An Expression of Life – About Japanese and Korean Abstracts

These experiences have had a lasting impact on her artistic practice, driving her unwavering exploration of themes such as infinity and obliteration.

Rarely seen in her works in the past 50 years, Infinity combines both signature motifs on a single canvas, gracefully traversing a vertically meandering curve border at the centre of the composition. Standing at an impressive height of 2 metres, this large-scale painting is strikingly divided into two halves, each adorned with repeating dots and nets. The work predominantly employs repeating red patterns over a black background — Kusama’s favourite colour combination for her ‘Infinity Net’ series during her New York period.

Immersive and compelling, this artwork skillfully combines Kusama’s renowned obsessional, repetitive, and mesmerising qualities. The endlessly looping and repeating whorls serve as a key motif reused throughout her career, reflecting both her personal history and inner state. Growing up in an affluent family, Kusama was exposed to profound visual and auditory hallucinations during her childhood. These experiences have had a lasting impact on her artistic practice, driving her unwavering exploration of themes such as infinity and obliteration.

Other highlights of the sale include an exceptional showcase of Korean abstract works by renowned masters Lee Ufan and Park Seobo, prominent figures of the Dansaekhwa Movement in Korea. Often referred to as the “Monochrome Painting Movement,” Dansaekhwa emerged as a significant artistic force in the 1970s, capturing the essence of Korean minimalism and abstraction.

Lee Ufan, Dialogue, 2015, acrylic on canvas

Lee Ufan is a Korean artist of long-standing prominence in the global art scene. A philosophy graduate, Lee’s works gracefully capture traditional beliefs and aesthetics of the East. Dialogue features a bright patch of ombré orange acrylic on a large blank space, revealing an intense yet careful layering of colours and brushstrokes.

Park Seobo, Écriture No. 151005, 2015, mixed media with Korean Hanji paper on canvas

Another Korean abstract art master, Park Seobo, is known for his East-meets-West approach. The work forms part of his “Écriture” series, begun in the late 1960s, celebrated for his experimentation with the use of oil, a western medium, and Hanji, traditional Korean paper. The interplay and tension between the two materials creates a distinctive form of minimalist abstraction and narrates the artist’s national and personal history.

An unseen and exceptionally rare abstract work, Infinity, 1995 (estimate upon request, imaged above), by Yayoi Kusama, one of the most celebrated contemporary artists, will lead Bonhams Modern and Contemporary Art sale in Hong Kong on 25 May 2024.

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