The statement that "all art is propaganda" is closest to being true in North Korea.
But what most people don't know is that the dominant genre of painting in the secretive regime dates back to the Chosun-dynasty, and sometimes depicts the beauty of nature in ink paintings on paper.
"You can easily say that so-called 'Korean Painting' is the foundation of all North Korean art. Even today,… North Koreans use this 'Korean Painting' to portray contemporary subjects."
To showcase some rare and precious North Korean art not made for propaganda purposes,… a special exhibition is taking place from July 15th to the 26th under the theme of "Explore Eight Provinces through Korean Painting."
More than 40 paintings by 17 artists, including elite North Korean painters like Jong Chang-Mo and Sun Woo-young, are on display at Soorim Art Center, located in northeastern Seoul.
All of the pieces are from Mansudae Studio, North Korea's biggest government-run art studio, where some 800 state-selected artists ages ranging from their early 20s to their 70s produce art within set hours and quotas.
Asked how their works have ended up here in Seoul,… the collector explains that he gathered them one by one at the Gaeseong Industrial Complex before the UN sanctions went into effect.
"I started to buy some art when I was doing business at Gaeseong some 10 years ago. In fact,… when I was working there,… there was a time when the regime's economy was really bad,… so it was common to buy some of the art I wanted from North Korean people."
The foundation claims this is the first time such great works by top North Korean artists have been showcased simultaneously in one place. And the reason is that the organizers want to create feelings of peace through the power of art. Indeed, through the art, the organizers hope that this 12-day exhibiton can be an instrument of reciprocal understanding, and ultimately, perhaps, of peace.
Won Jung-hwan, Arirang News.