Dansaekhwa: The Trend of Monochrome Art in South Korea

Following Korea’s independence from Japan in 1945 and the end of the Korean war that resulted in the separation of North and South Korea, South Koreans were left with a new political and social system. Emerging artists during this time sought to communicate their conflicts through new styles of art and expression. Among these new styles was Dansaekhwa, a type of modernistic art.

Arising during the late 1970s in South Korea, Dansaekhwa was a movement of simplistic and monochromatic art. Stylistically, this movement represents a break from the traditional and its strict rules. For the young generation navigating a new environment, Dansaekhwa was a way to explore a new style and push their horizons.

“From Line No. 800117,” 1980, Lee Ufan, Glue and mineral pigment on canvas, 44 1⁄8″ x 57 1⁄8″

Though this period of Korean art shares many similarities with Western modernism, Dansaekhwa is unique in many ways. While Western modernism pushes towards a more logical view of the world, Korea’s movement emphasizes a “return to nature”. While the Western world drifted off the page into sculpture and physical objects, Korean Dansaekhwa artists still worked with object representation on canvas.

Today, the world is seeing a return of the Dansaekhwa movement. In 2016, Blum & Poe, a gallery in New York City, displayed their second show exhibiting the Dansaekhwa movement. Recent Dansaekhwa artists have moved into sculpture, creating 3D studies of contours created from paper and other materials.

For those with a love for Western modern art, Dansaekhwa is an interesting look into a different culture’s take towards the modernist movement.

Chung Kwang-Young, ‘Aggregation 06’, 2006, mixed media with Korean mulberry paper, diameter 250 cm. Installation view at Kim Foster Gallery, New York, 2006. Image © mercurialn/Flickr.

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