SKIN DEEP_From the city Forest

As a printmaker and classically trained painter, Korean artist Sanggon Chung creates dramatic, organic landscapes that exist at the border of the fictional and the real. The specific landscape he paints is less relevant; rather his intention is to portray an experiential, humanistic and historical perspective. This gives each viewer a unique and subjective experience.

The creative process for Chung is an extremely sensory one, with the brush acting as an extension of his body and his emotions. Masterly brush strokes flesh out thick, textural swathes of paint. The vitality and energy of these strokes echoes that found in nature, from the smallest blades of grass through to more grandiose thick fleshy leaves and tumbling water falls. His paintings reflect Chung’s experiential way of life and become a materialisation of his senses. His atelier itself is surrounded by nature, and he draws inspiration from his time within it. Forms flow organically from him, working on a table instead of at an easel, sketching out lines first with a pencil and moving physically over the canvas and around the table. This allows for him to work close to the surface in a way not possible if the work were vertical, providing him with different perspectives.

This creates a work that is both accidental and intentional – various ratios of paint and solvents create myriad shiny surfaces, making parts of the canvas appear wet. Strong, fast brushstrokes create colours that are swirled and split, an organic surface that reminds us of mountains, rocks, waterfalls, trees and grass, a psychedelic scene that conveys humidity, wind and the scent of the woods. Chung gathers the emotions that nature elicits in him and flings them onto the canvas. He finds a way in which to excavate the two-dimensionality of the canvas and probe the great depths of profound emotion that can be found in the aw-inspiring power of nature. (2015.02 KASHYA HILDEBRAND / Gallerist)


화가이자 판화가인 정상곤은 실재와 허구의 경계에 존재하는 극적이고 유기적인 풍경을 창조해낸다. 그가 그려내는 특정한 풍경은 의미를 내포하고 있다기보다, 오히려 경험적이며 인본주의적이고 역사적인 관점을 묘사하는 것에 가깝다. 이는 관람객들에게 독자적인 개인적 경험을 안겨준다.

  정상곤의 작업 과정은 신체와 감정의 연장으로서의 붓과 함께 이루어지는, 극단적으로 감각적인 것이다. 능수능란한 붓의 획은 물감의 두꺼운 질감에 살을 붙인다. 이러한 선들의 생동감과 에너지는, 조그마한 풀잎 한 가닥부터 더 장대하게는 두꺼운 잎사귀와 폭포수로 이어지는 자연과 공명한다. 정상곤의 그림은 그의 경험적인 삶의 방식을 반영하고 그의 감각을 물질화한다. 그의 작업실 자체가 자연에 둘러싸여 있는데, 정상곤은 작업실에서 시간을 보내면서 받은 영감을 그려낸다. 그의 작업은 우선 연필로 선을 스케치한 뒤 캔버스를 옮겨서 테이블 위에서 이루어지는데, 이러한 작업 안에서 형태는 유기적으로 흘러간다. 이는 다양한 관점을 가능하게 하여, 수직적인 이젤 작업에서는 불가능한 방식으로 표면에 더 가까이 다가갈 수 있게 해준다.

  이는 우연적인 동시에 의도적인 작업을 가능하게 한다. 그는 물감과 용액의 비율을 바꾸어 가며, 캔버스의 일부를 갓 칠한 것처럼 보이게 하면서 다양한 광택의 표면을 창조해낸다. 강하고 빠른 붓 터치는 소용돌이치며 분열되는 색깔들과, 산, 돌, 폭포, 나무와 풀을 상기시키는 유기적인 표면과, 습기와 바람, 나무의 향기를 전하는 환각적인 장면을 만들어낸다. 정상곤은 자연이 이끌어낸 감정들을 모아서 캔버스 위에 쏟아 붓는다. 그는 캔버스의 이차원성을 발굴하고, 장엄한 자연의 힘으로부터 발견할 수 있는 감정의 심오함을 탐색한다.

  2015.02 KASHYA HILDEBRAND / 갤러리스트

Sanggon Chung - Skin/Deep

Park young taik (Prof, of Kyonggi University Korea, Art critic) 

Scenery is newly interpreted and revived by the viewers' viewpoints and minds. Actually, an object's nature never changes. Only its appearance changes according to a viewer's perspective. Technically, the artist, his or her own disposition is the thing that gives meaning to the world/scenery. For that reason, sceneries are historical, experiential, and humanistic. Since a perspective or value toward the scenery already exists, ’true scenery' does not exist. Western and Eastern landscape paintings are only available with the difference of point of view and deviation in a view of the world and ontology. In his atelier which is placed in the middle of nature, the sceneries over the windows are captured on a canvas. Chung puts the canvas on a table (not an easel), and follows the pencil line, moving around the table. In the canvas under the artist's fully concentrated view, there is no room for one-point-view or perspective to squeeze in between. The whole body is accumulating, conforming to the given surface. Attached to the surface of the canvas, it caresses and embodies the scenery. Viewers are going to notice that it seems like to live altogether with his body, senses, and constructing substances. Those painting methods are the experience which used to be able in Eastern traditional paintings. It means it is realized in a picture that one looks down from a viewpoint of sky, constructs images as sprouting creatures on earth, adapts himself/herself to given materials and pursues a harmonious life. The point of view is different from retina-centrism which observes the world only through one's eye but it is the level that achieves idea, emotion, and attitude towards the world. It is an experiential life and way of painting at the same time.

Ancestors dealt with life, learning, and painting in all the same way, the ascetical level. The above-mentioned 'ascetical' is not different from a life in which one can find 'enlightenment' about the world, and pursue it. The interesting part is that Chung talks about his attitude and method in ‘ascetical attitude’, explaining about his work. In other words, the methods, the style, and the manner to him are not only just technical aspects, but are constructed by the artist’s inevitable will and are interconnected with reaction to the reality, comments about values and experiences. Therefore, the methodology of painting and style to him is a reaction of body to the world, materialization of senses, and something that conveys his message.

Accordingly, it seems like that he superfluously shows typicality of the dramatic and splendid scenery, but the scenery in his frame is very different from other conventional landscapes. He works about nature’s scenery that gives a feeling as if you are deep in a mountain or a primeval forest. A nature that Chung encountered through his travel and a nature around his atelier are collaged into one space. It is both real scenery and fictional scenery. As for me, I am attracted by little grasses or trees at the bottom of the frame (occasionally emphasized in close-up). Maybe he wanted to express the value of the things which are familiar insignificant but have strong vitality (energy). He always has given attention to energy, exhalation, vitality which things/living creatures release. On the other hand, he may have wanted to break cliché of conventional landscapes. This landscape is a fictional scene that is combined by imagination but gives a sense of déjà vu. In fact, it is meaningless what the place is. What he cares is his emotion, senses, experiences toward nature. It is the matter of how to realize his inspiration from nature, ‘the truth of sensibility’ in his paintings. However, to draw the nature, one must have an effective methodology and style of painting. Therefore, the way of painting cannot be already-given, fixed, or conventional. Painting is that one makes his/her own sensuous work effectively and constantly in a conventional form. In other words, painting is, materialization of senses. A space of painting is the place where results have settled which are given after a body and senses of an artist react to the world.

The canvas of Sanggon Chung represents a chaotic state of swarming substances. The canvas is floating on the whole and filled with the states of brush stroke, shaking, wetness, stickiness, or trembling. The intense movement is felt and the dizziness of senses is about to surge which is derived when you met the passage of time and the scenery. It seems as if the images dragging the screen, the digital sensibility conflicts with the analogue painting.

The overflow of solvents which dissolves oil paints makes the surface of it wet, so properties of the matters in the canvas have not been fixed but are floating. It is filled with traces of split, spread colors and brush touches come from fast, strong moves. The painting is both accident and inevitable, is mixture of digital and analogue and also mixture of the surface (skin) and the depth. The substances cross from an image to the other image. This is the painting in which they all are in harmony and coexist. The traces of several layers of the surface remind us of mountains, rocks, waterfalls, trees, and grasses in an instant. They spread out in a feeling of the air, and convey humidity, wind, and the scent of woods psychedelically. It is filled with substances and solvents which are ontological conditions of painting, emotions of the body which conform the physical law, intervene and react at every moment during painting, and the traces which reflect a pile of senses. Chung remembers nature’s scenery, gathers the emotions derived from seeing scenery outside the window, and draws it as material signs of paints which spread out every moment. I recalled a series of lithographs which he made long time ago. It feels as if the style of his lithographs which is full of pictorial traces revives in the paintings of the present.

Art is a work which is eager for profoundness. However profoundness does not allow verticality which conflict with flat and even surface/epidermis. Painting is a work which puts up the verticality on the horizontality, excavates the profoundness and crosses infinitely. In short, Painting is a work which excavates the great profoundness in the thin surface and carves sensitive senses. Therefore, painting is a work which makes the ‘skin/deep’. A flat surface is clearly existential condition of painting and limited space. It is painting to draw a line of senses on the surface and make profoundness. The ascetic time in which Chung keeps drawing is covered through paints and brush strokes/gestures. Colors and brush strokes (gestures) are involved in sensuous painting. If painting sustained by distinct outlines is involved in geometry or reason, and if it represents the world by already transcendental codes, the floating brush strokes, the trembling gestures, the shaking time and the melting colors which Chung shows, are make emotion and senses priority, react to the world by their own body, inhale and exhale it repeatedly. As living, breathing nature!

He tries to create his own paintings that express the raw sceneries that he experienced and its flesh and scent. That is not a work to reproduce the existing world. That is a work to build a new world with Chung’s senses. Also, it is a renewal work to abandon established landscape/painting code. Chung still insists analog paintings, using traditional tools, canvas, oil paint, brush, and he re-draws the historic landscape. However, he re-reads sceneries and drags the issue on style. He puts on emotional grid on the surface of a flat canvas. Therefore, over the canvas, emotional lines, touches of a brush of complex senses, colors, chunks of substances, and body moves pass and are laid colors and substances that Chung chose not only fill the inside of outline, but also a realize a pure state pictorial fact. It means he re-reads the world/scenery out of body senses that only Chung can understand, longing for an infinite depth.