The things that are possible because they are nothing but folk paintings: The story of folk artist Hyewon Lee

지윤석 기자l승인2021.11.16l수정2021.11.16 16:11







I met Lee at the 2021 Seoul Hanji Cultural Festival held at the Kyungin Museum of Fine Art, Insa-dong, Seoul. Her works <Jangmakchackgado> and <Kimeongjeoljido> enchanted my heart with gentility and public familiarity. This is not surprising at all but rather natural as folk art were practiced among ordinary people during the Joseon period. Today, we can see elements of folk art in many works including commercial goods. Recently, I was invited by the World Folk Art Center, where Lee is a member, to the 2021 Incheon Food Life & Home Living held at the Songdo Convensia. Luckily, I had a chance to have a talk with Lee about folk art.


[Folk Art into Life]

“It is the first time I’ve hung my commercial editions in a public fair. This is because I have had this feeling that there are certain limitations if my folk art is not used in everyday life of people. I actually have been participating in a number of collaborations here and there but the commercial editions this time are the results of this worry. And my commercial editions are mood lamp, tumbler, envelope, wood table and cup holder” said Lee. She used Korean paper for the mood lamp and bumbler while seal engraving and storytelling for the envelop and ‘hwajodo’ and ‘hwajupdo’ for the cup holder. Apart from these works, the ‘mini editions of original works’ is made to stand anywhere applicable with a contemporary feel.


[Folk Art for Communication]

“I tried not to damage original works in making them into mini editions. The values of original works are dear and they are too expensive to afford for many ordinary people. I had a chance to exhibit my original works at the Gallery 360 and one of my works was priced 13 million won ($11,042). Of course I poured time and effort in the work but the price was way too expansive for ordinary people to buy. So I brought up the mini editions idea in a way to offer my works in a realistic price. A client was so happy to have my mini edition and I was convinced that I was on the right track.”


[Folk Art in Everyday Life]

“I majored in craft design but engaged in the field of visual design. I worked for an advertising firm during which I became the first generation computer graphic designer. That was like when I was about 25. I still have the feeling at the time and the mini editions this time in a way are melted with that feeling of the time. It is also a more accessible way for foreigners to enter the world of Korean folk art.”


Lee has participated in numerous folk art exhibitions including China and Mongolia. As hawks are famous birds in Mongolia, she exhibited her work <Gaeungdo>, themed on hawks, which was printed on the exhibition poster. “When I studied folk art, I practiced 8 to 10 hours a day. In other words, folk art was like everything in life. It made me exciting and it made me happy. It is now my goal to spread beautiful and unique Korean folk art to more people in the world through more accessible forms and contents.”

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