People / Critic

Cha Seungean - My Father Is Always at His Work

posted 31 Dec 2021

As for CHA Seungean’s work, which the artist herself calls (referential) “weaving painting”,1) I propose a narrative transformation from a perspective which hasn’t been dealt with before. This transformation of the narrative can even be understood as recontextualization. For instance, when examining how the incarnation of the artist’s weaving painting is made, the direction of the description I propose is to acknowledge the necessity of its manifestation from the conditional meaning of its nature rather than prove its nature from the contemporary meaning of its manifestation. In other words, it means to not cling to the nature of the medium, techniques and form that’s reduced to weaving painting; rather, concentrate on bringing the nature [*taking into consideration the risk in the word ‘nature’ of the medium, technique and form to prove the emergence of weaving and its calling. Here, with the will to divide weaved painting into two while unifying it into one, I decided to put a hyphen (-) in between the two words that are tentatively allied: “Weaving-Painting”

〈그라데이션얼룩-1〉, (세부), 면사, 합성사, 염료, 146×97cm (3), 2019. 이미지 인천아트플랫폼 제공.

〈GradientStain-1 (detail)〉, Cotton yarn, polyester yarn, dye, 146×97cm, 2019.Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

Her work is usually made of manual weaving through the ordinary loom. Here, the series of acts of weaving seems to have a definite purpose for the artist from the beginning. Most of the times, the artist constructs the surface by clearly perceiving the boundaries of the edges under the condition of combining it with the canvas tool. For instance, she explored different methods of production on her own, from 〈Agnes-Patch〉 (2012) which officially signaled the start of the referential weaving painting, to the 〈Frame12P-1〉 (2012) which explicitly “imitated” the canvas frames, and then finally to 〈Twill97cmFrame〉 (2013). The artist has stood firm on the condition of inevitably combining the fabric made of hand and the standardized canvas frame. Sometimes the strong presence of craftsmanship largely accentuates the aspect of decorative textile craft reminiscent of tapestry. Ultimately, however, the work escapes being laid out as fabric, and invites pure visual immersion in which the gravity-pulled vertical weight of the fabric and the double-sided texture of the cloth with a sense of space is temporarily eliminated with the sturdy support of the canvas. This reflects elements of the abstract paintings of Modernism. Meanwhile, however, such immersion can’t persist in her “weaving-painting” and is soon challenged due to the lattice pattern of the frame behind the fabric, which is translucent like a traditional window frame, or part of the canvas frame, which is exposed behind the anterior fabric that sometimes looks unfinished. As such, the partial intervention of “omitted act of weaving” may lead to visual alienation that distracts the audience from total immersion. This visual tension created by such chain of exchanges almost always leads to the question as to what exactly her work is, to which the artist answers already: “weaving painting”.

〈여섯 개의 일〉, 면사, 폴리에스테르 얀, 염료, 227×97cm (6), 2019. 《벽걸이들》(021갤러리, 대구, 2019) 설치 전경. 이미지 인천아트플랫폼 제공.

〈6prayers〉, Cotton yarn, polyester yarn, dye, 227×97cm (6pcs), 2019. Installation view of Wall Hangings (021 Gallery, 2019). Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

Here, in order to break down the hierarchical meaning of the solid combination of words that can easily be understood as “painting made through weaving technique”, I decided to emphasize the implication of the horizontal integration of weaving-painting. I had been sparingly observing and guessing the modifications and renewals between the abrupt revelations of the past and the target of the present in between the union of the two, and this is an attempt to explain a certain conviction that suddenly stirred up within. For example, this can accompany a theological thought based on a rather metaphorically reformative basis, which attempts at the referential renewing of the status of the different natures of the transcendental autonomy and secular accomplishment between the two (of which the distinction is unclear). Salvation as revealed by transcendental narrative was accomplished radically in the secular space of reality. The attempt is to accept the essential unity between the heterogenous aspects in the belief in the “old modernity” of painting as an autonomous existence, and the practical weaving technique of craft which supports its secular liberation, based on the theological thought that salvation will come again. In other words, her work is about gauging the possibility of mutual recognition of craft and painting within a new narrative variation, through the integration of the form and technique involved in weaving and painting. The manual skills of the hands, indwelling in the weaving like a stain, do not make a strong presence in the weaving-painting. It would be a different situation if it were laid out in front of our eyes on its own without any support, but the process of labor shown on the surface of the tightly-stretched weaving over the canvas frame becomes overpowered by the outcome of painterly accomplishments. However, that only lasts momentarily, and such illusion stirs up unfortunate doubts in the strict mind propped up by standards and regulations. The impure doubt comes to help the renewal of faith in amazing grace, when the sublime nature, reached through the intense repetitively trained labor of a part of the body, comes together at last with the traces of labor, mythologically applied in the existence that has been defined as a transcendental sublime.

〈처ㅓㅓㅓㅓㄴ-6(부분)〉, 면사, 합성사, 나무프레임, 147×194cm, 2019. 이미지 인천아트플랫폼 제공.

〈clooooth-6 (detail)〉, Cotton yarn, polyester yarn, wooden frame, 147×194cm, 2019. Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

For some, this may be an analogy that’s impossible to even imagine, one that is excessively dramatic. I am trying to understand her weaving-painting through a new narrative, by analogizing it again with a theological happening. In the bible, when Jesus heals the sick on a Sabbath and the Jews raise an issue against him in the bible, Jesus answered “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Through this, he makes evident that the son, doing the same work on earth as his father in heaven, has (equal) rights as his father. Here, the creator’s definition of the holy Sabbath and the almighty purpose of healing the sick, receives the same support as the secular physical labor. Moreover, it’s drawing a scene where the nature of each of the three elements with different statuses, exchanged as they collide intimately, is renewed through a unified sense. The reconsideration and structuralizing of the context of this narrative is to newly gauge the narrative referentiality implicit in the weaving-painting.

〈세 개의 일〉, 면사, 합성사, 염료, 194×97cm (3), 2019. 이미지 인천아트플랫폼 제공.

〈3prayers〉, Cotton yarn, polyester yarn, dye, 194×97cm (3pcs), 2019. Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

To sum up, the structure in the weaving-painting seeks a type of narrative to renew the concept between the two through the parallel combining of “weaving” and “painting”. Therefore, abstract painting and weaving craft in such unified context demonstrates a process of renewing and verifying by referencing each other’s nature. They reach a certain equal agreement through the element of “labor”, similar to how the absolute faith in transcendence and holiness in the commandments that have regulated the heavens and Sabbath, came to have empirical substance through the Father in heaven and the “work/labor”of his son who was incarnated in the world. For instance, artist referenced the form and convention that represents abstract and transcendental spirituality in approaching painting in the weavingpainting works, and desired to see how it slowly becomes realized through the “labor” of the body that can verify the faith, revelation, intuition, chance, and time as its holiness adheres to the canvas. Referencing abstract painters in Korea and abroad, including Agnes MARTIN, Richard TUTTLE, LEE Ufan and LEE Sungja, she compares the modern event in painting with the theological event, putting on equal positionsthe “labor” of the secular body and the sacred spirituality that is to be reached by the labor.

〈능직얼룩H1~9〉, 면사, 폴리에스테르 얀, 염료, 450×97cm (9), 2019. 《흐트흐트 위반의 기술》(인천아트플랫폼 창고갤러리, 인천, 2019) 설치 전경. 이미지 인천아트플랫폼 제공.

〈TwillStainH1~9〉, Cotton yarn, polyester yarn, dye, 450×97cm (9pcs), 2019. Installation view of 《Rules; disheveled~disheveled(Incheon Art Platform, Incheon, 2019)》. Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

Then, let’s examine what the calling is for the renewed weaving technique which references painting in the weaving-painting. By referencing how abstract artists arrive at the zenith of spirituality through dull and repetitive labor, she takes the series of similarities implicit in the process of weaving with reference to the sublime. Because “My Father is always at his work”, the work that’s being done by Jesus, with the same status as his Father, can never harm the holiness of Sabbath. In the same way, the characteristics of spirituality realized through labor in the series of referenced abstract paintings are promoted in fabric before being united with a canvas frame, through the same process. Because transcendental and sublime spirituality of faith lies on the premise of dull repetitive labor, the boring and monotonous labor in weaving process is renewed into something equal to the sublime that is referenced. Thus, one could make the assumption that the calling of “weaving-painting” lies in renewing its nature through the parallel union and persistent referencing of the two through theological thought, and to strengthen such faith.

1)In the artist’s note written in 2017, under the heading ‘referential weaving painting’, CHA Seungean explained that she is making “painting through the technique of weaving, referencing Korean and Western modern abstract paintings.”
2)This passage is written in detail in the Bible, in the Book of John, Chapter 5.

※ This content was first published in 『2019 Incheon Art Platform Residency Program Cataloge』, and re-published here with the consent of Incheon Art Platform

Ahn So yeon

Art Critic

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