N.B. I am writing a series of research posts to introduce a selection of Korean landscape photographers, in part expanding my Literature Review for CS, but will also inform BoW.
The first time I saw the work of Kim Daesoo (b. 1955) was at an exhibition in the MMCA Seoul titled Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature (Lee, 2014). Kim’s study of bamboo (see fig. 1.), together with the work of another Korean photographer Choi Byungkwan were an inspirational starting point for my own series In Praise of Shadows. Together with the much venerated pine tree, nature again becomes the symbol of both national and regional identity (together with China and Japan). Bamboo belongs to what Kim Youngkee describes as the “Four Scholars” (Kim, 2009), together with plum trees, orchids and chrysanthemums. Much like Bae Bien-U, Kim’s intention is to translate the connotations of the philosophical spirit into straight photography.
Despite Kim’s understanding of Gestalt laws of perception, which is closer to my own theoretical influence on the subject; he pains to diverge from this stating its limitation as “…being unable to explain disparities between individual entities.” (Kim, 2009). I agree that he probably sees the spirit of bamboo more holistically than I do (I see it more as a constructive material before considering its essence). However his survey Colors of the Bamboo (Kim, 2009); a culmination of 10 years photographing bamboo in a variety of scales and seasons is much more comprehensive and for me makes the differentiation between the uniqueness of the individual entity and bamboo as a collective (see fig. 2.) more opaque.
Kim’s contribution to contemporary Korean photography comes in some fascinating forms. Like so many of his peers from the 1980’s, Kim belongs to the 1st generation of artists who travelled abroad. He spent much of this time in New York developing his New Wave series (see fig. 3.). There are traces of dadaism and surrealism with his use of collage. The prints are expressed upon with black marks and etched lines. I later saw some of these works which include religious symbols and nudes in another MMCA survey Public to Private: Photography in Korean Art since 1989 (Lee, 2016).
On first impression it was hard to believe it is the same artist. While his bamboo photographs could be described as mature and technically pure (black and white, neutral, not manipulated); his New Wave works are full of youth, angst, rebelliousness and eroticism. They appear to be a product of psychogeography and self-discovery of a young man in a state of curiosity. The New Wave carries a contemporary relevance unlike his bamboo studies. This early work is some of the first to embrace a more broader globalised expression of performance and concept into Korean photography.
It is interesting that through Korean arts displacement from the Western historical timeline Kim has been first a contemporary and later a classicist, a conservationist of traditions and national character, making him also a representative of Korea’s past.
Kim, D (no date) Available at: http://daesookim.com (Accessed on 03.11.18)
Kim, Daesoo (2009) Colors of the Bamboo. Seoul: Da Vinci.
Kim, Y. (2009) ‘What Daesoo Kim's Photographs Tell us’. In: Kim, Daesoo Colors of the Bamboo. Seoul: Da Vinci. pp 6-9
Lee, C (2014) Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature Seoul: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
Lee, J (2016) Public to Private: Photography in Korean Art since 1989 Seoul: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
List of illustrations
Figure 1. Kim, Daesoo (1998) bamboos from the people - bmb1998004 [Photograph] At: http://daesookim.com/?page_id=41 (Accessed on 03.11.18)
Figure 2. Kim, Daesoo (1999) road to the sky - bmb1999119 [Photograph] At: http://francoiselivinec.com/en/expositions/presentation/2/kim-dae-soo (Accessed on 03.11.18)
Figure 3. Kim, Daesoo (1990) In the Beginning, From beginning - nbf1990026 [Photograph] At: http://www.goeunmuseum.kr/gnuboard4/bbs/board.php?bo_table=e_prevex_contem&wr_id=41 (Accessed on 03.11.18)