Life of Moon Bok-cheol ,
a Permanent Hanji Painting Painter
(The Korean High School of Cultural Heritage Teacher)
Moon Bok-cheol, a Hanji painter and an educator, was born on March, 1941, and went to and lived in Manchuria. When he was 6 years old, he came back hometown. In 1947, he entered Jung-ang elementary school in Gun-san, and, in 1953, he joined the baseball club in Gun-san middle school. As he was a good player, in 1965, he could entered Seoul Gyeonggi technical high school as a baseball player. However, he became tired of loneliness and hard training, and, finally, it made him weak and sick. That was why he came back to Gun-san. At that time, he was a second year student of a high school and transferred to Gun-san high school. These things made his life different from before.
Right after the Korean war, in Gun-san port, there were several artists who made new trends such as Na Byeong-jae, Go Eun, Won Yong-bong, Kim Sin-ung, and Park Sang-hyeon. He learned painting from Na Byeong-jae. His artistic sense was made by getting to be friends with the artists. In 1959, he entered Hongik University and his major was western style painting. In the University, Kim Hwan-gi, a professor, helped him to create his own style which was unique and experimental.
In 1962 when he was a sophomore, many classes which he could take in university were types of figurative art and there were a few classes for abstract art. At that time, he handed in his work
In 1962, he made Moodongin, a kind of art group, with students majoring painting at Seoul university and Hongik University. They held
After a graduation from Hongik University, he joined the army. After he was discharged from the army, he taught students in Iri high school at first and then taught commercial art in Gun-san commercial high school.
In 1969, he married Cha In-young whose family pursued Confucianism. While he lived with her family, he met Pansori singers and dancers who came to her family’s parties. This atmosphere affected his artistic identity and pushed his works of topics about ‘Dance of Life’ and ‘Sound of Life’ outside.
After his marriage, he took care of his family, but, in February 1976, he started to show his talent by holding his first exhibition with paintings using foil and oil paintings. In September 1979, he held an exhibition called ‘Convection’, which consisted of paintings using Hanji, Oriental painting material, at Seoul art hall.
He graduated educational graduate school of Hongik graduate school in 1984. In 1988, he taught students in Art department of Wooseok university. At the same year, he also designed Korea-Japan joint exhibition and held Jeonbuk Modern Art Festival, which promoted local art trends.
In 2000, he contracted advanced stage stomach cancer, but he tried to get IAPMA in Korea by showing Jeonju Hanji Festival video, fans made by Hanji, and various types of Hanji to people in Italy. Unfortunately, he passed away on May 29, 2003. He said, “I did my best as a painter, an educator, a father”, before he died.
In 2004, IAPMA was held in Jeonju. His family requested his personal exhibition to the association, and his exhibition was held at Sori Art Center while IAPMA was held. A subtitle of the exhibition was “Elucevan le stelle Estelle", which was proposed by his son Il-gyeong. After that, he had been loved by Jeonbuk citizens, so his works have been showed people in several exhibitions in memory of him.
Moon Bok-cheol’s Works World
The important key words of his works world are ‘paper’ and ‘abstractness’. He had worked artistic practices of abstract expression style by attaching papers on canvas in layers for thirty years. His works received attention as formative art caused by unique quality of papers itself and his performance. His works was visual exploration of abstract expression, and, through his works, he wanted to find importance of materials rather than work shapes.
1) A Period of Experiment and Informel abstract(1962-1978) : Dada and Shamanism
He received a prize by a work of Informel abstract in October 1962, when he was a student of the university. However, he tried to change his art style, so, in 1962, he expressed Neo-dadaism through object, not abstract, in Moodongin. During this period, he worked for object and collage, not Informel style, and he showed experimental works like Happening, which was released on Junior Artist Union Exhibition in July 1967. But, the period of experiment did not last for long. After he stayed for 7~8 years in his hometown, he tried Informel abstract again.
After the period of experiment, in 1976, his Informel works like [Memorial 1976] of his frist exhibition were to reform patterns of a rock weathered by exposure in space and to move monuments like remains of Stone age into a plane of two-dimensions. In additon, his works were to make geometric reformation of memorials weathered by exposure two-dimensions. He tried to express image of his works through materials like foil, which made them unique. Meanwhile, colors of his works were divided into two part: dominant color and assort color. He used white and grey as dominant color and strong primary color as assort color.
The unique point of composition of his works was that he tried to leave a space after his main topic was set, not that whole space was filled with colors like common oil painting style. The method originated in paintings of literary artist style of Original paintings. It was considered that this method attracted him.
2) The Period of Hanji Works of Early Single Color Style (1979-1987) : Will of Objects
In 1979, he started using Hanji at first. In the same year, his first personal exhibition, Convection, was held, and it was an important event for him to start using Hanji paintings. The title, Convection, means updraft which makes change of air and substance in physics. Paintings of the exhibition, Convection, were Hanji and monochrome paintings. For him, monochrome paintings were a method to catch Hanji’s natural expression.
A paintings of the exhibition which expressed physical property of Hanji properly progressed in third personal exhibition in 1983. He started building up his artistic world by seeking formative art with single color abstract and physical property of Hanji as paper. He thought depth of space through process of making big and small holes, working with hands, not brush.
Through two previous personal exhibitions in 1979 and 1983, what he tried was the experiment of how act of human by hands and papers as pure materials were united into one, especially by Hanji. That was why Hanji’s expression was in the center of his works and his works could have ‘expression’ as direct objects by hands, human’s direct tools.
This attempt was considered what pursued meanings of objects as a being. So he did not use colors because color made him put his subjectivity into his works. Instead, he wanted a specific object to exist in a canvas as Hanji’s expression was getting patterns of rhythm of its breath and pulse by human’s hands.
He focused on the property of expression of paper itself, and he thought that Hanji could harmonize with human’s hands because it dissolved in water well. Of course, it is important that his emotional expression supported his works when releasing Hanji’s property. In other words, in that paper’s expression was his emotional expression, his works showed strict objective aspects including subjective aspects. However, for objective aspects of physical property, he as a subject barely released himself in his works.
3) The Period of Geometric Abstract and Works of Hanji(1988-1991) : Will of Return to a Subject
In the late 1980s, He focused on other experiment. His works had become minimalism which pursued new space, escaping from square frame. In this period, he tried to look into ‘Inner space’, another space which materials had by putting expression of time and space into fixed frames. It is different from concept that physical property of Hanji and abstractness have and psychological meanings. In this period, he tried to experiment of how paper as pure materials and human act by hands can be one.
Like this, the essential change through the experiment appeared in shocking color usage and introduction of triangle or triangle frame. Especially, re-appearance of forbidden colors means that his works already started to enter into subjective interpretation of materials.
This change was very essential. It was related to expression of will of his subjective choice, not temporary. That is, this period was the period when he felt his limitation as main agent and tried to put himself into his works, not will of object highlighted in
His sad feeling in real life played a important role in his work like confliction of his young life in 1960s and 1970s. Expression would appeared as a form of transforming colors of Memorial in 1976 and foil into Hanji and color. In addition, In ‘inner space’, his own world of deep psychology, he specified issues like ‘ritual of life and dead’, ‘memory of dividing and adding’, and ‘object and non-object’ into one space with ‘illusion and fact’, using triangle frame.
At the time, the important thing was that triangle and frames of wood all contributed intensification of his subjective expression will. Now, physical property was not important. Rather his main interest was returning to a subject, using physical property.
4) The Period of Single Color Abstract Hanji Work(1992-1998) : [Dance of Life – Brush] and [Sound of Life]
In the late 1980s, he tried to return to a subject of his work, but, in early 1990s, he showed abstract expression of free lines and colors seen in sound of life. This attempt meant that he tried to escape from geometric frame seen again in his Hanji works.
He thought that free expression was more important than calculated structure and strick balance in series of Inner space. It was space which finds perfect screen order in disordered structure and balance over unbalance. He knew something over ‘Inner space’ and started new experiment. He showed formative property seeking new screen order and space based on life as a subject.
People thought that surface of his works was soft, but they felt strong expression of brush touch and action sign directly. His action sign with red, blue, and yellow dots reminded them of seeds of life. It made surface effect maximize. Therefore, his Hanji abstract works in 1990s made the period apotheosis and full ripe period of Hanji paintings. In this period, he made the most of his works, whose subject was a life by Hanji. He said about series of [Dance of life] and [Sound of life], “It was the expression of a brisk and lively folk tune by playful and intentional brush.”
He completed single color abstract paintings based on Korean emotion, expressing [Dance of Life] and [Sound of Life], which were related to Pansori of Nam-do, visually. In addition, what gives much effect in the period was life and atmosphere of his father-in-low home which he remembered.
5) The Period of Hanji Works of Late Abstract Expression : Time Travel
His late Hanji works met together in ‘Time Travel’, the last works. His late Hanji works did not have big change. He expressed his action sign as a monochrome abstract painting like [Sound of Life], using Hanji and dakji. He expressed irregular color dots escaping from repeated lines generally.
Perhaps, his last purpose was will of warning about environmental pollution which destroyed physical property of paper. It was will to return to original nature like ocean.
Moon Bok-cheol(1941~2003) let people know the beauty of Hanji and explored the possibility of Hanji paintings. It made many people memorize him after he died. As a painter and an educator, he attracted people through Hanji.
During hard time, he trained his will through his works and tried to change something by Hanji. He also overcame local limitation through his own identity and uniqueness and showed his words about formative arts to the world. However, now, he is in the sky as a start.
Absolutely, his works in his life were based on Korean beauty and emotion and he was considered a painter who expressed unique style by putting abstract style of modern art and Korean beauty and emotion together. In early 1960s when Korean modern art was born, as a avant-garde painter, he made new style of formative art without compromise between his will and the world. In middle of 1970s, he stared using Hanji and became a painter who represented Korean emotion. His unique artistic world has formed for long time, not for a while, by putting Hanji as a material and esthetic act together.
He tried to access nature of objects as a way to find his ego and expressed his philosophy by meditative property of single color and reductive expression. For drawing esthetic conversation, he chose Hanji and made a channel by looking at his inside. The channel was for the conversation and helped contact of him and objects to think tension and composure. In his latter’s years, he loved his region and regional emotion than other people. He remains as a modernist and a humanism painter who loved dance and song of southern region. We call him permanent Hanji painter Moon Bok-cheol.
Mun Bok-cheol Profile
29/03(Mar.)/1941 Birth in Gun-san
02(Feb.)/1959 Graduating from Gun-san high school
02(Feb.)/1963 Graduating from Hong-ik University
08(Aug.)/1984 Graduating from Hong-ik graduate school of education - Marcel Duchamp’s works world
23/05(May.)/2003 passed away
02(Feb.)/1976 Mun Bok-cheol exhibition (Je-il gallery, Gun-san)
09(Sep.)/1979 Mun Bok-cheol exhibition (Mi-sul hall, Seoul)
06(Jun.)/1983 Mun Bok-cheol invitation exhibition (Hyeon-san gallery, Gwang-ju)
09(Sep.)/1988 Mun Bok-cheol invitation exhibition (Beak-song gallery, Seoul)
02(Feb.)/1989 Mun Bok-cheol invitation exhibition (Art House gallery 반전, Japan)
09(Sep.)/1992 Mun Bok-cheol invitation exhibition (Eol gallery, Jeon-ju)
11(Nov.)/1996 Mun Bok-cheol exhibition (Mi-sul hall, Seoul)
[Team Events and Invitation]
10(Oct.)/1961 10th National Art Exhibition winning (National Modern gallery, Seoul)
6(Jun.)/1962 Moodongin exhibition (National DO-hwa Gallery, Seoul)
7(Jul.)/1967 Junior Artist Union Exhibition (Central Public Information Office, Seoul)
7(Jul.)/1967 Release of Happening (Central Public Information Office, Seoul)
12(Dec.)/1981 "HONNAGE AUX ARTISTES INCONNUS" Invitation (France)
11(Nov.)/1986 86 ETAJIMA INTERNATIONAL MAIL ART Invitation (Japan)
7(Jul.)/ 1988 International Modern Art Invitation (Citizen gallery, Japan)
9(Sep.)/1988 Today Jeonbuk Art Invitation (Eol gallery, Jeonju)
1(Jan.)/1989 Korea & Japan Modern Art Exchange (City gallyer, Japan)
8(Aug.)/1990 1st Korean Hanji Artist Association Exhibition (Dong-soong art center, Seoul)
1(Jan.)/1991 Hanji’s physical property and variability (Total gallery, Seoul)
8(Aug.)/1991 International Paper Formative Arts Invitation (Sickertellery, Swiss)
2(Feb.)/1993 Hanji-Beakji Significance Exhibition (Walkerhill gallery, Seoul)
4(Apr.)/1994 Hanji’s Formative Re-illumination Exhibition (Yeomaek gallery, Seoul)
5(May.)/1994 26th Jeonbuk Art Association Exhibition (Art gallery, Jeonju)
4(Apr.)/1995 Ji;Korean Painting Japan Exhibition (Jongro gallery, Seoul)
8(Aug.)/1995 Rebellion of Space 67-95 (City gallery, Seoul)
5(May.)/1996 Hanji-Esthetics of Essence (Dado gallery, Seoul)
1998 Hanji-Formative Interpretation (Walkerhill gallery, Seoul)
2(Feb.)/2000 Hanji-21 century Korea property (Insadong gallery, Seoul)
9(Sep.)/2000 From paper to Formative Art – Korean Hanji artist’ articles and symposium for 10 years (Seoul)
5(May.)/2001 Hanji 2001 (Batanggol gallery, Seoul)
8(Aug.)/2001 Manager of Bok-choel Moon Hanji works (Seoul city gallery, Seoul)
4(Apr.)/2003 Hanji Formative artists Invitation (Lamer gallery, Seoul)