Chae Sung-Pil (1972, Jindo Island, South Korea) is a contemporary artist, a painter, who works only with natural materials, mostly - various types of soil, which he uses as paint. Currently resides and works in Paris (France).
"I love earth," says Chae Sung-Pil. These words should be taken literally: his monumental, 1.5-by-2-meter works the artist paints with earth. Various types of soil, to be precise Chae Sung-Pil turns coarse and tender clay, from white to burgundy-and-red, earth; forest, gray-and-blue, or brown; compact chernozem, or semi-transparent steppe soil full of fine sand into semi-abstract compositions, wherein you can identify hills, stones, the movement of clouds, grass in a meadow, branches of a tree, and - of course, earth.
"It all began over 20 years ago - I started working with earth," recalls Chae, who was born and grew up in Jindo, the largest of South Korea's islands. "Every time I touch earth, I feel again like a boy playing in earth. When drawing with earth, I feel so good - as if embraced by my mother ". The artist currently lives in Paris. Working with earth, the artist confesses, reminds him of his homeland - and of the fact that everything animate is born of earth and goes back right into it. "I love earth, because it never changes, even when everything in this world does. God used clay to create the first man - soil has always been there. Of the five elements everything began with, it is earth that is in the center. Water, plants, fire, iron are all around it."
Chae Sung-Pil joins two of the five elements, earth and water - that is his paint. The artist brings earth from his journeys. His palette contains soil, washed-out, filtered, or purged, from all over the world: "Earth is not as simple as it seems. The same in color but different in texture, the soil produces dissimilar hues - therefore, I've got all various colors in my works ". His other materials are also "animate": Chinese ink (its main component is soot: "fire and the plant," explains Chae), a powder from natural silver (the fifth element, metal), casein glue.
"Canvas", a tree under the layers of bulked mulberry paper, is on the floor. Chae, works in a standing position, using a big brush on a long handle (the stubble is natural, plant-made). He applies his strokes with thick paint, and if it's liquid - he drips, pours, and shades it. He uses strength to push the brush into the paper base, crumples, and tears the glued-together layers of paper, leaving behind furrows and creases: the image gains in volume and texture. For light and shadow, he employs ink and silver. After that, having poured some water over the lying canvas, Chae lifts it and turns it over, "drawing" over the earth paint with jets and drops dripping down. Then again he'll work with the brush and forest paint.
The multistep technique produces a multiple-meaning result. Any given work by Sung-Pil will contain "macros" and "micros" - for instance, a slice of terrestrial rock fragmented into stones, and one such stone with carefully executed bumps and veinlets. His compositions, the substance of which is earth, gleam with silver and because of that look a bit extramundane. Cheerful and energetic, in painting Chae Sung-Pil keeps away from using contrastive colors and bright accents: with all their monumentality, his works are full of tranquility and becalm the beholder. Perhaps, it's about the measured rhythm read in it; perhaps, it's the power of earth, which does not change even when everything around does.