The art of defying convention
“Wow, this is a fantastic world of art!” I thought as soon as I walked into the convention hall at Galleria Foret in Seongsu-dong, central Seoul, on Friday. The Gallery Seoul 12 Art Fair was in progress, and some of the world’s most prestigious galleries were participating. Even the critics and art dealers attending the event seemed appropriately fashionable.
The art fair exhibited works of English artist Damien Hirst, whose 30-second sketch is valued at 8 million won ($7,025), and Atta Kim, a Korean artist who is known as a “photographic philosopher.” But what caught my attention was the work by Nara Yoshitomo presented by Takeda Gallery in Japan. In the work, the face of the girl with horns is repulsive at first, but behind the exaggerated frustration and anger lies profound solitude. After spending about two hours appreciating premium art, I was ready to leave. Then, a relief sculpture caught my eyes. The title was “Elephant in the Order I Touched.” The artist was Kim Wu-jin, a fifth grader at the Daejeon School for the Blind. “A blind boy made this sculpture?” I thought. “After touching an elephant?”
In fact, the sculpture was a product of the memories of a boy with visual impairment, starting from the elephant trunk to the tail.
A booth was set up to introduce the artistic activities of the blind. The exhibition included a collection of student works from a photography class. I was overwhelmed with emotion. They cannot see with their eyes, but they can hear, touch, smell and feel with their hearts. They captured the freshly trimmed hair of a friend, the feel of a friend running away and fallen leaves in a park.
Touching an Elephant is the core program of the Our Eyes project. Children touch the biggest animal on the planet with help from veterinarians and animal trainers. And the experience leads them closer to the essence than what we experience with our eyes. Their art is about insight, defying convention and seeing with inner eyes. The catalogue from the exhibition contained a quote from a former student: “I am working as an acupuncturist now, but art lessons from the school gave me the dignity to live gracefully as a human being.”
These students’ works moved me in a different way than the professional pieces did. After all, art touches the heart. I signed up to become a sponsor, and I am thankful to be given the chance.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Na-ree