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The beauty in seemingly insignificant things is opened for us by the artist’s eye. Abraham Kuyper

Hong Song-Dam: Resurrection

ArtWay Visual Meditation 11 April 2021

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Hong Song-Dam: Resurrection

Rebellious Art

By Grady van den Bosch

Central in this woodcut is a lotus flower. In Asian culture this flower often symbolizes purity and the origin of life, also new life. The lotus flower emerges out of the dark water and radiates in all its beauty. Beneath the flower the farmers are toiling on the land. Further down lies a man with a rifle. In the lotus flower stands a man with one child on his shoulder and another on his back.

This is an artwork by the politically committed South Korean artist Hong Song-Dam. With his art he criticizes societal and political injustice. When in 1980, in the heyday of the dictatorship in South Korea, he survived a bloody suppression of an insurrection, he wanted to do something in response. He began to devote his art to the injustice that he saw all around him. This ‘resurrection’ is possibly one of the layers in the woodcut Resurrection.

Hong Song-Dam is one of the eminent men of the South Korean Minjung art movement. Minjung means ‘people.’ The Minjung art movement started in 1980, when South Korea was still under a dictatorship. The occasion for the origin of the Mingjun was the slaughter at Gwangju. This was the uprising in which Hong Song-Dam participated, as I described above. Gwangju was at that time his hometown. With their art, the Minjung artists called for democracy and unification with North Korea. They glorified nature, workers, and farmers in their art and criticized imperialism and Americanism. Even though some artists were accused of it, the Minjung artists were not communists.

The art of this movement consisted mainly of woodcuts and wall paintings. These woodcuts could be easily reproduced and distributed, reaching a large public. This can be seen as a kind of democratization of art. They could also serve as pamphlets and could be printed on flags to be taken to the streets.
In Resurrection we recognize the themes of the Minjung movement. Attention is paid to nature and the farmers and the injustice towards the oppressed is exposed. The lotus flower is for Hong Song-Dam undoubtedly a prospect of a new South Korea and the ‘resurrection’ of the oppressed population. When we zoom in a bit more, it is possible that the man with the rifle is a dead and buried freedom fighter, who is rising again in the lotus flower.

Hong Song-Dam

The style of Minjung art was initially inspired by, among others, German expressionistic artists such as Käthe Kollwitz. Minjung artists later rejected this link with Western art and began to draw on traditional Korean and Buddhist art. In general it can be asserted that Minjung art broke with the modernistic Korean art that was then current. Because it played such a large role in the democratization movement, the intellectual establishment wanted to stem its influence and Minjung art was declared to be non-art. It was not taken seriously by the artworld because the message was supposed to be more important than artistic quality. In spite of that, Minjung art became a very influential movement with a powerfully eloquent style of expression. In the meantime South Korea has become a democracy and Minjung art has become more mainstream. The government even gives commissions to Minjung artists and there was a large overview exhibition in 1994.

The Minjung art movement did not exist by itself. It moved side by side with, among others, the student democracy movement and Minjung theology. This theology is inspired by the liberation theology that originated in Latin America. Liberation theology and thus also Minjung theology focus their attention on compassion for the underprivileged and the oppressed and see social oppression as a sin from which we must be liberated. Some believers fought against the rulers; others were pacifists.

Via Minjung theology we could draw a parallel between Minjung art and Jesus. In the harsh Roman society Jesus asked people to pay attention to the vulnerable. In his sermons, parables, healing and discussions, he constantly put the neighbour in the central place. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me,” said Jesus (Matthew 25:40). Another parallel with Minjung artists is Jesus’ destiny; he had to experience arrest, torture, and even death. Hong Song-Dam has also been imprisoned, silenced by the regime. Finally, there is of course the parallel with the theme of this work of art, Resurrection, namely Jesus’ resurrection. Whereas Hong Song-Dam strives for a new society without injustice or corruption, the resurrection of Jesus is of a totally different order. In his resurrection we may see new and restored life in the light of eternity, the Kingdom of God.

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Hong Song – Dam: Resurrection (Buhwal in Korean), 1989, woodcut on paper, 56,6 x 42,6 cm. In the collection of Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art. This gallery often organizes exhibitions where they use the power of contemporary art to throw light on human rights.  Resurrection was acquired via Amnesty International; the artist was at that time (1991) imprisoned. In 1990, when Glasgow was the European Cultural Capital, the citizens of Glasgow and Amnesty International adopted Hong Song-Dam as a prisoner of conscience.

Hong Song-Dam (1955) was born on the South Korean island of Haui-do and grew up in Gwangju, South Korea. In his youth he worked as a studio assistant until his talent was discovered. He studied visual arts at the Chosun University in Gwangju. His time at university was overshadowed by poverty; he had to work in order support himself. He also had to deal with serious tuberculosis. When he was lying in the sanatorium with severe tuberculosis, he saw how all kinds of people who wanted to hide from the dictatorial regime of that day, found themselves a place in the hospital, alongside of people who were miserable because of bad life circumstances. He was confronted with poverty and injustice. This motivated him to join the Gwangju uprising from May 18 to May 27, 1980. He survived the bloody slaughter of the uprising by the army and wanted to do something in response. That is why he started to make art as an accusation against injustice and became part of the Minjung art movement, a popular and artistic response to these oppressive events that took the lives of an estimated 2,000 people.

Grady van den Bosch is Master of Education in Arts and works as an art and music educator and artist from her own business Studio Grady Art & Art Education. She is a committee member of Platform Kerk & Kunst [Church & Art] and member of the workgroup of the Christian art collective Arsprodeo. Grady is an editor of ArtWay. www.gradyvandenbosch.nl

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IN VIEW

1. HANS ROOKMAAKER LECTURE ‘WHAT IS REALITY?’ – A couple of years ago Byrne Power started a YouTube channel called The Anadromist (anadromous means swimming against the stream). He says, “At a certain point I thought it's time to take Rookmaaker down off the historical shelf and present him to a new generation. And so, with his daughter Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker's permission, I created this visually annotated and cleaned up version of his lecture entitled ‘What Is Reality?’ Rookmaaker was asking about the limitations of the scientific world view versus a world view that allowed a place for meaning. Rookmaaker had a vast understanding of the problems of art, and while the lecture does not deal directly with his specialty, it is completely informed by it. The point of the lecture is to prod the question, What Is Reality? And prod it does. Whether he is discussing the Middle Ages, the relationship of Renaissance artistic perspective to Descartes ideas of space, or asking a poignant question on the nature of water, I have found that he is stirring up a very deep well indeed. This lecture is a product of the last phase of his life. It was recorded at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts in 1976. Sadly Rookmaaker died in early 1977. And when I discovered this lecture in the L'Abri library I keenly felt the loss of his voice. So far this lecture has been greatly appreciated by the hundreds who have heard it over on my channel. Now it's your turn. If you haven't heard of Hans Rookmaaker, or only know him by name, it's time to hear his voice.” Link: https://youtu.be/Ee-9TPQ3BFE ; The lecture video can also be found on ArtWay

 

Hans Rookmaaker: What Is Reality? (Annotated L'Abri Lecture 1976) Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis, art

Who was Hans Rookmaaker? Hans Rookmaaker (1922 - 1977) Dutch Art Historian - Born in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in 1922. He was converted to Dutch Re...

youtu.be

 

2. COURSE: Taking Flesh: Incarnation, Embodiment by REV. DR. TREVOR HART. 19 July – 23 July, Nashotha House Theological Seminary, Nashotah, WI, USA. Trevor Hart is Honorary Professor of Divinity, the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. God as creator taking on the flesh of creation in order to redeem, transform, and exalt that creation is at the heart of the Christian gospel and also central to our existence as embodied beings in God’s creation of both “things visible and invisible.” In an analogous manner, for the human creature to be fully human involves us in repeated acts of flesh-taking and meaning- making. The practices and products of human artistic making, albeit only one sphere in which this occurs, provide a particularly appropriate paradigm as they straddle the boundary between material and non-material reality, thereby drawing us more fully into each. Considering different ways in which flesh is “taken” and “transformed” in the arts may thus aid us both in situating them theologically and in reckoning with some of the peculiar tensions and resolutions involved in our creaturely being-in-the-world. Tuition: $1500 (Credit) / $500 (Audit). This course is being offered in-person only. Registration deadline is May 25 and any questions can be directed to Jim Watkins (jwatkins@nashotah.edu). See you tube videoRead more

3. MARIA GABANKOVA ONLINE EXHIBITION “SURPRISED BY COLLAGE” – Czech-Canadian artist Maria Gabankova presents an online exhibition of experiments in the medium of collage she worked on during 2020-2021. She writes: “I have always loved collage for its playful and unpredictable creative process, full of surprises, tensions and also joyful discoveries of fresh ways of seeing and of spiritual reflection. In this series most of the ideas start intuitively without planning and often are left unfinished but continue to speak in silence. The underlying dark tones of the current pandemic inform these images where the surreal reality and strangeness anticipate and embrace a promise of Hope and Light.” See http://paintinggallery.ca

4. INDIA EXHIBITION – After a one-year pandemic delay Art for Change opened the group show, What to do with difference: Art and artist as bridge, at the India International Center in New Delhi. Doordarshan, India’s largest television broadcaster, did a 30-minute special on the exhibition. Click here to see more of the exhibit and participating artists.

5. TRANSEPT EXHIBITION – Transept, an arts and theology group associated with the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts at St. Andrews University, has curated its annual exhibit online this year.

6. IMAGE’S GLEN WORKSHOP ONLINE – IMAGE has decided to move the entire 2021 Glen Workshop online (July 25-31, 2021). They can build on a whole year of online programming experience to create a dynamic Glen that harnesses the best aspects of virtual gatherings in service of a week full of creative leaps, meaningful engagement with friends new and old, and artistic and spiritual inspiration. Visit the Schedule to see what they have in store for you this year including Glen Cohorts, daily walks with our Artist in Residence, Glen Festival passes, and more. Register for the 2121 Glen Workshop.

7. DISCOVER GOSSAERT’S ADORATION OF THE KINGS – 2 April – 13 June, National Gallery, online: Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s Adoration. Take your first step into Jan Gossaert’s world of intricate detail, technical mastery and rich meaning in a new Gallery experience where you’ll be surrounded by the sights and sounds of his 500-year-old masterpiece. In 'The Adoration of the Kings’, Gossaert has compressed time and space into a richly detailed, imagined setting where some elements of this familiar Christian scene are immediately clear and others are hidden for us to discover: the weave of fabric, Gossaert’s fingerprint in the green glaze where he blotted it with his hand, thistles and dead nettles, hairs sprouting from a wart on a cheek, a tiny pearl, a hidden angel. To help you uncover the unseen, Balthasar - the Black king, pictured here with a gift of myrrh at Christ’s side - will share his journey through a world on the brink of change to be present at this moment of transformation. Through soundscapes, spoken word, hi-resolution digital imagery and gesture-based interaction you will go on your own personal journey to discover not only the visual riches of the painting but also why it tells more than a Christmas story. This is an opportunity to not only stand in front of the painting but immerse yourself in its world and the artistry that built it. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/sensing-the-unseen-step-into-gossaerts-adoration

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc. inside and outside your country, click here

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