Fortunes Within – Korean Traditional Folk Paintings

By February 21, 2013 Events

Minhwa (민화) means ‘Korean traditional folk paintings’, which were produced and spread mainly by painters of the lower class in the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910). Minhwa is often used to decorate a Korean traditional house or to celebrate a birthday or wedding. It is also utilised as a symbol of good fortune for the New Year. The main theme of Minhwa is a very ordinary portrayal of daily life, able to be easily approached and appreciated by all levels of the social demographic. The principal characteristics of Minhwa are its utility and symbolism. Minhwa is usually produced to decorate a room or the main door of a house. The symbolisms found in Minhwa are mostly wishes of good health and longevity (Mubyung-jang-soo), wishes of riches, wishes of many sons (Bu-gui-da-nam) and of a life with honour and wealth (Bu-gui-gong-myung). At the same time, Koreans believe Minhwa contains shamanistic powers to protect themselves from disasters or to make their wishes come true.

Minhwa is drawn by modeling an original base. This process of repeatedly copying an original form resulted in the Confucian view of the world being passed down the classes, from Royal and noble to the lower class. On top of that, the lower class had traditional folk beliefs but they managed to develop their own view of the world beyond the one made by Royal and noble society by drawing and spreading folk paintings.

Minhwa truthfully expresses the life and thoughts of Koreans with great wit. It may appear unprofessional and clumsy, but the paintings embrace freedom and beauty in itself with the thoughts and dreams of its creator. Minhwa can be categorised by its purposes and the location of its placement, such as paintings for longevity in the main living room, paintings for harmony in a room for a newly married couple, and paintings symbolising a successful career in a reception room for visitors.

It can also be divided according to its subjects, for example, paintings of flowers and birds (Hwajo-do), of marine life (Orak-do), of characters (Munja-do), of books (Chakga-do), of tigers (Hojak-do), of the ten symbols of long life (Shipchangsang-do), of evil-repelling (pyosajangsang-do), landscape paintings (Sansu-do) and figure paintings (Inmul-hwa).

This exhibition introduces a good selection of Korean traditional folk paintings called Minhwa, which were produced and spread mainly by painters of the lower class in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). These folk paintings express the spirit of Korean people in the past. Especially, it is used as a symbol of good fortune for the New Year. This exhibition will give you a great chance to experience the beauty of Minhwa in Australia. This exhibition has been made possible through the loan of works from the Gahoe Museum, Seoul in Korea.

When: 20th February to 24th May 2013
Where: Korean Cultural Office, Elizabeth Street
Guided Tours: Every Tuesday evening at 5.30pm