(Yonhap Interview) Defying classification, Park Dae-sung re-imagines Korean ink painting

Artist Park Dae-sung occupies a unique position in contemporary Korean art: He captures Korea's serene landscape in calligraphic lines using traditional ink while simultaneously breaking from tradition with his paintings' bold colors, gigantic size and unconventional composition. His distinctive style has evolved in response to his upbringing and childhood adversities. Born in 1945, he lost both parents and his left arm during the Korean War. His physical challenges made him feel marginalized. As a young child, Park spent most of his time alone in nature, finding solace in painting at home. He discontinued formal education after middle school. "I've just worked hard. I've been truthful to myself," Park said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Gana Art Center in Seoul on Friday. "Convenience is not a good thing. Overcoming inconveniences has been my life virtue," he said, emphasizing how his physical challenges only served to strengthen his dedication to art. His solo exhibition, "Sublime Beaut y of Sosan," opened at the art center Friday to mark the past two years of his exhibitions at eight global institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the University of Mary Washington Galleries. Sosan refers to Park's art name. The global tour started in Germany in March 2022 and ended in December in the United States. "Virtuous Ink and Contemporary Brush," his solo exhibition at LACMA, was extended by five months until February 2023 amid high public interest. Park said he found pure joy in improving his painting skills and recreating the natural surroundings in his own wild imaginative world. He was constantly inspired by the outside world, frequently traveling overseas and living in the wild. His visit to a museum in Taipei in the early 1970s was one of his most eye-opening experiences, he said. "I almost gave up on painting after seeing so many great, large-scale paintings there. I felt as if I faced a mountain that I couldn't possibly climb," he said. "I burned all of my paintings and bought new painting materials to start anew." In the late 1980s, he became the artist-in-residence at Hoam Gallery in Seoul, founded by Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chul. He painted for late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, the founder Lee's son, for around three years. Park's works received public attention a few years ago as part of the massive Lee Kun-hee collection. "My wife asked me to quit the high-paying job because she didn't like me spending the extra money on drinking," the artist said with a chuckle. In his painting, titled "Dream Journey to the Kingdom of Silla," historic buildings and artifacts from the Silla Kingdom (B.C. 57-A.D. 935) are painted on what appears to be gigantic black petals, in an unconventional composition and interesting pattern of the subject matter. "One of the good things about self-education is no one tells me what and how to paint. I am constrained by nothing. I created them on my own," he said. In his late 70s, the artist said he still has a lot t o do. "I want to create paintings that do not exist in the world," he said. But that is exactly what he has been doing for his entire life. The exhibition at Gana runs through March 24. Source: Yonhap News Agency