It is hard to define Lee Ufan's position in Korean modern art. That is because while his works have been very influential to many artists in Korea, they are ambiguous and not easy to understand or to have access. What we need to do is to figure out the cause and boundary of this ambiguity and for the purpose, the 'body' is chosen as an analytical frame.
Discourse on body has been the central theme in contemporary art and philosophy and body was one of the main themes for the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro and phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Lee was heavily influenced by the ideas of both. Lee has made both sculpture and painting but the role and meaning of the body are different in each medium. The characteristics of his sculpture can be summarized as non-representation, non-transformation, and the juxtaposition of stone and iron plate, and with these elements he tries to maximize the bodiness of the things and to achieve the consciousness of nothingness, which was also the goal of Nishida.
In painting, by controlling his mind and body through the act of drawing dots and lines repeatedly, he tries to meet the world and to reach the infinity. As time went by, his brushworks became more irregular and freer and the movement and energy of his body are transferred to the canvas more directly.
Lee's body in sculpture is the minimized body participated in the spatical movement of materials and unfamiliar juxtaposition of different materials. In painting, however, the body is in action and process recording the meeting with the world. His body is dedicated to the operation of meetings, not to the describing things or representing concepts. Thus we witness the meeting but we do not know whether it is successful or not. That is because we lack the code to interprete his works, and as far as he denies the possibility of representing concepts through the medium of thing or language, his works remain ambiguous.