Artist mixed styles of East and West

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Artist mixed styles of East and West

Ko Hui-dong, also known by his artist name, Chungok, was the first Korean artist to experiment with a combination of traditional Korean art and modern Western art.
Chungok, who lived from 1885 until 1965, decided to ignore old, Chinese influenced methods and embraced a new form of painting.
He studied Western art at the Tokyo Fine Arts School in Japan. Chungok is one of the masters of modern Korean art, but his work is not well known. He was a lonely and unsettled pioneer in the field. As he wrote in a monthly literary magazine called “Shinchunji” in 1954: “When I went to the suburb carrying my sketch box, everyone thought I was a peddler selling candy or cigarettes.”
His graduation piece from the Tokyo Fine Arts School in 1915 was a self-portrait of himself as an educated man in the Joseon Dynasty. Critics now believe that Chungok considered himself as a traditional intellectual rather than a modernist.
This year marks the 40th year since his death. The exhibition, “A retrospective of Chungok Ko Hui-dong,” opened July 13 and runs through Sept. 10 at the Seoul National University Museum.
Director Kim Young-na offers the first close look of the work by Chungok, as well as a starting point of studies on Korean modern art.
At the museum’s special exhibition hall, 70 pieces ― 60 of which are owned by his descendants ― will be exhibited.
Most of the pieces are traditional Korean paintings, as it was the time during which Western art began to influence modern Korean art. It may have been Chungok’s destiny to utilize Western techniques to produce Korean paintings.
Chungok served as the founder and manager of the Art Association in 1918 and organized national exhibitions as the president of the Korea Art Association in 1945.
The curator, Jin Joon-hyun, pointed out that Chungok’s work to promote art was so extensive that his legacy as an artist has been overlooked until now.
At 2 p.m. Aug. 15, the Korean art historian Lee Gu-yeol and Jin Joon-hyun will hold a conference at the museum auditorium.


by Chung Jae-suk

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Sundays and is inside Seoul National University’s campus.
The nearest subway station is on line 2, Seoul National University station. Take exit no. 3 and transfer to buses No. 5511, 5512 or 5513. For directions, visit the Web site, www.snum.org or call (02) 880-8092.

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