Go to contents

A deeper look at the sincerity of Ma Kwang-soo whose imagination was forbidden

A deeper look at the sincerity of Ma Kwang-soo whose imagination was forbidden

Posted September. 10, 2019 07:41,   

Updated September. 10, 2019 07:41


“What deeply hurt Ma Kwang-soo (1951-2017) was that he was convicted of merely imagining an event that did not happen at all. I hope that his artistic philosophy will be appreciated properly.”

Editor in Chief Park Hye-jin of Book Review had an interview on last Thursday when it was the second anniversary of Professor Ma’s death. She helped address and donate his relics when the former professor of Korean Language & Literature at Yonsei University passed away. The same day, the Yonsei University Museum in Seodaemun District, Seoul opened an exhibition titled “Ma Kwang-soo draws and writes.” The exhibition displays 30 out of around his 100 drawings.

His family donated on July 26 around 10,000 books, relics and drawings that Ma left to the museum, including his desk, eyeglasses, hand-written scripts, and the last cigarette he smoked with an ashtray.

Park said that Professor Ma loved teaching his students at school. Thus, she believed that bringing him back to school would be a good way of commemorating his spirits, adding that anyone can have open access to “Ma’s personal library” at the Yonsei Academic Information Center.

Professor Ma used to say that from a perspective of arts, there is little difference between writing and drawing. As he studied what means artistic symbols, he believed that all kinds of expression‎ start from the same point whether it be poetry, essays or novels. Most drawings on display were used as illustrations in his books.

He confessed in his first solo exhibition catalog in 1994 that his literary works reflected his artistic dispositions toward freedom and sensuality, which allowed him to make aesthetic descriptions. He started to illustrate his first newspaper serial columns in 1989. When his novel “Delightful Sara” caused controversy late in 1992, he started painting in oils.

“After I spent two months at a detention center, I had a plenty of free time because I did not even teach at school. I managed to survive every day while soothing my frustrations with unacceptable infringement of freedom and dealing with litigation work. I could not even think about writing again,” Ma said. “One day, I was offered an invitation exhibition by a representative of DADO Gallery so I got up the courage to start drawing.”

His phobia of letters did not allow him to read one year before he left. Instead, he relied on children’s books. Given that he used to love the days of childhood during which kids run naked freely but without any embarrassment, his drawings remind us of fairy tale books. However, “A difficult book is a poorly written one” and “The world turned upside down is beautiful” represent his witty and cutting philosophical messages as well.

The exhibition displays his hand-written scripts for the first time. His family and friends only hope that his writings and drawings will make sure that the professor’s artistic world is well-received in that he is a scholar who studied Yun Dong-ju and symbolical poetry as well as an artist. The exhibition is open by Dec. 31.

Min Kim kimmin@donga.com