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Korean Monochrome Painting

Korean Monochrome Painting – Dansaekhwa in Korean- refers to contemporary  monochrome painting from South Korea. Korean Monochrome Painting is an entirely mono-color abstract artform, and it seeks a nonobjective, nonrepresentational, and nonfigurative form. It was first used to describe a group of Korean abstract paintings distinguished by neutral hues.

Emerging in Korea in the mid-1970s, this painting has become the most dominant and popular kind of painting in South Korea, and it is recognized as the international face of contemporary Korean painting. Artists within the Korean monochrome painting movement create their artistic works to push paint, soak canvas, drag pencils, and rip paper. Often they like to use very unique materials such as Korean traditional mulberry paper, Korean traditional ink, and hemp cloth; blending traditional and innovative objects to create their work. 

Korean Monochrome Painting puts the spirituality rooted in Korean history and Korea’s tradition on the flatsurface – the canvas. Repetition is a common characteristic in Dansaekhwa, and this repetitive action is movement’s mental and spiritual asceticism. They do not rush to extremes, but instead try to attain some form of unanimity or middle path through their work. Dansaekhwa juxtaposes a calmness infused with energy, and each piece utilizes naturalistic materials throughout its inception. While minimalism and monochrome art of the West are logical, based on principles of mathematics and scientific logic, Korean Dansaekhwa is meditative and traditional, and it always seeks to return to nature. Dansaekhwa does not want to oppose nature, rather it aspires to be one with nature and assimilate itself with the natural world. Korean Monochrome painting pays attention to the property of objects and particularly colors and paper.

Audiences need to see the tactile nature of Dansaekhwa in person and up close in order to know its true depth, if only seen impersonally, the true aesthetic of the art cannot be understood. Dansaekhwa places emphasis on tactile sense rather than vision. By touching the flatsurface of Dansaekhwa, audiences can feel and understand the uniqueness of it. Each painting has its unique surface and texture. For example, Hanji – a Korean traditional mulberry paper - has a uniqueness of surface, and it is not soft, not hard, but strong. When we touch the surface of Hanji, it is totally different from the Western papers and canvas.

Seo-Bo Park believes Korean traditional mulberry paper is his playground, and he has created his unique Ecriture painting technic by using the water property of Hanji. Chong-Hyun Ha has used hemp cloth for the flatsurface of his Dansaekhwa. First, he paints the backside of each hemp cloth, and the water property of paint infiltrates into the hemp cloth, and finally by using brush and rice paddle he spreads the paint on the front surface to make his own hemp cloth canvas. The artists of Korean monochrome painting regard their paintings as part of the asceticism, they embrace the self endeavors of their art, and fight within themselves always to produce the work. To neglect their duty to their art is considered as a mental and spiritual corruption and degradation.

Dansaekhwa is deeply based on Korean history and tradition. Mentally and historically, Dansaekhwa is a descendant of white caledon of the Chosun dynasty - simple, monochrome, and not decorative. For example, the Moon Jar of Chosun dynasty and Dansaekhwa do not seek colorful elements and decoration, instead they embrace a natural simplicity. Hanji and Korean pottery make up a great part of the Korean heritage. Dansaekhwa is from these two great heritages, and it is a precious artform for many people.


These are the leading painting artists of Dansaekhwa:

Hyong-Keun Yun, Chang-Sup Chung, Tschang-Yeul Kim, Seo-Bo Park, Sang-Hwa Chung, Chong-Hyun Ha, Ufan Lee, Seung-Wong Suh, and Tae-Ho Kim.

Korean Monochrome Painting Artist

Chong-Hyun Ha

Chong-Hyun Ha

Korean Monochrome Painting Artist

Tae-Ho Kim

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