"Easier to teach actors to paint than to teach artists to act", says producer of The Painters

The Painters: Hero (above) and its producer Kyu Jeong.
The Painters: Hero (above) and its producer Kyu Jeong.PHOTO: PENTATONIC INC
The Painters: Hero and its producer Kyu Jeong (above).
The Painters: Hero and its producer Kyu Jeong (above).PHOTO: PENTATONIC INC

The idea for The Painters: Hero came about after a teacher saw how his students were thrilled to see art being created

8Q

The idea for The Painters: Hero - a South Korean show that fuses live drawing with mime, dance and comedy - was first conceived in an art class 10 years ago.

A teacher of a flower-drawing class noticed how amazed his students would be each time he drew, says the show's producer Kyu Jeong.

In a telephone interview from Seoul, where he is based, Jeong tells The Straits Times: "The students would go 'wow', 'ooh' and 'aah', so much so that the teacher saw the potential to make a show out of drawing live in front of an audience."

Together, the teacher and Jeong, 49, who is also the chief executive of Korean production show company Pentatonic Inc, created The Painters: Hero.

Four painters, dressed entirely in black, animatedly execute 10 art techniques such as marbling, cube art and drawing with UV light on stage - without uttering a word throughout the 80-minute performance. Advanced 3D video- mapping technology is used to project the drawings on stage.

The painters do not just create art, but they also interact with their audience in an entertaining mix of mime, dance and comedy.

  • BOOK IT / THE PAINTERS: HERO 2016

  • WHERE: Resorts World Theatre, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Resorts World Sentosa

    WHEN: June 10, 8pm; June 11, 2 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $48 to $138 (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: www.sistic.com.sg/events/hero0616

Says Jeong: "It's a one-of-a-kind concept. Nobody thought that drawing art live on stage could be a show before we did it."

The show will run in Singapore on June 10 and 11 at Resorts World Sentosa. This is the second time it will be performed here after a tour in 2011.

In this edition, the painters will bring pop culture heroes such as actor Bruce Lee and singer Michael Jackson to life on the canvas boards.

Since The Painters debuted in 2010, it has been seen by more than two million people and performed in cities worldwide, including Beijing, Tokyo and Washington DC.

In South Korea, there are 10 to 12 shows daily across Pentatonic's four theatres in Seoul and Jeju.

Jeong estimates that close to 4,000 shows are performed yearly.

He believes the show's appeal to all demographics is the secret to its success. "Everyone from young to old, male and female, enjoy the show as they never know what to expect. It's a whole new experience," he says.

1 Is it a requirement for the performers in the show to come from an arts background?

No. In fact, the majority of them are actors. Initially, we auditioned artists, but realised that it is much easier and quicker to teach an actor to draw than to teach an artist how to act.

Actors are good at imitating so we put them through six months of rigorous training to learn to draw.

2 How much art material is used in The Painters shows annually?

At least 1,900 gallons of paint and 21,600 charcoal stumps.

3 What is the most difficult art technique for the performers to learn?

I would say marbling art. The temperature of water and mixture of colour can have different results when blended, so we undergo many experiments to maintain the ideal shape of the drawing.

It is one of the most difficult and challenging art techniques to learn for new trainees.

4 Do you come from an arts background?

No, I was a music producer before this. I enjoy looking at different kinds of art though, such as junk and kinetic art.

5 What is your favourite part of the show?

That's a tough call since I am the producer.

But if I had to pick, it would be the tiger scene. It's a solo performance using speed drawing and combines all the essential elements of the show.

6 Is the show more popular with domestic or international audiences?

International audiences, especially Chinese tourists in South Korea. They make up 60 to 70 per cent of the audience.

That's a reason we have gone to several cities in China, including Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

7 Do you hope for The Painters to be part of the K-wave sweeping across the globe?

I'm not interested in us turning into a K-something. It's not important where we are from, but what we are doing. The show we have is creative and entertaining for everyone, regardless of whether it is from South Korea.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As a person who always pursued something new and creative throughout his life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2016, with the headline 'The draw of art live on stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe