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Dexterous artist does his ‘duty to human civilization’ : Han Meilin’s work captures beauty of nature and animals

June 13,2018
Artist Han Meilin, far left, is known for his sculptures, paintings and calligraphy, all of which are on display at his latest exhibit. A collection of sculptures, left, in the “Man” section, and “Eagle” (2001) are on display at the Calligraphy Art Museum. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER, YOON SO-YEON]
Many of Han Meilin’s works feature nature and animals, including calligraphy pieces “Lotus Flower” (2018), left, and “Horses” (2016), right. He believes it is his duty as an artist to speak on the behalf of those without a voice. Han’s paintings use techniques of calligraphy but are based on modern subjects and themes. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER, YOON SO-YEON]
An artist, calligrapher, sculptor, potter, craftsman and the designer who oversaw the creation of the mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Han Meilin is a Chinese artist who fluently expresses his desire for a better world through a number of art forms. His work goes beyond simply pleasing the eye and reaches out into the world with his love not just for humanity, but all things on earth.

“The World of Meilin in Seoul: Passion, Integration & Olympics” is the first of the artist’s global exhibition tours to make a stop in Asia and will be held through July 8 at the Calligraphy Art Museum inside the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. The 300 pieces on display range from different kinds of calligraphy to sculpture and crafts inspired by ancient and modern work. The 82-year-old artist’s passion and creativity shines throughout the collection of his works.

Han believes it is “the duty of an artist” to create across a wide range of disciplines.

“Us artists, and all other people who create culture, are people who seek the greater good in the world,” said Han on June 5. “Art is a language of the world. Through that language, we try to bring out the beauty and good of the world to the people. And I make art for everything, both living and non-living, on this earth.”

To fulfill his duty as an artist, Han tries to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Through various mediums, such as the black ink he uses in his calligraphy or the metal of his sculptures, Han expresses his concern for the environment, and for the animals that humans kill for leisure and sport. By depicting the beauty of animals and nature, Han’s works cause viewers to take a step back and reflect on their role in the world - the reason why he has been designated a Peace Artist by Unesco in 2015.

“We have a duty to human civilization. But as human beings, we rid the animals, the minerals, the water and the mountains of their right to life. We use more than we need, more than our survival necessitates us. We destroy everything, and use everything like we own it. But we really must think carefully about whether we really have the right [to do so],” said Han.

The exhibit takes place across four sections: “Heaven,” where visitors can see calligraphy of ancient Chinese characters from Han’s book “Tian Shu” (A Book from Heaven); “Earth,” a multitude of animal paintings and sculptures; “Man” where he depicts the beauty of humanity and love mainly through metal sculptures; and “Design,” featuring Han’s dexterity not only in arts but also through crafts and furniture design.

“Tian Shu” was published in 2008 and is Han’s ode to early forms of Chinese calligraphy. For Han, the art of calligraphy is both his artistic foundation and also a bridge that connects Asia, especially China, Korea and Japan, whose languages are based on the ancient Chinese characters, according to professor Lee Dong-kook, chief curator of the Calligraphy Art Museum of Seoul Arts Center.

“Han Meilin’s exhibition will be a standard for future interactions between Korea and China, encompassing the world of contemporary art as well. We successfully held the Chi Baishi exhibition in 2017, and hope this will be a chance for art to open a future between the two countries,” said Lee.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]

Admission costs 5,000 won for adults and 3,000 won for children. The Calligraphy Art Museum is located inside Seoul Arts Center. Get off at Nambu Bus Terminal Station, line No. 3, exit 5. For more information, visit www.sacticket.co.kr