Boisterous Dance by Byun Shi-ji (1997)
Photo Credit: John Steiner, Smithsonian Institution
By Dylan Planeta
In 1926, Byun Shi-ji was born in Sogwipo, South Korea and then moved to Japan in 1931 at the age of 6. He received his education in the arts at the Osaka Art School where he majored in oil painting. In Japan, he began his career as a painter in Tokyo and garnered fame by being the youngest artist to receive the Grand Prize of the Kofukai exhibition; in 1947 he also won awards from the Japanese National Arts Exhibition.
According to Byun Shi-ji in a Yonhap interview, “Jeju is a lonely, solitary island of exiles,” “People try to avoid solitude. I embrace it, internalize it” which is reflected in many of his paintings.
In his painting, Boisterous Dance a young man is sitting alone in a house near a horse with swirling birds in the sky. According to the artist in his Yohnap interview the birds are “a traditional Jeju symbol of both doom and hope”.
Byun Shi-ji is one of 2 Korean artists being currently featured in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.