Art, love: The joy of ageless passions

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Art, love: The joy of ageless passions

In January 1992, the veteran painter Kim Heung-soo, then 73 years old, drew public attention when he married his apprentice, Jang Soo-hyeon, 40 years his junior. At the wedding, a politician, Kim Jong-pil, described the matrimony as a work of art itself, formed by the passion of a man of perennial youth for a woman of extraordinary beauty.
When newspaper and media reporters asked Mr. Kim the secret of overcoming the generation gap, the painter simply replied, “The question you should be asking is how to bring harmony to the differences that will undoubtedly exist.”
Eleven years later, Mr. Kim has not lost his looks. The stylish gentleman’s age does betray him when he walks, however, as he is still recovering from a broken hip suffered while climbing a mountain a few years ago. Last year Mr. Kim twice underwent operations on his spine and now relies heavily on either a wheelchair or a cane.
Mr. Kim's art focuses mainly on harmony. The artist's work was introduced in July 1977 at an art museum in Washington D.C. Mr. Kim split his drawings cleanly in half, with a nude figure on one side and abstract scribblings primarily made up of circles and lines on the other. Since then, the artist has focused his work on similar forms, establishing his own recognizable style.
Though Mr. Kim and Ms. Jang haven’t had children together, they have passed on their passion for art to nearly 100 or so youngsters.
It started when Mr. Kim gave a few pointers to elementary students at an art program provided by the municipal government of Gimpo, a Seoul suburb in Gyeonggi province. Mr. Kim took interest and decided to make it his obligation to cultivate younger minds. In May 1998, however he fell down a flight of stairs while on his way to a class he was teaching at the Seoul Arts Center.
For eight months, Mr. Kim couldn't attend to his work as a painter. After the accident, Ms. Jang thought of ways for her husband to teach art to children without having to make long commutes and it was then that she thought of the idea that Mr. Kim should establish his own art museum.
“Last April the museum finally opened,” says Ms. Jang. “But not long after, my husband's health became a concern.” Indeed, confined to a wheelchair, Mr. Kim wondered how he could teach. In time, however, he found he could show students what to do while sitting in his wheelchair just as easily as if he were standing. The artist tries to train his young students to utilize harmony by mixing concrete and abstract subjects together on a blank paper.
In addition to the expected lessons on technique, including cubism and surrealism, the students get something extra, as well: Every day the artist tells his young charges that everything on this earth is harmonized. “
Where there is dark, there is light, as well, and where there is coldness, there is warmth.”


by Huh Eui-do
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