Master of the jigsaw puzzle does art a piece at a time

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Master of the jigsaw puzzle does art a piece at a time


Take a closer look at a painting by Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden and one can see cracks all over the work, although in systematic patterns. It’s not actually a painting but a combination of 17,982 pieces: a jigsaw puzzle. It took nearly 90 days over seven months to be completed, but so far its assembler has done more than 600 such puzzles in the last five years.
But that’s his job: He puts together puzzles.
More than 150 jigsaw puzzle works assembled by Yang Sung-wook, 32, the director of the Puzzle Pavilion Museum, are displayed in an exhibition at the 63 Building in Yeouido, central Seoul. The exhibition, “A World Tour through Puzzle,” features both three-dimensional and surface puzzles ranging from the largest, the replica of van der Weyden’s “St Columba Altarpiece,” to a large three-dimensional puzzle, “Manhattan,” which contains 3,141 pieces.
The van der Weyden puzzle measures 3.21 meters (10.5 feet) by 1.56 meters. The copy of the mid-15th century Renaissance painting, the original of which is in Alte Pinakothek, Munich, shows the Virgin Mary and child Jesus. A puzzle version of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is also in the show, as well as “Mecca,” a rare puzzle that is no longer produced.
Mr. Yang said that while assembling “St Columba Altarpiece,” “Sometimes I worked for 15 to 20 days straight in my workroom. I sat on the floor so long that I had blisters on my buttocks and my tailbone was aching.”
Mr. Yang first began assembling puzzles in 2002, when he bought a 3-D puzzle in Canada where he was studying. The puzzle was intended for his cousin but Mr. Yang ended up completing it himself and was fascinated by the process.
“The level of satisfaction from completing a puzzle is enormous. It is like finishing a great art piece,” he said.
Mr. Yang came back to Korea and worked as an English instructor, but spent the rest of his time and money buying and assembling puzzles. In the beginning, his father scolded him, saying, “You are a mature man and still playing like a child.”
“I was in my room for days and came out with my eyes all red and my hair was greasy and stuck together and he probably did not like it,” Mr. Yang said.
However, his family came to embrace Mr. Yang’s hobby and also became interested in assembling puzzles themselves. “Now I ask my brothers and their wives to do puzzles with 1,000 pieces or fewer,” Mr. Yang said. His family even helped him open the Puzzle Pavilion Museum ( in Hongcheon, Gangwon province. The museum does not yet make enough money for Mr. Yang to make a living, but his family helps support him and the museum.

by Limb Jae-un

The exhibition opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m., until March 8. For information, call (02) 789-5663.
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