In art, monochrome the new black

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In art, monochrome the new black


Artist Chung Sang-hwa Provided by Gallery Hyundai

Abstract paintings filled with minimal color and unusual textures dominated the Korean art scene in the 1970s. But these monochrome paintings, or dansaekhwa, began to lose popularity in the 1990s with the rise of postmodern artists.

Yet in recent years dansaekhwa is in the limelight again at local exhibitions and overseas art auctions. Following the trend, Gallery Hyundai, which is located in the art zone east of Gyeongbok Palace, launched a solo exhibition of one of the most important dansaekhwa painters - 82-year-old Chung Sang-hwa.

The show presents 45 single-color paintings by Chung, encompassing artworks since the 1970s to show his four-decade oeuvre. Chung paints kaolin on a canvas and waits until it dries completely. He then folds it up, which generates numerous cracks that make natural pattens, before embarking on a removal process. After a month of working on this, he paints each pattern and repeats the removal procedure. All in all, each work takes one year.

“So, Chung’s paintings carry time,” curator Kim Sung-eun said. “Time cannot exist, unless someone feels its flow. Viewers will come to feel the time accumulated in Chung’s paintings.”

“I repeatedly make works, because I am never satisfied,” the artist told reporters last week. “I don’t yet think my art is complete.”

In reference to Chung’s works, art critic Oh Kwang-su wrote, “The subtle edges of the squares or triangles are created in the process of taking off the surface rather than painting directly onto the surface. They are subtle traces randomly generated in a series of ‘repeated’ working processes as additional elements, and yet, at the same time, these vestiges are the clandestine essence of his oeuvre.”

By moon so-young[]

The free show runs through July 30. Opening hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Go to exit No. 1 of Anguk Station, line No. 3. For details, call (02) 2287-3500 or visit
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