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Poetry and art walk hand in hand

Gana Art Gallery presents 80 pairings of poems, paintings by renowned Korean poets, artists


Poetry and art are like a couple meant to be.

The two distinct genres have long complemented each other, as emphasized by the close friendships shared by famous artists and poets throughout history. In Korea, paintings accompanied with poems have been a popular type of art for a long time, and were especially so in the Joseon Dynasty.

“There is a saying in the East that poetry is a painting drawn with words and painting is a poem visualized with images. It means that the two are fundamentally the same. That is why many poets also enjoy painting and why many painters are inspired by poems. Paul Valery is one of the poets who also left some high quality artworks. Korea has a long history of illustrated poems as well,” Ko Un, Korea’s renowned poet who has been listed as a Nobel Prize candidate several times, told The Korea Herald.

“Poets and artists used to live and hang out together up until the 1950s. These days, however, they seem to be absorbed in only their realms.”

To bring Korea’s best poets and artists together once again, literary critic Kim Jae-hong and art critic Yun Beom-mo have organized a special exhibition.

“Poem and Drawing,” which is running at Gana Art Center in Pyeongchang-dong, Seoul, showcases poems by 74 Korean poets, accompanied by more than 80 artworks by 43 artists that serve as visual aids for the words.

“Poems are figureless paintings and paintings are poetry with figure. Times have changed but we still dream of a happy encounter between poetry and painting. The two are of one body and mind, and we prepared this stage to confirm the very fact,” said the organizers.

The participating poets and artists are such big names that they could have each thrown a separate show. On the poets’ side, the list includes Ko Un, Kim Ji-ha, Kim Gwang-kyun and Kang Eun-gyo.

Artists range from veterans such as Park Hang-ryul and Suk Chul-joo, and popular artists such as Kwon Ki-soo and Lee Lee-nam, to up and coming artists such as Kwon Ki-ra and Seo Yu-ra. The artworks also explore various genres from hyperrealism to abstraction.

The organizers first selected the poems and had the artists choose what poems they wanted to pair their works with. As a result, more than one artist chose the same poem in some cases.

For Ko Un’s poem “The Flower,” three different artists ― Ko Young-hoon, Suk Chul-joo, Kim Jeong-heon ― created flower-inspired paintings.

The Flower
By Ko Un

As I went down
I saw

the flower

Which I didn’t see
as I went up
Three artworks inspired by poet Ko Un’s “The Flower” (From top to bottom):“The Flower” by Ko Younghoon;  “The Memory of Nature” by Suk Chul-joo; “The Flower,” a pair of works, by Kim Jeong-heon (Gana Art Gallery)
Three artworks inspired by poet Ko Un’s “The Flower” (From top to bottom):“The Flower” by Ko Younghoon;  “The Memory of Nature” by Suk Chul-joo; “The Flower,” a pair of works, by Kim Jeong-heon (Gana Art Gallery)

“It will be a meaningful experience to see how differently artists interpreted the same poem,” said the organizers.

The exhibition also aims to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Korea’s longest-running poetry quarterly magazine “Poetry and Poetics” and the third anniversary of The Museum of Modern Korean Poems which opened in Myeongryun-dong, Seoul, in 2008.

“Poem and Drawing” runs through Feb. 6 at Gana Art Center in Pyeongchang-dong, Seoul and from Feb. 23 to March 13 at Gana Art Busan in Jung-dong, Busan. For more information, call (02) 385-2780 for the Seoul gallery and (051) 744-2020 for the Busan gallery. The gallery’s website can be found at www.ganaart.com.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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