Youngseok Cha

An Elegant Endeavour

Youngseok Cha

Every element of Youngseok Cha’s paintings—from the composition to the atmosphere to the selection of motifs—combines dramatic emotion with a calm demeanor. They represent a delicate, sophisticated gaze, wherein certain clues and senses manifest themselves, in the same way that memories permeate the present. The artist never fails to create the ideal atmosphere to coordinate the light that envelopes these scenes, maximizing the objects’ warmth and elegance, as well as the viewers’ affection. His works embody the total synthesis between objects and “I”—whether the artist or the viewer—which might be the ultimate pursuit of traditional literati painting in Korea.

Working with a pencil on hanji (i.e., Korean traditional mulberry paper), Youngseok Cha employs a unique method in which he steadily accumulates quick, rough pencil lines in order to generate various tones and shades, while also infusing the plane with a palpable rhythm. In the later works of the Well Still Life series, the stories and points of view become more diverse, thanks to denser compositions and a wider variety of featured objects. Classic motifs from traditional Korean ink-wash paintings (e.g., rocks, ceramics, bonsai and other plants, and antiquities) are joined by modern items, such as dolls, trophies, cars, ships, toys, balls, sneakers, and necklaces, shifting attention from the apparent time period to the artist’s choice of objects.


Youngseok Cha follows the general tradition of Korean ink-wash painting, especially in his still-life paintings. Most strikingly, the objects in these works are placed and depicted from a certain perspective with preset coordinates. In the early works of the Well Still Life series, for example, the point of view looks downward from an angle of approximately 45 degrees, allowing all of the objects to be clearly seen in their entirety with no overlapping. However, the point of view is also slightly displaced to one side by about 20 degrees, evincing a unique conceptual perspective in the tradition of Eastern ink-wash painting. Thus, despite the overall realism of the depictions, Cha’s still-life paintings also express a conceptual space.


In the mode of classical Korean ink-wash paintings, Cha makes ample use of light through blank areas that resonate with the subtle white or ivory color of the hanji. The delicate touch of the pencil even allows light to leak through the graphite particles, for a unique softness that infuses the entire pictorial plane. The rhythm of the haziness and the opaque black (or colors) melting in the background allocates unexpected focal points throughout the image, creating an interesting visual play. But when depicting a hawk against a black background in An Elegant Endeavour_163 (2019), Cha added a lighter, beige-toned plumage pattern over hazy gray pencil lines, for a more defined outline and overall description than in previous paintings. A similarly elaborate description can be seen in the hawks flying across a five-panel folding screen in An Elegant Endeavour_164. Here, however, for the first time, a lavish spectrum of colors has been added to express the hawks’ plumage.

Artistic Director Jinsang Yoo

While they might resemble suspicious landscapes of the everyday, filled with a mess of trivialities, Cha’s works approach the viewer as still-life paintings, suffused with an artistic gaze at the joy and health of existence, if only for a fleeting moment. This conception differentiates them from most still-life paintings, which typically seek to overcome ephemerality by returning objects to their eternal essence. Indeed, our own lonely struggles seem to thrive best within a worldly milieu. The resulting feeling is akin to the eager and affectionate aspirations of our neighbors (including Cha) for an aesthetic or sentimental life.

From review by Min Byung-jik (curator, critic)

Youngseok Cha
Solo Exhibitions
2019 Assiduous Senses, 63 Art Museum, Seoul
2018 An Elegant Endeavour, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
2017 Something, CAIS Gallery, Seoul
2015 Transforming Being Forgotten, Pyo Gallery, Seoul
Habitual World, Taipa Houses Museum, Macau
2014 Confidential Custom,Pyo Gallery LA, Los Angeles
Confidential Custom, Pyo Gallery South, Seoul
Confidential Custom,Pyo Gallery 798, Beijing
2013 Chronic Circumstance, Space Cottonseed, Singapore
2012 Chronic Circumstance, Art+Lounge Dibang, Seoul
2010 The Montages of the Fragments, New Gallery on Old Bailey, Hong Kong
Well Still Life, Gallery Hyundai Window, Seoul
2009 Kumho Young Artist: Well Still Life, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul
Selected Group Exhibitions
2020 Autumn Breeze, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
Garden, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
Soaring High, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
2019 Kumho Young Artist: The 69 Times of Sunrise,Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul
2016 Craving Color, 63 Art Museum, Seoul
2015 Winter Prism, Shinsegae Gallery, Seoul
SOMA Drawing: Mindful Mindless, Seoul Olympic Museum of Art, Seoul
Still Life: A Frozen Moment,Space Cottonseed, Singapore
2014 Play with Drawing, Ilwoo Space, Seoul
Now and Then… The Future of Korea, Embassy of the Republic of Korea in China, Beijing
Pencil, C5ART, Beijing
Pencil, 1/2 Art Space, Shanghai
Today’s Salon, Common Center, Seoul
2013 Object, popopopopop, Seoul
Cool Running, Lotte Gallery, Seoul
G.P.S Art Navigator, Gallery Purple, Namyangju
2012 Muse in Art, Artside Gallery, Seoul
Bob Up-Young Korean Artist Group Exhibition, O’s Gallery, Jeonju
Ha Ha Ho Ho,Lotte Gallery, Seoul
Unfinished Journey, Cais Gallery, Seoul
An Omniscient View Point, Gallery Zandari, Seoul
Gold Day, Lotte Gallery, Seoul
2011 No. 45 Kumho Young Artist, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul
Korea Tomorrow, Hangaram Art Museum of Seoul Arts Center, Seoul
Propose 7(Vol. 6), Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul
Do Window Volume 3, Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space, Seoul
The Moment of Immersion,Fnart Space, Seoul
Room Project(Vol. 1), Interalia Art Company, Seoul
Hatch Out, KIC Art Center, Shanghai
2010 Tomorrow-Open Archive, Seoul Olympic Museum of Art, Seoul
Symbolon: Everything Is Never as It Seems, Hwa’s Gallery, Shanghai
Fashion, Inspired by Culture, National Museum of Korea, Seoul
40x40x40x40, Cottonseed, Seoul
Threshold,Art+Lounge Dibang, Seoul
Meet the Artists, Kumsan Gallery, Paju
2009 Ordinary Days, PKM Trinity Gallery, Seoul
Changdong Open Studio: Cue!, MMCA Residency Changdong, Seoul
The Soul Travels at the Pace of a Camel, IM ART Gallery, Seoul
IYAP 2009: Against Interpretation, Interalia Art Company, Seoul
2008 Directors’ Cut, Gallery 175, Seoul
The Bridge, Gana Art Center, Seoul
Everyday Is Not the Same, BizArt, Shanghai / Gallery 175, Seoul
Privacy, Alternative Space Loop, Seoul
Privacy, Gallery Eighty at Space Two, Singapore
Privacy, Canvas International Art, Amsterdam
Joongang Fine Arts Prize Exhibition, Hangaram Art Museum of Seoul Arts Center, Seoul
2007 Blue Ocean: The Blossom of Youth, Gallery Velvet, Seoul
Drawing Open-Ends, Gallery at Korea National University of Arts, Seoul
Walking in the City, Moran Gallery, Seoul
Drawing Variation, Gallery 175, Seoul
2006 School-Exchange Show, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia
2005 Serial Killers: In Praise of Madness, Embassy of Spain in Korea, Seoul
2005 Ready Made, Gallery Indeco, Seoul
2004 Premier, Network Space Team Preview, Seoul
2008 Joongang Fine Arts Prize, Korea Joongang Daily
2007 Kumho Young Artist, Kumho Museum of Art
2013–14 Gallery Purple Studio, Paju
2011–13 Studio Pakyoung, Paju
9월-08 MMCA Residency Changdong, Seoul

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

MMCA Art Bank / Government Art Bank

Abu Dhabi Royal Collection

Seoul Museum of Art

Kumho Museum of Art


Eco Energy Holdings Co.

Venta Korea