|▲ Shin Min-sik, Director of Cheonggyehaedam Traditional Buddhist Art Center|
Buddhism has no forms in absolute term. Naturally, there is no way one can express the formless into form. If one must express nevertheless, the one must has done it in a virtual image. We do not know when Buddhist painting started in Korea but luckily 5 works made around the 13th century remain in Korea while 80 of them in Japan and some in Europe and America. Buddhist artist Shin Min-sik started the career when he came to know a folding screen artist by chance. One day while he was focusing on the art at the studio, a visit was made by Im Suk-hwan, an important intangible cultural asset (No.118). A visit became frequent and Shin became intimate enough to ask Im to teach him Buddhist painting. He was 19 at that time. The lessons included varnishing and gilt which required a considerable amount of hard work. The skill was very important as varnishing and gilt protect wooden images of Buddha from blight and insects as well as moisture. “Im was strict in executing the work as the traditional way and monks also had sharp eyes. So it was really hard for me to realize each work with utmost detail and precision. Looking back, however, it actually made me stronger and skillful” says Shin. After mastering varnishing, gilt, painting and ‘dancheong’ - multicolored paintwork on wooden buildings, Shin opened Cheonggyehaedam Traditional Buddhist Art Center borrowing his nickname Cheonggyehaedam. His works were much influenced by the Goryeo Buddhist paintings which have tendency to tower the upper part of the main Buddha; it creates more of noble atmosphere when compared to the Joseon Buddhist paintings. This style of Shin has been shined in a number of his works at Baekryun Temple and Muui Temple in Gangjin County, Dogap Temple in Yeongam County, Daeheung Temple and Mihwang Temple in Haenam County, Unju Temple in Hwasun County, Beomeo Temple in Busan and Gwanlyong Temple in Changnyeong County. Shin also collaborated with his teacher Im for varnishing and gilding the Mokjomunsu-dongja-sang (Wooden Munsu Buddhist Boy Attendants) – National Treasure No. 221. Those who saw Shin’s work or two praised that every single color and touch is vivid and solemn. Not complacent, Shin firmly sticks to his gun to give utmost attention to detail which has never once been altered or changed during the near 30 years of his career. According to Shin, it takes at least 3 months to complete a work in order to realize the details in every part. However, Shin is not only famous for Buddhist painting but also for ‘dancheong’ - multicolored paintwork on wooden buildings which uses five colors: blue, red, yellow, white and black. ‘Dancheong’ makes the building conspicuous so that people feel that it is a sacred place. “We can have many feelings by seeing the Buddhist paintings and dancheong. Some might think they are beautiful and some they are graceful. But I wish I could talk with the people about the meaning of the works over simple appreciation” adding “My teacher often said ‘lines are the key for Buddhist painting’. I remember I repeated the drawing the each model of rough sketches given by my teacher for 3 thousand times. It was a painstaking job as I had to match even a thread of mustache and beard.” Meanwhile, Shin is exerting part of his energy in fostering talented young Buddhist artists at Cheonggyehaedam Traditional Buddhist Art Center. He obtained a number of certificates covering gilt and drawings to give systematic training to his pupils and the pupils with 10 years of learning and experience are entitled to work together with him. Also as a sideline, Shin is writing a series of articles about the Buddhism and Buddhist art on The Sunbawi Shinmun, a local newspaper. Currently, Shin is a member of the Korean Fine Arts Association, of the Federation of Artistic & Cultural Organization of Korea and of the Korea Artists Association and is serving as Secretary General of the Five Cardinal Colors Artists Association. When asked about the future plan, Shin said “I’m planning to hold a solo exhibition and a joint exhibition titled <Susanmundo> with my teacher Im in near future. Meanwhile, I will keep pouring my effort in fostering talented young Buddhist artists.”
Note: <Power Korea> “rewrites” the Korean article in English “concisely” for native English speakers and staff of foreign missions in Korea.
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