A neglected genre draws new respect

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A neglected genre draws new respect

For centuries, drawing has been used to judge a person’s artistic talents. Professors in Korean art colleges often base their determination of a student’s creative potential on whether he has properly mastered technical drawing skills.
Yet drawing also is a genre that in Korea has never been treated as a complete ― not to say serious ― medium. To many, drawing is a means to an end, a first draft of what will ultimately become a painting or sculpture, for instance.
The West takes a different approach to drawing. Artists like Jim Dine and Robert Rauschenberg are celebrated for their drawings rather than their paintings.
Only during the past decade have Korean curators and artists begun to consider drawing as an independent medium, and its incompleteness and abstractions as part of its aesthetics.
“Drawing: Its New Horizon,” an exhibition at the National Museum of Art at Deoksugung, features the works of some of Korea’s leading modern artists, most of whom are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
The pieces in the show are diverse, ranging from rough sketches to drawings done with nontraditional mediums, such as powdered charcoal on a laminated floor. The works of 48 artists are included in the exhibition.
The painter Suk Ran-hi depicts changing shapes on a canvas by spraying splashes of water and the placing ink drops on the surface. In “Wind Landscape” Kim Ho-deuk experiments with charcoal rubbings on paper. Rather than using a brush or ink, Jung Tak-young creates a drawing by carving the shape with a paper knife.
“Compared with the West, the drawings of Korea’s contemporary artists tend to be spiritual rather than material,” said Park Soo-jin, the museum's assistant curator. “They tend to focus on internal problems. This internal rhythm is probably what leads to brush strokes in Korean drawings that are subtle and consistent.”
This exhibition is an important archive that examines the history of drawing traditions in Korea ― a tradition ignored for centuries and now showing unlimited possibilities for expression.
Yet the museum’s attempt to divide the show into three sections ― drawing as expression, automatism and composition ― seems unnecessary since most of the works embody elements of all three classifications anyway.
The flow of the works also seems inconsistent and fails to fully arrest the audience’s attention.

by Park Soo-mee

“Drawing: Its New Horizon” runs through June 22 at the National Museum of Art at Deoksugung. Take the subway to City Hall, exit No. 1 or 2. The museum is a five-minute walk past Deoksu Palace’s front gate. For more information call (02) 779-5310.
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