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Comparing Cho Young Nam and Han Kang's artist spirit

Posted May. 19, 2016 07:59,   

Updated May. 19, 2016 08:11


Han Kang, who won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, was not wearing makeup and fancy clothes when she received an award on the stage. Her appearance seems to reflect her author spirit. When asked if today is her happiest day, she answered, "There have been happier moments. Happiness is very personal. This award will be forgotten soon. What is important is whether I can continue writing in the future." She sounded like a monk. A true artist's way may be similar to asceticism, I thought.

When asked why she writes, Han answered, "To share questions about life no matter how uncomfortable and difficult it can be." The proper function of art is to take a pause from the complexities of life and reflect upon life and its nature. When I heard that Cho Yeong-nam (71) was being accused of having someone ghost his painting, I questioned why he "paints." The artist society seems more furious about Cho's remark: "Having an assistant is a common custom among artists." A middle-aged artist argued, "By 'a common custom', he must mean about 90 percent, and I want to ask him who does that."

Lee Myeong-ok, chairman of the Korea Gallery Association, stated, "Having assistants is only acceptable for such genres as sculpture, installation art and media art that require labor and repentance. Painting, on the other hand, requires sophisticated skills and material interpretation. Saying painting requires assistants is an insult to painters." The comparison he made to a collaboration between Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst sounded absurd to artists as well. An artist remarked, "Warhol employed 'copying' to express criticism of the existing art. Hirst's work shows reflection upon life and death through a diamond embedded on a skull. Cho using an assistant to draw the pictures of hwatu (popular card game in Korea) can never be a comparison to them."

"I once envied Cho making a lot of money and enjoying his life. I am greatly disappointed by him denying the accusations and defending himself," a senior writer noted. "When you are over 70 years old, we should know about life by then. Being accused from someone close to him indicates that Cho failed in managing his life." Cho should stop his activities and have time for self-reflection. That is the last favor that he can do for his fans.

허문명논설위원 angelhuh@donga.com