Like a painting by Henri Rousseau
If aspiring artists want to enter art school in Korea, they must pass a particular practical entrance exam. It was designed and framed test, which has routined process and requirements.
But nowadays, the style and direction have changed and developed more progressively than before. Still, it was considered more significant whether or not the art education in Korea correctly followed what was within a specific framework. For example, if they wanted to enter an art college, students had to study under a specialized professional academy or tutor.
Under their instruction, students have to draw a cube, a cylinder, a sphere, a cone, etc. When the technique rises to a certain level, place a large plaster head in the middle of the room and have them draw it.
The main characters of the plaster upper body are ancient Roman and Greek figures such as Agrippa, Venus, Julien, and Caesar.
When I was college student, I taught as a tutor an aspiring artist math. When I went to her house, she showed me how to memorize the plaster heads' shades on a note as if they were English words. It was prepared for the test, and if she drew the wrong contrast and shades on the exam, she would fall off. Most of all, I was shocked at the time. This is because light reflections and opacity change depending on the depth, angle, and structure of the building, and it seems as if there is an answer to it, like mathematics. From morning to evening, aspirants of art school draw the heads of these characters hard all the time. And they repeat automatically.
However, through excessive stylization and classification, the exam interview can tell what academy they came from and what type of teacher they studied. The disadvantage is that it is easy to become a picture that only imitates like a parrot without its personality. So, probably, if Impressionist painters had come to Korea at that time to visit there for entrance exams, no one would have survived and succeeded.
But fortunately, I know that Korea is now aware of the side effects of typical art entrance exams, and there are many movements to improve it. At least, it seems to have changed a lot from the times when I witnessed the trend of the entrance exam art in the major art school.
Personally, I understand the kind of standardized practical exams. When I draw, I get a lot of requests to teach people how to draw. I recommend they draw freely first. Let's look at the freely drawn pictures and briefly discuss the technical side. But when I talk, I always say. "Your method and style are not wrong." Because this is my philosophy, it is difficult to provide systematic and academic education. In this case, the art of the entrance exam that I learned in Korea is helpful. It's easy to teach because I know it and practice like a formula.
For instance, it is taught like, "Oh! That's wrong. You have to draw it like this." Erase the student's drawing and draw again.
However, it is not easy for me to push students in this way and teach them as I am walking up to this point, finding my way and style. Apparently, is it really existed the unperfect painting? Because it raises the question to myself.
Some painters have risen to the ranks of great masters with imperfect and unfinished paintings.
As we all know, Henri Rousseau is one of the most famous naive french painters. He was a post-impressionist painter in a Naïve or Primitive manner. He was also known as Le Douanier, a humorous description of his occupation as a toll and tax collector.
The painters such as Rousseau are called the naive group, which is not a painting movement of painters who sympathize with an ideology, such as Fauvism or Cubism, gathering together, nor is it essentially independent.
Initially, his work was ridiculed and criticized for his self-taught art in the beginning, awkward proportions of the human body, and unusual combinations of fiction or nonfiction. Critics and those who saw his paintings mocked the people he painted as monkeys. Particularly, the plants and landscapes he drew were strangely exotic and strange. People during his life did not understand art well enough to recognize his artistry. However, despite the teasing, he was not embarrassed or frustrated. Instead, he was proud of his paintings, calling them hyper-realism.
His longing for a primitive world such as an ancient forest, fantasy, and intense colors greatly influenced the masters of modern art, such as Picasso and Apollinaire. Eventually, people recognized and followed his painting style.
Rousseau is recorded today as an extraordinary genius, or as a pioneer of Cubism, because of the fantasies and legends found in his paintings and simplified forms and geometric compositions. His paintings presented the primitive world based on fantasy through pure and straightforward passion rather than professional technique. They paradoxically give a sublime mystery behind the clumsiness and crudeness.
What would have happened if Rousseau had put himself in a mold like art for the entrance exam and continued to print the other artists? We would never have seen such a pure, beautiful, and mysterious painting.
His original and purely mysterious jungle paintings were used as scenes for Madagascar's animation (2005). Animation Madagascar is a cartoon about four animals that lived in the New York Zoo making an emergency landing on the African island of Madagascar. The scene where the 'New Yorker' animals enter an tough jungle is based on a painting by Henri Rousseau. All kinds of trees and grasses dense in the background are not green, but they are colorful from the blue viridian to the yellowish olive green. The shape of the leaves is also varied and spreads with a lively feeling.
He made his debut as a painter at the age of over forty, working as a tax officer, and when he was nearly fifty, he finally became a full-time painter. However, after his debut, he continued to be ridiculed and finally became a hero of avant-garde art when he turned sixty, showing that art has no limits.
The more I get to know the life and art, the more I can't say that certain picture is correct and others is wrong. And the more you know, the stronger the motivation to want to learn more.
When we simply copy things, copy and follow other people's paths, or put things in a frame and evaluate things with black and white criteria, we become trapped in them if we make a mistake. Rather, it seems that the true path is opened when you look at the world and things with an open mind and find your color. The paintings of Henri Rousseau seem to show this lesson.
Myungja Anna Koh