|David Heather speaking with the DPRK ambassador|
by New Worker correspondent
FOUR top DPRK painters have spent the past two weeks touring London, capturing glimpses of the spirit of the people in their art which was displayed for the first time at an exhibition at the DPRK embassy last week.
The Korean people’s artists painted their way round the capital, visiting the South Bank, the National Gallery, Covent Garden and the Tower and their impressions, along with many other examples of their skills have been delighting art-lovers and friends of the DPRK all week.
The artists work at the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang. The studio, which was founded in 1959, is the national fine arts centre of the DPR Korea with specialised units covering sculpture, ceramics, murals, paintings, embroidery and social and political posters. The studio employs nearly 5,000 workers including 700 artists whose works have been displayed throughout Democratic Korea and across the world.
The vast majority of the major art works of the DPRK have been produced by Mansudae Art Studio artists. Their ages go from mid-20s to mid-60s and almost all are graduates of the very demanding Pyongyang University. Over half the Merit Artists and the People’s Artists, the two highest awards an artist can receive in DPRK, are or have been associated with the Mansudae Art Studio.
Traditionally Koreans painted in ink and it remains the most popular genre in the DPRK. Oil painting was introduced to Korea in the 19th century and for a long time it was seen as a foreign technique. But in the 1960s it was taken up by the Studio with the specific approval of great leader Kim Il Sung. It is now used mainly for landscapes, wild-life studies and portraits.
At the launch on Monday the DPRK ambassador, Hyong Hak Bong, paid tribute to all those who made the exhibition possible including the Foreign Office, the British Council and the organiser, David Heather, a Surrey art dealer who has written a number of books on the posters of the German Democratic Republic, Vietnam and the DPRK.
The Ambassador said he hoped the exhibition would contribute greatly to cultural exchange between Britain and the DPRK.
Communists and friends of Korea rubbed shoulders with art-dealers, art critics, diplomats and journalists at the reception for the exhibition in the main hall of the embassy in west London. Guests included New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks, Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) general secretary Michael Chant, Dermot Hudson from the Korean Friendship Association and American Hip Hop artist and campaigner Marcel Cartier, who recently visited the DPRK.
The Mansudae artists had never been to London before and we saw London through the freshness of their eyes as they caught the autumn crowds in oil. These included a painting of a snapshot one of them took of two smiling teenage girls on the South Bank and the ceramic poppy installation at the Tower of London. It was also a first for many of the guests looking at examples of contemporary and traditional Korean painting, wood-cuts and sketches.
Widely reported in the bourgeois press the exhibition was also covered by the BBC, ITN, Channel Four and Central China TV (CCTV). Over 100 guests attended the launch and opening ceremony and thousands more came to the public exhibition which closed last weekend.