'Starting in the mid-1960s, a group of Korean artists began to push paint, soak canvas, drag pencils, rip paper, and otherwise manipulate the materials of painting in ways that prompted critics to describe their actions as “methods” rather than artworks. A crucial artistic movement of twentieth-century Korea, Tansaekhwa (monochromatic painting) also became one of its most famous and successful. Promoted in Seoul, Tokyo, and Paris, Tansaekhwa grew to be the international face of contemporary Korean art and a cornerstone of contemporary Asian art.

In this full-color, richly illustrated account—the first of its kind in English—Joan Kee provides a fresh interpretation of the movement’s emergence and meaning that sheds new light on the history of abstraction, twentieth-century Asian art, and contemporary art in general. Combining close readings, archival research, and interviews with leading Tansaekhwa artists, Kee focuses on an essential but often overlooked dimension of the movement: how artists made a case for abstraction as a way for viewers to engage productively with the world and its systems. As Kee shows, artists such as Lee Ufan, Park Seobo, Kwon Young-woo, Yun Hyongkeun, and Ha Chonghyun urgently stressed certain fundamentals, recognizing that overwhelming forces such as decolonization, authoritarianism, and the rise of a new postwar internationalism could be approached through highly individual experiences that challenged viewers to consider how they understood their world rather than why.'

(back cover of the book)

Access level


Location code REF.KEJ3


Publication/Creation date


No of pages




No of copies


Content type


Chapter headings
Introduction: The Urgency of Method
Kwon Young-woo and Yun Hyongkeun Rethink Painting
Rates of Exchange in Ha Chonghyun's Conjunction
Encountering Lee Ufan in Korea and Japan
Reading Park Seobo's Ecriture in Authoritarian Korea
Tansaekhwa and the Idealization of Asian Art
The Contextualist Predicament
Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method
Rights statement

In Copyright

What does this mean?

This item is covered by one or more copyrights. It is available for research only or use within Hong Kong’s fair dealing rules. Please do not copy, re-use or reproduce this item without the permission of the copyright holder.

Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method

Relevant content

Montien Boonma, The Pleasure of Being, Crying, Dying and Eating, 1993/2015.
Off the Shelf | Artists Doing Pot: Ceramics and the Contemporary in East Asia
Ideas Journal | Collection Spotlight

Off the Shelf | Artists Doing Pot: Ceramics and the Contemporary in East Asia

Alexandra Seno presents five artists who have embraced ceramic traditions as part of their art practice

Shortlist | Sites of Construction
Shortlist | Exhibition as Cartographic Articulation
Ideas Journal | Collection Spotlight

Shortlist | Exhibition as Cartographic Articulation

Recommended readings on how recent exhibitions have framed nations and/or regions, and the factors that have driven these geographic imaginings

AAA Library is currently closed for renovation. Please stay tuned on our social media for the opening date. We look forward to welcoming you back.