86-year-old painter still a cut above the rest

By Pang Un Ju

An eye-catcher among many exhibits at the Songhwa fine art exhibition held in celebration of the Day of the Sun last April was Korean painting “Fish farm in spring”.

The art work shows the landscape of a fish farm with delicate brushstrokes in various colours that go well refreshingly. The pond teems with big carps and the apricot trees are covered with light pink blossoms, fully expressive of vernal atmosphere.

It was created by Ri Ryul Son, People’s Artist and Associate Professor.

Korean painting Fish farm in spring

Born into a poor peasant’s family in Paechon-ri of Anak County in South Hwanghae Province before Korea’s liberation, the only son of the family was fond of drawing in his childhood. Every moment of drawing was joyful and interesting to the boy. When young villagers prepared for staging a play which was adapted from classical novel “Tale of Sim Chong”, he vividly depicted a Buddha on the backdrop of the stage.

He became well known to the county as a “young artist”.

But it was from 1952 that he could cultivate his talent to his heart’s content. During the Fatherland Liberation War (June 1950-July 1953), he joined the Korean People’s Army and lost a leg in a battle. That year he was enrolled at the painting faculty of Pyongyang University of Fine Arts which reopened even in the thick of the war.

The student with natural aptitude polished his skill and in his final year at the university he presented Korean painting “Farmer Pak Je Gun saves a soldier of the Chinese People’s Volunteers” to the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow, Russia.

Already in his university days, he cut a conspicuous figure in the creation of figure painting.

After graduation he consecutively held the posts of lecturer, department chief and dean of the Korean painting faculty of the university for over 40 years. As he refined his brushwork in Korean painting, he broke new ground in the traditional genre.

Previously, people thought Korean painting was able to portray only landscape. But he broke away from the stereotyped conception and represented figures in “Tideland reclamation” that reflected the stirring time. The work is still rated as a masterpiece of Korean paintings produced in the 1960s.

He also produced a dozen of works representing the great leaders including Korean paintings “Supreme Commander Kim Il Sung taking warm care of soldiers’ life” and “Chairman Kim Jong Il inspecting the construction site of Changgwang Street”. They are appreciated as masterpieces of national treasure value.

While teaching students and writing valuable reference books, he created classical Korean painting pieces. In recognition of his devoted service, he was conferred the titles of People’s Artist and Associate Professor.

It is nearly two decades since he stepped down from the platform, but the veteran artist continues to rack his brains to develop Korean painting.

“The target of life should always be set high and we should have a firm will to achieve it and our hearts should pulse with the vigour of youth. Only then can we retain rich ideological and artistic sentiments, come up with novel ideas and cultivate a vigorous style of painting and then the brush does not get old,” says Ri Ryul Son.

(Source: The Pyongyang Times - July 25, 2019)

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post