45cm: Kang Seong Eun, Song Burn Soo, Suzanne Song, Yun Hyong Keun, Chung Chang Sup, Chung Hee Seung, Choi Sun

9 May - 29 June 2024
Installation Views
Press release

Chapter II is pleased to announce 45cm, a group exhibition of works by seven international and Korean artists: Kang Seong Eun (b.1982), Song Burn Soo (b.1943), Suzanne Song (b.1974), Yun Hyong Keun (1928-2007), Chung Chang Sup (1927-2011), Chung Hee Seung (b.1974) and Choi Sun (b.1973).


Some suggestions to appreciate contemporary art are common. Do not speak loud: Camera flash not allowed: No recording without permission: Do not touch artworks or approach them too close. These are conventional rules advised to obey in museums and galleries. From a different angle, they are the practical policies to protect the displayed works from damage and their copyrights from violation, but not guidance relevant to “optimal ways of understanding artworks.”


On second thought, it is surprising that we never have had an education about an attitude to appreciate art. Nevertheless, the average height of installing two-dimensional works on a wall is approximately 1.5m, with the centrelines of the works as a datum point. It seems to correspond to the general eye level of adults. As this tacit design is often applied to other infrastructures, including all sorts of traffic posts on pedestrian paths and signboards attached to the exterior and interior of buildings, this specific installing convention can be regarded as a stereotypical outline in order to respond to the optical attributes of humans, rather than an exceptional principle adopted to the visual art field. 


When you search methods for art appreciation, instead of underlining the act of looking per se, you can find a series of recommendations to grasp a given work, such as exploring the employed media and materials, learning prior knowledge about the historical backdrop of the artists or the year of production and reasoning based on other artists and works which possibly influence the work. Some can argue that no other rules are necessary but engaging with conditions, as if you have an assigned seat to watch performances in the circumstances of theatre or concert hall; however, certain art media containing linearly planned rhythms or narratives are inevitably different from static two-dimensional pieces.


The exhibition title, “45cm”, originated from the reference by Barnett Newman (1905-1970), one of the pioneering masters of the Colour field, about how to appreciate his practice. Newman invited viewers to be eighteen inches away from his paintings as he counted on that the particular distance maximized intense visual effects that appeared from the interaction between colour fields and zips vertically dividing planes of his pictures. By extension, through persistent observation, he believed that this way of looking enables the ‘transcendent sublime’ he had sought to achieve through his paintings to be possible.


Visitors of the exhibition first encounter many plants occupying the Chapter II space, except the nearest parts to the walls on which works are installed. Moving between works for viewing, they have to pass the spare spaces while avoiding the plants; thus, they would maintain the intended distance from the works and consequently follow the instruction of Newman, suggested over half a century ago.


Unexpectedly, you discover small abstract figures lurking in the wider abstract and delicate surface of Hanji (traditional Korean paper) over Meditation (Undated), a large-scale painting by Chung Chang Sup. In front of Deep Painting (2024 Remade), an abstract painting by Choi Sun, you find out that the light orange parts are Kimchi stains through its faint odour when you only get closer toward it. By looking at Possibility 024-DI/DII (2024), a painting series by Song Burn Soo, you are aware of yourself counting the number of thorns depicted in them and later come to think that the blue background looks similar to the colour of the tropical ocean seen from TV or a clear sky remained somewhere in your memory. 


The colony of fine lines of The Side Wall (2021), a painting series by Kang Seong Eun, reminding of the trivial traces of life that handcarts, bicycles and residents left on a narrow alley now disappeared, attracts your gaze. In Burnt Umber & Ultramarine Blue (1993) by Yoon Hyong Keun, you come across the silent persistence of a black square expanding its territory by steadily soaking the fabric for days since its last stroke. Reflection (2024), a photograph of a forest on Jeju Island by Chung Hee Seung, allows you to comprehend the doubts and helplessness about Spring occurring in the artist’s mind when she faced the debris running out of their cycle of living. In addition, Float, Flow (2024), a post-card size drawing by Suzanne Song presented in the window gallery, confesses that the blue waves are the sand-grain scale dots that the artist engraved one by one to only people who are courageous enough to stick their noses at most to the window glass. 


The exhibition will open until 29th June.