Creator of massive paintings follows the football

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Creator of massive paintings follows the football

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Artist Ju Yeong-ken in his studio in Jongno District, central Seoul. By Choi Jeong-dong

During the Korea-Japan World Cup in 2002, the lobby of the Incheon International Airport was covered with a strip of rice paper 1.5 meters wide and 300 meters long. On the scroll was a painting of the scenery along Route 1, from Mokpo to Imjingak through Seoul.

When the 2006 World Cup in Germany rolled around, a similar painting of the Rhine River and German culture decorated the wall of a government office building in Germany.

This time artist Ju Yeong-ken is tackling South Africa, through an ink-and-wash painting of its Route 2.

Ju got a late start as an artist. After his military service and studying for several years, Ju finally got into the Institute of Fine Arts and Design Education at Hongik University.

“When I was around 30, I thought, ‘What might be the best theme to draw joyfully for my entire life?’ So starting in 1996, I painted mountains and streams along Route 1 for five years, and the 2002 World Cup was held just in time,” said Ju, who’s a football fan.

“From working as a teacher in an art institute to doing manual labor, there aren’t many jobs that I haven’t tried. And I paint with that in mind. Whenever I’m exhausted I say, ‘Kim Chung-ho made a map even in the old days,’ and settle down to work.”

There’s a reason he paints on a such a huge scale. “I like magnificent views when I paint scenery,” Ju said, explaining he usually paints on sheets that are 2.15 meters wide and 1.45 meters long. Because of this, getting his work exhibited can also be a hassle.

Based on a 20-day trip to South Africa in 2007, Ju has worked 15 hours a day on his latest piece, from videos and 4,000 photographs he took. The wall of his studio is full of pictures, with a projector screen hung on one wall.

Ju’s work is more than just another landscape painting.

“Combining South Africa’s national flower with ours, I tried to put some symbolic representations in to [help the viewer] understand the cultures of the two countries.”

Ju hopes to complete 2,010 sheets, each 300 by 200 centimeters. So far, he has done 1,700, and plans to keep painting after leaving for Africa.

“Now, I’m talking with a principal of one high school [in Africa about an exhibition]. If possible, I want to bring the big paintings that I’ve done for the Korea-Japan and Germany World Cups, but it’s hard to find a suitable place. The cost of exhibition and transportation is also a problem.

“Because I promised myself I would draw the path of the host country of the World Cup, I will bear [the difficulties], whatever happens.”

Ju’s already looking forward to the Brazil World Cup in 2014.

“Brazil is the country of soccer. I want to trace the path of Pele, and paint football icons that he left behind. I’ve already begun my research.”


By Jung Hyung-mo [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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2002년 한·일 월드컵 당시 인천공항 로비는 세로 1m50㎝, 가로 300m에 달하는 화선지로 ‘도배’가 됐었다. 그 화선지엔 목포에서 서울을 거쳐 임진각에 이르는 1번 국도의 풍경이 고스란히 담겨 있었다. 2006년 독일 월드컵 당시 베를린시 뵐메스르도프 구청갤러리도 마찬가지였다. 라인강의 물길과 독일의 문화를 그려낸 수묵 담채가 같은 크기로 청사 바람벽을 장식했다. 그리고 2010년 6월. 이번엔 케이프타운에서 ‘넬슨만델라베이’라 불리는 포토엘리자베스, 더반, 요하네스버그를 거쳐 프리토리아에 이르는 남아프리카공화국의 혈맥 ‘2번 국도’다. 아프리카의 이국적 풍광과 신화를 수묵화로 그리고 있는 주인공은 주영근(44) 화백. 월드컵이 열리는 나라의 길과 풍경, 거리의 모습과 문화적 상징을 엄청난 분량의 화선지에 풀어내고 있다.

-왜 월드컵 그림인가.
“그림을 늦게 시작했다. 군대 다녀와서 여러 번 재수 끝에 홍익대 미술교육원에서 미술공부를 시작했다. 나이 서른이 됐을 무렵 ‘평생 즐겁게 그릴 수 있는 주제가 뭘까’ 생각했다. 1996년부터 5년간 1번 국도를 따라 오가며 우리 산천의 모습을 그려왔는데 마침 2002년 월드컵이 열리게 됐다. 축구와 그림을 너무 좋아하는지라 자연스럽게 월드컵과 연관이 됐다.”

-길을 따라 다니며 그림을 그리는 게 쉽지 않아 보인다.
“미술학원 강사, 인쇄소 직원부터 막노동까지 안 해본 일이 없다. 그렇게 돈을 모아 그림을 그리고 있다. 여기저기 다니느라 힘이 들지만 그때마다 ‘김정호 선생은 그 옛날에 지도도 만들었는데’라고 마음을 다잡곤 한다.”

-이렇게 큰 그림을 주로 그리는 이유는.
“풍광을 그리다 보니 웅장한 화면 맛이 좋더라. 보통 종이를 세 장 합친 화선지 삼합 장지에 그리는데 종이 사이즈만 세로 1m45㎝, 가로가 2m15㎝다. 그림이 크니 전시공간도 커야 했고 큰 곳에서 하다 보니 화제도 됐다.”
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