"The times that passed on trees and the points of carving knives ever since enchanted by seogak"

Dagang Shin Jae Gu's seogak exhibition ... Gathering in one place with warm hearted 홍기인 기자l승인2022.04.25l수정2022.04.25 10:34

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▲ Seogak Artist / Dagang Shin Jae Gu

"When I first started seogak, I was confident to carve everything in the world if I keep doing it for 1 year. So I did it day and night stooping down focusing on my works. Two years and three years have passed and it became more and more interesting. I was falling in love and hate with carving knives, chisels and hammers and never allowed one false. I carved patterns on wood, inserted designs and followed spaces between lines of poems. Some days, I was fascinated by cheerfulness and vividness of penmanship and slapped my knee. I was wandering between tangible and intangible. Naturally, I felt I was able to listen to the sounds of birds, water and wind and follow the words of trees. My wish then was to become one body with tree." < Year 2022 spring, Dagang Shin Jae Gu > 

Absorbed in seogak for a long time, completing works harmonizing tradition and modern

Seogak is a genre of art engraving letters, images and patterns on wooden panels. It has similar artistic value to poems, calligraphy and drawing and it is developing into total art through close contact with our lives. 
Kukjae Jeonki Building on 30 Wolbaero, Dalseogu, Daegu Metropolitan City. It is where Juan Gallery and the studio of Dagang Shin Jae Gu and his life time collection of works are located. The first floor is lighting fixture shop, the second and third floors are where his works are and the fourth floor is his studio. Dagang is doing seogak encompassing tradition and modern. With his long time accumulated works, he is holding the first seogak exhibition titled <Listening to Words of Trees> at Government Complex Daegu on April 25. He said "I wanted to find 'Korean beauty' that is simple yet classy." Prior to this, Dagang received Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministerial Prize and Unification Ministerial Prize at major art competitions. This exhibition includes these kind of works and everything that the public can appreciate and enjoy. Most works have lived with Dagang for a long time so they are more meaningful and deeply moving. Starting seogak from 1974, the exhibition is the first time that displays at once in 48 years. There was a reason that the exhibition was delayed for so long. As the head of a family, he has earned bread and butter from electric work and spent many times helping people around him and communities. But he does not seem to be regretful on this. Rather, he devoted his spare time to culture and art with wider perspective about the world and diligence. Culture has been an existence more than 'life'. Whenever he had time, he poured it here unsparingly. While he was fulfilling his works, he was helping fellow artists in need and organized a big exhibition. In other words, he is a collector and a rare artist who ran all over the country for work. All these years, he blew every souls into seogak with his unique style. 
From the early period, Dagang has been doing seogak that embraces tradition and modern. He has talked with trees endlessly for his works. Wooden materials play an important part to raise level of completion. He has discerning eye for wooden materials as much as for exceptional art works. Dagang most satisfactorily showed characters of seogak from styles of calligraphy to raised carving, engraving and trees so that he could see directions of the past, present and future. He expanded traditional seogak to a culture the public can enjoy as total arts that combined seal engraving, calligraphy and painting. 

Jumping over barriers between genres for liberal composition, development to total art

All men have instinctive desire to express their heart and deliver them. This instinctiveness led to creation of letters through primitive sculptures. Engraving letters, which is an immortal method, proved as an incentive to cultural development. The history of seogak is an act of leaving letters and paintings to offspring evergreen. It was started with desire for expression through recording on woods, stones and other materials. Alongside calligraphy, it lets us apply, make life stylish and enjoy high degree of spiritual world. 
Dagang researched on formative relations on modern seogak from traditional forms in order to exercise his imagination to reconstruct static space to dynamic space. He continuously observed ideology of sculpture and materials of wood that is the foundation for styles. Let us look into his works in detail. Dagang is composing liberal works that jump over walls of genres through harmony and integration between genre and genre which is a characteristic of modern art. He looked widely from basic handwriting to panbon handwritings of Hunminjeongeum and modern calligraphy. It is also interesting that he called back lives of the past to reflect into seogak. For example, 'Portrait of a Beauty' by Yunbok Shin, 'Cane' of village school teacher, and 'Ice Cream' that shows 70s life style arouse memories of the time. Secondly, it is strong modeling. If seogak in the past stayed passive carving, modern seogak should strengthen modeling, sense of volume, touch and liveliness through active carving. 'Be a Human' and 'Teacup' are good examples to satisfy these values. Thirdly, it is beauty of colors. Modern seogak is total art that leads to calligraphy to sculpture to painting. It is very important to enliven quality and quantity of space by using colors. Good examples are 'Prayer of Mother', 'Agony of Life'(Father), 'Putting Arms Around Each Other's Shoulders' and 'Irworobongdo'. Fourthly, it is visual presentation of letters. By doing stacks of language symbols to visual symbols, new and total formative trying, but not simple listing of letters, is well presented. There are standard calligraphy styles for engraving but leading to liberal expressions from diverseness over everyday styles and forms is more attractive. Good examples are 'Sim'(heart), 'Maternal Love', 'Sparrow', 'First Intension'(cooked rice), and 'Zeulgilrak'. But 'Korean Beauty' received most attention for winning Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministerial Prize. It is engraved with the inlaid celadon Moonmaebeong(National Treasure 69) that has cranes, earthenware and golden crown. It is received as a masterpiece that is melted with identity, excellence and artistry. All elements of importance is melted such as historycality in dimensional expressive art and illuminating meaningful expressiveness. Out of simple engraving techniques, expressive methods such as sungil and chaebup according to seogo, jangbup, engraving and styles are compressed. Conclusionally, the art of Dagang covers natural calligraphy styles, compositions, formativeness, dimension of engraving, variety of chaebup, implication by senses and humors of modern seogak. As elements for the public, it raises expectations of audience through fun, enjoyment and warmness.

Seogak is 'an art that does not deceive oneself' , aesthetics of 'filling' and 'emptying'

"Like life is similar to everybody, to be a good tree, one must walk and turn in hot and cold weathers. In order not to be twisted, one must be soaked in the sea water for many years. The one with impatient is runny and the one with slow growth is solid. The one with dense growth rings and without twigs has good resonant sound. It was most tricky for me to decide a fragrant tree ideal for carving."
Seogak is a work that involves choosing a tree and engraving letters and images with knives, chisels and hammers. The process is similar to labor. One cannot bear the work without being crazy. Because it was like mental training that one must fight with oneself to complete a work through hundreds of thousands of times of carvings and hammering. For this reason, hands of the artist are not intact. The artist must endure loss of nails and having chapped hands. Waist and neck also are not good. Knives and hammers can be replaced with new ones but the body is accumulated as in that state. Dagang had a car accident once and escaped from the throes of death. For many months, he could not use half of his body and depended on a cane. Though confidence with his health, his body became not sound and times of withdrawal passed as such. For this, Dagang said "My hands, wrists and waist started to creak. I vaguely realized about fear after surgery." Nevertheless, Dagang does not hide charm of seogak. He said "I have learned dignified beauty of seogak for a long time through aesthetics of bold lines and curves. Seogak for me is the time of learning nature of trees. I came to know its secret balance and taste of ratio of profound engraving and intanglio." He said "In some ways, trees might engrave intangibility onto the sky through erecting straight. Likewise, spring engraves flowers through apricot flower, summer engraves through twigs and autumn engraves red patterns through maple, who knows? So that winter mountains are engraved with heavy snow. I came to know that all things in the world is the work that engraves each other."
Having had these experiences for a long time, Dagang emphasizes "Seogak is an art that does not deceive oneself and aesthetics of 'filling' and 'emptying'." He added "I gained excessive luck by touching trees for many years. I would like to show my thanks to poets and nature that have been the foundation for my seogak." He delivered "I feel proud of myself to make contributions to development of regional culture and I'm determined to keep carrying on." <PowerKorea>

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