Joan Kee describes Lee Ufan (b. 1936) as “…as a champion of the global before the global turn actually came to pass.” (Kee, 2011). Lee is regarded as a leading figure of not one, but two art movements, in Japan and his native Korea. In his initial literary capacity, he wrote the manifesto for the Mono-ha movement in Japan, and later influenced Dansaekhwa in Korea. Both of which are regarded to be amongst the most significant practices of 20th century art in East Asia (Morley, 2013). If we were to simplify, Lee’s sculpture would be more representative of Mono-ha, while his painting (see fig. 1.) would come to be more identified with Dansaekhwa.Read More
The career of Kwon Boomoon (b. 1955) follows a similar trajectory to Joo Myungduck. Boomoon, as he likes to be informally called is more than a first generation Korean ‘art’ photographer as from the New Wave, he is also a first generation photographer. Like Joo, he has had a distinguished career in documentary and his project on the Hahoe Village in Andong is of great historical significance in Korea. (Lee, 2014). Today he is more recognised for his series Naksan (see fig. 1.), which is a graphically composed sequence of waves and blizzards that confront the Naksan coastline. The series captures the variances of nature with each image a reflection of the ebb and flow of tide and storm.Read More
There are many unique qualities to the work and life of Lee Jungjin (b. 1961). Perhaps more than any New Wave photographer from Korea, she is representative of cross-cultural exchange. Lee’s path offers a differentiation to the landscape genre out of Korea; partly because of her choice of subject (see fig. 1.) and also the time she spent in the West. After her studies and a brief period of freelance and documentary work, Lee moved to New York where she worked for Robert Frank, who she cites as an influence on her work. (Nelson, 2016). Of course Frank’s journeys, that culminated in the seminal The Americans will have inspired Lee to similarly explore her new environment as an outsider, but we could also interrogate further some of her series in relation to Western photography history. In her thesis Contemporary Landscape Photography: Dissolving Boundaries in Jungjin Lee’s Wind Series, Amelia Nelson writes that Lee “…was influenced by the Western artistic tradition and represented both a step away from the Asian tradition of landscape painting and an opening of Korean society.” (Nelson, 2016, p.13).Read More
The first word that comes to mind when viewing the work of Min Byunghun (b. 1955) would probably be ‘absence’. His work perhaps more than any New Wave photographer relies less on cultural signifiers and more on the presence of absence, creating atmospheres. Art critic Oh Kwangsoo describes the work aptly saying “Everything existing on the border of what is and what isn’t, are endlessly erased away, and then endlessly revived.” (Oh, 2006, p.7). Min’s main source of inspiration is nature but his subject is sometimes nondescript, or like his series Weed (see fig. 1.) a muse that doesn’t have reverie.Read More
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.Read More
Bae Bien-U (b. 1950) is regarded as one of the driving forces behind the rapid growth of the Korean photography scene since the 1990’s (Lee, 2014). He is most renowned for his series Sonamu (see. fig. 1) which resonates with the deep rooted cultural identity of pine trees in Korea (and by extension East Asia in general). His use of a panoramic camera evokes comparisons with traditional scrolls and screens of East Asia art.Read More
I was first introduced to the work of Joo Myungduck (b. 1940) by another renowned Korean photographer Park Youngsook in 2014. Joo’s series Lost Landscapes was a departure to anything I had seen before. The technical terms you would use to describe a photograph like Mt. Halla (see fig. 1.) would be low key or more critically nit-picking underexposed. They are an image that needs to be seen in order to be felt. Something that comes with age and maturity. These ‘black landscapes’ are his trademark, but they don’t even scratch the surface of his story.Read More
I found myself inspired recently to follow-up on some research into East Asia ink wash paintings following on from a conversation with Russell, my tutor for CS. Both of us have a connection to Chinese art in particular and have a very fluid dialogue on the influences. We talked a little about the BBC documentary series Civilisations (2018) in relation to early Asian art and the first waves of globalisation. Which formed a part of my first essay for CS.Read More
It was evident early on in Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital that Allan Sekula was in opposition to Richard Howells assertion in Visual Culture that photography benefits from dualism. Sekula believes that “…dualism haunts photography, lending a certain goofy inconsistency to most commonplace assertions about the medium.” (Sekula, 1999, p.190). Going so far as to say that if photography can be regarded as both art and science, then it can also be said that it is neither. Is this because it is occupying the centre ground of the art/science spectrum?Read More
Reading Visual Culture created an interesting double challenge at this stage. Unlike the previous essays Howells spends a lot of it going over the history of photography before explaining his point. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it creates a lapses in engagement before its purpose becomes apparent. He explains the inclusion saying “With the proliferation of cameras and consumer photography today, it may be difficult to imagine a world without photographs.” (Howells, 2011, p.188). This is undoubtedly true and it is hard to contextualise the reactions to imagery over 100 years ago.Read More
Similarly to Camera Lucida (1980). Roland Barthes combines methodical analysis and a primary case study in The Rhetoric of the Image that creates a template structure to apply to reading any image. From a personal point of view I enjoy this analytical approach as it resonates with my way of contextualising. What undermines this for me is the illegibility at times of never ending sentences and random digressions. In defence of Barthes, his work is translated into English (which brings its own causalities) but perhaps that does underline the point. All linguistics, images carry cultural context which is not universally clear. That said, I cannot deny that the text is densely rich, it just lacks fibre to digest it more naturally.Read More
So firstly I find Douglas Crimp to be an digestible writer that I can follow. It is not laborious to read his text. The fascinating thing about On The Museum’s Ruins is that it has three contemporary resonances to me and my practice.
As a continuum from Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on ‘aura’.
In the displacement of traditional aura in contemporary performance art and sculpture (an area of declared interest of mine).
The role of the museum.
Walter Benjamin states in the first lines of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that anything that is man made is reproducible. Therefore the concern in photography is nothing new. For me photography itself is perhaps guilty of misrepresentation and even mis-translation. The word itself photos (light) and graphe (literal meaning representation by means of lines or drawing) is often referred to as ‘painting with light’. Being seen as a replacement to painting, presented as an objective medium, thus deeming it superior, caused perhaps unnecessary resistance to its utility. Benjamin acknowledges that the process of photography came after other reproducible mediums such as wood engraving, etching and the lithograph. And it is perhaps here that photography could be more accurately compared.Read More
In August 2014, I visited what I would refer to as the most inspiring and influential exhibition I have attended at the MMCA in Seoul, Korea.
The exhibition was titled Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature. As I collated exhibition materials and artists names on my smartphone, I entered into a dialogue with a concentration of the Asian aesthetic through the camera which provided many reference points, suggesting areas of exploration for me to develop.Read More