Delivering happiness to people through unique totem pole and seogak works

안정희 기자l승인2019.04.19l수정2019.04.19 11:23






▲ Carving Artist Jang Myeong-ik

Koreans have used wood as a platform to carve figures on for a long time. Seogak is a good example on using part of wood to carve letters and images. Jangseug, totem poles, is another example for using the whole part of wood to make it stand at the entrance of a village. <Power Korea> met seogak artist Jang Myeong-ik aka Namsa and heard his story.

Dexterity and talent
Jang was born in Chuncheon City and grew up with trees, stones and soils. He made his own playthings with his hands which proved that he had a born dexterity. He was soon recognized by his teacher for his unique view point of his diagonal drawing. It was unusual for an elementary student to draw a picture in such angle and the teacher asked him “How come you drew this picture?” and he answered “I just did as I saw it.” 

But his artistic career did not last long. Like many people, he worked for Samsung and led a life that most people led every day. One day, however, he joined an art club at his workplace and resumed his lost interest. Tired a little bit of creating works on the flat surface, he visited a totem pole exhibition took place within the company and grew his interest in the field. He was serious to do the art and learned the skill under the instruction of a master totem pole and performance artist Kim Dae-heon aka Songgang. A year passed and he held his first solo exhibition in the company in 2001. 

From totem poles to seogak
Totem poles were stood at the entrance of a village to ward off evil spirit and as a signpost to separate the village to others. Totem poles normally stood in couple and villagers gather together in front of them to hold a ritual when a disease and ill luck spared to the village. 

Carving a totem pole takes a considerable amount of time and effort. The caver was not only required to have skills but more importantly attitude and sincerity. When the level of his art had reached to a peak, his teacher Songgang praised his works and made him the nickname Namsa. 

It was when he met Park Byeong-heon aka Sukdam that he opened his eyes wide to the world of seogak. He soon indulged in digging this new art day and night. He has won a number of prizes including a bronze prize at the Korea Fine Art Exhibition in the totem pole category, and at the Gaya Art Exhibition in the seogak category, and the gold prize at the International Consolidated Art Promotion Association Exhibition in the seogak category. 

Harmony of various images
Jang picks up chucked away woods and bring them home to carve. With the materials in hands, he thinks up of images in his head, makes designs and compositions, and started to carve. 

“Materials are most important followed by the images to carve. Each image in my works delivers each different expression but I would like to deliver hope and smile to the people” says Jang. 

Totem poles in stern faces are turned into warm and inviting faces by the hands of Jang. Also, various images on a carved work harmoniously mingle with each other to create a one orchestrated work. For this reason, appreciators of his works often cannot help laughing out loud in sympathy. 

Delivering happiness to people
Jang values highly of this maxim: “refrain from rash acts even if you are alone.” So he always does his very best with sincere heart whenever he is engaged in creating a work whether others watch or not. When asked about what he wishes to deliver through his works, he said “I wish my works would make busy modern people happy and comfortable even just for a while so that they can charge energy again to carry on their life.” 


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