“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 (B. 1932) 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 girds. 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 “The paintings of Chung Sang-Hwa are produced in such a way that they offer themselves to sight 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 a variation. Beyond the laborious aspect of their execution (and laborious should be understood in its most positive sense here), the works of Chung have the power of a tension, of a rhythm and of a potential for visual inflection that saves them from monotony or uniformity.”