Korea is one of the countries where modernity and tradition blends in a harmonious symphony. The royal palaces of the former Kingdom, for example, are still standing gloriously, as it has also in the past, but now amidst the cosmopolitan setting of modern Korea. Since it is the past which will define the present, Korea’s continuous effort of preserving the treasures of the past is a truly commendable.
The blending of the past and the present creates an inexplicable beauty just like the paintings which are currently exhibited in the Korean Cultural Centre (KCC). The exhibition entitled “Opulence: The Art of Korean Royal Palace” opened last September 1 and will be open until November 18. Currently displayed in the KCC Exhibition Hall are the works made by the students of Korea National University of Cultural Heritage (NUCH). Such works were made using the traditional painting methods of Korea.
Before the opening of the exhibit, an artists’ talk was held which delved into the topics of Korean Royal Palace Architecture and the Art of Korean Royal Palace. First to present is Professor Kyung Ah Lee of NUCH who started her discussion with the presentation of the hit Korean drama series “Jewel in the Palace.” She looked into the architectural elements utilized in the historical drama series which was shot in Gyeongbok and Changdeok Palaces. She further discussed the uniqueness of Korean Royal Palace Architecture by comparing it with the palaces of the west (i.e. the grand palaces of France and United Kingdom) and other palaces in the region (i.e. Malacañan Palace). However, she pointed out that the architecture of Korean Royal Palaces have some similarities with palace architecture of other countries in the northeast Asian region, such as China, since Korea is very much influenced by Confucianism. She also discussed the restoration efforts done to the royal palaces after the Korean liberation.
After the session on Korean Royal Palace Architecture, Professor Jeong Haejin, also from NUCH, presented the Art of Korean Royal Palace. The discussion was divided into four parts namely: Royal Portrait, Royal Documentation Painting, Royal Ornamental Painting, and the NUCH Students’ Works of Art. She first discussed the technique used in Royal Portrait which, she said, was guided by a simple principle of being kept as realistic as possible since royal portraits are made for the royal family and other high-ranking officials worthy of emulation by future generations. Next, she talked about the Royal Documentation Painting which was usually done during royal banquets and other royal functions. She then discussed Royal Ornamental Painting which is mostly made for symbolic purposes such as the piece “The Sun, Moon, and Five Peaks” which is a symbol of royalty and placed behind the throne. Lastly, Professor Jeong introduced the works of the NUCH students and discussed the traditional painting methods they used.
The formal opening of the exhibition was then done after the artists’ talk. The ceremony was started by a piece from the Pansori Performance Group. Right after the performance, KIM Jae-Shin, Ambassador of Korea to the Philippines, welcomed the guests of the exhibit, congratulated NUCH and KCC for the successful opening of the exhibition, and further reiterated the close ties between Korea and the Philippines. The Ambassador even expressed his amazement of the Filipino Kpop fans who, he said, are very energetic when he attended a Kpop concert here in the Philippines. Being that said, the Ambassador hopes that there will be further cultural exchanges between Korea and the Philippines. President Kim Jae-Yeol of NUCH formally introduced NUCH to the guests and explained about the exhibit. Mr. Kenneth Esguerra of Ayala Museum further reiterated the points of President Kim Jae Yeol regarding the importance of preserving the past for the education of the present and the future. KCC Director Oh Choong Suk also raised such points and further discussed the importance of cultural preservation and cultural exchange. The exhibit was formally opened after the ribbon cutting by Ambassador Kim, President Kim, Mr. Esguerra, and Director Oh.
Truly, it is important that culture and the arts from the past be preserved since these will be the one of the sources of one’s identity. With the exhibit, it is with high hopes of bringing back the artistic glory of the Joseon dynasty that we may inspire further cultural preservation efforts and cultural exchanges not only in Korea or in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world.
Here are some of the works exhibited: