An insight into Korean artwork

kindred SPIRIT

An insight into Korean artwork

The art of using letters or words to create harmonious and expressive images is called calligraphy. Though almost on the verge of death in India, it seems to have found its counterpart in the Korean calligraphy and the credit for the revival goes to Korean Cultural Centre which has brought this artform to India for the ‘Nanum Project’.

‘Nanum’ in Korean means ‘to share’ or ‘donate.’ The exhibition, therefore, showcases 40 paintings and calligraphy works, consisting of 30 Korean and 13 Indian artworks donated by artists. These shall be later donated to Indian and Korean schools.
The ongoing exhibition is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the Republic of Korea. But beyond all, the exhibition catches the attention of a viewer for its serene calligraphy and other artworks (mainly oil paintings on canvas) that act as a window to the Korean art world. Especially the serene painting by Shin Sun Mi titled While You Were Sleeping which shows impish creatures coming to life as a girl dozes off while reading!

The displayed works are interesting because of their simplicity. Most of them use only black and white tones or at most one other colour. This lack of visual complexity allows the viewer to read deeper into the meaning of the works and explore thought-
provoking details.

The different borders and scrolls that are used as background to display the calligraphy also catch one’s attention. In addition, if there a work mentions a poem on, for instance, nature, then the calligraphers have drawn flowers alongside the written word.

“Nature is the main theme of Korean calligraphers,” informs Kim Kum-pyoung,
director and counsellor of Korean Cultural Centre. “The artists are now moving to abstract forms and some even try mixed media and installation but they keep going back to nature.” Like the works of Hong Joeng Seon and Lee Kyung Ja titled Early Spring and Japanese apricot flower, respectively.

Since many calligraphy works are created this year, Kim shares that they also have an influence of the volatile economic conditions. “A lot of artists have adapted a materialistic perspective but go back to the basic human relationships.” Such as the work by Yang Choon Hee titled Thackrey’s famous saying which reads as ‘Family’s smile is one of the most important songs’. 

   It is important to observe the spatial usage of the scrolls by calligraphers since most of them retain their message in just one third of the whole scroll. “Korean artists normally like to leave empty spaces and limit their work within the rules. It is different from the Japanese and Chinese styles,” informs Kim as a viewer realises that is sufficient scope for interpretation.

In comparison, the artworks by Indian artists are more vibrant. Among these, the work titled Urban Chaos II by Krupa Makhija and My Red Oleanders II by Sharmi Chowdhury are stunning. The latter is made by tempura on silk. 

Most Korean artists, have preferred to work on ‘hanji’ paper available in Korea. Made from the fibrous skin of the mulberry, it is organic and allows better brush strokes.
But above all, it is the power of the creatively written words that rules the viewers mind.

The exhibition is on display at Korean Cultural Centre, Lajpat Nagar IV till June 28.

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