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Veteran artist Hwang Kyu-baik holds exhibition in Seoul

Posted February. 13, 2019 07:32,   

Updated February. 13, 2019 07:32


A small note laid on a big rock, an umbrella resting against the wall as if it is enjoying the view, and a lake right outside the door of a quiet room. These seemingly mundane objects in his drawing arouse your curiosity with their unique composition. Artist Hwang Kyu-baik, who is holding a solo exhibition in Seoul in four years, said as he was happy working on the drawings and enjoyed the process as he introduced his drawings.

The 87-year-old artist, who is well-known for his mezzotint etching technique, is showcasing some 20 oil and acrylic paintings this time. “I decided to switch to oil painting as the mezzotint etching requires considerable physical exertion” said Hwang. “I was able to materialize my thoughts in detail with a brush.”

The drawings including “South and North Summit,” which reflects Hwang’s feelings after watching the inter-Korean summit last year, are all painted over the past one to two years. “I found the leaders of the two Koreas conversing and smiling as they walk along a pedestrian bridge," he said. In Hwang's picture "South and North Summit," there are a pedestrian bridge outside the window with no one and an umbrella and a clock in front of the window frame. “The clock represents flow of time and I drew it because its shape looks nice,” said Hwang with a smile. "The umbrella symbolizes me overhearing the conversation between the leaders of two Koreas."

Hwang’s representative work is a series of drawings he made in the 1970s, in which he depicted a wavering handkerchief on the grass. The work drew attention for its exquisite mezzotint technique and surrealistic atmosphere that reminds Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico's work. Since his move to France in 1968, he worked mostly in Paris and New York and was praised for “reinventing mezzotint."

“When I first moved to the U.S., I was amazed by the progressive world that was completely different from Europe. So I decided to do something new and got inspiration one day when I lay down on the grass and unfolded my handkerchief,” said Hwang. “I came into the spotlight thanks to the work. If it weren’t for the “handkerchief,” I would’ve sold vegetables instead.”

For an artist, who paints everything from his imagination, Hwang said he wants viewers to enjoy the hidden world beyond the painting itself. Hwang’s solo exhibition will be held until March 10 at the Gana Art Center in Seoul.

Min Kim kimmin@donga.com