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Art HERstory: Chun Kyung-Ja


Art HERstory: Chun Kyung-Ja

Art HERstory: Chun Kyung-Ja

Sadness in inevitable. Life is never going to be 100% rainbows and butterflies. In my opinion, the hardest part about sadness is overcoming the paralyzing emotion. Some choose to cry until they cant breathe, others skateboard, write, or break stuff. No matter the means, everyone has their personal medium of release. For Chun Kyung-Ja (1924-), a paintbrush is as good as a punching bag. She absorbed all of her less than peppy emotions and converted them into paint strokes. The result of her sadness are unforgettable works of art.

“By using bright colors and clear forms, Chun broke the Korean art cliche that paintings should be in black and white, with natural curves.” -Oh Huyn-mee, Associate Curator, Seoul Museum of Art

Chun lived at tough life and she conspicuously inserts hints of her sadness in each of her paintings. Chun represents the sad side of herself with the inclusion of women, flowers, and snakes. Snakes are the symbols that best represent Chun. She places such emphasis on snakes because they symbolize rebirth. The constant shedding of their skin gives life to a new exterior, a new snake. Chun views her painting and her shedding. Through her work she sheds her sorrows and emerges a new woman.

I always loved printed fans. They are a major part of Asian culture and always beautiful. "Flower" is no exception.

I always loved printed fans. They are a major part of Asian culture and always beautiful. "Flower" is no exception.

Outside of using common symbols in Korean culture, Chun steers away from the traditional. Throughout history Koreans considered black and white paintings as the acceptable norm. Obviously Chun disagrees. She has become a master of color and uses  primary colors in her work the majority of the time. It takes true talent to create coutless works using mostly shades of red, blue, and yellow.

Chun's creates most of her art while sad or worried. Those emotions definitely reflect in this painting. The woman has a cold, stern look on her face. There isn't a glimmer of happiness in her eyes. Despite the woman's expression, I still find warmth in the photo because of the background. Emotional and stunning.

Chun's creates most of her art while sad or worried. Those emotions definitely reflect in this painting. The woman has a cold, stern look on her face. There isn't a glimmer of happiness in her eyes. Despite the woman's expression, I still find warmth in the photo because of the background. Emotional and stunning.

In recent years Chun has relocated to the United States. Do you blame her?  She has conqured the Korean art world so I think its due time she got a change of scenery. She is credited with being one of the most influential female Korean artists. Now, Chun has turned her focus to literature. She currently serves as a translator for Korean authors.

This painting is of a woman Chun spotted in a market in Grenada. Chun was quite the traveler! The colors in the photo definitely fit the island vibe.

This painting is of a woman Chun spotted in a market in Grenada. Chun was quite the traveler! The colors in the photo definitely fit the island vibe.

Most translations of literature are done by language gurus of the language the work is being translated to. Of course, with the outsiders doing the translating a lot of the initial emotion, feeling, and symbolism in the writing is lost. Chun and her band of translators made a conscious decision to share the written work of their culture as accurately as possible. They serve as the translators of many Korean to English works to ensure the original intent of the work is preserved.

Chun still lives and works in the United States. She is now 86 years old.

Image Layout: Phaymiss


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