What Does Korean Art Want?

Artbit Gallery
Jul 10, 2019 6:57AM

What does Korean art want?

We know that art does not only belongs to the artist, but also to the society, in which he or she belongs. “It is not Goethe that creates Faust, but Faust that creates Goethe”. This quote by C. G. Jung explains that in the mind of Germans, Faust is a living existence and Goethe merely helped its creation.

This is no different in Korean art works. There is a certain model or prototype in the consciousness of Koreans and this is what Korean art has been expressing. Koreans’ particular longing for good luck and fortune attaches meanings to individual artworks embodying their hopes and wishes. While the classical scholars have expressed the ideals of living freely at-ease on the mountains and waters like the Taoists hermits, some depicted the Four Guardians to ward off the evil spirit, some portrayed the Ten Symbols of Longevity to wish for good health and longevity and some decorated a newlywed’s room with young children’s paintings to yearn for fecundity. Freshly drawn water, enshrinement of one’s ancestral table at home, guardian tree of the village are also ways to wish for good luck and to ward off evil spirits, reflecting the model from the root of Korean consciousness. The Korean imageries, sentiments, and motives shown in Korean portraiture, traditional costumes, and background penetrate the majority of my works. The omens of good luck from a work of art and the symbolic meanings within it are already essential elements of Korean art. I seek to grope what Korean Art wants through appropriating the elements that have been frequently dealt with in Korean art: rabbits, pomegranates, grapes and hydrangea symbolizing fecundity; fish and roosters symbolizing official status; hens and chicks symbolizing harmony; peony symbolizing fortune; lotus symbolizing virtue and sanctity.

In W.J.T. Mitchell’s writing, What Do Pictures Want?, he discerns not only the definition of pictures but also about images and their environment. However, when I asked, ‘what does Korean art want?’, Korean art became more ambiguous. I can only narrate what I know and what I have experienced in Korean art. Although the identity of Korean art is not my major proposition, my title as a Korean art artist is my identity and my responsibility. Finding the answers to what Korean art has to say still remains an unsolved problem. I am placed in this process, and I am trying to express the Korean model of shamanistic consciousness of yearning for good fortune, through the symbolic images that have been given their meanings from the past.

2018. Jung-Ran Kim

Artbit Gallery