Artist conquers new challenges as he opens landmark China exhibit

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Artist conquers new challenges as he opens landmark China exhibit

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Youn Myeung-ro

BEIJING - Youn Myeung-ro, a professor at Seoul National University, has become the first Korean artist to have a solo show at the invitation of both the China Artists Association and National Art Museum of China. His show runs from Oct. 23 to Nov. 10 in Beijing.

Chinese artists have expressed surprise at Youn’s ability, at 74, to create new and challenging works.

But Fan Di’an, director of the National Art Museum of China, said, “Youn’s works, which began as structural abstract paintings, have become abstract paintings in the style of literary artists, which have simple strokes and deep meanings.

“Youn has created a uniquely Asian form of art soaked in beauty, allowing viewers to feel ‘a picture outside of a picture and a sound outside of a sound,’” Fan said.



Q. What was the background for the invitation?

A. Fan Di’an, director of the National Art Museum of China and a famous Chinese art critic, said that I had already deliberated on the problems that Chinese artists have now begun to think about.

Fan and I share the view that young artists of our time are distracted by the Internet and digital technologies. I think my pieces present them with the chance to look more seriously at the art world.



Tell us about the exhibition.

Although there are pieces from 2002, I tried to put in as many new pieces as possible. [Altogether] I have a total of 20 pieces in the show.

(Youn holds up a painting) As you can see, the color of this painting will be viewed differently depending on the viewer’s location and angle. This technique is called hongchae, and I’m the first to experiment with it.



You’ve been creating art for 50 years. How do you find new inspiration for your work?

Artists cannot imitate or borrow ideas. As an artist, there is a lot of temptation for money and fame. When I look back, my life was very lonely because I had to push those things away. I’m still going through that process. My creative energy comes not from my body but from my soul.



How would you characterize your work?

I never give titles to my paintings. (Holding up a painting) This piece is called “Windy Day.” With that title, people think only about the wind. I don’t think it is right for the artist to restrict the viewers’ thoughts by putting a title on a work of art.



What do you think about Chinese contemporary art?

The market has gotten bigger, but there are problems with the Chinese art world. Artists that left the authoritative painting circles in China have started to make a lot of money. But major museums in New York, London and Paris don’t seem to be very impressed by their work.



Then how do you feel about Korean contemporary art?

Neo-pop, which is easy to enjoy, has been a major trend in Korea. I respect the variety of work, so I recognize the art. Still, I think some artists should make more serious art. I hope that artists will not lose their identity.

By Chang Se-jeong [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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