Do you know the artwork <Ssireum>? It’s a painting of two men playing ssireum, Korean wrestling, and the audience is shown enjoying the game by eating some candy and smoking. It is a famous artwork painted by Kim Hongdo. Through his paintings, people can discover his thoughts, emotions, and contemporary life during the time of the artwork. Especially, in the exhibition <Kim Hongdo Alive>, guests can meet his paintings as if they were truly alive. This SMT reporter met this genius artisan to learn about his journey through life.
Danwon Kim Hongdo, Who Are You?
Kim Hongdo is well known to most Koreans through his paintings that are full of humor and satire. He is an artist who flourished during the cultural arts revival periods of the Joseon Dynasty, especially the reigns of Yeongjo (21st King of Joseon) and Jeongjo (22nd King of Joseon). He rose to fame and earned the trust of King Jeongjo. He was an expert at painting various landscapes, figures, Taoism and Buddhism style paintings, and others, but he is particularly renowned for his outstanding work with landscapes and genre painting. There is interesting speculation that legendary artist Toshusai Sharaku specialized in Ukiioyoe, and the woodprint artist of the Edo period was Kim Hongdo. He is most famous for drawing illustrations of popular kabuki actors in Tokyo. He suddenly appeared in Edo, leaving behind 140 pieces of artwork over a brief period of 10 months before disappearing. There is no exact record of him, creating a large mystery around his life. This period overlaps with Kim Hondo’s period of absence in Korea. Visitors are able to compare both painters’ artworks and find similarities among them at the exhibition. The exhibition is full of vivid multi-media technology that highlights his life’s journeys, his stories, and his charms that are hidden behind his humorous artwork. Also, pieces rarely seen by the public are open for viewing including an 8-panel folding screen. The paintings become alive through media platforms that deliver the energy of lives in Joseon. The War Memorial of Korea is very close to Sookmyung Women’s University, so it will only take 20 minutes to go there on foot. If you prefer, you can take Bus 400 from Sookmyung Women’s University, transfer at Hyochang Park Station to Bus 740, and get off at the War Memorial of Korea. It’ll take 25 minutes.
What Are You Looking at?
The exhibition consists of five sections, and each section has its own theme of different places. Visitors first pass by Kim Hongdo’s portrait in the first section, Birch Hill, which is where he spent most of his time drawing and sharing his ideas with other people. Many people are familiar with the humor, sarcasm, and satire in his drawings. However, this reporter was impressed to learn about the graphic descriptions despite his work being colorless. In the second section of the exhibition, the theme is Palace. Through media art, visitors see the process of creating Gyujanggak, not just finished drawing. Next to the media platform, they see the stationary painting of Gyujanggak as well. Viewing the process of creating his work made it easier for the reporter to understand the meaning behind Gyujanggak. Passing there, people are introduced to King Jeongjo’s royal procession to Hwaseong. Kim describes many people in detail. Most Koreans would have learned about the procession in school, so it would be interesting to compare what was learned to what is shown in the paintings. After each drawing, big screens show Kakao Talk messages between Jeongjo and Kim Hongdo. It is a very fresh idea because it is hard to imagine Jeongjo using the app. This reporter recommends to take time to read the messages. In the third section, Mountain Geumgang is shown with the scenery of Geumgang area. There are not many paintings, but there is a really big screen that shows four districts of the mountain as an animated video. The exhibition vitalizes his drawings through media without distracting visitors or making them feel awkward. The flow is really seamless. This reporter stayed at the exhibition for several times to look in detail. This reporter loved the fourth section, Streets. People look at the scenery of Hanyang (the capital of Joseon Dynasty) in the 18th century with dynamic colors and detailed backgrounds on an eight panel folding screen. The panels rotate regularly to show the four seasons of Hanyang and its various scenery. The real drawings are in the Guinet Museum in France, so this reporter felt a little depressed; nevertheless, the display was eye catching. This reporter hopes someday both works can be displayed together. There were four chairs, so people are invited to sit in order to appreciate the work longer. The exhibition ends with last section, Danwon’s Room, which displays two works with small trees and the other shapes of rabbits.
During the exhibition, people admire the drawings while soothing music is played in the background. The sound of Gayageum relaxes one’s mind. This reporter highly recommends visiting the exhibition on a weekday. It will allow for a better experience, and it will be easygoing. A docent is available everyday at 11:00 a.m, 2:00 p.m, and 4:00 p.m, so if you’d like to join that program, visit at those hours. The docent tour lasts about 30 minutes. Visitors can receive a special souvenir if they upload their pictures on the exhibition SNS site.
Ratings : ★★★★☆
It was a really great chance to see the pictures move on big screens while telling stories that enable better understanding of the paintings. However, the number of paintings was limited, so this reporter felt a lack of artwork.