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Almine Rech

Ha Chong-Hyun

Jun 1 — Sep 23, 2017 | London, Grosvenor Hill

The serenity of Ha Chong-Hyun’s gestural abstraction
by Alfred Pacquement (translated from French by Violaine Boutet de Monvel)

In 1972, Ha Chong-Hyun made a small sculpture, which appears on its own as if anticipating his subsequent work as a painter. It consists of a hemp rope stretched across a wooden box so tightly that a few unraveling strands threaten to break the entire cordage. Extremely effective, the composition is as simple as its material is banal. An image of great tension and resistance, it epitomizes the artist’s practice and further announces his Conjunctions, a lifelong series of paintings, which was initiated in 1974 and is still ongoing to this day.

Ha Chong-Hyun turned to abstraction in the early 1960s, belonging to the first generation of Korean artists who embraced this aesthetical direction. While he first approached it by applying heavy materials onto canvases, his way of structuring the pictorial space was also close to that of European Informel[1]. He then continued his investigation by painting geometrical and polychromatic forms, which completely differed from the works he made initially. His nation’s traditional colors dominated in these new abstractions.

In the early 1970s, the artist made sculptures for a brief period, using “poor” materials in the spirit of the time: for example, he installed a pile of newspapers next to a pile of blank sheets of paper, or he set a wooden beam upright on a rope, which he then strained between two walls. The 1972 sculpture we mentioned earlier takes us back to A.G. (Avant Garde), a group cofounded by Ha Chong-Hyun, within which he played a prominent role. All these works inevitably bring to mind Western artists of the same generation or active during the same years: to mention just a few, those gathered around Arte Povera, Post-minimalism, Supports/Surfaces, who used similar processes. A.G. also coincides with Japanese Mono-ha, which emerged around the same time and shared many striking similarities[2]. All these movements coexisted, more or less related to one another, or completely independent from one another, if not ignorant of the others’ existence. In Korea like anywhere else, the Zeitgeist alone may as well explain these similar tendencies (to some extent at least).

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Selected artworks

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Work 72-007, 1972

    Ha Chong-Hyun Work 72-007, 1972

    Barbed wire shadow and cloth on panel
    122 x 244 cm
    48 x 96 1/8 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 85-002, 1985

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 85-002, 1985

    Oil on hemp cloth
    194 x 260 cm
    76 3/8 x 102 3/8 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 91-110, 1991

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 91-110, 1991

    Oil on hemp cloth
    180 x 120 x 6 cm
    70 7/8 x 47 1/4 x 2 3/8 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 00-1-5 (A), 2000

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 00-1-5 (A), 2000

    Oil on hemp cloth
    180 x 120 cm
    70 7/8 x 47 1/4 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 14-138, 2014

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 14-138, 2014

    Oil on hemp cloth
    120 x 180 cm
    47 1/4 x 70 7/8 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 14-143, 2014

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 14-143, 2014

    Oil on hemp cloth
    162 x 130 cm
    63 3/4 x 51 1/8 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 14-153, 2014

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 14-153, 2014

    Oil on hemp cloth
    227 x 182 cm
    89 3/8 x 71 5/8 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 14-154, 2014

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 14-154, 2014

    Oil on hemp cloth
    227 x 182 cm
    89 3/8 x 71 5/8 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 15-156, 2015

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 15-156, 2015

    Oil on hemp cloth
    180 x 120 cm
    70 7/8 x 47 1/4 inches

  • Ha Chong-Hyun,                                      Conjunction 16-42 (A+B+C), 2016

    Ha Chong-Hyun Conjunction 16-42 (A+B+C), 2016

    Oil on hemp cloth
    220 x 300 cm
    86 5/8 x 118 1/8 inches