Since 1993 we have worked with North Korean artists on various projects which we hope allow them to express themselves in a more nuanced way than the limits imposed on them by their DPRK studio*.
Where possible, we work directly and in a private capacity with the artist.
You can read more about all the North Korean artists here.
*Note: this studio is under UN Sanctions.
Hwang In Jae was born in Sunjilu, Changchun City, PR China in 1943, but moved back to the newly established DPRK (North Korea) for education.
In middle school and senior middle school, his talent became evident, at the age of 15 his water-colour painting of Ulmil Pavilion took 3rd place in the National Junior Fine Art Exhibition in Pyongyang and In a year later his ink painting The Hot Day won a prize at the Junior Fine Art Exhibition held for the 7th World Youth Festival.
He graduated at the Printing Faculty, Pyongyang Art University in 1968. For his graduation work in 1967, he presented two woodcuts with very solid post-war themes (!) Returning from the Shooting Range and ‘Shot Down One Plane Again. His professors were Mr. Kim Yon Song and Ham Chang Yon.
After graduating he worked as an artist in the Hygiene Propaganda Agency and in 1976 he was employed at the Central Art Studio, later as a painter of Mansudae Art Studio working on the propaganda poster team.
‘Hwang In Jae showed good skill mainly on the subjects treating children`s life, especially in woodcuts with clear distinctiveness. He is one of the best poster painters now. He was awarded 1st prizes in national art exhibition and has made many prints of ‘national treasure level.’ – Mansudae Art Studio Literature
I met him in 2008, he was a sprightly 65-year-old who did not wish to retire but continue his work at the Studio. He would joke that it was to get away from his wife and for peace and quiet. But the truth is he lived for his art.
He was a tiny man with a shock of white hair, very gentle and massively talented.
I had heard about him in the early 90s from his linocut works that were published in various North Korean publications and I had a few years previously purchased a number of his works. Meeting him was both an honour and great fun. I was lucky enough to commission him for several projects and we still have a number of these artworks at the Studio.
His work is characterised by skilled draftsmanship, cutting. Both woodcut and linocut limit flexibility on the colour palette and graduation (for shade) but Hwang’s skill and versatility shine through.
The beauty of his work lies in his ability to catch the rhythm of a piece, which as he got older became a much looser drawing and cut, he was quite happy to add hand applied washes of ink colour over the linocut and white masking ink to cover any errors. His use of colour would not necessarily relate to the object it was portraying but the resulting piece was stronger for it.
In 2008, we were commissioned for the DPRK’s first inclusion in the Asia Pacific Triennial (Queensland Gallery of Modern Art). Hwang was the only artist to be selected to produce work for the children’s space, a major part of the APT, as the whole event is developed to offer children as well as families insights into contemporary art across the Asia Pacific region. In addition, he provided 3 limited edition linocuts for sale at the event.
The saddest thing was not being allowed to take him to the opening- the Australian government refused to issue visas to the North Korean artists, this created a media frenzy with the major papers picking up the story but sadly the damage was done.
Over the next years, we worked with him on a project entitled ‘Ship Building’ which for variousl reasons was cancelled and all the artworks locked away. But luckily I had already taken Hwang’s linocuts out of the country. In 2012, we commissioned ‘Women at Work’ where he selected various professions and described them in big bold linocuts, mistakes corrected with white ink and a number of colours added by hand making them truly individual pieces.
The last project we worked on was ‘Heroines and Villains’ which he treated with his incredible skill. We are looking for an exhbition of these works in the near future, uber cool big monochrome pieces.
Over the next few years, his health deteriorated and he died in 2015.
He was an incredibly talented and gentle man very much loved by his colleagues and by myself.
’A number of his works are in the collection of the British Museum and ‘The Fairy of the Kumgang Mountains’ (2009) is in the Queensland Art Gallery collection (commission by Koryo Studio for the Sixth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art).
His works are also to be found in Phaidon’s publication ‘Printed in North Korea’ by Nicholas Bonner.
The Fairy of the Kumgang Mountains hand-painted large-scale murals from 2009.
‘North Korean Art on Paper,’ 2011, a selection of his works (curated by Koryo Studio).
Linocut from the APT exhibition Nicholas Bonner co-curated and donated by a member of the public.
See more of his work here.
Ship Building 2011. 5 pieces each edition 1/10
Women at Work 2012 10 pieces each edition 1/10
Heroines and Villains 2015. 10 pieces each edition 1/10
Big blast and controlled explosion at construction site (with Kim Cho Hun, Kim Yong Thae).
Report of Loyalty ; The youth constructers confirm their report of loyalty that they finished the Pyongyang-Nampo highway project before the planned time, with one united mind of loyalty for the great leader. The red flag symbolises the high spirit of the constructers and the background shows the people celebrating this historic moment.
We Look Forward to see the General ; 50,000 youth constructers (shock brigades) who built the Pyongyang-Nampo highway are singing the song ‘Where is the Dear General?’ referring to Kim Jong Il.
Potato Flower Smell in the Daehongdan Highland ; (purchased Nov 2004) They are newly-married couples who settled in the Daehongdan Highland. They are all dreaming of the bright future of Korea in the sea of potato flowers.
One Family; (woodprint, purchased March 2005) It shows the love and unity between the army and people. Happiness of Victory (woodprint, purchased March 2005). It shows the heroic tankers who liberated Seoul in the Korean War. Opening Day (woodprint, purchased March 2005). They cut the line of opening with pride and happiness.
His representative works are woodcuts/linocuts.
The true juvenile Kum Sun, 1968
Enter the guerrilla, 1969
The revolutionary army came to our village, 1970 (70×50)
The motherly feeling, 1970 (70×50)
Battle in Lake Chang Jin,1981 (40×30)
Joy of rich harvest,1983 (40×30)
The first wood cluster on the river, 1983 (40×30)
Sun rise in apple farm, 1984 (40×30)
Revolutionary army arrived, 1985 (55×45)
Paekdu forest, 1987 (46×50)
At the guerrilla camp village, 1987 (104×57). 1st prize at the national fine art exhibition.
At the liberated village, 1989 (40×50)
The light of leadership spread over the whole south korea, 1990 (40×60)
Our factory, our post, 1993 (60×50)
Under the bosom of the general, 1988 (150×95)
The dear leader comrade Kim Jong Il leading the explorers of revolutionary relics places, 1972 (193×130)
The great leader comrade Kim Il Sung celebrating the new year with guerrilla base people, 1992 (104×80)
The general with juvenile corps members, 1997 (130×160),
The great leader comrade Kim Il Sung at his young age leading friends in rightful way, 1996
The story of the persimmon tree, 1986 (70×59)
I caught it, 1987
Let us continuously progress and reform on Chollima with added spirit of 90th century speed, 1994. 3rd place prize at the national poster exhibition.
Let`s breed goat widely in all families, 1996. 3rd place at the National Poster Exhibition.
Worker at a Port
Artist: Hwang In Jae
Size: 78 x 62 cm
Price: 1500 EUR
Edition of 10
Size: 52 x 70 cm
Artist: Hwang In Jae
Price: 1800 EUR