By ALLISON NADING
With tightly clasped hands and a small smile, the petite form lingering in a corner might at first go unperceived by many wandering the exhibits of Art Asia. Quite the opposite is true, however, in regards to the vibrantly-hued canvases created by those same clasped hands. A tiny woman with bright eyes and a humble spirit, Rose Kong and her paintings captivated me with a single glance; I too falling victim to the swift and potent siren call that emanates from the women residing within each of her creations.
Born in South Korea, Kong spent the majority of her childhood with a paintbrush in her hand and wanderlust in her heart. “I just knew it was what I loved to do,” she said in reference to her selection of art as her field of study. After obtaining a degree in graphic design, Rose relocated to the US, unaware of the obstacles shortly to follow. Faced with the challenge of juggling both the roles of mother and assimilation to an entirely new country, Rose was forced to place the title of ‘painter’ in a compartment that would not be fully accessed again until quite recently.
As her children grew older, Mrs. Kong gradually found the time once again to focus upon her gift, returning to her homeland in 2001 in order to become trained in classical Korean painting techniques, which she incorporates into each of her pieces. Describing her style as “a kind of modernized form of the traditional Korean genre,” Rose maintains the cultural integrity of her work by utilizing powdered pigments and very delicate paper referred to as jangji. Prior to the application of said pigments, Rose delicately layers each canvas with multiple pages of jangji—a laborious process that can extend for weeks.
When I first gazed–entranced–upon Rose’s art, I was unaware of the journey reflected in each brushstroke. Yet–while her paintings can admittedly very much stand alone merely for their visual aesthetic–I feel for one to fully ascertain the beauty of Mrs. Kong’s art, they must be informed of the journey and techniques dwelling behind each beautiful canvas. For, in the flowing lines, joyful hues, and subjects of varying characteristics and poses, once can also view a tangible portrait of Rose Kong’s life and spirit: enduring, ageless, and full of surprises.
(To view Rose Kong’s exhibit, visit Art Asia at 110 NE 36 St. at Midtown Blvd. from December 6 – 9. For a full gallery, access: www.rosekkong.wordpress.com)