“Paper has to be alive and choppy. Canvas work also refers to humidity. It is like a pulse and a breath. The picture thus moves choppily. The final result is not the target of my work but to present the process of how it is done.”
- Chung Sang-Hwa
Since the early 1970s when Chung Sang-Hwa settled in Kobe, Japan after his exploration of Western art in Paris in the end of 1960s, Chung has been developing his own method of “rip” and “fill”, creating numerous grids with horizontal, diagonal and vertical lines and adding depth on flat surface of the canvas. Chung first spreads the mixture of kaolin clay, water and glue on the entire canvas evenly and waits until the thick paint is completely dried up. He then removes the canvas from the wood stretcher and draws grids of horizontal and vertical lines on the reverse of the canvas. After the procedure, Chung carefully folds it along his drawing lines 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. The works induce a strong desire to touch the surface on which the life that is formed by the effects of light comes into play.
Chung’s monochromatic planes successfully achieve infinite temporality and universality through the meditative repetition. Philippe Piguet claims that Chung’s paintings have a profound gravitas created from an inner vision which is free and generous, opening onto a revealed space, stating that “the paintings of Chung Sang-Hwa are produced in such a way that they offer themselves to be seen like screens on which the painter attempts to reveal a double presence, that of the world at its most essential, and his own presence, in all its intensity. The mosaic principle that governs their structure refers both to the generic ideas of the lines of a life force and to the notion of the grid. As for their monochrome nature, this is what charges them with a higher tone, engraving the very body of the pictorial matter with an almost existential timbre, ensuring that each painting has the infinite quality of variation. Beyond the labourious aspect of their execution (and labourious should be understood in its most positive sense here), the works of Chung have the power of tension, of rhythm and of potential for visual inflection that saves them from monotony or uniformity.”
The excellent mastery of dexterous technique unique to Chung and the mind discipline during repetitive actions of the painstakingly time consuming process are one of the primary elements that make his canvas an infinite space beyond a mere formal geometric picture, encouraging the viewer to sink deep into meditation (Lot 4). In Chung’s mesmerising works, as Korean art critic Chae Ok-Yang stated, “A colour takes on different nuances according to how much it is used and the uneven quality of each surface. Chung displays a nuance of great diversity instead of pursuing simplicity through his monotone planes.” 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 (Fig.1 & 2), adding that “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 emphasises 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 emphasises the spiritual cleansing and mind discipline is transmitted into Chung’s meditative painting. 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 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.