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Ha Chong-Hyun's Conjunction, His Artistic Resources & Developmente:     2007/07/28
Ha Chong-Hyun's Conjunction, His Artistic Resources & Developmente:   A Retrospective Oeuvre at the Time of His Retirement
-Kim Bok-Yung-Art Critic & Professor of Hong-Ik University

This picture album of Ha Chong-Hyun's oeuvre,viewed in his retro exhibition, is published at the time of his retirement from Hong-Ik Univercity. He graduated from Hong-Ik in 1959 with major in painting and had a 40-year career there, going from teaching assistant to professor. This album shows a slice of his lifelong studies and teaching. Establishing an artistic world of his own, he left an incisive trace in the history of Korean contemporary art. At this juncture we briefly review where his world began to take shape, where ha has arrived today.

Ha's ideas about Conjunction bagan to brew 1972, when he started attaching wires to canvas. THe Informel, Geometrical and Optical Abstract Art, Minimalism, and Object Works that had haunted him in the 1960's were the inspirational sources of his new ideas. What we will pay attention to is how he culled his new ideas from such sources and manage to create a unique world of his own.

In a specific sense, his ideas about Conjunction came to the surface 1975, when he started pressing paints through hemp canvas from back to front in order to manifest the colors filtered through the warp and the weft of the loose hemp fabric. He prefers to express his innermost feelings that way rather than directly dabbing on the front of canvas the way most artists do. He feels that paints pressed through the hemp can best speak for him. He prefers not to explain directly. (Excerpt from an interview with the artist, 1984)

In a later interview Ha emphasized these two main concepts again. One is his awareness of the fact that he is always staying within his works. The other is that he lets his paintings speak for him as his faithful mouthpieces.

The above-mentioned two concepts can be summed up as a perfect union between the artist and his works. This perfect union allows him to enrich artistic resources for Conjunction. In general, all artists would feel that they are inseparable parts of their works. But how many feel they really exist inside their works? Well, Ha does. He believes he can only possibly exist within the works he creates and he describes this coexistence as in-the-work-existence.

From such viewpoints, Ha's works can be referred to as abode of his ego. Dwelling within his works Ha networks communication channels. His communication channel is pigments which deliver his inner voice to the outer world. Here we can clarify the two points where Ha's teo worlds start. One is the communication channel through pifments, the mouthpiece that delivers his voice. The other is the materialization. Admittedly it is hard to discriminate these two.

We can say the Conjunction is where Ha himself and his pigments and other materials meet. In other words, where he dissolves his personality. His works begin from the search for an abode for Conjunction. Here it is necessary to describe how the Conjunction can take place. One of the indispensable tools in the process is his body. The touches of his works determine the abode in which he may dwell. His body is a vehicle that carries his ideas to materialization. Therefore his Conjunction happens in the meld of his touches and materials. Materials transform into diverse forms as he touches them. And yet his body just obediently follow his order, "Let the materials speak for themselves."

We can understand the unique circumstances in which his body and material blend together in Conjunction, namely the process of in-the-work-existence and materialization. The main principles in the process of Conjunction is the pursuit of harmonious union rather than dissonant faction. The pursuit of harmonious  union is the prerequisite that binds his works, the artist himself, his body and mind all together. And his body plays a freat role in reconciling his materials and ideas and in guiding his ego into the world constructed within his works.

The ocher color on ocher-tinted hemp canvas, which is intermediated by his body, seems to assimilate with the background material. The hemp fabric naturally mixes with the pigment which has been filtered through the warp anf the weft of hemp as the artist pushes the pigment through the hemp canvas from behind. The naturalness created by the process is still somewhat different from natural things in the real world. His body gives regulated energy when he presses on pigments so that the facade of the hemp canvas represents his intentions are manifested in flat or voluminous abstract forms. The pigments often look like a part of the hemp fabric.

Sometimes images are determined in tune with improvisational body movements. There is no realistic features on his paintings but only flat and thick texture of pigments. Such features are the only impression and message we get. The message is inexpressible in words but somewhat deeply touches the strings of our hearts. The rough, heavy, and thick matiere and earthy smell represent the hearty personality of the artist himself. They expose, joys,desires, and dilemmas as he underwent swinging back and forth between the ideal and the real. In this context, his Conjunction may be looked up more closely as follows.

The title Conjunction could be suggesting the rough time his life that he was suffering through. His 1972 works with wires attached to canvas were a sort of embryonic phase of the Conjunction. His work exhibited at the Best Works of space Art Awards in 1975 was the prelude. There he pressed pigments from behind the loose hemp canvas. Passing through the experimental phase, his early period of Conjunction arrives its end in 1984 and 1985, when he held two invited exhibitions in Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, and one in Kamakura Gallery, Tokyo. His later period of Conjunction, which stays in full orbit for another 15 years, is seen in his exhibition in Kamakura Gallery(1990)and in Yokohama International Art Fair(1992), the invited exhibition in Concourse Gallery  at Barbican Center, London(1992), and many more exhibitions held in Basel, Cologne, and Paris from 1995 up to now. Then what makes his 30years of indulgence focused on Conjunction so distinctively divided into early and later periods?

The early period of Conjunction spans from 1972 to 1984. As a starter, he applies elasticity and tension by attaching wires on canvas in the first two years. The material for Conjunction shifts from wire and canvas to pigments and canvas. This continues for ten years. The Conjunction is expressed by white, ocher, and canvas. This continues for ten years. The Conjunction is eapressed by white, ocher, and amber pigments which are pressed with the artist's restrained energy from behind the hemp canvas. With this method, he lets liquid pigments run down. Thick pigments penetrate horizontally through wefts and warps. Or on the front side of a canvas the penetrated pigments are pressed, raked, scratched, or poliched. Gaining secondary effects created by the blend of hemp fabric and pigments plus the artist's intention, the property of the original material changes. It gives a fresh and dramatic visual effect that viewers have never seen elsewhere. The roars of undulating matiere get diminished from 1974 to 1979, showing a meditative mood. Viewers feel that they are gazing at a glassy sea or an old wall like a zen monk, as if trying to bring back the simplicity of ancient cultural remains. In Ha's early period, the pigments were not imposed on the material property of the hemp but obediently stayed in the places they were supposed to be.

However, the Conjunction is transformed conspicuously from 1985, which critics call the start of his later period. The series of works of Conjuction presented in the invited exhibition in Kamakura Gallery recurred to the undulating turmoil and billows of disturbance. Then he started using paint knives, sticks, or special brushes to make front pigments flat, scratched, or stirred. To his palette he added gratish amber, gray ocher, and ultra marine pigments. Sometimes, these pigments are assembed into a group of broken lines which govern the entire canvas. Or bright creamy amber appears to be free horizontal and vertical brush strokes like those of calligraphy. The calm harmony between hemp fabric and pigments collide against each other triggered by the stormy and furious movements. As he enters the 1990's, the feverish Conjunction seem to reach its climax. Yet Conjuction 90, Conjunction 99, and some series of works made in 2000 shows different traits. The running light gray, violet, ultramarine. And gray ocher painted with thin brush like an assembly of broken lines. A burnt cinnabar racked over canvas by a wire brush. Free strokes of pale purple and amber with a thick brush. A mashed lilac and ultramarine mashed forcibly and pressed horizontal and vertical ways by wooden spader and so on. It is clear that the artist's meditative inclnation in his movement in the early period changes to feverish one which governs the pigments and hemp material in the later period.

As we saw above, 1985 demarcates the artist's early and later periods of conjuction. Here a question arises. Why did he change his style then? The artist's changed ideas can not be the answer. I think the answer is that the improvisational and furious body movements which had built up inside him in the early period burst out in the period. It is his body. His body changed the property of the material. His body intervened in the formula of the early period, hemp + pigments, and in the later period transformed the product. In accordance with his preference for as little talking as possible, in the early period his body took on the role of a director watching quietly the stage performance of hemp anf pigments. But in the later period, the importance is given place to his body first and then to pigments and hemp. These structural changes mean that his body plays a starring role on a stage and he directs pigments and material in Conjuction, so that his paintings leave the meditative world and arrives at a non-meditative sphere. Overcoming the anonymity and silence, every movement he makes is the outcome of divorcing from his early style. His body weight measures the works of the later period. (Feb.2001)

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