Richard Ozanne

  1959 -
  City of Birth:
St Louis

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Richard 's Story > Chapters > Travel to Korea...First Journey 1983

"Korea Artist Tour 1983-Richard Ozanne-Flying Across-Seoul-Panmanjom-Incheon " 


Date Range: 05/10/1983 To 06/10/1983   Comments: 0   Views: 3,274
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Richard Ozanne Korea Artists Tour- 1983

  It was May of 1983. Ahead was an adventure of Korea. It was only about a three week stay but an adventure lay ahead. Both my father and I flew from Tucson to Los Angeles and from there to Seatte and then Anchorage Alaska where we stayed for a night to meet the ongoing flight to Seoul the next evening. Since I had lived in Fairbanks and visited Alaska on two former occasions, the arrival in Anchorage wasnt too much of an event---Remembering the time back in 1977 and then again in 1982 when I worked as an art teacher in Fairbanks. Some memories spun through, a solid rest overnight with an expensive breakfast, then a short lunch as we headed off to the Airport to catch a Korean Airlines flight to Seoul the next evening. There were some jokes regarding the number of this flight--KAL 007 (Story of Korean Flight 007 from news)--a sure deal for an intriguing flight. I remember very well looking out upon the tarmac as the large 747 pulled in, the blazing red-white and blue colors looking very chic against the night sky. It was going to be one of those all nighters, those night flights with an arrival the next day in Seoul.
I dont remember too much about the flight except the pilots call from the early morning about the lights of Kamchatka Penninsula being seen to the far right--Russia, over there. I have video from that time, and Im sure we attempted to film it since we were filming everything during those days.
KAL 007- still have the stubs of the tickets for that flight- The next year that was the very same flight shot down by the Soviets during that tremendous international incident. I always remember that pilots remark "...looking out over Kamchatka"
Upon arrival we were shuttled by private car to the Shilla Hotel in Seoul. This remarkable hotel was the lap of luxury, and everything was paid for the visit---carte blanche including driver.
I came fully prepared with many canvases and painting materials for this trip. As soon as the jet-lag passed-perhaps the next day since I was good at adaptation, I set out my materials and began to venture around Seoul on a number of painting trips---everything from known tourist sites to sketchbooks filled with back-street scenes were game for this artist who fired away at doing paintings from life, or sketches if applicable. No this wasnt an after school kind of venture, but a venture to see from sight and have real plein-air of foreign lands and people. Since I had been working with Ted Seth Jacobs in New York, photographs-or working from photographs were no game, it had to be done from life- and it was! Before the tour ended I had literally 35-40 pieces from this trip plus a hundred pages of sketches, large-small and in between. Oh why not work from photographs?! Its better to see the action as it is, or as it is coming-makes for true art (at least in 19th century minds, as seemingly I was drilled in-working from life)
About two days into the adventure I was contacted to visit some Korean artists from the academy.

Artists of Korea

Now it is not much interest for many artists in the history and culture of other lands. More specifically I had interests in this area of culture and would often seek out interest, conversations with artists, braving the differences in ideas and cultures.
Korean culture is different than Chinese, and again it is different from Japan. One can find specific interest in painting, drawing and the ways of different techniques which are unusual according to different traditions, ways and means. I visited the Korean Academy on invitation. It was very remarkable that the academy was training the artists in many different techniques including a western style of drawing, hand and eye basics that for quite some time had not been a strict part of the programs I had attended accept for those at the Art Students League of New York where I was headed again in the fall of this year. Already I knew at the “league” the emphisis of traditional drawing and painting. In Korea it seemed more common practice to have a specific talent in the basics before one moved on at the Academy. The techniques of these artists were for the most part all good and some very well evolved according to western tradition of the art academy. As the handbook they were using Andrew Loomis, a great text in learning drawing and illustration. It was somewhat curious that most of the technical ability far exceeded what I had seen from drawing students at home. The academy was rigorous and difficult in their training as in PRC China. Only a small percentage of all the applicants were allowed to attend their academy, as it was in other Asian countries and in Europe as well.
I was directed by a professor to view studios and critiques, the same as I had seen at the Central Academy in Beijing. The foundations which the students were given were techniquely based to an extraordinary skill set as a basis for their programs. What was unusual was that philosophy was apparent among many of the more advanced pupils, and it was interesting that the ‘history of western art’ was clearly seen and well respected by even the modern artists, who after the fact had the same skill set but were working on very advanced philosophical and artistic approaches.
It was not long before I was invited to many studios of professors and lesser artist-students as well, but I must say that a couple of days of studio hopping was time consuming, although learning to depend on the Metro or bus as the case may be since Seoul was constantly and consitantly under construction during this time.
SinceI had some other duties regarding my father as his assistant. If it was not phone calls it was the books that were done, tables, costs and various administration work that needed to be done. Thes needs and certain other needs were primary before I could start the day.
I had to schedual my time on several walkabouts through the city. Meeting Korean artists in their studios was a unique experience that was memorable. I remember being asked out to meetings with these artists to talk shop and visit museums in Seoul.
After my work was done assisting my father I would go out with my easle and do plein air painting and drawing, whether it was on a street, in a market place or high atop a hill. I produced in excess of 70 pieces of oil painting as well as drawing during the month long trip to Korea. Some of these pieces saw the interest of other artists in Seoul, and also the inclusion of about three pieces in an exhibition in Seoul at a private gallery that was well attended. I made a good sale of one painting, a classic still-life that was produced and just had been included as a part of a portfolio piece from New York (Among a stack of canvases travelling with me) I was paid 1800 in cash dollars US for this 12X24 piece in traditional oil by a Korean collector which had his official residence in NYC. It was good times for the artist ,paintings sold, the sale finally being given to me during my residence in NYC-

Korea a busy place...

One thing is for sure, to envelope the entire landscape of Korea. Korea is a business center, a selling center. Most people are involved in commerce and commercial trade, light and heavy industry. It was a joy to see a sense of balance between the cultural sector as well, but it seems to be an indellible issue, that commerce is a key central of this society, in the larger setting as well as the smaller, everyone is busy at commerce, expected to be by and large, and in some frameworks this was an interesting perception as it fused well with many other asian countries in other areas.
I was rather naive. There were two worlds living before my eyes. At this time I had in perspective one. I was living at the Shilla Hotel in Seoul, a fine 5 Star Hotel. There was a world about me that needed to be observed and travelled through, right on the other side of the street.
I enlisted some of the people that I met as artists to examine this world, and tell me what it was about, show it to me. For one it was easy, he was a lesser known memeber of a group, an artist with a fair view, that was 20/20 in some cases, and a revolutionary artist as described by some. We had three get togethers in my time in Seoul at his studio near the center. He was respectful that I came from the west, but wanted to show me clearly what was two distinct world existing one beside another. I didnt know at first what he was talking about but he showed me through is work. He was a political artist and had a rather hawk eye to the reading of the culture in and behind the scenes. That he may be dangerous in his ideology was a interesting feature. He was raucous about 34 years old, worn looking but kind, and not specificly wonderous to modern solutions given to him by the media.
On our last meeting he took me through the ‘fashion’ district, and the heavy commercial district making me recognize all the brand names slung in front of me. He made specific mention to the glossy facade.
And then came the realization when I was asked to follow him two blocks off the central strip to the less glossy and rather concrete dull luster of dirt streets and houses that seemed a trip 100 years back in time. People were stacked like bricks in bunks over their sewing machines, women were lined up in mill type settings, children were busied working a mill kind of output that I would have guessed only happened in India. The working conditions were marginal at best, these people were living to work. Not an eye looked up at our passing. Everybody knew him, if they allowed a second away from their machines. Children were made to work and the aged as well. The dream was a job selling foreigners goods in the glossy part of the city, what I was seeing was a nightmare of piece work at a couple of dollars an hour workers stacked over the very machines of their output, and the police on patrol to watch for crime. They had some young Korean caught for stealing. I watched my walette even though I had about 20 dollars in it, perhaps even less at that time. I was dressed down. This was good. I was told that people would kill for a 5 or 10 in some area of town and that was the fact behind the glossy facade.
As I walked on up one street and down the other I found myself in the forbidden land at which the Earth seemed to end with unsightly spectacles that would make someone sick at the sight. One might say that animals were loose and the sanitation was on strike. Young children crowded around, and my friend shoed them away for what was an abomidable sight and sounds that seemed echoes of hell, young prostitutes lined up the old aside them in a brutal vision of what reality sometimes could be, and was here behind the scenes. I cried “Enough!!!” after about ½ hour of this, only to walk back to the silver and glossy streets which were there too. I was mad at first that I was shown this. Two worlds existing simultaneously one behind another. I said a prayer for those realizing it is the fact of life for them, and wished change.
I remember for the rest of that day I think I had seen just... enough.
For me the lucid beautiful art had taken a break to the dismal, enough for nighmares of that life to seep through, in gross realizations of two perceptive worlds, yet I did know both to exist. Hopefully sometime in the future this too would be cleaned up and a better world existing in its place. With prayers I departed this vision.

I was invited to exhibit during this trip at the Museum of Contemporary Arts and be involved with other events, after my departure. For several years after I sent my work in, had it shown feeling a general respect, as an artist then.
I remember very well there was a group who asked me out to a Karaoke night where we all walked in and the major spectacle of the night was "Me" to a crowd of 150 people packed in one of these very popular venues- singing Elvis Presley (making up the words as they came--and getting a rousing applause by the MC). Then of course we set out into the night, going from place to place meeting other artists, a sculptor and talking very serious politics and differences in our cultures.
The days flew quite fast. There was a trip to Incheon where Mac Arthurs statue was a unique icon, and then to several other interesting, sacred sights and monuments. Of course there was Panmunjom DMZ (Korea)- a unique site that for some reason we could not visit during that particular tour. We came in two times for permission but this particular sight was off limits for some reason.Panmunjom is the UN opening corridor to North Korea. I could imagine why it seemed somewhat off limits, maybe-but still interest was there in a days near drive by, of visiting Panmunjom--It was said that one had to have special permission to go there then, maybe or not, because of an incident several years previous. (The next tour to Panmunjom we visited the UN corridor and had a special tour-briefed by the army and then allowed to enter the corridor-with a written consent for the possibility of 'life loss" during the tour of the special path to North Korea)
A few weeks passed and then the end of the tour-to be continued in 1987-
We left from Seoul to Honolulu, spending time in
Waikiki, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island-
Since my father and I were in business-then real estate- we had purchased a wonderful new condo at the foot of the famous Diamond Head which was the end of all ends, only feet from the shore-
The time in Korea was intriguing and special---as always-

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