So Hyeon Jang (Art Critic, Poet)

Jeong Ja Chang

Simple and Modest Beauty — The Aura of Experience — Artist Jung Chang’s World of Art

Artist Jung Chang’s works and creative activity tell us many things.

The beauty and emotion that exude from the artwork infused with experience is modest and serene, yet rich and robust.

It guides you to look back and examine the wholly fundamental problem of ‘Painting and Life’. Jung Chang’s works relate life and art, and she pursues a spiritual world that can only be described as abstract folk painting (民畵) or abstract literary painting (文人畵). A Long, Single Path of Black.

For many years, Artist Jung Chang has continued to paint black-and-white artwork with emphasis on the color black. She states that “Black is the essence of all colors and shows the strongest character.”

She explains that with that belief, she became engrossed in painting achromatic (無彩色) artworks with a harmony of white, gray, and black in particular. Other colors are strictly used in only a portion of her art in a deliberate way.

Artist Jung Chang does not give any detailed explanation or meaning about her art.

Such explanation is unnecessary; while they are mere conjectures, it seemed to me that her “black” (黑) is closer to a different Chinese character of the word “black” (玄).

The meaning of black (玄) in the first line of the Thousand Character Classic, “The sky is black and the earth is yellow” (天地玄黃)… Black (玄) is a world of mystery, deep darkness, silence, fairness, and profoundness…

The phrase, “the sky is black,” is incredibly symbolic. The sky is ultimately the universe, so it is more accurate to understand it not as blue, but rather, as black. Black is also the foundation of Orientalism.

Black and white are the very core of Orientalism. Yin and Yang, night and day, light and darkness, heaviness and lightness, happiness and sadness, positivity and negativity, life and death… The ancient Asian ink paintings (水墨畵) express that within the black colors lie all the colors.

The Beauty of Modesty, Simplicity

Artist Jung Chang’s artistry is quite modest and simple. She does not make an effort to instill a grand story or idea into her works. She has no interest in attempting aesthetic experiments or using techniques to create a formative effect. She does not try to explain her art with words.

I do not think that she believes a painting must have a story or content behind it. She clears away expository, needless parts and tries to only leave the necessary components.

I believe that she is trying to stay true to the words of Saint-Exupéry, “In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.”

Thus, Artist Jung Chang’s paintings tend to prolong the traditions of the literary paintings and ink-and-wash paintings of literary artists of the past. She puts technical skill aside to follow her heart and paint abstract folk paintings (民畵) or abstract literary paintings (文人畵)… Instead, just nonchalant, black paintings filled with the emotions of moments from her everyday life… as she smiles contentedly as she paints in solitude and quiet… That modesty and simplicity is beautiful.

The Aura of Experience
That sort of leisure and nonchalance comes from experience. Growth rings are honest. They do not lie. They cannot be hidden.

There are things that become clear only after one’s eyes are filled with experience and life. Only then do you discover what you want to do, something like an assignment for the rest of your life, something that you just have to find the answer to…

For Artist Jung Chang, painting is that very assignment. The depth of black as deep as a seemingly unending well, the power of an utterly normal and simple life, and an aura of austerity…

But no matter how much you wish for it, no matter how rushed you are, you can only solve that problem naturally. As naturally as flowers bloom in the spring, and as naturally as the water flows…#Like the moving experience that comes with life, quietly like the indifferent murmur of expanding growth rings…

The aura of experience is always natural and unassuming, yet as earnest as a prayer.