|▲ Calligrapher Yeonok Jeong|
The charm of calligraphy is at creating painting like effect with just letters only. Calligraphy started from China and spread to neighboring Korea and Japan who use Chinese characters. This letter art has been practiced and developed for a long time and each country has fostered numerous renowned calligraphers who established their unique style. Calligrapher Yeonok Jeong is famous for winning a ministerial prize from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at the Korea Calligraphy Style Competition and the grand prize at the Korea Masters Art Exhibition. <Power Korea> looked into her life and philosophy.
From a single mom to a calligrapher
Jeong was born in Gangneung City. She moved to Seoul to work and had 3 children by marriage. It was a normal happy family until she lost her husband in her mid 30s. In desperation to find a way to feed herself and her three children, she went down to Busan to start a street vendor. Her eldest son was 12 years old and the youngest was 5 then. We can imagine how hard her life was that a single mother raising three children and sending them all to university. She then wanted to give herself a small reward for her hard work and sacrifice; and that was to learn calligraphy.
Calligraphy for Jeong was ‘training’ like a monk in a temple training herself to be enlightened. Under the instruction of Shinhaeng Yoon aka Wooam, she learned various styles of calligraphy. Her teacher Yoon published a number of books and had deep knowledge in calligraphy, Chinese poetry and Korean poetry. Apart from Yoon, she learned Korean painting from Jeongjin Choi, aka Hyangmook, and widened her scope of art.
“Calligraphy is a road to bloom a flower”
20 years passed. Her zeal for calligraphy was fruitful. She won a ministerial prize from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at the Korea Calligraphy Style Competition and the grand prize at the Koreas Masters Art Exhibition, and many more.
“Calligraphy is like my religion. Every single stroke of brush is a process of training my mind and the 30 minutes of grinding the ink is the moments where I forget all those painful memories and distracting thoughts. Calligraphy also in a way is a process of enlightenment by writing good verses of the wise in ancient time. The deeper you learn the richer our soul becomes. If some asks me what calligraphy is in a simple term, I would say ‘calligraphy is a road to bloom a flower’: the flower of patience, the flower of virtue and the flower of humbleness. “
Spreading the charm of calligraphy
Calligraphy has been a driving force of Jeong for many years. It has brought her the virtue of patience, tranquility, comfort, forgetnes and decorum. Having reached to a certain level of this letter art and being aware of its charm, Jeong has firmly decided to spread the beauty of calligraphy to more people especially the young ones whom this charming art is ever being forgotten year by year due to tech-driven gadgets and other eye attracting entertainments.
“It is natural for parents to send their children to top universities in order for them to survive or to live better than others. It is also natural for young ones to play with latest gadgets. But it is material side as our body needs food to function. In the same respect, our soul needs art to see the world that exists beyond the material world. Calligraphy is one of the art forms which will train us to see this high form of the world.”
There is this four-character Chinese idiom: 上善若水 (상선약수: Sangsunyaksu). It means ‘the very virtue is like flowing water’ which interpreted as ‘the level in which a person benefits all living things without conflict’. Bearing this in mind, Jeong grabs a brush again today for herself and for people of all walks of life whom she will pass down years of her skills and knowledge to.
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