Seeking absolute purity and simplicity in his paintings, Chang Uc-chin became known for his candid scenes of people expressed with basic forms and compositions, a style he adopted in the early 1950s. Often likened to children’s drawings, Chang’s paintings capture the warmth and sincerity of traditional village life, populated by families, trees, houses, animals, and simple landscapes. He persistently painted his favorite motifs in a semi-abstract style characterized by wide blocks of color and an imprecise scale of objects, emphasizing the flatness of the pictorial plane.
During the Korean War, Chang took refuge in his hometown of Naepan, Yeongi County, which thus became the archetype for many village scenes in his subsequent paintings. In Ferry, for example, which he painted in 1951, Chang seeks to escape the brutality of war through the lyrical expression of an ideal world. The painting depicts a river ferry that made its rounds to Chang’s village, carrying people who had just purchased or sold goods at the market. Boldly placed in the center of the plane, the modest yet dignified passengers look directly at the viewer, seemingly unfazed by anything within their gaze. Each one takes up equal space in the boat, confirming their status as the central characters in their own lives. The calm, unassuming scene almost feels surreal, given the context of war.
Since it was impossible for Chang Uc-chin to acquire art materials in his village during the war, he made this painting on the back of a woodblock that he had used previously while studying art in Japan. Thus, on the back of this painting is an earlier work entitled Girl, which he painted in 1939.