Chung Chang-Sup – Honoring Nature Through Monochrome Paintings

Known for his pioneering contribution to the Dansaekhwa movement, Chung Chang-Sup (1927 – 2011) left a lasting mark on the international art scene with his beautiful monochrome paintings. Together with his contemporaries Lee Ufan, Chung Sang-Hwa, Yun Hyong-Keun and Park Seo-Bo, Chung Chang-Sup founded the Dansaekhwa art group in the early 1970s, influencing an entire generation of modern and contemporary Korean art. Combining abstract minimalism with traditional Asian aesthetic elements, Chung Chang-Sup became a leading figure in this important global art movement.

His work is based on his Taoist belief that balance must be achieved between material and nature. His paintings mainly use a restricted palette of neutral hues, primarily beige, white and black. His work is attributed to the aesthetics of Western minimalism, as they feature a relentless repetition of geometric or graphic patterns.

Chung infused his work with traditional mediums and techniques, such as the use of tak, a paper made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree which is native to Korea. Chung’s forty-year artistic technique reached its pinnacle with his last series, “Meditation”, from which I will show most of the works in this article.

Meditation 94704, 1994, Tak fiber on canvas, 244 x 122 cm
Meditation 94704, 1994, Tak fiber on canvas, 244 x 122 cm © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use
Chung Chang-Sup, Meditation 94801, 1994, Tak fiber on canvas, 244 x 122 cm
Meditation 94801, 1994, Tak fiber on canvas, 244 x 122 cm © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use
Meditation 91010, 1991, Tak fiber on canvas, 
130 x 162 cm © Photography by Perrotin
Meditation 91010, 1991, Tak fiber on canvas,
130 x 162 cm © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use

To create this series, Chang-Sup cleverly combined several natural pigments like tobacco leaves, charcoal, and paper mulberry sap, which collectively created a mellow yellowish hue. Additionally, Chang-Sup utilized the geometry of form and employed a wooden stick to shape a large square, thus creating a window-like effect. This brought him back to a defining childhood memory of observing sunlight filtering through a Korean tak paper window screen.1

Chung Chang-Sup’s monochrome paintings represent tranquility and balance. His intricate works reveal a wealth of fine details that become more apparent upon closer inspection, deepening the viewer’s understanding of the work. His art exude an aura of peace, something Chang-Sup himself sought to achieve.

His works have been featured in various international exhibitions, including the 2015 Venice Biennale and a 2010 retrospective at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon.

I scoop up the pulp, spread it on a canvas, tap and knead it, and my conversation with the paper mulberry begins. Abandoning my own will, instead I await its spontaneous response.

Chung Chang-Sup1
Chung Chang-Sup, Detailshot Tak 85012, 1985, Tak fiber on canvas, 240 x 140 cm  © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use
Detailshot Tak 85012, 1985, Tak fiber on canvas, 240 x 140 cm © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use
Detailshot, Tak 85012, 1985, Tak fiber on canvas, 240 x 140 cm  © Photography by Perrotin
Tak 85012, 1985, Tak fiber on canvas, 240 x 140 cm © Photography by Perrotin © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use
Meditation 22704, 2002, Tak fiber on canvas, 182 x 217.3 cm
Meditation 22704, 2002, Tak fiber on canvas, 182 x 217.3 cm, © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use
Meditation 981007, 1998, Tak fiber on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Meditation 981007, 1998, Tak fiber on canvas, 130 x 162 cm © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use
Chung Chang-Sup, Detailshot of Meditation 981007, 1998, Tak fiber on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Detailshot of Meditation 981007, 1998, Tak fiber on canvas, 130 x 162 cm © Photography by Perrotin under Fair Use

Further Reading

1 https://www.axel-vervoordt.com/gallery/artists/chang-sup-chung

https://www.artsy.net/artist/chung-chang-sup

https://whitewall.art/whitewaller/seoul/chung-chang-sup-mind-in-matter

https://www.perrotin.com/artists/Chang-Sup_Chung/232

Aesence is a creative studio and digital design magazine with a high curatorial approach. Founded by Sarah Dorweiler, a creative mind and entrepreneur from Berlin, her goal is to capture the feeling of harmony, balance and inner peace in her curatorial work and photography.