CHUNG SANG-HWA (KOREA, B.1932)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
CHUNG SANG-HWA (KOREA, B.1932)

Untitled 85-8-9

Details
CHUNG SANG-HWA (KOREA, B.1932)
Untitled 85-8-9
signed and titled in Korean; signed 'CHUNG SANG HWA' and dated '1985' (on the reverse); inscribed '130 x 97 cm' (on the stretcher)
acrylic on canvas
130 x 97 cm. (51 1/8 x 38 ¼ in.)
Executed in 1985
Provenance
Private collection, Asia

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Annie Lee
Annie Lee

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Lot Essay

Chung Sang-Hwa is one of leading figures from Dansaekhwa (literally translated from Korean as “monochrome painting”), which have been receiving increased attention in the global art world. Through multiple exhibitions at prominent institutions including two solo exhibitions in New York and London, respectively in 2016 and 2017, Chung’s profound depth of art and philosophy has been successfully introduced to the Western audience and highly regarded by the public and critics alike.

Chung has been developing his own method of ‘rip’ and ‘fill’ since the early 1970s, after his exploration of Western art in Paris at the end of 1960s. hung spreads zinc primer on the entire canvas and waits until it is completely dry up. Then he carefully folds it along his drawing lines on the reverse and rips off the paint from the chosen grids. The bare grids taken off the paint are then filled with multiple layers of acrylic paint. Chung repeats the actions of ‘rip’ and ‘fill’ until he finds a perfect harmony of reduction and addition. Through the process, Chung’s paintings are imbued with the artist’s body gestures and even with his breath. Discarding multi-colours, he is determined to focus on creating the unique texture of the canvas. In this way, his painting becomes a sculpture, maximizing the tactile sensibility. Chung’s work induces in the viewer a strong desire to examine and even to touch the surface on which the life that is formed by the effects of light that come into play.

Chung’s monochromatic planes successfully achieve infinite temporality and universality through the meditative repetition. The excellent mastery of dexterous technique unique to Chung and mind discipline during repetitive actions of the painstakingly time consuming process is one of the primary elements that make his canvas to be an infinite space beyond a mere formal geometric picture, encouraging the viewer to sink into deep meditation.

Featured here, Untitled 85-8-9 (Lot 43) displays mesmerizing gradation of colours, As Korean art critic Chae Ok-Yang stated, “Chung’s monochromatic painting offers a variety of impressions to the viewer. Some pieces demonstrate subtle gradations of a colour; others display the brightness range of a colour. Like Malevich, Chung employs a different brand of white to show nuance.” Although Chung’s magnificent oeuvre throughout six decades since the 1960s has always pleased art connoisseurs over the world, the works from the 1980s have been particularly popular in the market due to its limited numbers and the mastery of technique of subtle gradations as Untitled 85-8-9 displays.


As Untitled 85-8-9 explicitly shows, the restricted colour has allowed Chung to work with the texture of the canvas, treating it as a sculpture. Rather than simply drawing a picture, the paintings literally become subtle surfaces of nature. Lóránd Hegyi, one of the foremost European curators and art historians points out that Chung Sang- Hwa’s paintings appear as objects of a natural, neutral and material entity without deliberate, arbitrary or didactic narratives, commenting on Chung’s art, “The closer the viewer’s interest in the visual details of the painting’s sensual surface, in the painter’s subtle interventions, and in the pictorial and physical methods he uses to structure his work, the closer they come... Read More to another meditative and emotional domain of the artistic process, in other words, poetry, the genuinely poetic strategy of the artwork.”

Chung emphasizes the importance of revealing the process in his works, stating “The final result is not the target of my work but to present the process of how it is done.” In this way, the process itself becomes the meaning for the work and the tradition of Asian literati that emphasizes the spiritual cleansing and mind discipline is transmitted into Chung’s meditative painting. A review on Art Asia Pacific on Chung’s solo exhibition at a noted gallery in New York provides an insight to understand Chung’s work: When studied carefully and observed with the artist in mind, it becomes extremely baffling to think how he had created these works. The grids and scores on the canvases are not results of expressionist gestures, swift movements or dance; they are not labored, in the sense of a person becoming a controlled apparatus. Instead, what as happened is, the labor is married with the spirit of dance and expression, becoming a kind of silent humming. Within the grids and lines on the canvas are not small squares of flat, immobile colour, but drips and dimplesof very active paint—as if each square could also be a composition unto itself. As one critic notes, “Chung’s paintings demonstrate a rare balance between formal concerns, and his interest in the history of western painting, while simultaneously engaging a deep commitment to meditation.” To Chung who had lived and worked more than three decades in Japan and France until 1992 when he decided to permanently return to his motherland, his whole life was an artistic journey to find a new form of abstract art and meditative painting that can construct his own sense of identity. Selected exhibition venues include the Museum of Modern Art in Saint-Etienne, the Poznan Biennale in Poznan, the Metropolitan Museum of International Art in Osaka, the Fukuoka Museum of Art in Fukuoka, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Seoul City Museum of Art in Seoul. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Samsung Leeum Museum of Art, the Seoul Museum of Art in Seoul, the Busan City Museum of Art in Busan, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, among numerous others.

The final result is not the target of my work but to present the process of how it is done. - Chung Sang-Hwa
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