Artists & Designers

Lee Ufan (b. 1936)

Writer and artist Lee Ufan was born in Haman, Gyeongnam province in South Korea. Lee studied painting at the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University for just two months and, in 1956, moved to Japan where he earned a degree in philosophy in 1961. While studying philosophy, Lee painted in a restrained, traditional Japanese style, eschewing the expressive abstraction of the Gutai movement. In Japan, he became an active participant in the countercultural upheavals surrounding the Anpo Movement protesting the revision of the U.S.–Japan security treaty in 1960; and through his roles as a scholar, artist, and art critic, he helped shape the tenets of the Tokyo-based Mono-ha or "School of Things" that developed in the 1960s. Mono-ha emphasized the fundamental materiality and physicality of objects rather than Western notions of expression or alteration. Lee's position in the philosophy department at Nihon University in Tokyo earned him a distinguished role as the movement's spokesperson. He was also a pivotal figure in the Korean tansaekhwa (monochrome painting) school, which offered a fresh approach to minimalist abstraction by presenting repetitive gestural marks as bodily records of time's perpetual passage. In the early 1970s, Lee was appointed Professor of Tama Art University in Tokyo where he taught until 2007. He lives and works in Kamakura, Japan, and Paris, France.

Adapted from

  • Jeffrey Grove, DMA unpublished material, 2011.

  • Charles Wylie, Silence and Time, 2011.

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