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Lee Ufan

The Art of Margins
Yohaku (margins) is not empty space but an open site of power in which acts and things and space interact vividly. It is a contradictory world rich in changes and suggestions where a struggle occurs between things that are made and things that are not made. Therefore, yohaku transcends objects and words, leading people to silence, and causing them to breathe infinity.

The world transcends me and is non-transparent. While interacting with unknown externality, I continue to change ceaselessly while absorbing impurities or straining them away. Art comes into being through awareness of this purification and restoration process. Creation of art is an attempt at a kind of overcoming. Therefore, it is desirable for works of art to be horizons of non-everydayness and sites of leaps.

The surface material on my paintings will probably be lost before ten thousand years have passed and then the canvas will deteriorate. Human beings try hard to create a world and maintain it for themselves, but nature is always trying to destroy it and take it back to the earth. The violent struggle between the force trying to make it exist and the force that wants to return it to nothingness is beautiful. Therefore, instead of perfect, independent works of art, I want to make paintings with a fragile balance in which both sides of the game appear.

I discovered and chose two main things to bring into the dimension of sculpture: natural stones, which are unmade, indeterminate things that are connected to the outside world, and steel plates, which are industrial products, differentiated and abstracted from natural elements, neutrally standardized and in the process of manufacturing. They are combined under a loose concept in a specific site, opening up a space where stones, steel plates, and human beings interact and resonate with each other.

I put fetters on my hands and feet, setting as many limits as possible on the concept of the work and the method of making it. Materials and processes are simplified, and expression is carried out through the strict actions of a disciplined body. In this way, expression continues to shift subtly through increasingly skilful, improved, and unlimited repetition and more thorough application, and the work is transformed into something incomparably new.

I am attacked from all sides and seen as a dangerous person. I am always placed in a position outside of the community, seen either as a fugitive or an invader. It is difficult to be considered separate and not identified with the group, but it makes it possible to see both sides well.
The dynamics of distance have made me into a more open individual. A sense of alienation makes ordinary life painful, but it also produces self-awareness and strength. It is sad to be in such an uncomfortable place, always forced to be on the move, but I think that it has given me vitality and provided guidance for living in an unknown, living world.

Standing among innumerable stones on a river bank, my breast sings and my mind seems to glow for a moment. Ah! If I combine this stone with a steel plate from that factory, something good will result. These two elements have existed in unconnected places for a long time, but now because of some sort of karma or cause and effect, they will be joined in one place.
A thing that existed in connection with a river bank and a thing that existed in connection with a steel works [sic] are brought to a space of gallery by a parson who encounter and reborn in a new and different relationship.
Making a work of art at a certain time means being present at a site of destiny where a new life emerges. Perhaps it is I who am chosen and given life in their world through the interaction between the stone from the river bank and the steel plate from the steel works.

People who want to approach a complex reality tend to make arrangements of multiple colors [sic]. People who want to express a precise concept tend to use distinct, single colors [sic]. Perhaps because my thoughts are in an intermediate position, the colors I use are gradually becoming more ambiguous, mainly variations of gray. If I apply a slight touch of gray with a brush on a white canvas, the pictorial surface is filled with a vague brightness accompanied by shadows. Gray does not assert itself strongly and it does not have a conceptual quality, but it is endlessly rich in innuendo and suggestion and has a purifying effect on both reality and ideas.

The body is an ambiguous intermediary, connected simultaneously to me and to the outside world. Because of this, the repetitive, disciplined actions of the body in making art transform ideas and deepen and expand the work of art. Even if the level of my own ability is ten, it can be magnified to twenty or thirty if I can make effective contact with the outside world. If I can make a work that is greater than myself, it is done through the operation of the body. The more externality is called in, the more identity with the self is reduced, and the artwork naturally takes on qualities of the unknown.
Dieser Text von Lee Ufan entstand anlässlich der Ausstellung im Yokohama Museum of Art, 2005