The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA; director Youn Bummo) presents a special exhibition of Prayer for life: Korean polychrome paintingfrom June 1 to September 25, 2022, at MMCA Gwacheon.
Encompassing folk, court, religious and documentary paintings, Korean polychrome painting has played a number of roles in the lives of Koreans, warding off evil spirits, attracting good fortune, delivering moral messages and documenting important historical events. While polychrome painting occupies a significant proportion of traditional Korean paintings, it has long been excluded from any mention in Korean art history, in part because the traditional art history established after the Joseon dynasty s is focused on landscape works in ink and wash by literary artists. The post-modern concept of fine art has largely ignored any type of painting produced for decoration or blessing. As the MMCA’s first exhibition to spotlight Prayer for life: Korean polychrome painting seeks to correct this imbalance in Korean art history.
This exhibition focuses on the functions of traditional polychrome painting, presenting approximately 80 works of various genres categorized by function, including folk and decorative court paintings produced between the 19th and early 20th centuries and modern folk paintings, l crafts, drawings, calligraphy and other types of works produced since the end of the 20th century. Attendees include around 60 artists in areas such as Venerable Seongpa, the 15th Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Kang Yobae, Park Daesung, Park Saengkwang, Shin Sangho, Ahn Sangsoo, Oh Yoon, Lee Jongsang , Hahn Aikyu and Hwang. Changbae. Ten modern folk painters, including Song Kyutae, Oh Soonkyung, Moon Sunyoung and Lee Youngsil, also submitted nominations, with 13 works, including those newly commissioned from three of the painters, to be unveiled for the first time.
The six sections of the exhibition explore the four main functions of traditional paintings throughout Korean history: byeoksa (overcoming evil), gilsang (auspicious signs), gyohun (edification) and gamsang (appreciation). The first division “A greeting” begins with director Stone Johnston’s video piece Sublimationwhich explores Korean’s iconic Cheoyong masks byeoksa Culture. The second section “At the gate: overcoming evil” also introduces images of defeating evil, which was considered the first step forGilsang. Starting with Shin Sangho Totemthis section features works containing traditional byeoksa symbols such as Nine dragons bathing the Buddha (Clouds and Nine Dragons), The Five Guardian Deities (Gods of the five cardinal points), Tiger and Magpie Kkachi Horangi (Magpie and Tiger), and Venerable Seongpa The fierce tiger woke up Sugimaenghodo (Awoken Tiger) next to Hahn Aikyu Columns and Oh Yoon Dancing Tiger Song of Sword. The third section “In the Garden: Ten Symbols of Longevity and Paintings of Birds and Flowers” explores the theme of gilsang, featuring related traditional imagery ranging from late 19th century paintings depicting ten symbols of longevity and peonies to recent paintings and videos that expand the meaning and representation of Gilsang. Among the works featured in this section are Sipjangsaengdo (Ten Longevity Symbols Folding Screen), video work by Kim Hyekyoung auspicious signby Chun Hyuklim A hundred objects bringing goodthat of Kim Chonghak Transfigured PeonySon Yuyeong Peonies gardenand Hong Jiyoon Standing on the hollyhock field. Moving on to the high-ceilinged open space of the main hall, the fourth section “Five Cardinal Colors” includes two installations: that of Kim Shinil Between five colors-Spacewho experiments with the five cardinal colors, and that of Lee Junggyo FourDirection Tiger, consisting of four giant tigers. The fifth section “In Study: Munjado, Chaekgado and Documentary Paintings” takes viewers beyond the garden and into a study to unravel stories associated with books and documents. This section presents a range of munjado (pictorial ideograms) of eight artists, a range of chaekgado (paintings for books and stationery) including Plum blossom chaekgeorido, an eight-piece folding screen presented for the first time in this exhibition, and documentary paintings that stereoscopically illuminate a period of upheaval in Korean history. The sixth and last section, “The Mountain Above the Wall: Landscape Painting”, guides viewers out of the office and back into the garden to showcase landscape paintings that unfold beyond the fence. This is a comprehensive overview of the wide variety of sansuhwa (landscape painting), a genre that stands out from other polychrome paintings as “paintings for the purpose of appreciation” for wide popularization in the Korean art scene.
This exhibition is also the MMCA’s first to be reproduced virtually on the online exhibition space. Digital Twin Museum, providing an on-site experience for audiences nationwide with limited access to the exhibit via personal computers and smartphones. As a specialized digital museum without time and space constraints, the Digital Twin Museum has to provide various services in addition to online exhibits.
Youn Bummo, Director of MMCA, notes, “This special exhibition was organized to highlight the roles that various Korean traditional polychrome paintings have played up to modern times and their status in the Korean contemporary art market. I hope this exhibition will be an opportunity to reevaluate polychrome painting and balance the history of Korean painting.