Sea Hyun Lee – Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm
South Korea’s traditional illustrative and art history is immovable; however, cultural and artistic experimentation will always be relentless. Sea Hyun Lee demonstrates his understanding of just how true the above statement is through his art. He manages to join the two forces of past and present together to create Between the Red.
Thomas Struth – Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island, 2007
Thomas Struth’s work in the Koreas
In March 2007, Thomas Struth went on a first trip to South Korea. He spent time in the two largest cities, Seoul and Busan, as well as visiting religious and cultural sites, important landscapes and shipyards. At the vast DSME shipyard on Geoje Island, one of the largest in the world, he photographed tankers under construction and an immense semi-submersible drilling rig. Struth made two further visits to South Korea in 2008 and 2010, as well as visiting Pyongyang in North Korea for the first time.
During the last week of August 2012, German painter Hendrik Beikirch, created not only a stunning work but an iconic piece that stretches over 70 meters (230 ft.) high and is yet to be considered as Asia’s tallest mural. Located in South Korea‘s second largest city, Busan, this piece showcases a monochromatic mural of a fisherman, set in contrast with the Haeundae I’Park building at the background, constructed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.
The Haeundae I’Park is a residential building and is also a symbol for the rapid development and accumulated wealth in Korea, a poor country not too long ago. The mural that depicts an image of a fisherman represents a significant portion of Korea‘s population that has not been affected by the economic growth and until now, lives under very different circumstances compared to their affluent neighbors.
Responsible for this project is Public Delivery, an organization who has made waves across Asia and Europe through the promotion of contemporary art.
The artwork will be on display for an indefinite period of time.
The mural presents a local fisherman in his 60’s, staring into an intangible space with his face marked with wrinkles, still wearing long plastic gloves – a sign that there are still men and women like him at this age working for a living. This dying profession entails six to seven days of work in a week, under difficult circumstances, while just receiving a minimum amount of financial support, just enough to buy certain needs.
However, despite the story behind the portrait, the painting conveys a positive message seen in the emotion shown by the fisherman. In addition, underneath it, Beikirch added a statement in Korean letters which roughly translate to “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”
Beikirch is known for his artworks set in monochromatic and detailed painting and this is no difference. Unlike other artists, he painted this mural without using a projector or a sketch on the wall. This, in its true form, is a masterful performance and a task that requires enormous routine and outstanding precision.
The painting is applied on the building of Busan‘s fisher union. It is located between Korea’s two most famous beaches, Haeundae (해운대해수욕장) and Gwangalli (광안리해수욕장), clearly visible from the latter. Over the past years, both beaches turned into excessive commercial areas and became heavy motors for the city‘s tourism, attracting mostly Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Russian travelers.
The building is also home to a fish market that provides the prosperous inhabitants of Busan, like those living in the Hyundai I’Park building, with Korean style raw fish (hoe, 회), a pricey delicacy that is similar to Japanese sashimi.
Hendrik Beikirch (b. 1974) is a German painter well known for his series of large monochromatic wall paintings that often show portraits of older people, visibly marked by life. In order to create these works, Beikirch secretly takes sketches of strangers whom he encounters on his travels, noticing them for their aura and expression between hope and struggle. This inspired the title of his on-going series “Faces of Hope and Struggle” and runs seamlessly on the canvases of Beikirch, which mostly displays the same frontal view of unfamiliar people.
He deliberately distances himself off from the polished and artificial aesthetic of advertising, which has now occupied major parts in public space.
Beikirch always works with a reduced color palette, and therefore the high recognition factor ensures that viewers now can easily find walls by him all over Europe, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Chile, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Russia and other countries, all painted in the last 15 years.
This project would not have been possible without the support of The Busan Cultural Foundation, The Arts Council Korea, Busan Metropolitan City, Indie Culture Network AGIT and Suyeong Local Government.
MBC, the oldest and one of the major commercial Korean broadcasting companies, is the main media partner.