Chung Sang-Hwa's Work O-A (1971)

Detail of Chung Sang-Hwa's Work O-A (1971)

Work O-A




Acrylic and oil on jute
63 7/8 x 51 5/16 inches (162.2 x 130.3 cm)
© Chung Sang-Hwa

The process is about the absolute elements which construct the flat surface. It is simply the instinct of the artist to carry this out. You are completely immersed in the process and you just let it happen. There is no need to overthink, but at the same time, each and every step is thoughtfully executed.
—Chung Sang-Hwa

Chung Sang-Hwa moved to Paris in 1967 to observe the works of art he had only been able to see as reproductions in books and periodicals. Learning French and visiting galleries and museums, he immersed himself deeply in the study of contemporary art and art history. In 1969, Chung moved to Kobe, Japan, and furthered his exploration of materiality and process, as well as his engagement with the international avant-garde. There, he befriended Jiro Yoshitaro, one of the founders of the radical Gutai group. Chung has cited the influence of the works by others in their milieu as helping determine the rhythms of his ritualistic painting methodology. These encounters would eventually lead to his groundbreaking canvases that integrate his innovative process with the systematic order of the grid.

Following his early exploration of color and gestural mark-making in his initial pursuit of the Korean informel style in the 1960s, Chung focused his approach on materiality. Work O-A (1971) was created soon after he relocated to Kobe and spent time traveling between Japan, France, and Korea. Since the beginning of his career, Chung has chosen a rough, heavy canvas, which he then stretches himself. The loose grouping of abstract shapes in yellow, brown, white, and red conceals a grid of circular forms that guide the composition of the painting. Through layers of considered application and removal of his materials, which has become the core of his signature process, Chung arrives at complex configurations informed by an underlying organizational principle. He insists on maintaining control of every component, calculating ahead of time the resulting tonal qualities of his palette. Through the numerous phases of painting, he intuitively removes what he deems unnecessary and leaves what is integral to create a “sense of distance” as well as subtle depth and variation. Chung’s dedicated inquiry of materiality, dimensionality, and color would lead to his important contributions to Dansaekhwa and postwar modernist painting.

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