Born in 1932, Chung Sang-Hwa is one of the most important artists for Tansaekhwa, the Korean monochrome painting movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Since the early 1970s when Chung settled in Kobe, Japan after his exploration of Western art in Paris in the end of 1960s, he had been developing his own method of ‘rip’ and ‘fill,’ creating numerous grids with horizontal, diagonal and vertical lines, adding depth on the 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. Then he removes the canvas from the wooden 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.
Chung’s monochromatic planes successfully achieve infinite temporality and universality through this meditative repetition. The mastery of his sophisticated technique unique to Chung embodies a mind discipline required in the repetitive actions of the painstakingly time consuming process. The repetition itself 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. Lóránd Hegyi, one of the foremost European curators and art historians once commented 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 to another meditative and emotional domain of the artistic process, in other words, poetry, the genuinely poetic strategy of the artwork.” Chung states “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 of the work echoing the tradition of the Asian literati, who emphasized spiritual cleansing and mind discipline in the process of their work. Chung's meditative paintings transmit all of these traditions into his own work as well. His whole life was an artistic journey to find a new form of abstract art that could construct his own sense of identity.
Chung’s works have been extensively exhibited in Korea and abroad since the end of 1960s. 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, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary 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 National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, among numerous others.