For fifty years, the Korean artist’s minimalist works have been playing with emptiness and fullness, bringing space and materials into resonance. To “inhabit time” and make silence resonate.
After the gardens of Versailles in 2014, here is the fascinating necropolis of the Alyscamps in Arles, where the 85-year-old master has chosen to perform a Requiem. Alongside the sarcophagi lined up at the entrance to this city of the dead, the elegant austerity of his Relatum thus takes on a funereal aspect. Consisting of the association of distinct and often dissonant elements – the meeting of a stone and its reflection in a mirror set on a white square in a garden or, here, of two stones and a long metal plate unrolled like a shimmering carpet along the sepulchres – these Relatum are not, for their creator, finished works in themselves, but mediums.
Far from being an artifact, sculpture for Lee Ufan is the means of relating individuals and their environment, the body and a given space, the inner world, and the outer world… For this great master of emptiness, co-founder of the Mono-ha movement (the school of things) in Tokyo in 1969, advocating the effacement of the artist, the minimal intervention in the use of raw materials, it consists in creating a poetic space intended to arouse an “aesthetic emotion” with the play of oppositions, an “art of resonance … capable of revealing the silence and the emptiness” of unoccupied spaces.
“To link the work to space is to open it up, to enter into a relationship with the infinite,” the artist told us during a visit to his Parisian1 studio. “Sculpture is for me a relationship to space. I seek to open a dialogue with nature, to create an encounter between the elements and the viewer.”
Sculpture is about inhabiting space, and more than that, it is about the interpenetration of space and matter, letting the void inhabit the work – so that we inhabit it. Following the example of Fontana – “who, by tearing the canvas, introduced the notion of infinity into the painting.”1 – Lee Ufan thus makes the void the place of all possibilities, a space in tension born of “shifts and correspondences between materials and places,” offered to our imagination stimulated “by this ambivalence between appearance and disappearance, between presence and absence.”
at the necropolis of Alyscamps in Arles
Until the end of September 2022
Catalog, under the direction of Alfred Pacquement, curator of the exhibition, published by Actes Sud (25€)
And also: Exhibition Lee Ufan Arles
At the Vernon Hotel in Arles