바늘 가는 데 실 간다는 속담이 있다. 두 사람의 관계가 긴밀함을 비유적으로 이르는 말이다. 교칠(膠漆)도 같은 뜻이다. 아교(阿膠)와 옻나무의 칠(漆)처럼 나누려 해도 나눌 수 없는 관계가 교칠이다. 아교는 본드(bond)가 나오기 전에 가장 널리 쓰인 천연접착제다. 아교는 갖풀이라고도 부르는데 소나 사슴 등의 동물 가죽, 뼈, 창자 등을 고아서 만든다. 흔히 아교로 알려진 부레풀은 동물 대신 물고기의 부레를 녹여 만든다. 그래서 부레풀을 어교(魚膠)라고 부른다.
권기수의 작품에는 동구리가 트레이드마크처럼 등장한다. 만화의 주인공 같은 동구리의 등장 때문에 권기수의 작품을 팝아트로 분류하려는 사람도 있다. 그러나 동구리라는 아이콘은 이야기를 쉽게 풀어나가기 위한 기호로 설정했을 뿐이다. 동양화의 대관산수(大觀山水)에서는 산수를 그릴 때 화면 속에 산 전체를 그려넣어야 한다. 거대한 산을 표현하려다 보니 산은 크게 그리고 인물은 개미처럼 작게 그린다. 북송(北宋)의 곽희(郭熙)가 그린 ‘조춘도(早春圖)’, 범관(范寬)의 ‘계산행려도(溪山行旅圖)’, 그리고 조선 초기 안견의 ‘몽유도원도’가 대표적이다. 대관산수에서는 거대한 자연이 얼마나 위대한가를, 상대적으로 인간이라는 존재가 얼마나 미미한가를 생각한 동양사상이 반영되어 있다. 권기수가 그린 동구리는 대관산수의 전통을 이어받아 인물을 최소화했다. 얼굴은 표정을 확인할 수 있을 정도로 그린 반면 팔다리는 그저 사람이라는 것을 확인할 수 있을 정도로 간략한 것이 특징이다. 동구리는 항상 ‘스마일’을 하고 있다. 오랫동안 덕과 지혜의 상징으로 존경받아온 성인(聖人)이나 현자(賢者)의 모습을 개념화시킨 표정이다. 그런 점에서 권기수의 작품은 만화나 광고 등을 통해 대중성을 얻은 이미지를 차용한 팝아트와는 완전히 다르다.
That’s It in Paintings like “Needle and Thread”!
By Cho Jung-yuk (Art Columnist)
(right)Kwon Ki-Soo, Listen without prejudice-green, acrylic on canvas on board, 194X117cm, 2010
(left) Hearing a Birdsong on Horseback (馬上聽鶯圖) by Kim Hong-do (1745-after 1806)
There is the saying “A thread goes wherever a needle goes.” It is used to refer to two things that are inseparable. Gyochil (膠漆, a kind of traditional glue) is a term used to describe a relationship between two things that are bound up with one another like glue and lacquer. Glue was the most widely used adhesive before bond was produced. Also called gotpul (갖풀), glue is made by boiling hides, bones, and intestines of animals such as cattle and deer. Swim bladder paste (부레풀) is made by dissolving the swim bladders of fish instead of a mammal’s and is thus referred to as fish glue (魚膠).
If glue is applied to lacquer, it has a strong adhesive property regardless of whether glue or fish glue is used. The term gyochil can be used to refer to this inseparable relationship along with the four-character Chinese idioms gyochil jigyo (膠漆之交) and gyeolyeo gyochil (結如膠漆). These are used quite often to mean deep friendship. If you are unfamiliar with the idiom gyochil jigyo, consider the expression “joined at the hip”. A typical example of gyochil jigyo is the friendship between Bo Ya and Zhong Ziqi. Bo Ya was good at playing the Chinese zither while Zhong Ziqi was good at listening to Bo Ya’s playing. When Zhong Ziqi died, Bo Ya broke the strings of his zither and vowed never to play again, deploring the fact that nobody recognized him anymore. The friendship between Kuan Zhong and Bao Shuya (管鮑之交, quanbao zhijiao) as well as that between Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang (水魚之交, shuiyu zhijiao) are also equivalent to gyochil jigyo.
There are other veritable protagonists of gyochil jigyo. According to The Records of the Grand Historian (史記, Shiji) by Sima Qian, King Wu Ding of the Shang dynasty wanted to recruit an admirable premier to build up a powerful empire but he could not find one. As a result of his desperate praying, one day he saw a figure in his dream. King Wu Ding was confident that he was the wise prime minister meant to assist him. He painted his portraits and spread them throughout the entire nation. He eventually found the person from his dream working in a field. This man was Fu Yue, a slave laborer who was building a wall. King Wu Ding appointed him as premier to assume the reins of government and Fu Yue met his expectations. This encounter between King Wu Ding and Fu Yue was a theme painters often portrayed in posterior works.
The second protagonists of gyochil jigyo are King Wen, a founder of the Zhou dynasty and Lu Shang. Before going hunting, King Wen consulted his chief scribe to perform divination in order to discover what animals he could hunt. The divination signs, however, were a little weird. The divinations revealed that “Your catch will not be any form of dragon, nor a tiger or great bear. According to the signs, you will find a duke or marquis there whom Heaven has sent to be your assistant.” King Wen encountered by the Wei River an old fisherman, Lu Shang known as Taigong Wang. King Wen and his son King Wu succeeded in establishing the Zhou dynasty by means of Taigong Wang’s military tactics and statecraft. The episode pertaining to King Wen and Lu Sang was the subject more frequently addressed by painters than the episode between King Wu Ding and Fu Yue. We come to realize the episode between King Wen and Lu Shang is really influential from the fact that fishing men are in general called “Taigong Wang”. The encounters of King Wen with Lu Shang and King Wu Ding with Fu Yue were so popular historical episodes to bring forth the term mengbu (夢卜) which refers to dream and fortune. It has derived from the facts that King Wu Ding obtained Fu Yue thanks to his dream while King Wen obtained Lu Shang by telling his fortune. Afterwards, this term came to mean that a king obtains an admirable premier.
This relationship in which one is conducive to others can be found in one genre of painting: painting with a theme poem. Is it acceptable to appoint someone for a key position without investigating them first? The criteria for selecting individuals in ancient times cannot be gauged by those of our time. What matters is the fact that we can sense the taste of reading pictures only when a relationship like gyochil jigyo is applied to paintings.
A Confucian scholar who lost his heart to nightingales on a willow tree
It is a pleasant spring day with plum blossoms blooming and birds singing. Everyone from adults to children want to go outside on this fine day. Feeling stifled, Dongguri leaves his house on a horse. Dongguri is cute and the horse he rides is as dainty as a donkey. Whenever the horse takes a step, ripples form on the nearby bodies of standing water. Finding this interesting, Dongguri urges the horse to step quicker. Listen without Prejudice-Green by Kwon Ki-soo is a lovely work that captures our hearts at first sight. It has the same title as the solo album the English singer George Michael released in 1990. A foreigner who saw this work is said to immediately realize this was inspired by George Michael's album title.
Dongguri is trademark subject matter in Kwon’s works. As Dongguri looks like a cartoon character, some might pigeonhole his work as pop art. The icon Dongguri, however, is just a symbol to convey narratives. Daguan Shanshui (大觀山水) in Oriental painting captures the whole scene of a mountain. A mountain is depicted on a heroic scale in this type of painting while a figure is portrayed on a small scale like an ant in order to express the enormity of the mountain. Typical works include Early Spring (早春圖) by Guo Xi, a Chinese painter of the Northern Song dynasty, Travellers among Mountains and Streams (谿山行旅圖) by Fan Kuan, and Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land (夢遊桃源圖) by An Gyeon, a painter of the early Joseon period. Daguan Shanshui was the genre of landscape painting that reflected the idea of the East, how great nature is and how relatively insubstantial man is. Dongguri by Kwon appear minimized, inheriting the tradition of Daguan Shanshui. Dongguri is particularly marked by his succinctly illustrated limbs while his face is portrayed enough to recognize its look.
Dongguri always greets us with a smile. It is an iconic image held in great respect for a long time as a symbol of virtue and wisdom with the look of a saint or a sage. In this sense, Kwon’s works are completely different from those of pop art that gain popularity through cartoons or advertisements. Kwon could emerge as a blue chip artist representing Korea since he has tried to modernize Korean tradition and put our own aesthetics into it. He has intended to denote the spirit and thought of East Asians who tried to live in harmony with nature and the principle of universality Asians wanted to represent in two-dimensional surfaces in painting using obangsaek (오방색, 五方色). Obangsaek refers to the color scheme of the five Korean traditional colors of white, black, blue, yellow and red representing the five cardinal directions: these colors refers to the Five Elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Eastern philosophy explains all things in the universe are in cycles of creation and extinction through the operation of the Five Elements. Obangsaek in Kwon’s pictures is seen as an attempt to figure out the world of elemental aesthetics in Eastern thought, moving beyond a mere combination of colors.
The painting Kwon used for his work as a model is Hearing a Birdsong on Horseback (馬上聽鶯圖) by Kim Hong-do (1745-after 1806). The title was not written by Kim himself but was made by an appreciator in posterity. It is well titled to remind us of its concept. A Confucian scholar on horseback goes down from a hillside road on a rainy day, hearing a bird singing somewhere. He flips his fan open, which hints at the early summer heat after spring. The scholar stops for a while and turns his head, intoxicated by some clear sound. What is the origin of this beautiful, melodious sound? If our eyes seek the epicenter of the sound, we can find two nightingales between tree branches. How can they make such a solemn sound with their small bodies? The scholar is completely absorbed in the spring atmosphere, forgetting worldly concerns. Kim captured the moment in exquisite brushstrokes. The cloths the Confucian scholar and the attendant boy don are illustrated in cheolseonmyo (鐵線描) while the horse, plants and willow leaves are portrayed in molgolbeop (沒骨法). Cheolseonmyo is a painting technique characterized by thin iron wire texture strokes whereas molgolbeop is a brush painting technique in which the coloring and shaping are done without outlines. The difference can be confirmed by comparing the cloths lines with the horse’s legs.
There is a large portion of blank space in this painting. Factors such as the Confucian scholar and the willow tree can be shown to be skewed to the right if a diagonal line is drawn from the upper right corner to the bottom left corner. A birdsong heard in the scholar’s ears probably hovers in the blank space on the left in which nothing is depicted. Thus, the blank space is empty but is not empty: it is the world of the sublime being of true emptiness of neither being nor non-being. We are able to feel the blank space when there is a means to perceive it is a blank space. This is why Kim put a thematic poem in the upper left corner. The poem works as a resonator that enables the scholar to hear birdsong more loudly by preventing the blank space from escaping outside the scene. This is perhaps the best painting of the Joseon period that showcases the elegance and style of a Joseon Confucian scholar.
A good poem for a good painting
The thematic poem of Kim’s painting is not only for putting emphasis on the blank space but for supplementing a narrative not fully conveyed. Let’s review the poem first of all.
The sound of a reed instrument played by a pretty woman in the shadow of flowers.
Two tangerines are placed before a poet’s wine pot.
A golden nightingale is busy coming and going near a slope with willow trees by the river.
The ripples of a spring river are interwoven with mist and spring rain.
- Giseongyusugoseonggwandoin(碁聲流水古松館道人) Yi Moon-wook(李文郁) appreciated
The name in the poem above as Giseongyusugoseonggwandoin (碁聲流水古松館道人) Yi Moon-wook is Yi In-moon (李文郁, 1745-1821) who was the premier court painter of his time. He was also called Moon-wook and used pen-names such as Giseongyusugoseonggwandoin and Goseongyusugwandoin (古松流水館道人). He was the same age with and very close to Kim Hong-do. Kim seemed to paint a picture and write a poem and boast of them to his friend Yi In-moon, intoxicated by a poetic inspiration. Yi In-moon who was also a superb painter and writer was probably left with his mouth wide open for a while when seeing this picture. Thus, he added just one sentence to Kim’s title poem: “I Yi In-moon testify to the fact that this painting is a masterpiece.”
A title poem refers to a poem concerned with the content of a painting. This type of poem was written by a painter or an appreciator who was inspired by the painting. Kim Hong-do did this painting and also wrote a poem for it. In any case, such a poem assumes an ancillary role in better understanding a painting. Let’s review the role of the title poem in Hearing a Birdsong on Horseback.
The poem in heptasyllabic quatrain portrays nightingales playing upon willow branches. All the same, it does not have the word aening (鶯) meaning a nightingale. The interesting point is that the whole poem hints at nightingales without ever using the word, “nightingale." The song of nightingales in the first verse is likened to the sound of saenghwang (笙簧), one of the wind instruments with bamboo pipes. Hwang (簧) refers to either a reed or saenghwang. The reason why the song of a nightingale is likened to that of saenghwang is the song is very similar to the sound. Two tangerines placed before a poet’s wine pot means the yellow plumage of a nightingale is like that of a golden tangerine. The nightingale was often called yellow bird because of its color. The description to liken the nightingale to two tangerines has a long reference. Daiyong, a hermit teacher of Liusong (420-479), went out one day with two tangerines and a sackful of wine. As someone asked where he was going, he answered, “I am going to hear the song of a nightingale.” The birdsong was considered to inspire poetic imagination. Since then tangerines and wine have been used as a metaphor for cheerful play on a spring day. Kim Hong-do seemed to already know the ancient tale pertaining to Daiyong. The third and fourth lines of the poem mentioned above demonstrate a direct portrayal of nightingales. A willow tree is often mentioned in ancient poems alongside nightingales. That’s why the willow tree is called aengsu (鶯樹) meaning a tree on which nightingales play.
The taste of food in a pot varies depending on how it is cooked
Nevertheless, such a wonderful title poem leaves no inspiration in contemporary people who are not accustomed to Chinese characters. Kwon locates various colors in bar shapes in the area where Kim Hong-do wrote the title poem. He represents the feeling of the title poem in Kim’s painting with colors. The colors of bar shapes include all of the obangsaek: blue, red, yellow, white and black. The bar shapes in obangsaek seem like golden nightingales weaving ripples on a spring river, shuttling between willow branches. Kwon leaves a way open for appreciating Kim’s painting without understanding Chinese characters instead of blaming appreciators who do not know Chinese characters. King Wu Ding of the Shang dynasty asked Fu Yue the following after appointing him a premier. “When I brew wine, I ask you to become malt. When I make soup, I ask you to become salt or vinegar.” His dynasty could become a superpower thanks to Fu Yue who played the role of malt or salt. Legend has it that Fu Yue became a star after his death. The name of the star is Fu Yue Xing (傅說星). The innumerable Fu Yue Xing stars are shining in the sky of Joseon and Korea. However, they are not seen due to a cloudy sky.