b. 1932, South Korea

Chung Sang-Hwa Biography

A key figure of Dansaekhwa, Korean artist Chung Sang-Hwa follows an intensely repetitive process to create his grid paintings.

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Early Work

Following his graduation from the Seoul National University in 1956, Chung Sang-Hwa produced abstract paintings that resonated with the Korean Informel movement of the time. This is evident in his use of dark, muted colours and surface protrusions made from kaolin on canvas in such works as Work 64-13 (1964). Chung received recognition early on, going on to represent South Korea at the Paris Biennale in 1965 and the São Paulo Biennial two years later.

Chung's works from the 1960s show a preoccupation with composition, focusing on the space and planes that emerge from his use of circular forms. The artist often worked with the colours red and orange, as in Work 65-2 (1965) and Work 69-A-6 (1969), though he also favoured white and browns.

Paris and Japan

In 1963, Chung Sang-Hwa participated in a group exhibition at Paris' Galerie Lambert that contributed to his decision to move to France in order to broaden his practice. After living in Paris for two years, the artist relocated in 1969 to Kobe, where he befriended Jiro Yoshihara, Kazuo Shiraga, and other artists associated with the Japanese avant-garde movement Gutai. Chung would return to Paris in 1977, living and working there until he finally settled in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, in 1992.

During his time abroad, Chung developed the systematic application of paint that came to characterise his later grid paintings. Adjacent circles, though seemingly random at first sight, establish a sense of pattern and stability in Work B-6 (1970) and in Untitled 72-5-23 (1972). By the mid-1970s, Chung had begun to create paintings in which dried paint is neatly sectioned off into small rectangles, as in such works as Untitled 74-6 (1974).

Grid Paintings

Chung Sang-Hwa's idiosyncratic approach to painting begins with a repetitive application of kaolin to the canvas, which he builds up to a layer of three to five millimetres. He then folds the canvas at regular intervals to create the grid, cleans the canvas of fragments of paint, and fills the cracks with acrylic paint. The resulting grid paintings retain the physicality and durational nature of Chung's process, which can take weeks to complete.

The grid paintings are often monochrome, ranging from the shades of cool blue in Untitled 86-1-7 (1986) to the white and cream that the artist employs in Untitled 91-12-7 (1991) or Untitled 017-11-3 (2017). While laden with fractures and interruptions on the surface, the equal distribution of colour and texture across the canvas evokes a tranquil, introspective quality.


Chung Sang-Hwa's typically monochromatic paintings draw parallels with the work of his contemporaries, including Park Seo-Bo, Lee Ufan, and Kwon Young-Woo, who also employ restricted colour palettes and inexpensive materials. This generation of Korean post-war artists are associated with Dansaekhwa or Korean Monochrome Painting, and share interests in their efforts to break with the restraints of academic Korean art to embrace an exploration of the self through repetitive gestures.

While Dansaekhwa has been compared to American Minimalism, Dansaekhwa artists differ from their American counterparts in their conceptual approach, which was specific to the climate of post-war Korea. Dansaekhwa was also never an official or conscious movement, having been coined by curator and scholar Yoon Jin Sup in 2000 to describe the practices of a group of loosely affiliated artists, which included Chung.


In the early decades of his career, Chung Sang-Hwa primarily showed his works in such cities as Seoul, Kobe, Tokyo, Osaka, and Paris. More recent solo exhibitions include Chung Sang Hwa, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Seoul (2021); Excavations, 1964–78, Lévy Gorvy, New York (2019); Chung Sanghwa, Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco (2018); Chung Sang-Hwa, Greene Naftali, New York (2016); Chung Sang-Hwa, Gallery Hyundai, Seoul (2014); and Painting Archaeology, Musée d'art Moderne de Saint-Étienne Métropole, France (2011).

Chung began to garner an even wider recognition with international group exhibitions focusing on Dansaekhwa, notably Dansaekhwa, Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, Venice Biennale (2015) and The Art of Dansaekhwa, Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2014); and From All Sides: Tansaekhwa on Abstraction, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2014).

Further selected group exhibitions include Resonance, Horim Museum, Seoul (2021); Homage to Korea, Wooson Gallery, Daegu (2019); Korean Abstract Art: Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai (2018); Rhythm in Monochrome: Korean Abstract Painting, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery (2017); Dansaekhwa: Korean Monochrome Painting, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon (2012); and A Brush Stroke, Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul (2011).

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021

Chung Sang-Hwa
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Untitled by Chung Sang-Hwa contemporary artwork painting
Chung Sang-Hwa Untitled, 1987 Acrylic on canvas
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Untitled by Chung Sang-Hwa contemporary artwork painting
Chung Sang-Hwa Untitled, 1982 Acrylic on canvas
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Untitled 87-9-23 by Chung Sang-Hwa contemporary artwork painting
Chung Sang-Hwa Untitled 87-9-23, 1987 Acrylic on canvas
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