm of the undefined, to the aleatoric – in favor of a relationship to the organic.
Unlike in minimalism, for Lee Ufan repetition is not a critical reflection of de-subjectivization through the capitalist system of production; nor is it his intent to systematically impose his artistic stamp on the world like a trademark. For Lee Ufan the repetition of the single, wide brushstroke on a blank canvas is, instead, a resonance space that is created through the interference of the artistic intervention and the leaving blank of a surface. The brushstrokes are neither industrially produced nor are they identical, they are an individual physical action – each, a breath of the artist vibrating in the space left empty. They establish correspondences to the site “where a person encounters that which transcends the self.” “Correspondance” (recently “Dialogue”) is also the title of the body of works the artist has been painting since 1991.
Lee Ufan’s sculptural work entitled “Relatum” combines stone and steel, combines rocks found in nature with industrially produced metal plates. These elements create a poetic correspondence to the outside, communicate between defined order and the unformed, the undefined, between made and unmade. Through the artist’s significant self-imposed limitations these works engage in a spiritual dialogue with the viewer and convey a contemplative tranquility that goes beyond reflection and the power of imagination.
Quotes by the artist are excerpted from: Lee Ufan, Un art de la rencontre, Actes Sud, Arles 2002