By Art Writer Sion Khan
From the past, the pine tree in Korea has been regarded as a favorite tree of the Korean people.
Pine tree symbolizes tenacity, unchanging beliefs, and tenacious vitality to grow strong even in barren land.
The green pine tree throughout the year is considered to have a spirit, and in Korea, it is regarded as a virtue of the spirit of a scholar or a gentleman.
In the Oriental world, it has continuously appeared as a material for poets and paintings by writers, and it has not lost its original greenness even in modern times.
The pine tree is a representative single tree species accounting for 21.9% of the total forest area in Korea.
It is suitable for growing in the ever-changing weather environment of Korea and is widely distributed from north to south.
Although distributed evenly throughout the country, it is particularly concentrated in the east coast of Gangwon-do and Gyeongsang-do, contributing to the unique and beautiful scenery of the Yeongdong region.
The pine tree, which has been deeply rooted in the lives of Koreans from a long time ago to the present, exists as a natural object that reflects the emotions and feelings of the nation and is loved in various ways.
A tree grows from a seed, continues to grow, dies, and remains in one place until it perishes.
In order not to fall, the roots expand more firmly, and the branches open their arms toward the light of the sky and grow into a bigger being.
However, trees do not interfere with other beings and live in an organic relationship, giving and receiving help.
In the end, it is the tree that is cut off at the base and the branches are cut off and then disappears into wood and sometimes as firewood.
If you look at it that way, isn't the tree's life itself a dedication?
When you walk in the forest, the rest and the warm shade of the trees approach you as a great existence that makes you feel sublime.
The same goes for pine trees.
It grows on the beach, in the forest, sometimes in the rock mountain or in the big rocks, endures the wind wave in a barren environment, has lived for hundreds of thousands of years, becoming a friend of Koreans, giving up its body, and sometimes standing silently as a big witness of history.
Many of these pine trees are distributed in Ulsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, where Artist Kim Sang-won was born and lived.
So, memories of pine trees that have been seen since his childhood seem to remain a dominant image in the artist's mind.
The pine trees he enjoys drawing have various and wonderful shapes.
A small pine tree that grew in the crevices of the high mountain rocks, A pine tree that seems to dance in the wind at the foot of the seashore, A pine tree in the forest where scholars elegantly gather and converse, A large pine tree in the pine forest that blocks typhoons...
Artist Kim, who painted these various aspects, also resembles an honest pine tree.
An artist creates the world he wants to embody through the object he draws.
In addition, through empathy for the object to be drawn, one becomes resembling the existence of the object.
As if following the path walked by an object of faith and worship on a religious level, the figure and honesty of the artist Kim Sang-won seems to follow a pine tree.
The artist's painting while standing with the trees while breathing in the forest for the sake of his work is even sublime.
Artist Kim still captures the scenery of Ulsan and surrounding areas on canvas even after his 60th birthday.
He had a passion and talent for art from an early age, and he started his first solo exhibition when he was in the third year of middle school and won numerous prizes in various art competitions.
After graduating from college, he has been engaged in painting for a long time, and is using his artistic sense to engage in landscaping for the urban environment, demonstrating his abilities.
He also faced a great crisis.
When he was at Hongik University's Graduate School of Fine Arts, he suffered a great ordeal in which all his works were destroyed due to a big fire in his studio.
After that, he made up his mind and started working again, which was the moment when the vast amount of pine tree series was born.
In this way, art becomes deeper and sublime in the trials and tribulations of life.
It contains the spirit of the current era in which the artist lives, the space he is walking in, and the anguish and philosophy that he feels in the canvas.
Artist Kim’s goal is to create works that resonate through the eyes of the audience and resonate with the hearts of the viewers by faithful to the essence of painting, crossing between the joy of drawing and the sensitive senses that make up the canvas as if on a tightrope.
He sincerely hopes that the works he draws toward that goal will be recorded on one page of art history with the inspiration of painting transcending time and passed down to future generations.
In the future, Artist Kim wants to study the technique of making the texture of painting materials more alive and continue to do works that give vivid impressions by being faithful to the process and action of painting with a brush.
This is because, when the painter himself is happy and interesting, the audience facing the work can be equally impressed.
His large amount of work and the large scale of his paintings are among the best in the Korean art world.
It is hoped that more audiences will have the opportunity to experience Kim Sang-won's vast works, and that the works of pine trees, which he has put his heart and soul into, will be in the spotlight in the overseas art market.
Also, it is hoped that he will build a large art museum that can become a landmark with wonderful works like his aspirations.
Artist Kim Sang-won, in his early 60s, is considered a well-established artist in Korea, and is widely known for having lived his whole life covering pine trees, which are embedded in the minds of the Korean people.
From olden times, the Korean people have been using pine trees in building their houses, although it is different in modern times. Thus, pine trees are very important among the people in Korea—all but to the extent that the tree represents Korea.
For example, pine trees appear in the National Anthem of Korea, e.g., Namsan ue jeo sonamu, which literally translates, “The pine trees on the Namsan Mountain.” Namsan, literally, “South Mountain,” is situated in the middle of Seoul, the capital city of the Republic of Korea.
For more than 30 years, Artist Kim is known to have been travelling all parts of the Republic of Korea, including the pine trees on the Jeju Island.
Artist Kim often says, “I want people to be happy seeing the beauty of the pine trees, wild flowers and seascapes in the areas that are not easily accessible."
Artist Kim, who graduated from Chungju University's College of Art, insists on drawing on the spot. Although he has his atelier, he is known to travel widely to cover all the different pine trees of different localities—on the spot.
Sometimes, he is known to stay in the field for several times to complete his work.
The vividness of the brush strokes is conveyed in his paintings of pine trees captured in Uljin and Bonghwa in the Gyeongsangbuk-do province. The appearance of an old pine tree, with its twisting branches stretching here and there following the sunlight, together with its hard trunk, gives an impression as if it were covered in iron armor—as is illustrated in par in the National Anthem of Korea.
The artist says, “When a pine tree is transferred to a painting, it is not only understood with the eyes, but the energy of life is felt with the whole body.” Viewers say that there is a sanctity in his work.
He finds in life why the pine is sacred. He says, “I think the lives of trees and people are similar. Of course, trees cannot walk, but still sometimes they also ‘quarrel’ with each other as well as hug with each other.” Wind does much of the work.
About: Artist Kim Sang-won:
Born in Ulsan in 1957
A pine tree field drawing specialist
Graduated from the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Hongik University
Has held a total of 22 solo exhibitions
Has participated in the Korea International Art Fair, Korea Gallery Art Festival