Kim Ki-chang (1914 –2001) By Yisoon, Kim
Kim Ki-chang (1914–2001), also known as Unbo, was a modern ink painter who was born in Seoul, Korea. Having lost his hearing from typhoid fever, he was unable to attend regular art school. However, in 1930, when he was seventeen years old, he became a student of Kim Eun-ho, a well-known traditional ink (Dongyang-hwa) painter. In 1931, Kim Ki-chang participated in the Joseon Art Exhibition, an organization established by the Japanese Government-General in Korea. His painting style of the time was effectively demonstrated in the delicate contours and thick surface treatment of his work The Autumn (1935). In 1937, Kim Ki-chang received the Changdeokgung Award, the highest honor awarded by the Joseon Art Exhibition, for his work Old Tale. Following Liberation in 1945, Kim’s painting style was criticized for being too much like Japanese-style painting, so he tried to remove this influence from his work by adopting bold calligraphic brushstrokes instead of delicate contours and coloring. He also sometimes made abstract paintings using elements from Cubism. In the early 1970s, Kim Ki-chang adopted primitive elements from Korean folk paintings (Minhwa), which were popular among Korean people during the Joseon dynasty. Red Bird (1977) shows how the artist abandoned elements of Cubism along with any Western techniques such as the use of perspective or realistic representation. He described his own paintings as “foolish landscapes, foolish flowers and birds” (qtd in G. Oh 1976: 137). During his last years, he painted abstract works in ink with more broad and bold brushstrokes, without being tied to a certain painting style.