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(Yonhap Interview) Artist Kim Tae-soon portrays elegant, breathtaking beauty of Korean life

All News 18:05 July 22, 2016

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, July 22 (Yonhap) -- For little Kim Tae-soon, the blue sky that she got a peek of through a door slightly ajar at her childhood house hanok couldn't be more beautiful. The scenery, still vivid in her memory, comes back alive in her paintings.

In the exhibition booth set up as part of the Plastic Art Seoul 2016, a series of her paintings depicting various images of the Korean traditional house arouses the longing for a simple, tranquil Korean lifestyle. The art fair, taking place during July 20-24 at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX), southern Seoul, focuses on sculpture, glass and installation art and mixed media.

Having lived in hanok while growing up, "I wanted to portray its beauty -- the well-lighted, airy house and the small pond in the courtyard that I could see from inside the house," Kim said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Friday.

"Looking up at the sky, I was often lost in a daydream. In hindsight, I might have imagined going overseas to talk about Korean culture."

Born in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, in 1953, she studied western paintings at Yeungnam University in Daegu, and later oriental paintings at Donga University in Busan.

She's had 12 solo exhibitions in Korea and the U.S., with her first one in Seoul in 1996, and six group exhibitions, five overseas and one in Seoul. In recent years, she actively exhibited in the U.S.

In 2013, she had a breakthrough moment in her career; she was invited to participate in "Looking East: Rubens's Encounter with Asia" at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles that showed "Man in Korean Costume" by Peter Paul Rubens, a European artist from 17th century. The painting is believed to be one of the earliest depictions of Korean costume by a Western artist.

The museum said "The Spirit of Chosun," her work from 2006, was a "wonderful complement" to its exhibition as her work demonstrated how costumes from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) "continues to inspire contemporary painters in Korea," and that "The use of antique Korean paper to fabricate traditional Korean costume provides a fascinating counterpart to the Getty drawing."

Little known in the Korean art scene, she prefers to keep a low profile. She has neither actively reached out to galleries nor aggressively opened an exhibition in Korea. She said she'd focused on her dual roles of being a mother and a wife. When she didn't, she spent most of her time in her studio.

Now, she wants more Koreans to see her works and that is why she's participated in the art fair, she said.

"Some visitors tell me my works would be loved by foreigners. I feel really frustrated hearing that. I think Koreans should pay more attention to our culture and show respect toward it," she said.

She feels rewarded especially when she meets Korean expatriates in overseas shows who get really excited and emotional at the same time.

"I think someone has to do what I am doing now. With a sense of duty, I will keep publicizing traditional Korean beauty," she said.

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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