"Pine Tree — Full Moon" by Moon Bong-sun is on display at Seoul Museum in Buam-dong, central Seoul, through Feb. 17. / Courtesy of the artist and Seoul Museum
By Kwon Mee-yoo
There are two picturesque pine trees at the Seoul Museum in Buam-dong, central Seoul. One is in front of Seokpajeong, a pavilion in its garden, and the other is in the gallery, painted by Moon Bong-sun.
The real tree, estimated to be some 600 years old, is from the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), while the painting is new as Moon, 53, recently finished it for "Pine Tree: Looking Ahead 1,000 Years," an exhibition starting Wednesday.
Following its inaugural exhibit highlighting modern Korean painters including Lee Jung-seop, the Seoul Museum invited Oriental artist Moon to provide his ink-and-wash paintings of pine trees.
"Pine Tree — Gyeongju Samneung Pine Tree Forest" by Moon Bong-sun
"We have this gorgeous pine tree at Seokpajeong and I thought of holding an exhibition featuring pine trees someday. When we heard Moon has been painting pine trees for some 30 years, we knew he was the right person," Seoul Museum director Yi Joo-heon said during a press conference introducing the exhibition. Yi said the pine tree symbolizes integrity and spirit unbowed by harsh winter weather. "Moon paints based on traditional techniques but his works have a contemporary edge," he said.
Moon will present some 20 black-and-white pine tree paintings, up to 2.4 meters high by 10 meters across. They might look simple, but Moon's strokes portray the upright, solid characteristics of pine trees.
"I started painting pine trees when I entered university, but it took a long time for me to develop a unique style in pine tree painting," the artist said.
The largest "Pine Tree ― Gyeongju Samneung Pine Tree Forest" makes the viewers feel as if they are in the forest. Moon even captured a gust of wind blowing through the trees in "Pine Tree ― Wind and Frost." He used rice flour to portray the snow piled up on a pine tree in the "Snow Pine Tree" series.
For some paintings, Moon used a "meok," or Korean ink stick, without water but he has no problem in giving perspective to his paintings.
Moon has traveled around the country to see the finest pine trees, from Tongdo Temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, to Gangneung, Gangwon Province. He has several drawing pads of pine trees, which are on display at the end of the exhibition, which works as a study for bigger works.
"I drew these pine trees traveling across the nation. I don't take photos since painting is faster for me," Moon said.
The exhibition runs through Feb. 17. Admission is 7,000 won for adults and 5,000 won for students. Moon will hold a talk for visitors at 3 p.m. on Dec. 15.
For more information, visit www.seoulmuseum.org or call (02) 395-0100.