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Master printmaker Oh Yoon honored in major retrospective

All Headlines 15:46 June 16, 2016

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- For late artist Oh Yoon, art wasn't a means to make a living. He once said in private, "Art is a guerrilla act," indicating his belief that art shouldn't belong only to the establishment but play a role in public enlightenment and social change.

Gana Art Gallery in Seoul will present a massive retrospective, from June 24 till Aug. 7, to mark the 30th anniversary of the great artist's death at age 39. Some 250 artworks ranging from oil paintings to woodblock prints and sculptures are on display in the gallery's three exhibition halls.

He painted and sculpted, but he is most well known for his woodblock prints that captured the essence of the everyday lives of people in his time, in an intense, captivating, and compelling way.

For the two decades from the late 60s until he died in 1986, the period when Oh actively produced works of art, Korea was going through a social, political and economic upheaval. While actively participating in the grassroots movement seeking art's role in a society filled with confusion and chaos, he established his own unique art world inspired by the country's traditional dances, tales and shamanic rituals.

At the media preview on Thursday, Yoon Beon-mo, a close friend of the late printmaker, said, "I can't believe it's already been 30 years since he left us.... This exhibit throws the light especially on his woodblock prints where he holds an unchallenged, unsurpassed position."

Recalling his memories about the artist, the professor and art historian said, "For Oh, engraving on a wood plate wasn't considered art or a merchantable good. At that time, the only purpose for it was to use it in the social movement that we were engaged in," he said. He added, "That is why none of his woodblock prints have an edition on them." Indeed, many of his artworks on display didn't have an edition printed on them. Some don't even have a title or a date of creation.

For the retrospective, some of his early drawings are being made public for the first time by his family. Through his dynamic sketches of people and animals in bold lines, one can guess the depth of his art that wanders the line between abstraction and realism.

"His early drawings will give gallerygoers a chance to see where his art came from," Yoon said.


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