Lee Seung-chul’s exhibition reveals beauty of ‘hanji’ in Hungary

Poster for 'I Am a Korean Painter: Hanji, Natural Colors by Lee Seung-chul' / Courtesy of Korean Cultural Center in Hungary

Poster for “I Am a Korean Painter: Hanji, Natural Colors by Lee Seung-chul” / Courtesy of Korean Cultural Center in Hungary

By Kwon Mee-yoo

The Korean Cultural Center in Hungary is hosting an exhibition that not only showcases the beauty and versatility of “hanji,” traditional Korean paper, but also marks a significant step in promoting Korean culture across Europe.

“I Am a Korean Painter: Hanji, Natural Colors by Lee Seung-chul” is on display at the center until June 28, offering a unique insight into the ancient craft of hanji and its integration with contemporary art.

Lee Seung-chul, who doubles as a lecturer at Dongduk Women’s University and as a researcher at Kansong Art Museum, has dedicated over three decades to exploring traditional Korean paper and natural dyeing techniques.

His work has garnered international recognition, notably with exhibitions at the Korean Cultural Centers in Italy and Austria last year, making this the third stop of the traveling exhibition.

The Budapest exhibition, curated by Seo Joo-hee, an art columnist and adjunct professor at Dongduk Women’s University, builds upon this success, aiming to further integrate Korean artistic heritage into the European cultural landscape.

The exhibit offers a new visual language of hanji as Lee studied and explored hanji’s materiality for a long time. The Budapest show features Lee’s hanji objects including “Thousand Buddha” and an immersive installation “The Mirror Room,” which presents an endless panorama of Korea’s natural colors that Lee has gathered over the years.

Lee’s personal collection of antique Hanji artifacts is also on display, offering a glimpse into the rich history and cultural significance of this material.

'Thousand Buddha' by Lee Seung-chul / Courtesy of Korean Cultural Center in Hungary

“Thousand Buddha” by Lee Seung-chul / Courtesy of Korean Cultural Center in Hungary

In addition to the exhibition, a series of workshops led by Lee and traditional Korean paper-making master Chang Seong-woo will provide hands-on experience with hanji until Thursday.

These workshops, aimed at both the general public and professionals involved in cultural heritage conservation, will invite experts from the Hungarian National Museum and the National Archives of Hungary, signifying a collaborative effort to share knowledge and skills across borders.

The exhibition comes at a fortunate time as hanji is being considered for inscription into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list for 2026. This recognition underscores the global importance of hanji, not just as a material for artistic expression, but also for the preservation of cultural heritage.

The Italian Central Institute for the Pathology of Archives and Books recognized hanji in 2020 for its significance in the restoration of cultural properties, highlighting its durability and ecological sustainability.

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