Saturday, July 27, 2013

Expressing Movement in Art Without Arms

What does an electrical engineer do when he loses both arms, is fitted with a prosthesis, and his young son asks him to draw a picture? If he's Chang Woo Seok (Peter), he becomes an artist. Nearly killed in 1984, when over 20 thousand volts went through his body, he underwent 12 operations and was finally given a prosthetic replacement for arms.The Catholic Times tells us his story. 

Wanting to please his son, Peter  picked up a pen with his artificial arm and thus began his career as an artist. With the encouragement of his family he began to study the art of calligraphy, and from there he moved on to ink sketches of the nude figure, followed by an interest in the graceful movements of athletes, which he wanted to capture in his ink drawings. He says it was after the accident, and his own difficulties in moving his artificial arms, that he became interested in the beauty and mystery of movement.

At this time, he also found religion, and his paintings often include scriptural quotes. He says he is happier now than he was before the accident. He believes that if we change our habitual ways of thinking, we can learn to accept and benefit from everything that happens to us.

He has had 36 individual exhibitions, has traveled around the world, and given demonstrations of what can be accomplished with artificial arms. He will have an exhibition at the end of the month here in Korea, which will give artistic expression to  bodily movements often found in traditional Korean music, such as the Samulnori, made with four different kinds of percussion instruments-- gongs and drums.

Going to the Internet and writing, "Korean artist Chang Woo Seok" in the search engine, you will get examples of his many ink paintings.. He has developed a way of painting movement into his ink sketches because he uses his whole body to paint. Without the handicap, it's unlikely that we would see this unusual aspect of his art, which is present in much of his  work.

He says he intends to continue traveling around the world, exhibiting and doing his ink sketches. "I want to feel their cultures," he says, "and to paint their movements. I want all those that attend my exhibitions to be open to feel in whatever way they want. However, more than anything, I want to go along with what God has planned for me, and to continue for as long as he wants."

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