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Korea Artist Prize winner adopts nature to describe sick society

By 박한나

Published : Sept. 16, 2013 - 18:12

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Kong Sung-hun, “A Man Smoking (Cliff),” 2013, Oil on canvas, 227.3x181.8cm Kong Sung-hun, “A Man Smoking (Cliff),” 2013, Oil on canvas, 227.3x181.8cm


Kong Sung-hun, winner of this year’s Korea Artist Prize, said he wanted to show a slice of life through his paintings.

“I want to get away from the current art trend and reveal pieces of ordinary lives, including myself living in the present,” he said.

The 48-year-old fine arts professor at Sungkyunkwan University received the award from the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea on Sept. 10 for his series of paintings titled “Winter Journey.”

The judge panels praised Kong for infusing a psychological dimension to his work with high density, unlike other contemporary paintings which center on minor and tiny themes. “His achievement is outstanding in challenging his innovation in paintings, which is not an easy task.”

“Winter Journey” mainly depicts the gloomy and devastated nature scenes of winter. The paintings not only contain the landscape which lost its liveliness by human’s exploitations but also signify the anxiety of Korean society.

He said he wanted to convey the spirit of public art in the 1980s, which confronted social and political issues but in “subtle and gentle ways.”

“I realized that those (political and social) problems can’t be solved easily and some kind of unknown forces destabilize our life and destiny,” Kong said. “I used the power of nature as a metaphor to describe the unknown forces.”

Kong has walked a unique path as an artist. He graduated from the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University and then went another school to study electronic engineering.

Influenced by the latter study, his early works were focused on conceptual arts with installations and videos.

The artist came back to painting in 2000 when he started to depict the night view realistically.

“I returned to painting because painting has more feelings that I’m directly dealing with the subject than media art does,” Kong said.  

“There are many paintings in the Korean art world but they are all limited to ornamental, beautiful or lyrical ones.”

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)