Following the breath of tree and provision of nature “Seogak is like the second phase of my life”

신태섭 기자l승인2019.11.21l수정2019.11.21 14:51






▲ Artist Haeman Lee

Seogak is an art to carve letters and images onto wood board. The art is known to be started with the oldest woodblock printing <Mugujunggwangdaranigyeong> in the 8th century. For this reason, any letters or images carved on wood board can be regarded as seogak. Alongside physical effort it requires, Seogak is an act of the artist to blow in the letters or images his or her soul and passion. 

Trees stand where they are for tens of years, hundreds of years and thousands of years. And seogak artist Haeman Lee aka Wooyeon takes up a graver in front of a wood board and starts to give many ups and downs and curves of the graver onto the wood with his passion in every single movement.

Lee has worked for Korail for the last 36 years and retirement is just around the corner. One day when rain fell heavily, he saw a floating wood flowing down on the flooded water and he had this strong feeling to make it into something. He then formed a seogak club with colleagues in the same mind in 1998. It was 2016 that he started to engage in seogak seriously.

“It is truly fascinating to carve my soul onto a piece of dead tree that might have stood for many years in nature.”

The hobby started to become a work of art when Lee met a master seogak artist Jongbo Shim. He gave more time to his work, met more people in the circle and engaged in more exhibitions to widen his art world. And he gradually gained his presence in the seogak circle from 2018. 

Fellow seogak artists give testimony that he is precise, free of using the graver and delicate in expressing. Like they praised, Lee won the runner-up prize at the 2018 Korean Arts and Culture Master Exhibition of Inheritance Traditional Art Academy, the gold prize (Busan mayor’s prize) at the Korea Crafts Art Contest, the special prize at the 2019 Korea Seogak Exhibition, and the general grand prize (Sejong mayor’s prize) at the Maejookhun Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition. 

Currently, Lee is learning calligraphy from Juyeon Kim famous for Hosan style (Hosan is nickname). Kim says that Lee’s writing has power yet calmness like his personality and it is good to be shifted straight onto a wood board.

It is notable that Lee makes his own gravers and has a great talent in making totem poles. He once created ‘brush holder pole’ which had explosive comments on SNS. Lee also climbs mountains on a regular basis to find good materials for seogak especially the lightwood. 

“I’ve loved mountains very much since I was a boy. Mountains make me happy and I feel at east whenever I’m there. Seogak for me is like the second phase of my life. I will do this art alongside totem poles as long as my strength allows.”

Lee is set to hold a solo exhibition at the Seoul Arts Center next April.

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