Astrophysicist’s endless love of art: a journey to find oneself

홍기인 기자l승인2019.08.22l수정2019.08.22 10:11

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▲ Artist and theoretical astrophysicist Chang Kyong-ae

Chang Kyong-ae is a theoretical astrophysicist and an artist. Talking about her art, she draws from compositional to abstract. <Trace of Spring>, <Life> and <Bare Tree>, for examples, are the expressions of her inner world. One might think of French painter Marie Laurencin by appreciating these works. Talking about her doctor’s careers, she is known to be the first woman who studied astronomy in South Korea. 

Colors of souls
“I heard many times that my use of colors is unique. I never use the colors of the tubes as they are but try to add and mix in order to create unique colors of mine. I admit that my works are somewhat similar to Marie Laurencin. I used to like colors of impressionists and fauvists when in middle school but aging brought some changes to my use of colors” says Chang.

Chang started painting when she was a first year middle school student which lasted up to the tip of entering university. While most of her friends went to art colleges, she chose physics instead. After graduation, she flew to the US in 1969 to deepen her study at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Yet her love of art had always remained intact in her soul and she every now and then paid a visit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., the first state museum of the US. 

There, she was inspired by the colors and compositions of the works of Calude Monet. If inspiration was found at Washington D.C., surprises were found in Philadelphia because of the sheer scale and consistent use of the colors of <Bathers> by Paul Cezanne, which she appreciated awe-stricken.

Endless love of art
“There are significant differences between art and natural science due to different approaches to objects. So I had to separate my study from appreciating art methodically and I spared time for visiting galleries, reading art histories and books or touching the paints with my hands.” 

Finishing her master’s course, she flew to Hamburg, Germany, where she obtained a doctor’s degree. There, she had seen many works of expressionists and surrealists. And the shocking and ecstasy were found at two large scale exhibitions of Rene Magritte and Francisco Goya. She was overwhelmed by Margritte’s expression of the world beyond our eyes and was kneed-downable by Goya’s realistic expression of the events in the picture as well as the harmony between black and white. 

Obtaining a doctor’s degree, she then flew to Canada and witnessed a time shift in the art world by observing ‘strengthened convenience’ in the works of local artists. “They depicted objects with dependence on machines; repetitive compositions by computer or shifting esquisse onto canvas. It seemed reasonable as things change when time goes by but I thought that the methods didn’t seem to pour artist’s souls; it’s just only my opinion.”

As a female theoretical astrophysicist, she has left an enormous footprint in science: she and her German tutor gave a paper on Nature and coined a new technical term <Chang-Refsdal Lens>; ((Chang. K & Refsdal, S. (December 6, 1979). “Flux variations QSO 0957+561 A, B and image splitting by stars near the light path”. Nature. 282 ; 561-564. Bibcode : 1979 natur. 282...561C); the paper created significant ripples in the scientific world and has been quoted many times. 

Fostering talents and turning her heart to art
In 1985, she came back home and started to teach students optical science at Cheongju University; her pupils are now working as specialists in the field whether big or small. It was around this time that her longing for art started to bust open again. She retired from Cheongju University Graduate School in 2012 and in a few years times joined an artist’s society ‘Soonhuheo’ and began painting. She was thrilled picking up a brush that she could not help drawing only a few lines for three whole hours; and it was only three years ago. 

Most of the members were artists with more than 10 years of experience. She was daunted by their skills but once busted passion in art could never stop her pushing it forward this time. 

“I wanted to shift my thought onto canvas, share it with others and feel each other’s joys and sadness through it. So the work must be nobody else’s but my own, my own world of art. Through art, I want to communicate with my soul and I want to change the world for better and comfort.”

Burning passion in art
“In science, one’s bravado or subjectivity can bring a disaster. In art, they often are the sources for creativity and uniqueness; one of the reasons I like about art.”

“As an artist, I might have to face many a despair and pain. But surely I can find solutions if I go deep down into my heart; if I put down greed and be truthful to expressing my feelings onto canvas like a conductor creates a harmonious sound from his orchestra. If art has invisible rules and disciplines, science has the other way round. This is a charm about art.”

Although started in her late age, Chang already has painted hundreds of works. Yet she has not had a solo exhibition because she is worrying too much whether her works might be insults to professional artists; simple and honest. Who knows, sometime in near future we might have a chance to see her works at a gallery?

   
▲ 인생 65.1X50.0cm. Oil on canvass

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