May Print Series, 1980s
15 woodcut prints on paper
each: 52 × 64 cm, 79 × 64 cm, 64 × 52cm
May 18 Memorial Foundation Collection
Hong Sung-dam is a noted Minjung artist that participated in the May 18 Movement. His works of art were exhibited at the first and third editions of Gwangju Biennale, in 1995 and 2000 respectively. Spring of Democracy presents perhaps his most notable body of work—the woodcut prints he produced during and after the uprising. These prints have been widely presented in Japan, Europe, and across the United States. They were also used on book covers and a variety of projects related to the Democratization Movement. In particular, Torchlight Parade (1983) has graced the covers of many academic and popular culture books about the uprising, and has become a symbol for the democracy process in South Korea.
Hong was among the artists that focused their energy on producing posters and street art to support civilian efforts during the events of May 18. His prints attempted to capture the lived reality of the moment. The Battle at Hwanggeum- dong (1983) portrays women actively taking part in the fighting.
Hong Sung-dam (b. 1955, Sinan, Korea) graduated from the Department of Painting, Chosun University, and participated in the organization of the Gwangju Free Artists Association in 1979. He took part in the May 18 Democratization movement against Chun Doo-hwan’s military dictatorship and became politically active. He established a People’s Art School in 1983. He is a renowned member of the Minjung art movement and his woodcut prints have become synonymous with May 18. In July 1989, he was arrested for allegedly breaking the National Security Act, when he sent slides of artworks by South Korean artists to North Korea. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience and he was released from prison in 1992. His solo exhibitions include Illusions of Yasukuni Shrine 2 (Art Space C, Jeju, Korea, 2008) and Resistance and Meditation – Hong Sung-dam (Queens Museum of Art, New York, 2003). His works have also been shown in group exhibitions such as Verbotene Bilder – Kontrolle und Zensur in den Demokratien Ostasiens (NGBK, Berlin, 2015).