Ham Sup
Korean, b. 1942

Korean artist Ham Sup (b. 1942) has worked with hanji—traditional handmade mulberry paper—as his medium for over 30 years. This durable, versatile, and prized material has been an integral part of Korean daily life for centuries. Ham is regarded as a pioneer in hanji art for his revolutionary approach to what has typically been considered a utilitarian medium. His abstract and expressive compositions effectively combine tradition and Modern abstraction, celebrating the Korea of both the past and present.

Ham grew up in the Chuncheon province of Korea—an area renowned for its natural and rural beauty. His abstract compositions often resemble landscapes or allude to elements of outdoor scenery. The pieces in this exhibit are from Ham's ongoing "Day Dream" series, a collection of works inspired by personal reflection, as well as Korean culture and tradition.

The painting-like appearance of Ham's hanji compositions stems from his artistic training and education; Ham studied Western-style painting and life drawing at Hong-Ik University, where he earned his Bachelor's degree in 1966. Ham originally worked in oils like the Western Masters he had studied, but eventually sensed that the medium limited his creativity. "However hard I tried," he explains in his 2001 interview with The Korean Times, "I could not avoid producing works similar to other artists in the world. All of us are human beings, we cannot help it. But I want to be original." Ham's inherent knack for innovation and ardent desire to create something unique led him to begin experimenting with hanji.

The artist's palette consists of the five traditional colors—red, ochre, blue, black, and white—which he creates using natural dyes. Large sheets of hanji are soaked in water. The artist then tears and kneads the medium, and uses hard brushes to add texture and affix the pieces to a hanji canvas. The original appearance and nature of the hanji sheets are completely transformed, and the traditional material is deconstructed and "reborn" into a unique artistic piece.

Ham's work has been very successful internationally. He has participated in several major art fairs, including the San Francisco Fine Art Fair, Art Chicago, Art Miami, Art Basel, and Art Cologne.

1942 Born in Chuncheon, Korea
1966 B.F.A, College of Fine Arts, Hong-Ik University, Seoul
1983 M.F.A, Dong-Kuk University