[caption id="attachment_48695" align="alignleft" width="300" caption=""May Day Stadium Construction" by Kim Dal-Hyon"]
North Korea's art, like everything else about that country, is rarely seen by outsiders. But Toronto gallery-goers now have an opportunity to check out a small sample of the isolated state's creative output.
The exhibition, called At Utopia's Edge
, is taking place at the University of Toronto Arts Centre
. It consists of twenty-four prints taken from the collection of Nicholas Bonner, an English expat who frequently leads tour groups into North Korea.
North Korean artists train at universities, the most prominent being the Pyongyang University of Fine Arts. Those who graduate might find employment at any of a handful of state-controlled studios. They receive monthly salaries, and are expected to produce a continual stream of work consistent with Kim Il-Sung's political philosophy, "Juche
." Only artwork that implicitly praises life under North Korea's brand of socialism is tolerated, but not all artwork produced in North Korea is overt propaganda.
"Some of [the prints'] content refers to specific campaigns of the government, or events, or themes that we might think of as explicitly political," says Janet Poole, an assistant professor at U of T's Centre for the Study of Korea, which co-organized the exhibition. "But I don't think their overall meaning is completely subsumed into that political message."
"I think it is possible... to look at them and appreciate them for their technique, for their colour, to appreciate them as works of art. And to also possibly imagine some kind of irony, to imagine the possibility that North Korean images, too, might not be completely subordinated to a political message."
At Utopia's Edge continues until March 19. Visit the U of T Arts Centre website
for more details.