Apple Orchard Paintings of Kim Chang-Han

By Martha Kruper Straw

I am a truly fortunate person. I am one of a handful of people besides Mr. Kim himself who has experienced the apple orchard and the surrounding habitat first hand. As I have seen both the apple orchards and the paintings, I have the unique honor of being able to compare them to each other. In addition, I have talked with Mr. Kim about his artwork. We discussed the inspiration leading up to the creating of the Apple Orchard Paintings and the philosophy behind his artwork.

The Apple Orchard Paintings were started almost 15 years ago when Mr. Kim was inspired by memories from his childhood. He tried painting in various orchards. After some searching he found a ravine in the Yeongcheon countryside. Not just any orchard, but one of older trees that is tenderly nurtured by caring owners. He immersed himself in this atmosphere of living beauty to soak up the pure essence of the orchard. He spent the spring, summer, and fall observing the stages of development. The trees grew and matured as he painted. As the branches, leaves, and fruit changed, so did the magnificent colors on the canvas. Now the various seasons in the orchard have been captured in a group of ten oil paintings. The Apple Orchard Paintings, which have been maturing over many years, are now complete.

The energy of the apple trees, the nearby mountains, the grasses, the wildflowers, and the land itself are transmitted through Mr. Kim to be captured with oil paints on the linen canvas. Just as the apples draw their juicy sweetness through the tree from the air and the land, Mr. Kim absorbs the spirit of nature from his physical environment. It’s as if air, sunshine, rain, plants, insects, and soil transmit energy that resonates at the same frequency as his soul. His brain transfers this living energy into brushstrokes of bold colors onto the canvas. His mental energy vibrates in harmony with the natural world that envelopes him. His ability to sense this life power allows him to keenly recreate images of nature so that viewers of his artwork may experience for themselves many marvels of our world.

Though the thick branches are gnarled with age, the leaves and fruit display a healthy, young vitality. The mature apple tree absorbs essential nutrients from the clean air, soil, and water. The absence of agrichemicals in this particular orchard allows the trees to grow strong, undeterred by man-made products. Mother Nature’s delicate balance of resources produces healthy apples as they grew hundreds of years ago. The nutrients in the soil are replenished by the other plants, insects, and rain. They all grow together, sustaining each other through the ages. Mr. Kim captures the harmony between the apple trees’ vigor and the purity of the rural environment.

The vibrant colors in the paintings of the apple orchard radiate life’s energy. Motion and vitality are conveyed by the width of the brushstrokes and the thickness of the paint. Light reflecting off the shiny paint gives depth and aliveness. The bright red and contrasting greens swirl as if stirred by wind blowing the leaves and branches. The large canvas, along with the life-size leaves, apples, and branches wrap around the viewer as if he where standing in the orchard.

Though the overall tone of the paintings is realistic, it is not like a photograph. The feeling of life and motion are evident. His style, though reminiscent of the European Impressionist Painters, is more vivid, dramatic, and bold.

The spirit of life and energy that is portrayed in the apple orchard theme is portrayed consistently through out Mr. Kim’s other paintings. I imagine that a beautiful painting such as these would fill a room with a natural energy, imparting strength, positive enthusiasm and youthful spirit to the viewers.

Some of Mr. Kim’s other artwork has a definitely Eastern feel in both the subject and style. For me, Mr. Kim’s Apple Orchard artwork displays the strength, purity and freshness of the earth’s natural beauty free from man’s cultural interpretation.
The most recent painting of the Apple Orchard series was painted entirely during the first weeks of autumn. Although the theme and color are similar to the others, this painting’s style is more abstract. The vibrancy of the reds, pinks, greens, and blues continues here, along with the movement of life. However, a wide open feeling of freedom and buoyancy replaces the solid grounding of the trees to the earth. As a viewer, I am less tied to the trees, free to drift upward, drawn away from the apples laying on the ground and lifted up to the openness of the horizon. This latest painting captures the ancient innocence of nature, showing us how beauty exists without human presence. Let us derive enjoyment from this simple beauty.

In the future, Mr. Kim plans to expand the apple orchard theme. He envisions the next paintings evolving into a mystical style. Once again, birth, growth, death and rebirth will be depicted in the apple orchard. The cycle of life will be reflected in a new creative flavor.

It seems to me that Mr. Kim gives everything to his work. He chooses the highest quality linen material, oil paints and mediums. He drives many miles and endures physical inconveniences to be able to paint on site. He devotes hour upon hour with brush and palette in hand. His artwork is sincere, honest, and genuine. Beauty is presented as nature created it. I believe Mr. Kim’s true purpose is to share nature’s creations with us. Our job as viewers is to stop, take our time, and soak up the positive feelings that his paintings impart. We must relax, and open ourselves to allow the energy of his paintings to be transferred to us. Only then can we savor and enjoy this beauty as if it were a fine wine.
October 25, 2009
Yeongcheon, South Korea

 Martha K. Straw

Martha Straw was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. She has lived in numerous states, as well as Spain and South Korea. She graduated from Allegheny College, Meadville, Pa in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish. Fluent in Spanish, she is presently trying to learn Korean. Since becoming a licensed teacher in 2001, she has taught Spanish in the USA and English as Foreign Language in South Korea.