Co-sponsored event by Partnerships-International Strategies-Asia (PISA) and GW Institute for Korean Studies: “North Korean Art: Transcending Ideologies”

On October 24, 2018, GWIKS and Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) co-sponsored a lecture by B. G. Muhn, a visual artist and professor at Georgetown University Department of Art and Art History, on “North Korean Art: Transcending Ideologies”. Dr. Muhn, a North Korean art scholar, shared his experiences of traveling to North Korea with the audience. In North Korea, Dr. Muhn had visited art museums, Pyongyang University of Fine Arts, and studios of North Korean artists, whom he had interviewed his research pursuit on Chosonhwa.

Dr. Muhn explained that Chosonhwa, traditional Oriental ink wash painting on rice paper, is a unique form of art that integrates North Korean political, cultural, and historical context. Chosonhwa displays Socialist Realism, revealing the North Korean political ideology embedded within the society. Dr. Muhn pointed out that in some of the paintings, characters maintain surprisingly aloof and peaceful composure despite the chaotic surrounding conditions, such as stormy sea and battle. He claimed that such depiction derives from the aspiration to maintain peace and dignity in audacious situations, perhaps a prevailing Confucian ideology.

In addition to the political ideology it displays, Chosonhwa possesses unique styles of outlines, use of water, color, and brushstrokes that distinguish it from Hankukhwa, the South Korean counterpart. For example, Dr. Muhn mentioned the vibrant use of color and delicate brushstrokes unique to Chosonhwa.

With the development of distinctive characteristics, Chosonhwa has considerably contributed to the unique characteristics of North Korean contemporary art since the late 1960s. In the exhibition, “North Korean Art: Paradoxical Realism”, at the 2018 Gwangju Biennale, Dr. Muhn has acknowledged the significance of North Korean art by solely showcasing Chosonhwa works.

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