Wooh Na-young's 'Mermaid of Warszawa' depicts Polish and Slavic legends and folklores with a distinctive Korean style. Courtesy of the artist

In a fusion of Polish folklore and Korean tradition, the legendary Mermaid of Warsaw wears traditional Korean armor in “Mermaid of Warszawa,” a creation by Korean illustrator Wooh Na-young .This artwork, which took center stage at her exhibition “Once upon a time… Wooh Na Young’s Hanbok Fairy Tale” at the Korean Cultural Center in Warsaw last October, reimagines not only the iconic protector of the Polish capital, but also brings Slavic myths to life with a unique Korean twist. Wooh’s art is a mosaic of cultural narratives, featuring characters from Baba Jaga and Rusalka from Slavic mythology to a princess-turned-duck and the Wawel Dragon from Polish legend, all reimagined in the intricate details of hanbok, or traditional Korean costume, showcasing a dynamic cultural exchange that has captured the imagination of audiences worldwide. Her rendition of the Wawel Dragon, a staple of Krakow’s lore, is depicted in the colorful, detailed style of Korean folk painting, drawing parallels between Polish and Korean myths through visual storytelling .This approach has not only captivated audiences but has also facilitated a dialogue between the cultures of Poland and Korea .”Mermaid of Warszawa” is part of Wooh’s ongoing journey to depict the beauty of Korean traditional dress through her art, which has been presented around the world. She is a highly sought-after artist among directors of Korean Cultural Centers around the world, highlighting her commitment to portraying the beauty of Korean culture .During her international exhibitions, Wooh unveils new pieces that bring the legends and fairy tales of various countries to life, all adorned in hanbok. “Mermaid of Warszawa” is her tribute to Poland, reflecting her effort to intertwine Korean aesthetics casinositezone with local lore.In an interview with The Korea Times at her studio, Jan. 16, Wooh shared her initial understanding of Poland as merely an Eastern European country with historical and political parallels to Korea. Yet, her exploration into Polish and Slavic tales unveiled a wealth of captivating stories that inspired her artistic vision.” This exploration led me to weave multiple narratives into my artwork, opting for a folding screen format to accommodate the expansive scale,” she said. “I was particularly drawn to tales from the Vistula River, including the Mermaid of Warsaw and the Wawel Dragon of Krakow, set against two major Polish cities.” She elaborated the nuances of her painting, highlighting the connection she drew between the Slavic Rusalka and the scene depicted in “Scenery on Dano Day” by the late 18th-century Korean painter Shin Yun-bok .Wooh mused on the universal symbolism found in the act of combing hair by water, a gesture of allure transcending cultural boundaries. “It is fascinating how such an action can signify charm and attraction across different cultures,” she said. Wooh majored in Korean painting at Ewha Womans University and worked as game illustrator before gaining acclaim for her unique portrayals of fairy tale characters in hanbok, under her pen name Obsidian .Among these, her rendition of Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” stands out, alongside her interpretations of Disney favorites such as Elsa and Anna from “Frozen” and characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, available through her partnership with Disney as an official collaborator. Her journey into international collaborations began in Denmark in 2019 when she was invited to Viborg and created “I Dream of the Far East,” a piece envisioning Hans Christian Andersen and his characters in anbok.”Andersen, a celebrated Danish icon, was the natural choice for my contribution to a Danish festival,” Wooh recalled .As her reputation grew, Wooh found herself increasingly sought after by Korean Cultural Centers worldwide, prompting her to delve deeper into the art of blending local folklore with Korean aesthetics. “I engage with the cultural center staff to discover tales familiar to the local populace, which I then re-imagine through Korean artistic lens. My goal is to seamlessly integrate these narratives through the visual language of hanbok, ensuring they resonate both locally and universally,” she said .One of her notable works, “Victoria-Regia,” created for an exhibition in Brazil, draws parallels between the Amazon’s Giant Water Lily legend of Brazil and the Korean tale of “Simcheong.””(Giant Water Lily legend) immediately reminded me of ‘Simcheong.’ The details are different, but the similarities in the image of a woman plunges into the water and is reborn was interesting,” she said. “To those familiar with Korean tales, the silhouette of a woman in water and a lotus flower might evoke ‘Simcheong.’ However, those acquainted with the Amazonian story would recognize the motif of Vitoria Regia, despite the unfamiliar attire in my artwork. This variation not only distinguishes the piece but also sparks intrigue across different cultural contexts.”

Wooh’s international exhibitions have become more than a platform for showcasing her art; they’ve evolved into conduits for cultural dialogue. “What started as an opportunity to share my work overseas has blossomed into a profound exploration of shared humanity and the diverse expressions of our cultural identities,” she said. “It is a reminder that, despite our differences, there is a commonality in how we interpret and engage with the world around us. Through my art, I aim to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of different cultures.” Last year was a particularly busy one for Wooh, filled with international exhibitions as the world began to open up post-pandemic. From November 2022 through February 2023, on the invitation of the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines, Wooh showcased her art in Manila, introducing “Legend of Malakas and Maganda,” a work inspired by the Philippine creation myth, rendered in the Korean ink-and-wash style. She shared a heartwarming moment from the opening of the exhibition.“ The Philippines is a country of islands. Three young girls journeyed over nine hours from a distant island to the capital to see my exhibition, only arriving when the doors had temporarily closed for the ceremony,” she said .Touched by their dedication, Wooh and the gallery officials made a special exception, welcoming them in. “When they saw me, they started to shed tears. I was so thankful and moved by their visit and gifted a catalogue of the exhibit to them.” In September, Wooh’s art reached Kazakhstan, aligning with the Korea-Kazakhstan Mutual Cultural Exchange Year. Displayed at the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan was “Er Tostik and the Dragon,” a piece that reinterpreted similarities and differences between the namesake Kazakh legends and Korean history, inspired by the famous “Golden Man” of the Central Asian country and comparing it to the Silla Kingdom’s golden ornaments and the ancient hunting scene mural from the Goguryeo Kingdom.”I knew of Kazakhstan as a country of ‘Koryoin,’ or ethnic Koreans, but there were much more to explore, especially it is located on the crossroads of the East and the West,” she said.“I transformed Er Tostik to the style of a Goguryeo warrior shooting an arrow depicted in Muyonchong tomb mural. It was even more meaningful to learn about the special ties between Korea and Kazakhstan while drawing this work.” In October, the journey continued in the United Kingdom, where Wooh engaged with her audience at Foyles bookstore in London, discussing her hanbok-themed books, as part of the Korean Cultural Center U.K.’s Korean Culture Month celebrations .Reflecting on her tour, Wooh noted the broadening appeal of Korean culture. “While we frequently talk about the Korean wave, or hallyu, its impact is sometimes less tangible at home. I communicate with viewers with diverse nationalities via social media, but meeting them in person was a totally difference experience,” she said.”A fan in the U.K., in tears while shaking hands with me, said she became fascinated with Korean culture through my works, not K-pop, not K-dramas. It was so touching.” Wooh was also named as the honorary ambassador of the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) last July to promote Korea’s natural heritage, recognizing her dedication .Recently, she provided illustrations for a video promoting the Gwanghalluwon Garden in Namwon, North Jeolla Province. “Despite its appearances in dramas, the garden remains relatively unknown to the international community. I was honored to illustrate for the video introducing this hidden gem to a wider audience,” she said .”To draw the nightscape of Gwanghalluwon Garden, I was allowed to take picture at night after it was closed to the public. It was a very special experience, as if the beautiful garden was just for me. I think it was a privilege to have a moment of solitary reflection.” Looking ahead, Wooh is excited about her ongoing collaborations with the CHA and her upcoming international exhibitions this year.” My goal is to continue crafting content that resonates with each country’s unique culture while introducing them to the Korean culture. It is about mutual discovery and understanding, enriching the world through art,” she said. The artist aspires to bring her exhibitions to every Korean Cultural Center in the world. “I envision a grand exhibition that features the works from all these international collaborations, weaving together Korean culture with the diverse cultures of the world. It will be a chance to showcase the power of cultural exchange,” 온라인카지노 Wooh concluded.

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