Rhythm in Monochrome | Korean Abstract Painting


This exhibition presents the development of Korean abstract painting through the works of 19 artists. In South Korea, during the period of Japanese occupation and during the chaos of conflict between ideologies in the post-World War II era, artists had difficulties in accomplishing even the basic art process of creating and displaying their works. We can imagine how there was firm resolve amongst these artists to develop Korean art as a form of national identity in the face of influence from Japan and other countries.

The paths of Korean abstract painting were carved out independently by individual artists working in such situations, and thus it is hard to define them as a coherent flow. However, if we were to group the artists displayed here by their characteristics, then Kim Whanki, Quac In-Sik, and Lee Se-Duk were artists educated in the pre-war era, when Korea was under Japanese rule. They then traveled to Japan and the West where they positioned themselves within the abstract art movements of the period. Then there were those who trained as artists under the new post-war system, and were influenced by Western art of the period, such as Informel, and later created the monochrome paintings that can be considered distinctively Korean abstract art. These artists include Kwon Young-Woo, Chung Chang-Sup, Yun Hyong-Keun, Park Seo-Bo, Chung Sang-Hwa, Ha Chong-Hyun and Lee U-Fan. These second generation artists are now joined by artists have taken up the spirit of their predecessors to become the third generation of this progression, leading the Korean art world today.

While this exhibition cannot display the totality of Korea’s rich abstract expression, we hope that visitors to the exhibition will enjoy this opportunity to see one part of Korea’s unique abstract painting, artwork that is characterised by the serene, refined air acquired by these artists as they overcame difficulties and struggles.