Friday, November 06, 2009


I didn't do anything to the picture above and there is nothing wrong with your computer screen. All the characters seem compressed but for a very special reason which shall be told later. The artwork depicts a 3-generation family and was on display at an open area in front of the Jeongdong Theatre (behind Deoksugung).

My mind did not quite accept the image it was seeing. It tried very hard to 'decompress' the image to what it thought was normal. However, not matter how hard I tried to 'please' my mind's need for normalcy, by viewing from different angles, the characters still look compressed.

To show you that your eyes are not playing trick on you or that some camera or photoshop tricks are involved, here is a picture that has people as comparison. This family of 'compressed' people actually represents something but it may be hard for foreigners to appreciate as the feeling is very Korean.

There is even a 'carbon copy' of the artwork standing along the 'Stone-Wall' street beside Deoksugung. The artwork is by sculptor - Yi Hwan Kwon (이환권)

Below is how the sculptor explained his piece.

"In Korea, 'Jangdok' (장독) or sauce jar is used to ferment and store sauces. Sauces are used to add flavour to Korean traditional dishes. All these are managed and passed down from generation to generation by the Korean women.

There is a place called 'Jandokdae' (장독대, Jangdok terrace) where big and small sauce jars are placed side by side. Jangdokdae evokes a sense of home and family in most Koreans.

When I saw Jangdokdae covered in snow, I saw an image of a family enduring winter together. My piece depicts a three-generation family comprising grandparents, parents and their children. I modeled them after my friend's family."

This is a mock-up of a 'Jangdokdae' where sauce jars of different sizes are placed together. By now, have you realise why all the characters in the artwork are 'compressed'? They are compressed to look like Jangdok.

Suddenly, you may feel so much '정' (情, feeling) in the work that you feel like crying. Okay, I am exaggerating here but you get what I mean.

A warm stream flows through me while I was writing this post.

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