They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but one could also say it’s more powerful than the paintbrush.
Several exhibitions dealing with drawings as finished works of art or featuring pieces that straddle the border between drawing and calligraphy are currently ongoing in Seoul.
One is artist Yoo Seung-ho’s solo exhibition “From Head to Toe,” on view simultaneously at the Park Ryu Sook Gallery in southern Seoul and its new affiliate P21 on Gyeongnidan-gil, a street near Itaewon in central Seoul famous for its hip restaurants and bars.
At the Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Yoo is showing his so-called munjasansu, calligraphic landscape paintings for which he earned his fame.
From a distance, they look like reproductions of traditional East Asian landscape paintings, but a closer look reveals tiny words written in hangul, the Korean alphabet.
At P21, Yoo is unveiling some of his newer work reflecting his evolving interest in the relationship between the written word and drawn image.
The pieces differ from his past work in style. They resemble deconstructed Chinese characters playfully dashed on the canvas by a few powerful strokes of the brush, as if they were written by a Zen monk or a drunken calligrapher. Fluorescent backgrounds add to the playful mood.
“Some of the works are based on Chinese characters written in cursive style by famous calligraphy masters,” Yoo said. “Chinese characters originate from pictographs, so when they are written in cursive style, the fundamental images in the letters come to the surface.”
Another exhibition at the Kumho Museum of Art, located on the eastern side of Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul, emphasizes the rawness of drawn art. “B-Cut Drawing” includes pieces from 10 artists that capture the essence of their subjects through the unrefined quality of the sketch.
Leehaeminsun’s frottage series is particularly impressive. The artist took rubbings from the surfaces of tree trunks and added drawings to form human faces. Leehaeminsun said she started the series after finding that older people’s faces resembled trees.
The exhibit also includes Park Gwang-soo’s drawings from his animated music video for the song “Tomboy” by indie band Hyukoh.
Other artists include Moon Sung-sic, who is as famous for his drawings as he is for his paintings, and Bek Hyun-jin, who is also showing his work at the neighboring National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Seoul as one of the four finalists of the prestigious 2017 Korea Artist Prize.
“From Head to Toe” runs through Nov. 25. Admission is free. For more information, call (02) 790-5503.
“B-Cut Drawing” runs through Dec. 31. Admission is 5,000 won ($4.40) for adults. For more details, visit www.kumhomuseum.com or call (02) 720-5114.
MOON SO-YOUNG / Journalist, Korea Joongang Daily
So-young Moon is head of cultural department at Korea Joongang Daily.
Moon earned a Master’s in Economics from Seoul National University, then added a Master’s in Arts from Hongik University. Moon began her journalistic career in Economic department at Korea Joongang Daily (2001-2009) and worked as a columnist for Joongang SUNDAY in 2009. Since 2009, she has been head of cultural department at Korea Joongang Daily.