JAPANESE KOREAN ARTIST MUSEUM OPENINGS MODERNISM
An article by The Japan Times covers the opening of a brand new art museum in Japan dedicated to the Korean-born artist Lee Ufan. The article features an extensive interview in which the artist reminisces on his youth in a Japanese-occupied Korea and his early years as an artist in Japan.
Located on the island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, the Lee Ufan Museum is part of the Benesse Art Site, which has been listed as one of Japan’s must-see tourist destinations. In the article, Lee explains why the museum is unconventionally half underground:
For some people, it won’t look like a museum. Some people might think it’s a mosque, or a grave. That’s fine. I wanted it to feel far removed from everyday life.
The article also discusses Lee’s unique role in the Japanese art scene. Being both a resident of Japan and an outsider, due to his status as a Korean-born Japanese artist, he has interesting insights into the history of Japan and Korea and the art scene in Japan.
His aesthetic style consists mostly of simple constructions and has often been compared to Asian philosophy by Western critics. He says that he is indebted to the Western Modernist tradition for his simple style more than the traditional Asian aesthetic. Despite being influenced by Modernist art, he asks viewers to find a deeper meaning in the process of looking at art:
These days, when we think of art, we immediately think of it being something that you look at. But it is actually only in the Modern period that this act of looking has been given such emphasis. Before then, there was more to it: myths, religion, social issues. People would know these stories and they would read them into the art. In other words, the act of appreciating art was completed in the mind.
One way in which he is thoroughly Asian, he says, is his belief in the strong connection between individuals and the universe, a concept which he explores in his paintings:
After all, Asia has a monsoon climate, so there is a lot of rain. There’s always things rotting and new life sprouting and, in the past, this gave rise to strong tendencies toward animistic beliefs. Asians are more likely to see themselves as living with nature, with the rest of the universe.
The museum will hold many of Lee Ufan’s canvases and sculptures, created since he began his artistic career in the 1970s.
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