CFG: Unfolding Beauty and Beyond by Hyunsoo Woo

“Eight Fold Screen Painting of the Sun, Moon, and Peach Trees, Treasure of South Korea No.1442”


This fall the CFG gallery hosted an exhibition by Hee Sook Kim, professor and chair of Haverford College’s Fine Arts department. In light of her exhibition, and her printmaking class, the Hurford Center welcomed a talk that featured guest speaker Hyunsoo Woo, the Maxine and Howard Lewis Associate Curator of Korean Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The visually rich presentation was very informative and interesting for the crowd, mostly consisting of art students.

Focused on panels and screen paintings, the presentation spoke to the importance of Korean screen paintings. These types of paintings were not only intricately thought-out designs, but they were also represented in other forms such as older paintings and photography. The subjects of the composition were always meaningful in historical ways, as the messages and motifs transmitted throughout screen paintings were meant to adorn, define, and control spaces of importance. For instance, the depiction of the moon and the sun was reserved for loyalty whereas various animals could be used to wish a happy marriage or a long life.

The spatial projection of the screen paintings would be on panels shaped like dividers, and they were mostly supposed to be looked at from a short distance, hence their intricacy. Although it feels as if it’s suitable to call them dividers, these pieces of art were not intended as functional objects. A panel was mainly supposed to be an extension of the room, and it was not supposed to hide anything, but occasionally the back of the panel was used for unpleasant situations: a coffin would be placed behind it, or it would hide an inappropriate love affair. They were “portals to our world from another one, meaning to expand the space,” as one of the printmaking students put it.

Hyunsoo Woo remembers being called a nerd for studying this type of art. “They would say that the impressionists or modernists were way more interesting and ask me why I would choose this,” she says. Immediately after, she showed us an array of beautiful contemporary art that were inspired by the traditional art she studies, such as Michael Cheryne’s methods of manipulating the photo art with ink painting, Takushi Murakami’s usage of traditional motifs in Louis Vuitton work, collective art of installing actual digital screens that project moving traditional art. So many contemporary artists are using the methods of traditional screen paintings as inspiration.

“It’s fascinating and important that people are studying these pieces. It’s also really amazing that Professor Kim is incorporating these styles into her current work, and continuing the tradition with her own spin. It’s nice to see that they are still relevant in inspiring people.” shares Rebecca Hickey ’19.


Professor Hee Sook Kim describes her artistic process and inspiration for her work during the opening and artist talk for her exhibition invitation to Paradise in the Cantor Fitzgerald Art Gallery. Photo by Dex Coen Gilbert ’21.


Written by Bilge Yilmaz ’21, prospective music and political science double major, visual studies minor.

Edited by Eleanor Morgan ’20.

Photos via and by Dex Coen Gilbert ’21.