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The Beautiful Future – Collaborating with North Korean Artists

The concept was to supply Korean artists with images of modern Chinese icons… and have them paint them, as they perceived them from their own unique perspectives. We also asked them to paint their perspective of situations like “Office” and “Karaoke” and the “Future of Beijing”. The result was stunning and these incredible hand painted artworks then went from Beijing Design Week to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and were featured in countless media outlest around the world. Below is the full description of this incredible one-off collaboration and links to some of the coverage at the bottom.

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The Beautiful Future is a unique collaboration between Nick Bonner of Koryo Studio, Dominic Johnson-Hill of Plastered 8, and a group of North Korean artists. Nick and Dominic worked with the North Korean artists over a two year period to develop artwork from sketches to portray a place lost in time, an imagined future, where all is bright and beautiful. This is one of the first such collaborations between western and North Korean artists.

The paintings represent rituals of life in today’s China set on a stage of socialism, of an age lost. As outsiders looking in, the artists imagine a China that retains its socialist traditions – but in this world our icons are no longer great leaders – they are great symbols of Chinese society today. Workers and peasants parade towards a glorified CCTV tower in the heart of Beijing’s CBD with factories and the Great Wall in the distance. People stream into an office waving red flags with tractors working the fields outside, the camaraderie of daily work played out amidst a maze of cubicles in towering office blocks.

In this unique future, socialism is made absurd and celebrated, juxtaposed with our present pleasures, and modern city idols. The socialist world with which the artists engage is disappearing; an invasion of karaoke halls, office buildings, and modern city monuments pave the way to a future skewed yet stunning.

Nick and Dominic worked with the artists, developing themes for the pieces. Images were carefully selected: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower, a rocket tribute to an accelerating space program, for example. Office environments, karaoke halls, nightclubs – our social stomping grounds today – are all depicted in this futuristic artwork.

Nick Bonner and his colleagues run Koryo Tours and has been travelling in and out of North Korea for the last 20 years.  He has one of the most significant collections of North Korean art in the world, Dominic has been producing graphic artwork with Chinese artists for his brand Plastered T-shirts for the last seven years in Beijing.

Each painting was hand painted in Pyongyang. As there was no Internet, telephone, or mail communication with the artists the project took over two years to complete; all the paintings and sketches were brought by hand between Beijing and North Korea. All the Korean artists work in one government marketing studio. None of the artists have traveled outside North Korea. Through the close collaboration we discover a conversation, a life imagined and celebrated between two worlds, a unique and beautiful future.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/17/china-north-korean-propaganda paintings

http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/10/how-north-korean-propaganda-artists-imagine-beijing/280687/

http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/23/4947144/north-korean-painters-imagine-modern-chinese-propaganda-posters

http://www.scmp.com/news/china-insider/article/1336478/north-korean-painters-add-1970s-twist-chinese-propaganda-posters

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