This painting, although a figurative work, was created during Kim Ki-Chang's abstract period, in the second half of the 1950s. During this period, the artist painted a series of works dedicated to the kummando and masked dances, his thick, expressive brushstrokes taking on more of an abstract significance rather than specific form and movement. In its representation of a traditional dance, Mou-Ak is hence more of an illustration that groups together characteristics stemming from various traditional Korean dances.
Korean dance can be divided into three categories: the traditional court dance, modern dance and traditional folk or ritual dance. The latter includes two very popular dances, among which the farmer's dance (Samulnori), accompanied by drums. The soloists for this dance traditionally wear hats from which flow long, white silk ribbons; these ribbons are depicted here above the figure. Another popular traditional dance is the 'masked dance', or pansan, which is a satire of society. Kim Ki-Chang also refers to this dance in Mou-Ak, thanks to the mask drawn in the lower left section. Lastly, the Buchae-chum, or dance of the fans, is represented here; it is traditionally the last dance at shows.
Traditional dances have a very festive connotation, which Kim Ki-chang expressed here through his use of color and the figure's posture. Despite the multitude of color the painting remains harmonious and, aided by the artist's simple, expressive lines, gives off an impression of joie de vivre.
Kim Ki-Chang was born in Seoul in 1914. At the age of 7 he suffered from typhoid fever and, following poor treatment, lost his hearing ability and was half mute for the rest of his life. At 17, he studied under the painter Idang Kim-Eun-Ho, and exhibited his first work six months later.
His artistic evolution can be divided into five periods: realism, religious painting, social landscapes, abstraction and, in his own words, "idiot" landscapes.
Kim Ki-Chang's first works date from the 1930s. During this period he painted in a traditional oriental style and mostly focused on the expressions of his Korean figures. He started moving towards Impressionism and Symbolism in the 1940s but, at the start of the 1950s, turned towards religious painting, after having an apparition of Christ during his dreams. In the second half of that decade he moved away from his religious works and began a more abstract period, during which he created works like the Mou-ak at UNESCO. Kim Ki-Chang passed away in 2001.