The Korea Herald


On the other side of freedom, art forms unique style

By Lee Woo-young

Published : Aug. 21, 2012 - 20:12

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“O.T.” by Tobias Lehner. (Seongnam Art Center) “O.T.” by Tobias Lehner. (Seongnam Art Center)
New Leipzig School’s artwork on exhibit

When the Berlin Wall stood between East and West Germany for 29 years, a distinctive painting style developed on the eastern part of the thick concrete wall.

Korean viewers can see the works of successors of East German art that are on exhibit at Seongnam Art Center under the title “German Now from Leipzig,” which offers a rare glimpse into how the art style developed during the era of Iron Wall and evolved after the unification.

The exhibition may make some South Koreans wonder what style North Korean artists have kept and how their style will evolve after the unification.

As Communism acted as a barrier preventing the influence of new art styles, East German artists developed their own unique painting styles and techniques in Leipzig and other East German cities.

According to the exhibition organizers, the artists focused on techniques, not discussing in detail why they draw or their subject matters. And they hid criticism of their society under multiple layers in their paintings.

After the wall came down, a group of young artists who adopted new techniques from the West but kept the traditional skills of old Leipzig School have been called the New Leipzig School since 1997, having a significant impact on the international art scene.

The exhibition features about 60 paintings and photographs of the new generation of artists. 

“Bauerin” by Christoph Ruckhaberle. (Seongnam Art Center)

“Bauerin” by Christoph Ruckhaberle. (Seongnam Art Center)

One of the artists is Christoph Ruckhaberle who is well-known for humorous drawings of human figures. The characters in his paintings have unbalanced body proportion. For example, a farmer’s wife in “Bauerin” has legs as thick as a jar and a man in “Flight” has a slim waist like a woman. He uses the unbalanced body proportion and posture in “Artist” to represent the uncomfortable situations artists in East Germany faced under political watch and lack of artistic freedom.

Tilo Baumgartel’s “Long Island Sound” has a dreamy atmosphere with characters in the painting in unrealistic, weird poses. According to the exhibition organizers, Baumgartel uses dark colors to accentuate surrealism and unreality.

Tobias Lehner’s untitled abstract painting features how he felt when listening to the music of J.S. Bach through multiple layers of paints.

The exhibition also includes young artists in their 20s and early 30s who are interested in including more contemporary issues.

Julius Hofmann, 29, focus on expressing the vulnerable side of modern man by exaggerating the sharpness of the pointed tips of fingernails, nipples and high heels and smudging the faces of characters in his paintings like “Crucia” and “Prabos.”

David O’Kane, 27, tries to add dynamism to a portrait of German novelist Franz Kafka by creating a video in which the character in the portrait moves till the whole canvas becomes black.

The exhibition runs until Sept. 2. For more information, call (031) 783-8000.

By Lee Woo-young (