Dansaekhwa 단색화 | Korean Contemporary Mainstream

Feature: Ha Chong Hyun 1972

Dansaekhwa (Korean: 단색화), also known as "Tansaekhwa" refers to a loose grouping of paintings that emerged in Korean painting starting in the mid-1970s.

A group of artists began to push paint, soak canvas, drag pencils, rip paper, and otherwise manipulate the materials of painting.

Tansaekhwa means ‘monochrome painting’ in Korean and was used by the critic Lee Yil in 1980 to refer to a group of largely non-figurative paintings painted in neutral hues.

Lee Ufan | From Line No. 78149 | 1982

Kwon Young-woo | Untitled | 1982

Promoted in Seoul, Tokyo, and Paris, Tansaekhwa grew to be the international face of contemporary Korean art and a cornerstone of contemporary Asian art.

The artists involved have been loosely affiliated and have worked independently without a group name or identity.

It wasn’t until the year 1980 that the term ‘tansaekhwa’ (or dansaekhwa) was first used by a critic Lee Yil to describe a group of abstract paintings distinguished by neutral hues.

The Origins of the Dansaekhwa Korean Art Movement

After the Korean War and the separation between the North and South in 1953, strong avant-garde movements started to emerge in South Korea with the younger generation of artists experimenting with new artistic styles as a response to the devastating social situation.

Even though discouraged by military repression and imbalance in wealth distribution, the artistic expressions during this era that flourished beyond the conventional meanings and parameters in Korean art, gave birth to abstract art leading to the movements influenced by Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism.

Kwon Young-Woo | Untitled | 1985

Chung Chang-Sup

Going through various stages, Korean abstraction was inspired by expressionism in the 1950s and geometric field abstraction during the 1960s, leading to the 1970s monochrome style painting called Dansaekhwa.