Former North Korean Propaganda Artist, Now Dissident Painter, Coming to Ventura for Annual ArtWalk
Continuing a tradition of bringing exciting, newsworthy artists to Ventura, the ArtWalk team has announced the selection of North Korean artist Byeok Song as the Global Artist for this year’s 25th anniversary event Oct. 6-7 in downtown Ventura and the Westside.
Now residing in Seoul, South Korea, Song was once an official state propaganda artist in North Korea. When famine took the lives of his family, he felt betrayed by his government and escaped to China, where he was captured and transferred to a North Korean prison. Song endured brutal torture at the hands of the regime he once worked for until he was set free by his captors who thought he would soon die.
He survived and eventually made his way to South Korea in 2002. Today Song is dedicated to promoting freedom and paints acrylic pieces that satirize oppressive regimes worldwide. His works bring awareness to the imbalance of human rights in North Korea. Here in the United States he is being called the Andy Warhol of South Korea.
Mary Perez, the owner of Ventura’s Vita Art Center, and her friend and fellow artist Sue Pollack, have been instrumental in bringing talented international artists to ArtWalk, a volunteer-run event which highlights Ventura’s thriving arts community. The weekend draws visitors to artist studios and galleries, pop-up PODS galleries, the Bowl Hop food sampling event, musical entertainment and more. Last year’s event featured Afghanistan graffiti artist Shamsia Hassani.
After reading about Song, the pair tracked him down in Seoul through mutual friends of Pollack’s daughter, Mari, who had lived there. She then translated the Global Artist Initiative invitation letter in Korean to Song. “We were so pleased that he accepted the invitation,” Pollack said.
The three women met with Song in early April when the Human Rights Foundation presented his solo exhibition, “Longing for Freedom,” at Los Angeles gallery Gloria Delson Contemporary Art.
Please visit www.songbyeok.com
Interview with CNN www.cnn./2012/03/24/world/asia/north-Korean-artist
Interview with Hollywood Reporter www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/northkorea
Washington Post story www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle//style/north
Interview with NPR www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/kcrw-features/the-andy-warhol-of-north-korea.