Sunday, December 24, 2017

Gopanhwa 2018 Woodblock Exhibition

고판화 박물관, The Museum of Ancient Asian Woodblock Prints, held their 5th annual woodblock print competition, and once again the walls of the privately owned museum were decorated with newly made woodblocks. Last year's competitors were divided into three classes: professional class, art student class, and beginner-soldier-foreigner class. This year there were no art students participating; distance was explained as the biggest problem -- mailing large art pieces, attending the awards ceremony (which none did last year), and then arranging for pick-up of their submissions. I thought it is a great loss for the competition as the students were risk-takers in their submissions and had huge variety: engravings, etchings, paint-wood combinations. They were exploring woodblocks as an art form, so it was a joy to see how the muse of inspiration was actualized through their unique pieces.

Like every competition though the style is different, and this year the Grand Prize winner had developed a very unique style of printing! Modern woodblock printing, which I still don't fully understand, but it seems to be done through the process of putting thick paint on wood sheets and laying the paper on top for printing. Somehow in her printing process she was capable of capturing the woodgrain!

[Picture above] Several woodblocks like the once pictured were entered in the competition. The woodblock featured on the wall posting was wild cherry, a rather hard to carve but very durable wood.

Grand Prize Winner - Bae Nam Kyung (2 entries using the modern woodblock printing style of "wood planography"). On first and even second impression these woodblock prints look like watercolor! Definitely a new type of printing style to me, so I can't offer much comment. It's always interesting to learn a bit about the piece painted and the "model" and inspiration for this piece was the artist's mother. 

Other wood planography and a woodcut (the woman in hanbok) from a publication
on her 2016 wood-cut / wood-planography exhibition in China. Artist Bae Nam Kyung.

Bae Nam Kyung has a PhD in Fine Arts from Seoul National University (2015) with particular focus and emphasis on painting and printmaking. Her first award (according to the art publication "배남경 나무글나무그림 / Bae Nam Kyung Woodletter Woodpicture" on a Chinese exhibition held in 2016) she won in the 2002 22nd National Competition of Prints by KCPA, Kwanhoon Gallery, Seoul - Superior Prize. Since, she has won several awards and participated in more than 100 group exhibitions as well as hosting 10 solo exhibitions (as of 2016). 

Han Byung-ok, second highest award!
Han Byung-ok doesn't want his work displayed anywhere as he makes only ONE copy of each woodblock carves, making that single print very special. He does realize that by entering this contest that a copy of his woodblock will be reproduced and perhaps posted online. He admits it's the price of entering a contest. 

This young man has only been carving for 3 years, and yet he won the fourth or fifth highest award!
He told me that in the past 3 years since starting to woodblock carve, he has only carved about 200 or so woodblocks!

Honorable Mention

And I was even recognized with an honorable mention, which very much surprised me! I had sent the scroll print from my carved woodblock to the competition but explained that the print was not an "honest" one as I had had to darken the lines with a paintbrush because I couldn't get a good print. I did a very credible job of following the lines with Chinese ink, BUT it was not a 100% woodblock print. Before the exhibition, I told the owner monk that again and he just smiled and said "well done", and then he affirmed what I already knew, that printing is another art form related but separate from carving. This was my second year to win honorable mention; however, I do feel that my cranes from last year were better presented than the tiger reflection of this year. Just my opinion. That said, I've already got ideas for the 2018 woodblock carving competition.

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