Go to Contents Go to Navigation

(Yonhap Interview) From spirits of resistance, innovation to tranquility

All Headlines 16:11 March 08, 2018

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- Artist Suh Seung-won rode a roller coaster of ups and downs through Korean history.

Born in Seoul in 1942, he still has a vivid memory of trudging with his mother and grandmother for about a month to flee North Korean soldiers during the Korean War.

When he was a freshman at Seoul's Hongik University in 1960, the country fell into chaos with the April Revolution, a popular uprising led by anti-government student and labor protesters to overthrow the autocratic Rhee Syng-man government.

The two episodes were only a small fraction of the social upheaval that he went through with other fellow Koreans for more than half a century.

This photo provided on March 7, 2018, by Arario Gallery in Seoul shows the artist Suh Seung-won. (Yonhap)

As a fearless young artist, Suh did his share of revolutionary action to keep pace with a rapidly reshaping society by founding the young artist group "Origin." Its goals were to search for the meaning of doing art by standing up to mainstream art and older generations who suppressed challenges and expected obedience.

"We were like, 'Why should we do the same thing? Let's have an avant-garde spirit and do something new and more Korean," he said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Arario Gallery in Seoul on Wednesday.

"Many established artists considered us callow and presumptuous for believing we could resist art of the past."

But his art didn't come out of nowhere, he said. He was deeply inspired by colors and shapes that he'd observed in the Korean traditional house, or "hanok," where he had lived for 50 years.

This image provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul on March 7, 2018, shows artist Suh Seung-won's "Simultaneity 67-9," which he painted in 1967. (Yonhap)
This image provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul on March 7, 2018, shows artist Suh Seung-won's "Simultaneity 69-1," which he painted in 1969. (Yonhap)

His artistic style of geometrical abstraction came as a shock to the Korean art scene, where either the French-led Art Informel –- a movement seeking for, among other things, lyrical abstraction -- or realistic paintings were dominant.

"I invited my father to my exhibition. But as soon as he saw my paintings, he stomped out of the gallery, complaining out loud that he regretted having spent so much money to get me a higher education."

Out of desperation, he and like-minded artists protested in downtown Seoul one day, holding signs that said "This is art too" and calling for artistic diversity.

The artist, credited for leading a new artistic movement in the '60s and '70s, opens a retrospective titled "A Half Century of Endeavor and Serenity" on Thursday at Arario Gallery that displays 23 of his major artworks, including some rare paintings from the early stage of his career.

This image provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul on March 7, 2018, shows artist Suh Seung-won's "Simultaneity 89-95," which he painted in 1989. (Yonhap)

For the past half a century, the artist assiduously pursued the theme of simultaneity, a word that he's used since 1965 and defines as the simultaneous expression of the visible and invisible and of shapes, sides, colors and spirits on canvas. Although his expressive style has changed over time, the core message remains the same, the retired Hongik University art professor said.

Approaching the age of 80, he now yearns more for serenity of mind. His paintings have become increasingly colorless and shapeless to completely assimilate into the canvas.

"Now that I've entered my later years, I hope to get closer to the core of painting, which I believe is having less shape and feeling more reserved," he said.

"Through the repetitive and reflective process of painting, erasing and painting, I am back to myself. I fall into the world of meditation."

This image provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul on March 7, 2018, shows artist Suh Seung-won's "Simultaneity 17-605," which he painted in 2017. (Yonhap)
This image provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul on March 7, 2018, shows artist Suh Seung-won's "Simultaneity 18-127," which he painted in 2018. (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
(END)

HOME TOP
Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!