How much do you know about Korean traditional painting? Regardless of your nationality, Korean or non-Korean, you may not know much about it. Although there can be many reasons why people are not interested in Korean traditional art, the biggest reason may be a prejudice that Korean painting is boring and difficult to understand. However, once people discover its charm, they cannot help falling in love with it. Just getting a chance to take an interest in it first is important. For people who are unfamiliar with Korean traditional paintings, there is an art exhibition which is themed ‘animals and plants’ and is accessible to everyone. The exhibit’s name is ‘Kansong Culture Exhibit’.
1. About the Exhibit
This Exhibit is one of a series of exhibitions of the Kansong Culture Foundation which have been held at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza since March, 2014. According to its name ‘Hwahweyoungmo’ which means flower and animals, this exhibit’s main paintings are about animals and plants. Most of the previous Korean traditional painting exhibits mainly deal with landscape painting and the Four Gracious Plants. These can feel unfamiliar to people, while this exhibit’s purpose is to make Korean traditional paintings familiar to people by displaying animal and flower paintings. The paintings have a broad spectrum of periods from the late Goryeo to the late Joseon. Thus visitors can see how the painting’s styles change and develop during the course of 550 years. In addition, the painters of these paintings are very famous, such as Kim Hong-do who is a representative painter of the Joseon Dynasty era and King Gong-min of the Goryeo Dynasty.
2. Three Treasures of Exhibits
1) by Kim Hong-do
Kim Hong-do is one of the most famous painters from the Joeson Dynasty period. He is known for his observations and paintings which draw on normal people’s daily lives. His observation skills are well presented on the paintings of animals and plants. The meaning of the painting’s name is ‘The yellow cat is playing with a butterfly’. Appreciating the work from the left side, there is a flower named the ‘China pink’ between the rocks and a butterfly is flying in the sky. There is a cat that looks like it is jumping toward it, under the butterfly. The main point to pay attention to in this painting is the realistic portrayal of the fur of the cat and the patterns on the butterfly’s wings. Furthermore, it has a story in which the next scene of this work comes in to our minds easily. Some experts consider this painting to be a birthday present for an old man because the cat means a person of seventy years old and the butterfly means an octogenarian.
2) by Shin Saim-dang
Shin Saim-dang is famous as a wise mother and submissive wife from Joseon Dynasty era. She is also well-known as the mother of Yulgok Yi I who is one of the best known Korean Confucian scholars. She is good at painting and writing poetry. There are three flowers at the center of the painting, two different colored butterflies near the flowers and a little lizard on the ground. They are all placed to make a perfect balance of the painting. Although it is a typical painting of the middle Joseon Dynasty era and nothing special is known about it, it is worthy as a representative work of noble women of the time.
3) by Kang Se-hwang
Kang Se-hwang is a teacher of Kim Hong-do who has been introduced above. The name of this painting means ‘The farer the flower is, the clearer the scent of the flower is’. This phrase is often used to extol the beauty of a lotus flower. The lotus flower is loved by Korean people because of its character that it grows in the mud, but blooms a beautiful flower. The lotus flower in the painting is really white and only the tips of the flower’s leaves are red. This expression stresses the pure beauty of it. In addition, he paints a small frog and a bug on a big leaf, in order to add more interest to the painting and enrich the contents.
3. Thank You! Mr. Kansong
During the Japanese colonial era, many valuable Korean cultural treasures were sold at a giveaway price by non-Korean traders, especially Japanese traders. It’s because many Koreans didn’t realize the worth of cultural assets which their ancestors used in daily life and most of them were too poor to buy them at the time. At this time, Mr. Kansong started to buy them for protection. He was the first son of a rich man so he inherited his father’s property. When he was a high school student, his teacher named Ko Hee-dong who was the first Western-style painter and a nationalist, made him realize the importance of traditional assets.
Since then, he began to protect the cultural properties of Korea. Although many people didn’t expect the independence of Korea, he believed that independence would come soon and that he should protect its cultural assets for the day of independence. There is a famous story about him. He bought ‘the inlaid celadon with the pattern of a cloud and crane of Goryeo‘ at a ridiculously high price, which was about the price of 20 houses. Thanks to his dedicated efforts, ‘Kansong Art Museum’ was able to be established, which is Korea’s first private art museum. Moreover, we can appreciate the beauty of Korean traditional arts.
4. The Charms of Korean Traditional Paintings
What is the attraction of Korean traditional paintings? This question is hard to easily answer because there are various types of traditional paintings and many people don’t have enough chance to see it. Although it is difficult to define it perfectly, its common charms are ‘naturalism’ and the ‘beauty of space’. Vivid colors are hard to find in Korean traditional paintings. However, the harmony of colored paints and water makes people’s eyes relaxed. Furthermore, most main subjects of Korean traditional paintings are landscape, animals and plants. The other attraction of them is the ‘beauty of space’. It may be hard to understand. It is a method to raise the degree of completion by just leaving some space on purpose. It may sound paradoxical but it means making space available in order for the beholders to imagine. If you try to find your own reason to enjoy Korean traditional arts while you appreciate them, you can grow to know them better.
Every art work is well worth taking time to appreciate it. However you may be confused to choose one of them for the first time seeing it, because there are too many fields of art. So, there are a few things which can help you to decide more easily. One of them is your nationality or the country that you live in now. If you are Korean, visiting an art museum of your country is a great chance to build love and esteem for your country. If you are non-Korean, you can know about the different attractions of Korea by visiting this exhibit. Why not visit the exhibit right now? There is not much time left.
Place: Dongdaemun Design Plaza Design Museum
Period: 2015. 10. 23. ~ 2016. 3. 27.
Price: 8,000 won (adults)
Time: 10:00 ~ 19:00 -Tue, Thurs, Sat, Sun, Holidays / 10:00 ~ 21:00 -Wed, Fri
Closed: Mondays< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >