Lot 612
  • 612

Chung Sanghwa

150,000 - 250,000 HKD
162,500 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Chung Sanghwa
  • Untitled
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 65.1 by 53 cm; 25⅝ by 20⅞ in.
signed in Hanja and dated 1976 on the reverse, framed

Catalogue Note

The Action of Thought
Chung Sanghwa

Amongst some Korean contemporary artists, the “action of thought”, rather than the representation of something figurative, is the desired result, and the canvas is accordingly transformed as a space for thought itself.
– Oh Kwang-Su

Hailing from the 1970s, Untitled (Lot 612) is a rare early work by Chung Sanghwa that represents the first stage of the development of the celebrated Dansaekhwa artist’s idiosyncratic and pivotal process-based oeuvre. Beginning in the late 1960s, the period when Chung Sanghwa left Korea and travelled back and forth between Japan and France in an attempt to search for his own independent methodology, the artist began to tear segments of paint from its substructure in various freeform patterns. The resultant surfaces appear ancient, fragile, eroded by time, with each excavated surface detail presenting small intimate histories that invite meditative contemplation. In his early pre-monochrome period Chung Sanghwa often constructed the scalloped circle as in the present lot, a motif that combines visual and spiritual references to Zen and the void. As Oh Kwang-Su writes, in the 1970s Chung Sangwa lived mostly “in seclusion as if he were a priest cultivating the concentration of his mind for a long time in a remote mountain far from home”.1

The early works of iconic artists often directly reveals the origins of their most significant contributions to the global art world. The present lot is no exception, as the simple yet decisive act of ripping or tearing off of paint heralds Chung Sanghwa’s later signature method of repeated application and excavation of paint. Defined by a patient, conscious interaction with and awakening of surface, his work is a long, laborious process in which creation is inextricably identified with recreation and reconstruction—a method that implies a willed determination and conscious construction of the self. Embodying such a meditative self-realization that unfolds dynamically within a seemingly neutral work, Chung Sanghwa’s art eschews all mimetic or narrative elements, leaving behind all dramatic gestures and emotional desires to foreground the modest, unembellished act of creation itself.

Deliberately impersonal, objective, neutral and material, Chung Sanghwa’s works evoke the modest ethical stance of the artist, the silent solemnity of nature, and the corresponding silent introspection of the viewer. In his early works as in his later mesmeric monochrome canvases, the surface fragility of Chung Sanghwa’s paintings emanates a hypnotic impression of delicate impermanence, thereby invoking our own mortality and the transience of all things in the universe. As Lorand Hegyi writes, “the process of creating a seemingly neutral work of art is continued in the beholder’s process of self-realization [...] while the artist-as-creator remains entirely in the background, his spiritual, intelligible presence is manifested [...] [Chung Sanghwa] is there to lead the beholders to themselves”.2

Chung Sang-hwa: Painting Archaeology, YON ART Printing, 2009, p. 14
2 Ibid, p. 9