Ha Chong-Hyun (b. 1935) works with plain, woven hemp into which he pushes thick paint from the obverse side of the canvas. Similar in spirit to Lucio Fontana’s precise cuts made into canvas cloth or Frank Stella’s early experiments that emphasized the exterior corners of the paintings, Ha’s technique skillfully synthesized powerful themes from art history and traditional culture. Ha’s interest in the simple muted tones of hemp stem from his work in the 1970s when he bravely explored non-traditional materials including plaster, newspaper, barbed wire, and the burlap that was used to transport food aid from the U.S. following the Korean War. Found throughout Korea and immediately recognizable, Ha’s choice of this ordinary but politically charged material as well as other cast-off items from the war set the stage for a radical confrontation between traditional painting and his politicized milieu. Coupled with this, Ha used oil paint thereby synthesizing the traditions from both the East and the West. His technique of pushing paint through the canvas from behind remains a powerful gesture, all the more because of the formal beauty and subtle gesture captured using this approach.


Using this process the artist’s exertion of forcing the paint through the burlap became a kind of mirror, reflecting hidden and sublimated feelings about the government’s military rule and rapid modernization. By breaking with tradition and charting a new path, his Dansaekwha engaged themes of the monochrome while incorporating more traditional elements and aesthetic traditions of Korea such as the importance of muted earth tones.


Ha Chong-Hyun has lived and worked in Seoul since graduating from Hongik University, in 1959. Awarded an honorary doctorate degree, he served as the Dean of the Fine Arts College from 1990 to 1994. From 2001 to 2006, Ha was the Director of the Seoul Museum of Art. The works of Ha Chong-Hyun are included as permanent collections of various renowned institutions, such as Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, M+ in Hong Kong, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art in Hiroshima, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea.

  • Ha Chong-Hyun , Conjunction 23-33, 2023
    Ha Chong-Hyun
    Conjunction 23-33, 2023
    Oil on hemp cloth
    51 1/8 x 38 1/8 inches
    130 x 97 cm
  • Ha Chong-Hyun , Conjunction 14-694, 2014
    Ha Chong-Hyun
    Conjunction 14-694, 2014
    Oil on hemp cloth
    89 3/8 x 71 3/4 inches
    227 x 182 cm
  • Ha Chong-Hyun , Conjunction 85-31, 1985
    Ha Chong-Hyun
    Conjunction 85-31, 1985
    Oil on hemp canvas
    63 x 47 3/8 inches
    160 x 120.3 cm