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Contemporary Korean art dazzles in on campus exhibit

By Alana Hodson

Section: Arts

February 26, 2016

From Feb. 6 to March 26, the Slosberg Music Center will house a beautiful and captivating art display called “Landscapes of the Soul: Contemporary Korean Art.” It will be in conjunction with its musical counterpart, “From Korea: Gugak—Soundscapes of the Soul,” showing from March 19 to 20.

The stunning pieces of Korean art give a tranquil atmosphere to the Slosberg lobby as each piece features a unique aspect of Korean culture. The collection contains works of several different media, including photography, painting, sculpture, pottery, ink and decorated fans. Viewing the gallery is especially wonderful while the bands are practicing music in the main auditorium.

There are no descriptions to go along with any of the pieces, nor very many artist names, but one can still grasp the richness of tradition, history and landscape embedded into each piece. One of the first items one encounters upon entering the lobby is a standing sculpture in the shape of Korea. It is decorated on both sides with a design molded into the glazed clay; the front side illustrates a crane flying down towards a body of water and the back side shows a map of Korea. Other sculptures in the exhibit were a set of ceramic dishes with designs like fish and flowers carved into them, and a jade-green celadon ceramic sculpture of a woman’s torso. Korean pottery is a major aspect of the history of Korean art, dating as far back as 8000 B.C.E., and celadon wares are considered the classic wares of Korean porcelain.

Beautifully created paintings were also a main focus of this exhibit, depicting a wide range of subject matter from nature to cityscapes to people. One painting illustrates an intricate view of an indigenous species of pine tree, its branches gracefully intertwined and its needles fanned out in shades of emerald green. In the background, birds can be seen soaring through the sky. Pines are often a component of Korean art and culture; in fact, the Jeongipum Pine Tree is a national monument of Korea, a 600-year-old tree which stands as the symbol for Mt. Songnisan. Other paintings feature a young, bald individual with calm, mint-green eyes carrying a wooden boat on their head. The painting is strikingly contrasts with a cerulean background as a wave-like texture overlays the entire portrait, giving the tranquil effect of flowing water. In fact, this color blue seems to be a popular theme in contemporary Korean art, as another painting depicts a white mountain landscape set within a blue sky, as its traditional ink style gives off an antiquated and majestic feel. A fourth painting displays a scene of an old village in the setting sun. Rustic and warm, the painting is reminiscent of the impressionistic style, drawing great emphasis to the effect of light on the plastic walls of the houses, their metal roofs and the dirt road winding throughout the tightly-packed village.

Other fascinating components to the exhibit were a set of three paper fans, each intricately designed with ink-style illustrations of cherry blossoms, forests and mountains. The scenes only take up a small portion of the fans while the rest of the space is white, highlighting the complexity of the design compared to its white background. Another incredibly interesting piece was a colorful combination of both paint and brightly-colored string, and although the piece was somewhat abstract, the overall appearance seems to be of an outstretched hand. What makes this piece so different, however, is that the thread is stitched throughout the entire painting, neat and tightly knit in some places while haphazard and loose in others. By the thumb of the hand, long lengths of the string actually drape down from the canvas, allowing this piece of art to interact with its environment. Two other works on display were textile pieces, representing both the color scheme and style of traditional Korean cloth.

While not extensive, “Landscapes of the Soul: Contemporary Korean Art” is certainly worth a stroll to Slosberg, especially if you plan on viewing it with the Korean music concert also showing in March. Who knows, it might spark an interest in Korean culture, or you might even be inspired to create some art of your own.

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