[FOUNTAIN]Nostalgia in blue for a missing home

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[FOUNTAIN]Nostalgia in blue for a missing home

There is a charming tension about the color blue. One thinks of cold, but not cold-heartedness. It represents dreams and adventure, maturity and healing. It symbolizes the desire to return to one’s origins, and a longing for eternity. It is the color of water, which bears life.
The artist Kim Han works entirely with the color blue. Seas are deep blue, boats are light blue and people have a bluish tint. Fish, butterflies and even the flowing hair of a woman are depicted in blue. At a glance, the gallery where 60 of his pieces are housed seems like part of an ocean. It is a world of pure myth, a present from the artist to the city-dwellers.
Mr. Kim is a “story artist.” Like Picasso with his “Guernica,” he uses his art to tell tales from his hometown by the sea. In “Manchuilgi,” or “Diary of Late Autumn,” a man and a woman walk hand in hand out of a warm-colored background; it makes one think of Adam and Eve driven from the Garden of Eden. One feels the fear of leaving paradise and the flutter of the couple’s love all at once. In “Poguseolhwa,” or “Tale of a Port,” and “Pogusong,” or “Song for a Port,” the artist depicts the town of Myongchon in North Hamgyong province, North Korea, with nostalgia, but also with an appreciation for the symmetry of the human body that makes one think of Greek mythology. It is a Western sensibility.
Below the blue nostalgia of Kim Han’s work is a lost home. He ran away because he was on bad terms with his father, who pushed him to be a doctor. He came to the South alone during the Korean War, and rejoined his family a few years later. Only his younger brother, Kim Cheol, is still in the North, where he is a poet.
In 2000, the South Korean artist and the North Korean poet met in Pyongyang after 50 years, and cried their sorrows away. Just as in the earlier days, the elder brother still sings the song “Gagopa,” which means “desire to go.” The younger brother has become famous for his poem “Eomeoni,” or “Mother.”
Kim Han’s refreshing art is an aesthetic accomplishment that touches on the very nature of human beings. It is a universal achievement that is all the more precious because it arose from the sad reality of a divided country.

by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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