A medley of Indian art on Korean paper

Two white dolls, of a boy with hands raised in jubilation and of a girl holding a bird close to her, have much similarity with the traditional dolls of South Korea. But the surprising element is the name of the artist below the exhibit – Sharmi Chowdhury.

“I went to Korea last year for a residency programme. There I learnt how Korean artists fold hanji paper to make dolls and what is displayed here under the name of ‘Freedom’, is an example of a basic Korean portrait,” she says pointing to the work of her teacher Park Keum Suk. The latter’s display of dolls stands out as an elaborate artwork titled ‘Kimchi-making for the winter’.

Displayed as part of the exhibition ‘Hanji Plus’, the artwork is a model of how women in a Korean household prepare kimchi (a side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings in Korean cuisine). The dolls are made of hanji paper.

This traditional Korean paper became the link between the Korean and Indian artists who have used it to create their works. “We provided few options in hanji paper to the Indian artists to present their creativity,” says Insang Song, art director of Korean Cultural Centre and curator of this exhibition.

An intricate sketch depicting the lives of slum children in India takes form on one of these hanji papers provided to Nabanita Saha. Her artwork titled ‘Childhood under vulnerability’ is created using charcoal on hanji paper and stands as a perfect example of the artistic exchange between the Korean and Indian artistic techniques.         

What draws attention is a wide display of boxes, bottles, jewellery and other artefacts representing the rich culture of Korean arts. From the hat-shaped to the octagonal boxes, all containers are made of mostly wood, bamboo, horse hair with carvings done in hanji paper. These articles appear heavy but are extremely light-weight and intricately carved. Take for instance the Ji-ho chot-byeong (bottle) in fiery-red colour. The lid and handle of the bottle are in the shape of a turtle and snake.

This is quite similar to the art in India where animal imagery resonates in tribal and folk art. Alongside these is the Gujeolpan (Korean food platter of nine delicacies) which appears quite similar to the container in which Indian households keep masalas. Even the carving on top of a box used to keep documents or jewels, created by Kim Og Young, has faint similarity with the Rajasthani craft of jali work or filigree.    

To add to this, the light installation by Vinay Sharma, done with hanji paper and old wooden cart top, enhances the cultural exchange between the artists of the two countries. While Farhad Hussain’s water colour on paper showing a young girl floating on a tsunami erupting from a Korean noodle bowl, has become quite an attraction, the digital print on hanji by Shorin Bhattacharjee leaves a viewer intrigued.       
‘Hanji Plus’ is on display at the Korean Cultural Centre till today.

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