Painting in North Korea

During my trip to North Korea in March, I brought along a sketchbook and tried to draw what I saw.
 
Aboard the Air Koryo flight from Beijing to Pyongyang: Contrary to what many other travellers report about flying on rickety soviet-era jets, our plane was a newer generation Russian plane. The in-flight sound system managed to blast bombastic propaganda music at the passengers the entire flight, while still rendering the pilot’s announcements so quiet as to be unintelligible.

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Left: The Ryugyong Hotel, all new and shiny in its glass facade, but still a bare concrete skeleton on the inside. Right: The enormous Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang.

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Citizens on the streets of Pyongyang:

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An electric locomotive in the railway museum in Pyongyang:

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A scenic view of old Kaesong City in the morning. The large castle-like building on the left is the ‘Kaesong Schoolchildren’s Palace’:

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Left: An apartment complex in the countryside with a concrete billboard out front that says “Long Live the people of a reunified Korea!”
Right: An outcropping near Sariwon (사리원), on the Kaesong/Pyongyang Highway.

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On the bus between Pyongyang and Kaesong, we passed into a large depression ringed by cliffs:

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A farmer’s tractor:

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A sentry building on the shores of the Taeryong River:

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A road over a canal, north of Pyongyang.

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A community nestled in the foothills of North Pyongan Province:

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I visited the DPRK in mid-March; the land was still shaking off the long, dry cold of winter, but green was already beginning to peek through here and there:

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An agrarian commune encircles a rocky cone. Enormous glacial boulders pepper the mountain slope, and some of the larger ones above the village were carved with slogans:

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A farmer on the road to his commune. Red clays dominate the soil south of Pyongyang, with undulating rusty farmland punctuated by low grey mountains:

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Crossing the Chongchon River. 2014 has been a dry year so far in North Korea, and the spring runoff hasn’t started yet, so the water was quite low, and labourers trod well-worn paths across the sandy bed. The overpass in the distance is the Pyongyang/Sinuiju highway, and the crumbling concrete pillars are reminders of the American bombs that levelled the old pre-war railway.

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The farmland south of Pyongyang is crimson red with clay and salted with stony deposits of glacial till:

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On the train into Sinuiju: an apartment building in limbo. It appeared as if construction had been halted midway through the sixth floor, and the building had simply been painted and occupied below that point:

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Returning to Beijing for a couple of days before returning to Vancouver, I took some time to work on my unfinished drawings from North Korea, as well as sketching the neighbourhood around my hotel in the Dongcheng District.

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I also made it to Tiananmen Square to do some people-watching:

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The main gate at the Forbidden City:

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People on the street in Beijing:

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But my favourite part of Beijing by far was the 798 Art District, an enormous neighbourhood of factories and warehouses converted into art spaces:

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7 Comments

3
  • Djengis Roundstone

    These are really awesome

    • Lucas

      Thanks!

  • Ewan Green

    Thank you so much for these amazing glimpses. They’re haunting and rare, and the fact they’re drawn/painted makes them somehow more real than a photograph. Not that your photographs aren’t also fascinating.

  • brielle

    Beautiful, Lucas. I can’t believe you captured so much in a week of VACATION. Hats off.

  • Shane Friesen

    These are so good Lucas! You are so talented.

    • Lucas

      Thank you, sir!

  • Lucas Green's Portfolio | Painting on the Trans Mongolian – pt.1

    […] Last year I travelled to North Korea and, inspired by artists such as James Gurney and Guy Delisle, decided to try putting my camera down once in a while and pick up a sketchbook instead. […]

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