Excerpt from Hunting for Stone: Lee Ufan

Excerpts from Hunting for Stone, A Conversation with Lee Ufan by Robert Morgan, published in Sculpture Jan/Feb 2016 —

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“Stones are lumps of time that date back even longer than the earth. A lump of time is a lump of life in some sense. Steel plates extracted from stones are the production of industrial society; people usually think of them as being inorganic and dead, but I don’t really agree. Depending on how you relate them to certain places and how you orient them (whether they are placed flat or standing up), lots of different effects are created. People like to talk about spiritual aspects when these effects or impressions are made, but rather than spirituality, I would call it the vibration of life in the universe and nature. In my sculptures, the object itself is not the most important thing – what is important is the relationship between the object and the space, which creates a certain energy and vitality, enabling the viewer to feel a stronger spirituality or vibration of life. Normally, sculptures are there to be looked at, but the most important thing about my sculpture is that it’s not an object to be merely looked at. Instead, it involves a stream of life, beyond the object and the space, originating from many different kinds of relationships between the objects and space. My sculptures are unique in that they provide opportunities for viewers to feel spirituality via the power of space.”

“…time doesn’t really matter, and you reach the moment when you can’t figure out whether you’re in space or in time, which brought me to the Dialogue series, transitioning from a matter of time to a matter of space. Here, a distinction between drawing and not drawing (empty space) becomes important. Conventionally, paintings are about filling the whole canvas. However, I wanted to show the vibration and echo of a painting as a whole by juxtaposing drawing and not drawing and making them counterparts to one another. Since I often adopt empty spaces, some people say that my paintings have many Eastern aspects, but they are not necessarily attributed to my Eastern background. Most modern paintings are bout filling the whole canvas, but what I wanted to do with my works was admit the things the don’t belong to me and to create a dialogue between myself and the things that ‘m not a part of or that are not created by me.”

“The stones I use are often unpolished natural stones, and the steel plates are made of elements originally from stone before they are melted in furnace. The relationship between the two materials is like mother and son. While natural stones have a completeness that can’t be defined or categorized by us human beings, steel plates are materials close to us. They are produced by our industrial society and defined and categorized by human beings. By connecting the two, I open a dialogue between human beings and nature, both from inside and outside.”

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