Last week David Baillie was our downthetubes roving reporter lucky enough to be invited to a private view of the new Manwha 100 exhibition in London which, if the name hasn’t already given the game away, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Korean comics… Heres how the evening went…
The Manhwa: A Language of Unlimited Imaginations Launch Party was a lavish affair, abundantly attended as it was by Korean officials, journalists, people in spectacular costumes and cartoonists from both the UK and Korea. As Tripwire‘s Joel Meadows snapped photos, Mark Stafford (of Cherubs fame) quaffed copious amounts of free wine and Leon ‘Doc’ Hewitt discussed the technological implications of setting up a Manwha webcomics portal with a like-minded Korean tech-savvy businessman, I stuffed my face with an exotic delicacy I had just discovered in the finger buffet.
The Korean ambassador, upon noticing this, crossed the busy floor and politely informed me that they were called tok and apparently are very difficult to source here in London. I tried to thank him for the information, but my mouth was full of gooey rice.
A diplomatic disaster was narrowly averted when Sean ‘Necessary Monsters’ Azzopardi loudly declared he wasn’t eating anything that looked like eyeballs.
Still busy chewing, I took the opportunity to wander around the exhibition and couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the work on show. Anyone who, like me, is addicted to visiting the Cartoon Museum on Little Russell Street will not want to miss Manwha 100. The Art Toon Art gallery area features the work of twelve contemporary Manwha artists, cherry-picked from the annual ‘Masterpieces Meet Comics’ exhibition which specialises in the cross-over between fine art and comics, and provides an intriguing hint at where the art form might be headed today.
Also on offer was a selection of work from some of the recognised masters of Manhwa – including artists such as Min-Woo Hyung and Kwang-Mook Lim. Meanwhile, in the back, Chul-Ho Park was hectically sketching and signing prints for fans in a room decorated with facsimiles of his comic pages.
The pièce de résistance of this exhibition, however, is the Manwha Bang (‘bang’ being the Korean word for ‘room’) which features a stunning library of Manwha titles in both English and Korean in a relaxing lounge setting. Having returned when the place isn’t flooded with people stuffing their face with Korean cakes and wine, I can thoroughly recommend The Great Catsy and Priest, among dozens of other titles. Interestingly, Manwha reads left to right like English language comics, so if you’re the sort of reader normally turned off by the initial cognitive dissonance of reverse reading Manga, this will be right up your street.
• Manwha 100 runs until 24h June at the Cultural Korean Centre, 1-2 The Strand, just off Trafalgar Square. (Although the entrance is actually on Northumberland Avenue. You can’t miss it there’s a big Korean flag outside which can be seen as soon as your turn the corner.)
Tel: 020 7004 2600
Web Link: http://london.korean-culture.org