A Pioneer of Korean Art: Ha Chong Hyun

A

PIONEER

OF

KOREAN ART

photography by Jae Hyun Kim

HA CHONG HYUN’S

EXPERIMENTAL

APPROACH TO

PAINTING

Main Page_Ha Chong Hyun

단 

dan

색 

saek

화  

hwa

Ha Chong Hyun work
studio of Ha Chong Hyun
Ha Chong Hyun work
Conjunction 74-26

As an artist who undeniably paved the way for Korean art to flourish, Ha Chong Hyun consistently uses material experimentation and innovative processes to redefine the function of painting. He has played a vital part in connecting the avant-garde traditions between East and West. Ha is one of the leading members of Dansaekhwa, a movement that grew out of the turmoil after Korea’s independence from the Japanese (1945), and the end of the Korean War (1953). Dansaekhwa means ‘monochrome’ in Korean, however, it refers to a diverse set of artistic traditions that focus on process, tactility, and surface.

 

During this period of dramatic social change, Dansaekhwa artists were committed to redefining modern art and disregarded scholarly mainstream patterns. For Ha, this provided him with an opportunity to challenge his art practice, creating works that question spatiality and political culture. His choice of materials also reflected this time: in his paintings, Ha began experimenting with wire and burlap, a woven material used in deliveries of grains from the United States Army after the war. It was in this time when Ha intentionally isolated himself from Western influences as he was embarking on his style of Dansaekhwa, resulting in the ‘Conjunction’ series.

 

Decades later, Ha’s oeuvres are receiving the global attention they have always deserved. One of his revered works from the series, “Conjunction 74-26” (1974), is presently on show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In his mid-80s, he still paints to this day, finding an approach through which possibility seems unlimited. We chat with him in his studio in Ilsan about his exploration of materiality and how the artists and their artworks act as a cultural bridge creating a culture for one’s country.

Studio of Ha Chong Hyun
Korean Art: Dansaekwha

P:  How did you begin your art practice? And over time, how has the meaning of art evolved for you?

 

HCH: There was no specific occasion, but I grew up hearing from my peers that I had a talent in handcrafting. I was also in an environment where most of my colleagues were good at art. So, it was a natural phenomenon for me to delve into this route, and this led me to study at Hongik University. During this time, there was no proper system given nor a clear sense of direction in the art scene. This allowed the creative industry to have endless growth and it provided me with an opportunity to venture in various ways. I kept on learning, not to satisfy myself, but to mitigate the lack of information about Korean art.

I have to say, it was a time of confusion, but at the same time, it was a period when history could be reorganized to set a clear vision for the future. Since nothing was defined about the Korean art, it was, and still is, the responsibility of myself, my fellow Korean artists, authors, and scholars to recognize the need for establishing our aesthetics, culture, and theory.

 

P: Your work has gained a worldwide reputation because of its holistic and meditative process, rather than focusing solely on rationality and logic.

 

HCH: I personally believe that my originality is expressed through my own unique way of working. My processes and the materials that I use do not belong to a certain artistic movement but relate to my own ways of finding new methods and techniques. Through this process, I feel deep gratification to myself.

Exhibitions:

Ha Chong-hyun has had numerous solo exhibitions in South Korea, including a retrospective at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon (2012); and the Gyeongnam Art Museum, Changwon (2004). His first international exhibition dates to 1961, when he exhibited at the 2nd Paris Youth Biennale, Paris, France.

P: Unlike the other Dansaekhwa works, you have a signature style, where you create your own canvas with a loose weave of coarse burlap and push the paint from the back to the front; a unique technique. Also, you painted the canvas with smoke and tried to see the paint out between several wooden boards. Through these processes, you must have been inspired to learn about other elements that you haven’t even thought about.

 

HCH: When I set my mind on trying something new, I just start to experiment. This is similar to baking or pottery. The key is how to choose from what has already existed and to give myself the absolute freedom of choice as well.

The story behind working with the loose weave of coarse burlap was during the Korean War, this material was commonly found during that time and it struck to me as an exciting new material to work with, as well as a representation of the situation of the times. The wire that was used in my early works can be seen as a similar context.

When I first tried the smoke method, the paint actually dropped and fell on my hands, burning them. All of this trial and error is just a part of the process and I feel the greatest excitement about my experimental attitude; it reflects greatly through my works.

 

P: Can you talk about your ‘Conjunction’ and ‘Post Conjunction’ series?

 

HCH: The works of the ‘Conjunction’ series are the decisive moments that allowed me to belong to the Dansaekhwa movement. All of my adventurous and experimental attitudes are inherited in this series, and it also reflects my motivation towards the new challenges ahead of me.

The ‘Post Conjunction’ series also stands in the context of an endless challenge and motivating attitudes that are reflected through my works. It can be seen as the result of the inspirations of my dreams.

 

P: It seems that the way of working and the meaning of the work have changed throughout your career. How does the idea of change relate to your work?

 

HCH: Change is difficult but I have always stayed open minded with my art practice. Whether this exploration takes me into a new state or with unfinished work, it will always provide me with new lessons and ideas. Most importantly, to accept changes and challenges within them, you have to step back and take time to trust your instinct.

“I remind myself to dream about the future with ease and enjoy my time working towards my new pieces.”

Art as Creation: The Colorful World of Bernard Frize

Bernard Frize Portrait

BERNARD

Art as Creation: The Colorful World of Bernard Frize

FRIZE

“I think that art and painting are a way to explore the world and make experiments.”


photography by Roman März.

French painter Bernard Frize’s wildly explorative paintings have graced the walls of museums and galleries worldwide, including the Perrotin Gallery in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Yet four decades into his career, Bernard is still finding new ways to create. We talked to the well-traveled artist behind some of the world’s most prolific abstract paintings about what role the audience plays in art, and how time is visible in all of its extents.

 

 

P: What did art mean to you during the different phases of your life, and how would you define your paintings?

 

BF: For me, art is an activity. The product of this activity is the idea that one has about it. A result for attention. But this activity has no practical function. Second thing is art is an object recognized as such by a group. This is why this recognition by a group makes it political. This is the definition of what art could be. And now, for different phases in my art and what defines my painting, I am interested in what constitutes a painting and this interest has not changed from the beginning of my career. 

 

 

P: You said what is specific to your work are these two words, “generation and corruption”. Can you elaborate more on these two terms?

 

BF: I did not invent these two terms. The title by Aristotle, ‘Coming to be and passing away’ describes either the creation made through causes or iteration. I always considered “generation and corruption” as a little engine. One fed up and exhausted the other but the exhaustion of one is making the other turn around. 

Art as Creation, Bernard Frize portrait
French painter Bernard Frize portrait

For you, painting is a way of exploring ideas and embodying them, so that they can be seen and shared. Have you always thought this way or were there moments that changed your view point?

 

I have always been interested in art. I come from a generation where in Europe, ‘Fluxus’’ was very influential and Fluxus was a movement coming after other movements. All these movements are coming in away from Jackson Pollack. And from the misunderstanding of (painting by) Jackson Pollock. There was this article in life showing the photos of Pollock’s painting captured by Namuth and this life was very popular and it traveled to Japan. In Japan, the artist did not understand anything but they thought that painting was the result of an action, a happening. They started to do that as a form of art and this form of art came back to America and – at the end of Allan Kaparow, who started the ‘Happening’ movement. So, I think that all of this had its origins from Fluxus as well. Art is often a movement which comes and goes through countries, through people and there are misunderstandings. But this understanding has to create new things. For me painting was something I liked; I really enjoyed looking at a painting  but I thought painting should not be necessarily the depiction of an image, or a process as direct as Jackson Pollack would do. I was more influenced by French artists from the 19th century who were much more intellectual in a way. But always exploring ideas and embodying them was immortal for me.

Perma, 2006 Acrylic and resin on canvas
Suroî, 2015, Acrylic paint and resin on canvas
Haoh, 2018, Acrylic and resin on canvas

Reinventing Play: Cas Holman’s Possibilities of Design

C

H

Cas Holman

Reinventing Play: Cas Holman’ s Possibilities of Design

photography by Jae Hyun Kim

There may be no greater instance of living in the present moment than in childhood when we are free to create and imagine as we please. “We should support children in exploring who they might be, and how they will exist in the world,” explains revered designer Cas Holman. So, how can we go about achieving this? Much of the answer, according to Cas, lies in unstructured play.

 

On a rainy day, we traveled to Rhode Island to meet renowned toy designer and academic Cas Holman. Upon arrival at her studio, we were struck by her generosity, greeting us with a joyous and friendly spirit. Cas is the founder of the toy company Heroes Will Rise and a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. After discussing how the magazine came about, Cas was surprised that it was just the two of us present; without any bulky photography equipment nor a throng of videographers to assist us. We laughed a lot, sharing stories that instilled us with a sense of comfort—despite her achievements, Cas emitted warm energy where no boundaries sit between you.

 

Even more discernible than her generosity is her passion and dedication to her work. Just by talking to her, we could feel the love for what she does, which is to inspire children to be creative thinkers through play, experimentation, and cooperation. After a quick tour of her home, we went to her studio directly next door. The inventive atmosphere of the toy-filled environment made us nostalgic for our own childhoods: a time of fantasy and creativity. “Children are instinctive designers, I just give them the tools to design with,” she says with a smile. “It’s important to me that they understand they have agency and direct their own play and making.”

 

“Once we embrace that our perspectives are influenced by race, class, and upbringing, it’s easier to dismantle false binaries.”