Lot 615
  • 615

Chung Sanghwa

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 HKD
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  • Chung Sanghwa
  • Untitled 97-3-26
  • acrylic on canvas
signed in Hanja and English, titled in Hanja and dated 1997 on the reverse, framed


Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Korea, Seoul, Gallery Hyundai, Chung Sang Hwa, 2 - 20 May 2007, unpaginated, pl. 4
France, Saint-Etienne Métropole, Musée d'Art Moderne, Chung Sang-Hwa: Painting Archeology, 14 May -21 August 2011, pp. 174-175
Korea, Seoul, Gallery Hyundai, Chung Sang-Hwa, 1- 30 July 2014, unpaginated, pl. 10

Catalogue Note

The Silent Revolution

Untitled 97-3-26 (Lot 615) is hypnotically riveting with a mesmeric cosmic presence—one of the most monumental of Chung Sanghwa’s widely coveted white monochrome canvases ever to emerge on the international stage. Created in 1997, the superlative painting exhibits the full technical and spiritual sublimity of the Dansaekhwa master’s signature process of carving and filling after two decades of experimentation and refinement. The current lot’s horizontal composition is tremendously rare amongst Chung’s universally revered works, exuding a heightened sense of expansive infinity evocative of Eastern philosophies such as Taoism and Buddhism. Deeply meditative and rigorous in both methodology and thought, the consummate painting constitutes a divine space through which to contemplate on the ephemerality of time, gesture and existence.

Korean Dansaekhwa (“Monochrome”) emerged in the early 1970s when the Republic of Korea was still under a military dictatorship. Working independently at first, a group of young artists separately yet concurrently took to a revolutionary minimalist aesthetic that favored material tactility, a denial of colors and an emphasis on focused repetition. In painstaking search for identity and healing in face of an oppressive authoritarian regime, Dansaekhwa artists forged a uniquely silent resistance via introspective, labor-centered, performative abstraction. The emphasis on the tactile accentuates a return to nature contrasting with the logical, visual-oriented modernism of the Western monochrome: characterized by enthralling rugged textures and neutral hues, exemplified in particular by the sacred, cosmos-evoking colour of white, Dansaekhwa (also translated as “School of White”) put forth a singular aesthetics grounded in spiritual appreciation for the natural world.

Scholar Kang Taehi writes that Chung’s pieces are not representations of nature but echoes of it, with lines and grooves “reminiscent of a growing branch of a tree or veins of a leaf, and the vast surface with uneven curves suggest[ing] fluid, circulating motions of flowing water”.1 After priming his canvas with kaolin clay, the artist repeatedly scores and excavates paint from the canvas surface, employing a ritualistic, intuitive and meticulous method where acrylic is repeatedly coated on and ripped off. The resulting labyrinthine lattice tends exquisitely towards the sculptural: in equal parts calming, transfixing and electrifying, the current lot unfolds upon close viewing into intricate layers and surfaces that undulate with ethereal lyrical radiance. Through apparent non-intentionality and indifference, Chung simultaneously internalises, materialises and immortalises the profound transience of life and vitality.

[1] Kang Taehi, “From the Event Horizon: Light and Darkness in Chung Sang-Hwa’s Paintings”, Chung Sang Hwa, Gallery Hyundai, 2014, p. 9

Artist Biography

Chung Sanghwa (b. 1932, South Korea) received his BFA from the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University in 1956. First working in the then-prevalent style of Korean informel, Chung travelled briefly to Paris in 1967 before moving to Japan in 1969. Chung developed his signature style of repeated application and removal of paint whilst living in Kobe, Japan in the early 1970s. In 1977 Chung returned to Paris and finally settled in Seoul in 1992 where he continues to live and work today. The artist has exhibited extensively in Korea and internationally since the late 1960s in prestigious exhibition venues around the world, and his works can be found in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Musée d'art Moderne et Contemporain, Saint-Étienne; the Samsung Leeum Museum of Art, Seoul; the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul; the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, amongst others.