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Materiality of Painting

Acrylic on Canvas painting
Acrylic on Canvas painting
Chung Sang Hwa, Untitled 82-10-8, 1982, acrylic on canvas, 193.9 x 130.3 cm, private collection, copyright: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul

Investigating how cultural organisations can represent and disseminate paintings digitally whilst respecting their inherent qualities and ensuring they do not misrepresent artworks due to cultural insensitivities and biases inherent in digital visualisation.

Funding Period: February 2022 – July 2023
Co-funded by: Economic and Social Research Council

Project summary

The Digital Documentation of Materiality in Painting: The Case of Contemporary Korean and British Abstract Art

The importance of the digital realm is not in question. However, when sharing and disseminating paintings several problematic issues arise. This may be due to the material subtleties that act against simple photographic representation of such works. But it may also be because of a more fundamental imposition that has its roots in Western ocular-centrism and the primacy of the mind and the eye.

Photographic representations of artworks stress a disembodied visual reading as opposed to an embodied and material experience. Visual documentation is dependent on ambient lighting (daylight, LED etc.) which again introduces other cultural presuppositions and biases. Even when moving images are employed to represent paintings, the model used is the cinematic scanning shot and close up and quite foreign to how we actually look and experience paintings.

Project team

  • Project investigator: Professor Daniel Sturgis, Professor in Painting, UAL
  • Lead International Co-Investigator: Professor Jung-Ah Woo, Associate Professor in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, POSTECH (Pohang University of Science and Technology), South Korea
  • Additional International Co-Investigator: Professor Simon Morley, Associate Professor in Fine Art at Dankook University, South Korea.

Aims and objectives

The project aims to:

  • Investigate the digital and cultural biases associated with the digital documentation and dissemination of modern and contemporary paintings from the UK and South Korea.
  • Compare the distinctive art historical contexts of UK and Korea, where experimental movements of painting, such as Op Art in UK and Dansaekhwa or monochrome painting in Korea, emerged as the predominant paradigms of art in the 1960s-'70s.
  • Explore non-ocularcentric approaches to the interpretation of  painting
  • Examine how better to digitally reproduce paintings, of which material impact, perceptual experience, and formal components are hard to represent by digital media.
  • Trial innovative approaches to reproduce paintings and build up a virtual environment that simulates the actual museum experience.
  • Initiate a collaborative partnership through a series of workshops between: University of the Arts, London; POSTECH (Pohang University of Science and Technology), South Korea, Dankook University, South Korea, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea and the Korean Cultural Centre UK.