[Herald Review] Artist Yoo Young-kuk’s paintings brought to life online

By Korea Herald

MMCA partners with Google for concurrent offline and digital exhibitions

  • Published : Nov 22, 2016 - 17:01
  • Updated : Nov 22, 2016 - 17:01

A man of solitude and routine, the late artist Yoo Young-kuk devoted more than seven hours to his art every day. Even at the age of 60, he continued to focus on honing the basic techniques of painting.

Celebrating Yoo’s centennial, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Deoksugung has partnered with the Google Cultural Institute to showcase his paintings in cyberspace as well as the physical museum.

Born in 1916 in North Gyeongsang Province and educated in Tokyo, Yoo is best known for his abstract paintings, characterized by their nature-inspired and geometric shapes with expressive colors.

“Mountain” by the late artist Yoo Young-kuk (MMCA)

The technology giant’s cultural initiative, which aims to bring the world’s art online to be discovered and shared worldwide, has digitized 20 of the some 150 paintings by Yoo on exhibition at the museum by using Google’s Art Camera -- a robotic camera that can capture and produce high-resolution “gigapixel” images consisting of more than a billion pixels.

This is the first time Google has put on simultaneous online and offline exhibitions using such a device in Korea, according to Google Korea.

“The Art Camera offers an opportunity to unearth the artworks’ exquisite harmony of color and rediscover them in a completely new way,” said Amit Sood, the director of Google Cultural Institute, in a statement.

Although the digital collection enables the viewers to zoom into any available image to show even the slightest brush strokes, the various colors of Yoo’s pieces are oftentimes either lost or overly accentuated through the screen.

Google’s Art Camera (Google)

In a piece titled, “Work” (1973), as part of Yoo’s “Working with Nature” series, the painting’s red hues appear to be muted in the digital version, while the blue tone is heightened.

However, the Art Camera has been able to capture minute details unseen by the naked eye.

Among the artist’s “Tokyo, Modern” collection is a black-and-white Mondrian-like artwork, called “Work 404-D.” The 1938 piece consists of three overlapping panels in all-white with three unassuming black lines going across them.

Viewing the work at MMCA, visitors may miss the slight cracks and wear under the museum’s lighting, yet they are captured in clarity in the digitized rendition on Google Cultural Institute’s Arts and Culture site.

A closeup image of the late painter Yoo Young-kuk’s 1964 piece “Work” from his “Encounter with Sublime Nature Series” (Google Korea)

“The aura of the paintings conveyed in person is undoubtedly different from experiencing the pieces online,” Lee Jeong-min, the public relations manager at MMCA, Deoksugung, told The Korea Herald.

However, the digital collection -- with its nearly-palpable texture and acute details -- makes Yoo’s creations accessible to anyone in the world for free, Lee added.

Images of Yoo’s works taken by the Art Camera are available at google.com/culturalinstitute, or by downloading the Google Arts and Culture smartphone app.

The exhibition “100th Anniversary of the Birth of Korean Modern Masters: Yoo Young-kuk” will run at MMCA, Deoksugung until March 1. Tickets range from 2,000 won to 3,000 won. For more information, visit mmca.go.kr.

By Kim Yu-young (ivykim@heraldcorp.com)