2013 Student-Faculty Fellows Program: Concordia College
Printmaking and Related Media in South Korea
Mentors: Heidi Goldberg & Susan Lee, Art Department
Students: Turi Anderson ’14, Lauren Johnson ’14, Cheryl Lussky ’14, Bridget Medbery ’13, Jenna Morris ’15, Solveig Swenson ‘14
When one leaves the hermetic environment of the college classroom and engages with a place and a people, there are invariably unexpected yet deeply edifying moments. As each student worked on her individual research project related to South Korean art, we experienced many such moments as many prominent artists like Kwon Kisoo, Kim Seungyeon, Monk Beomju, Miro Kim, Nam Cheonwoo, and Choi Seongmin took time from their hectic schedules to answer our questions, show us their work, and help us understand the complex issues and concerns that inform South Korean art as it operates in contemporary times. We were able to form genuine relationships with these artists, which helped us to better understand the wide range and rich textures of South Korean art. We came to especially value the aesthetics of landscape in Korean imagery and its broad range of stylistic approach which is always rooted in love of nature and honest personal response to specific environments.
As someone who plans to become an art educator, I have a deep interest in printmaking. During the fall of 2012, I attended the Mid-American Print Council Conference in Missouri to observe and listen to presentations and attend demonstrations about new printmaking techniques on flocking, mokulito and new types of intaglio. My research in South Korea this past summer continues this study. My research project is entitled “Progressive Printmaking: New Methods, Materials, and Masterpieces.” While in South Korea, I interacted with university professors and students at Hongik University and Chugye University who are engaged in printmaking, and also conversed with several South Korean artists. I also grounded my growing understanding of contemporary printmaking by visiting a local art museum to study the work of two prominent past artists who were on the cusp of contemporary printing techniques. My current challenge is to pull together the notes from my interviews with artists, the materials collected at various galleries and museums, and the other research data I have collected to write a definitive study on South Korean printmaking. It will likely focus on the work of the noted printmaker, Miro Kim, whose work I came to particularly admire.
My research focuses upon South Korean museums and art galleries to ascertain how they function and how they differ from similar institutions in the Western world. I am especially interested in measuring the relationship of galleries and museums to contemporary art. My research will be grounded in what I discovered while in South Korea visiting a number of galleries, museums and general art institutions, and interacting with Korean artists and art instructors.
Once I graduate, I plan on becoming a graphic designer, and consequently, this experience in South Korea has been especially important and valuable to me. The focus of my research is on the influence of printmaking on graphic design in South Korea and the relation of art to graphic design. While in country, I photographed posters, signs, product packaging and a variety of artworks and prints in order to analyze each and begin to draw connections between art and design. I also sought to expand my knowledge of graphic design styles and techniques. An important contribution to my research was an interview I held with the noted graphic designer Seongmin Choi. I quickly discovered that his works are much more minimalist in nature than most prints, which are very complex. He informed me that there is no “traditional” Korean design, and that current South Korean design has been shaped from a variety of sources, especially from the United States and Japan. We talked about whether graphic design can be considered an art form. His reply was that design is a process and that art also requires the process of design, but this does not make corporate design equal to art.
The key focus of my research is to answer the question: “How has South Korea’s history with Japan affected its manhwa industry. Having graduated from Concordia just before participating in the “Student-Faculty Fellows Program,” I am currently working as a teacher’s assistant in human resources management at a college in Zhuhai, China. It is from this posting that my continued work on this study will develop.
My research focuses upon the abundance of cute childish characters like Sanrio’s “Hello Kitty” and San-X’s “Rilakkuma” that are evident throughout South Korea. As is the case with the “Superflat Movement” in Japanese art, cuteness weaves its way into almost every part of South Korean modern life. My study will attempt to analyze why these characters are so pervasive and what this says about the South Koreans. By interviewing established artists like Kwon Ki Soo and Art Nom, and also young and up-and-coming arts, as well as through observing this movement in the streets of Seoul where advertisements are decorated in bright colors and filled with cartoonish characters, and public service announcements and even public transportation have their own cute little characters to convey their messages, several plausible explanations have begun to emerge. For instance, the artist Kwon Ki Soo stressed that he is confused about his own identity as an artist, as a Korean, and the identity of the Korean people as a whole. He uses the figure of Dongguri to explore these identities in his work. The graphic designer Seongmin Choi believes the Korean people are confused about their identity. He believes that cute South Korean characters are an attempt to take Japanese ideas and make them fit into a South Korean identity as they seek to create something uniquely Korean.
My research focuses upon a comparison of Western and Eastern art, focused especially on the Zen (Seon) tradition. In an interview with the South Korean monk Beomju, he noted that the energy of the West has been expended on technological and scientific growth. Its art tends to be representative, depicting things that are tangible, objects and the physical world. On the other hand, Beomju’s dharma painting is meant to cultivate his mind, to “wake people up.” My hope is to discover and explore the art of Western painters that seem attuned to this Zen ideal, for instance, Alex Grey’s works incorporate wisdom traditions into his work. In Zen, art is to embrace the pure, anonymous, timeless, styleless, and simple, independent of meaning. I believe it possible through the study of writings and activities of scholars and artists like Alan Watts, Ananda Coomaraswamy, and John Cage to discover the same.