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[Editorial] Artistic soul overcame great obstacles

Posted January. 25, 2001 15:50,   


Whenever he took up his brushes, pictures appeared. Unbo or Kim Ki-Chang, the great painter, passed away on Tuesday. Kim`s death comes in the wake of the demise late last month of Midang, Suh Chong-Ju, a great national poet, meaning that the nation lost two towering artistic figures in the space of a month.

Last December, Unbo had a meeting with his sickly younger brother Kim Ki-Man, a meritorious painter in North Korea, some 50 years after they were separated. Now his brother in the North may be wailing for Unbo`s departure, again recalling the bitter memory of the national division and their separation.

Stricken by typhoid as a seven-year-old boy, Unbo lost his hearing and afterward the power of speech as well. But he achieved a glorious triumph by overcoming the challenges he faced. Since one of his paintings was selected for a national art exhibition when he was 18 years old in 1931, Unbo left behind more than 10,000 pictures. Moreover, he undertook overall reforms in his painting style every 10 years, thus displaying unparalleled creative ability and undaunted passion.

He painted Chongroksansu, depicting the Korean landscape of mountains and rivers using India ink and shading, and produced Babosansu, boldly capturing the romanticism and jocularity of the Korean people.

The painter drew criticism for his pro-Japanese activities during the Japanese colonial era, yet this should in no way overshadow his accomplishments.

Unbo showed extraordinary concern for the welfare of the handicapped. He served as the first chairman of the Korea Deaf-and-Mute Welfare Association. He also established the House of Unbo in Chongwon, North Chungchong Province, in 1984, where he taught the hearing disabled ceramics so that they could lead self-sustaining lives. In this manner, he led a campaign to protect the handicapped throughout the country.

By overcoming his rancor for having lost his sense of hearing, the painting master left a precious lesson for posterity. And his indomitable passion for art is sure to stand as a good example for a long time to come. We extend our deep condolences to Unbo`s family.