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Prairie and Storm-Toshiaki Minemura l Art Critic     2007/08/03
Prairie and Storm-Toshiaki Minemura l Art Critic

As a sample of the exhibition, I have received color prints of four tableaus by Ha Chong-Hyun. Two of them are in his past style, while the ather two are new works. To be frank, when I saw the reproduction of these new works, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief, as if I had been freed of some burden.

As it is well known also in Japan, Ha's works in the last decade have been filled by a suffocating tension, expressed by a technique that has hardly changed. This technique consists in pressing strongly the paint against the back of the canvas and then patting slightly or heavily the frosted ground of plain monochrome paint, of a color similar to stucco, that have come out on the surface. In this way, he presents a third surface, which is neither the back nor the front of a conventional picture, in the equilibrium level between canvas texture and paint pressure. This third surface without brilliance, does not, unlike the surface of western paintings, come out incessantly towards the top of the eyes, not does it turn inside out like the surface we Japanse are used to, and nailed our sight at a 90 degree angel as an inescapable object.

It was a truth to make you hold your breath.
Even if there is paint, these tableaus are not painted.

The scene of experiment, of painting criticism which uses pictorial tools, of physically questioning painting, of dehumanization and objectification of painting, could have been felt in the thought of the French Support-Surface group and the Monmha school of Japan around the 1970's, but more than anything else maybe it should be considered a particular fruit of the wish of Minimalism for an objectification of expression, that has fascinated the major artists of the world since the latter half of the 1960's. The very act of having the paint come out of the opposite side of the canvas is a straight expression of the desire to have before one's eyes as a pure object what is expressed.

This technique of straining the paint from the back of the canvas has been preserved exactly in the new works, too. But these are not limited to the shape of silent composure resulting from just patting the frosted ground of strained paint. Looking at the photos, I cannot tell if Ha used a brush or a knife, but through the careful intersection of thick and brisk strokes the frost-like fields paint are pressed with a good feeling, and it has started to introduce a completely new breath in the midst of carefully measured confusion.

I have often seen works by Ha and in my opinion, this change, of rather this progress, is really something pleasing and refreshing. As to if the quality of the works has been preserved by this change, that can be judged only by seeing the actual works, but, putting this aside, this change has made possible a necessary development in the painting of Ha Chong-Hyun, and this could be already a sufficient answer. When I mentioned that I breathed a sigh of relief, I was not exaggerating.

The interesting point in the breakthrough made by Ha is, in my opinion, the ingenuous self- manifestation of the painting present in recovering the fact that paint and realizing that painting action is painting action. In other words, the interesting point is that each structural element of the picture has broken loose from the hardness of concepts and the asceticism of actions and is freely trying to open a different aspects in the middle of sameness, that is the pocture has begun to take the opportunity of perfect self-expression.

This self-expression of the painting, that is this gaining the structure that opens different aspects in the midst of sameness, is what I want to point out as the big outcome of the new works by Ha. In these works, their strokes neither add color nor achieve a composition. The strokes draw out the latent words from a filed of color tone that, having already been prepared, has reached a level of maturity, and are driven in to hold a conversation with the self. It is just like when a storm blows in a field shockingly full of summer grasses, stirring up a commotion. Then the strokes themselves are rewarded by the sameness it self  of the underfeatable color tone and thickness of a painter.

Independence, that is a fresh self-expression like that of the wind that cannot be buried by anything else.

I warn strongly against thinking of these strokes as those of a bad expressionist, tools for the passions and the speclative spirit of the person drawing the painting.

The hand of our painter are very humble in the face of the field of cooperating paint and canvas, cultivated up to the point of reaching a life of its own. The frosts must not be erased. The summer grasses must not be dried up. If this were done, the world of sameness to the children who play over them would be lost. Even the footprints of the child would be lost. Ha keeps this well in mind.

I can see in the new works by Ha the tenderness and prudence of a child who press frosts to make them shine, not harming them. This helps to maintain the unity of picture that achieves the quality of the painting. (1985)
 하종현의 '비회화적(非繪畵的)' 회화에 대하여-이일ㅣ미술평론가
 초원과 폭풍우-토시아키 미네무라 ㅣ 미술평론가
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