Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Painting Stars


Ha Jung-woo’s “My Hair Designer” Courtesy of Cheongju International Craft Biennale

A-list entertainers gain credibility as artists
Ha Jung-woo
Ku Hye-sun
By Kwon Mee-yoo

The prolonged economic slump has sucked the juice out of the art market and among the few artists managing to move their works are famous part-timers from the land of movies and television.


The paintings of these actors, actresses and singers aren’t to be confused with the Picassoes and Pollocks of the world, but are better than what you would normally encounter at amateur contests.

Ha Jung-woo, 35, is perhaps the most in-demand actor in the Korean movie scene, thanks to a slew of hits like “The Yellow Sea,” “Nameless Gangster,” “The Berlin File” and “The Terror Live” that highlight his filmography. Ha also wants to be taken seriously as a painter and it seems his reputation is beginning to pick up, judging by the reviews of his solo exhibitions in Korea and elsewhere.

Ha’s works are currently displayed at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale (CICB), which runs through Oct. 20 at the North Chungcheong Province city, featured with the creations of other entertainers like Ku Hye-sun and Cho Young-nam in a special section titled “Star Craft.”

Ha has actually been painting regularly since 2004, starting out by imitating his favorite artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jackson Pollock. The influences of Basquiat and Pollock are evident in Ha’s works, featured at five exhibitions in Korea, Hong Kong and New York.
Ku Hye-sun’s “Fantasy”

Ha managed to sell all of his 16 paintings displayed at New York’s Walter Wickiser Gallery in March and is preparing for a bigger overseas exhibition later this year.


Ku, an actress who gained international fame after appearing in the Korean version of hit television show “Boys Over Flowers,” is a talented 28-year-old who also writes fiction, composes songs and paints. As a painter, she debuted in 2009 and has held four solo exhibitions in Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Her paintings are reminiscent of the characters she usually portrays on television — innocent, whimsical and mysterious. An honorary ambassador for the CICB, she is also featuring 20 of her wood sculptures and metal craft at the event.
Ku Hye-sun’s “Self Portrait I”

The country’s most famous entertainer/painter is perhaps Cho Young-nam, the singer and television emcee who held his first painting exhibition in 1973. He held six solo exhibitions this year alone and his pop-art works sell, mostly inspired by the Korean national flag (taegeukgi) or “hwatu” playing cards, sell for around 500,000 won apiece.


Kim Jong-kun, Hongik University professor and chief organizer of the Star Craft exhibition, said that the works of these entertainers are helping to boost public interest in art and promote CICB internationally. The works of the stars will be auctioned off after the event and the proceedings will go to charity.

While there are critics who welcome works of these “art-tainers,” as coined by the local media, others are callous, questioning the seriousness in commitment and the works’ artistic depth or lack thereof.

“If they weren’t famous celebrities, it’s hard to imagine their work receiving much attention amid the fierce competition between rising young artists,” said one art critic who didn’t want to be named.

In this post-modern world, anyone can be an artist. In contemporary art, the ability to generate interest is often put before the sophistication in technique, something Marcel Duchamp evidently showed by displaying a porcelain urinal at a museum and naming it “Fountain.”

These entertainer/painters have a built-in advantage in the ability to generate interest. Anonymous full-time painters may feel cheated.

Source: The Korea Times
 

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