'A space with nothing in it is the most beautiful,' says Korean artist Lee Ufan, referring to the new Jean-Michel Wilmotte-designed gallery at Château La Coste – the Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade artist enclave near France’s Aix-en-Provence that was christened by Sean Scully last year.
'But,' adds Ufan, 'the metaphorical aspect is lacking and thus somewhat bland.' To address this blandness, Ufan is installing large tableaux – one, a colourful fresh stroke drawn by a large brush on a white canvas, will interact with another without the stroke in order to create vibration between the two – and two sculptures (all created in his Paris studio) that are meant to demonstrate tension by contrasting steel plate and stone, or large boulders against four thick steel poles.
The paintings and sculptures are intended to reinforce 2014’s House of Air, Ufan’s existing work at the site, where previous commissions have included exhibitions and installations by Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra and Tatsuo Miyajima, along with architectural pavilions and structures by Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando and Jean Nouvel.
'My artwork gets its live, existential meaning only when it can harmonise with the surrounding space and thus transform the space into a new one,' says Ufan, noting that he considers the works in the new exhibition an extension of House of Air. 'The energy from these contrasts will emanate vitality throughout the entire exhibition.'
While the surrounding French countryside and vineyards did inspire the work, Ufan says his artistic concepts do not fundamentally change as a result of location. The process in his new paintings, however, does differ a bit from his typically restrained brushwork. 'This time I wanted to hint at some changes in my touches. I wanted to display more vitality on the surface by presenting the duality of static state and movement. I wanted to hint at a mythological theme by covering the ground with white gravel stones and by drawing shadows and placing large boulders,' he says. 'The strokes drawn in the small dark interior space are my interpretations of the prehistoric caves that existed throughout southern France.'
Platonic allegory and the cave paintings at Chauvet filtered through the eye of a Paris-based, Korean minimalist – consider this an East-meets-West lesson in the classics.