Steel calligraphy that still delivers depth of ink

By Lee Woo-young
  • Published : Jan 9, 2014 - 20:31
  • Updated : Jan 9, 2014 - 20:31
Untitled by Cho Hwan. (Hakgojae)
The first 260 words of the Buddhist “Heart Sutra” run down a white wall rhythmically. The words concentrated on by generations of calligraphers using paper, brush and ink are represented through a different material, steel, to emphasize the Buddhist teaching.

Artist Cho Hwan uniquely transforms the century-old practice of calligraphy into sculpture by using rough steel boards. 

Untitled by Cho Hwan. (Hakgojae)
In the dimly lit room at Hakgojae Gallery in Seoul where his solo exhibition is being held, each word casts a shadow on the wall that reanimates the original brush strokes and natural flow of the ink.

“Steel creates both features in painting and sculptures. Under light, steel creates shadows that recreate the original strokes on a piece of rice paper,” said Cho, who also successfully recreates the delicate brush strokes by cutting hard steel boards.

“One can find some characteristics of calligraphy in the shadows. What I want to create lies all in the shadows. The original form, natural flows of ink and strength of the strokes are in there,” Cho explained. 

Untitled by Cho Hwan
The rough spots where the characters were cut and put together remain on the surface, but they have the same charms as brush paintings ― layers of ink and blank spots left in the middle of ink flows.

Drawing from his working experience at a steelmaker’s, he tried making visual works using steel, leaving behind his familiar painting materials. Cho found steel more effective for delivering his artistic messages.

“I tried different things. And it kind of broke the boundary between painting and sculpture,” he said.

Cho Hwan’s solo exhibition continues through Feb. 9 at the gallery in Jongno, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 720-1524.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)