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(Yonhap Interview) Korean sculptor realizes artistic dream in Italian marble quarry

All Headlines 15:49 May 15, 2018

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, May 15 (Yonhap) -- The past few months have been memorable ones for Italy-based Korean sculptor Park Eun-sun.

Last month, he was invited to Art Busan, an annual art show in the southeastern port city, as a special artist of the year. This week, he holds a solo exhibition in Seoul -- his first in eight years in the country.

Since he moved to Italy in 1993 to work with his favorite materials of marble and natural stones, the 53-year-old artist has found few reasons -- and resources, for that matter -- to come back to Korea.

While many Korean students returned to Korea after finishing school to pursue mostly teaching careers, he said he had "a different plan from them." He wanted to settle and grow into an established artist there.

This photo shows sculptor Park Eun-sun's works on display at Piazza Duomo in Pietrasanta, Italy, on August 13, 2017. (Yonhap)

"I focused on working with stones and rarely participated in external activities like group exhibitions. I almost locked myself in my studio and worked the whole day long," he said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday at The Page Gallery in Seoul.

His solo exhibition, "Time of a Breathing Stone," is set to run from May 16 to June 30 at the gallery, where some 20 pieces of large and small marble sculptures are on view.

Park has settled in the ancient Tuscan sculpture town of Pietrasanta, widely known as a place where Michelangelo worked and as the "City of Artists." The town's fine marble mountains and sprawling art studios and galleries have long attracted artists, including Damien Hirst, from around the world.

"I managed to survive day after day, dreaming about what I would look like in 10 years' time," he said, adding that living and working in the foreign country as a financially strapped young artist was really tough.

Sculptor Park Eun-sun talks during a media preview for his solo exhibition "Time of a Breathing Stone" at The Page Gallery in Seoul on May 15, 2018. (Yonhap)

Having a family to support aggravated his financial conditions to the point where he had to temporarily separate from them. He borrowed three million won (US$2,790) from a gallery in Korea and flew back to Italy alone.

He worked awfully hard, from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m., a strict daily routine he compared to "serving time in jail," even though he enjoyed working very much.

"At that time, I had no other choice but to go to the studio and work. I couldn't walk away from sculpting even though the thought that I had no food in the refrigerator bothered me and I often felt like standing at the edge of a cliff."

Over time, he built a reputation for his persistence and hard-working attitude and started to have some regular patrons. He could bring his family back to Italy in less than four years.

In this photo provided by The Page Gallery, visitors check out sculptures by Park Eun-sun at The Page Gallery in Seoul on May 15, 2018. (Yonhap)

His sculptures, built with layers of striped marble with prominent cracks, strike a delicate and elegant balance between two contrasting elements of raw and refined, sleek and rough and balance and off balance.

While trying to establish an artistic identity for himself, he reached the conclusion that "everything I was looking for was already inside myself."

He said: "I found duplicity as part of my personal traits -- like I try to look elegant as an artist while what I do in my studio is almost hard labor, and I appear nonchalant when I am desperate inside."

The internal struggle of coping with, or acknowledging, duplicity forms the core message of his art pieces.

"I live like a swan which sails elegantly but pads furiously under the water. It's been touch and go and emotionally hard." But he said, "I love the process of sculpting. I feel happiest when I concentrate on my work."

This photo provided by The Page Gallery shows Park Eun-sun's sculpture titled "Condivisione 04." (Yonhap)


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