Space Lee Ufan – Museum Walk – Busan

During a trip to Busan last year, I had to complete a “Museum Walk” for my ‘Art after 1945’ class at KAIST (great class, highly recommend)! We were to go to at least one gallery, write about a piece of art and show the ticket stub to prove that we actually went there! I obviously went to more than one gallery while I was in South Korea so I had to pick just one to write about.

South Korean Lee Ufan (이우환) is one of my favourite artists and I thought I would share the essay I wrote about the Busan space and the specific painting I chose to write about. For the first time on Jo So Ko, I will be using images from other sources (OMG what!?). All image sources and references will be at the end of the essay! Enjoy! Please don’t sue me, I don’t have the resources. (I have since learned how to properly cite an in-text reference so please forgive me, I will endeavour to fix it soon!)

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Space Lee Ufan – Busan

‘From Line’

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Wandering through the light, airy rooms of the Space Lee Ufan in Busan was a highly transcendental, meditative experience. All of the works of Lee Ufan work collectively to tell a greater story of time and space, however, ‘From Line’ is one that was particularly captivating. ‘From Line’, painted in 1976, consists of delicately painted vertical blue strokes that take its viewer on a captivating journey. This has a similar effect to the colour field paintings of Mark Rothko from almost two decades before this work was painted. The Space Lee Ufan itself is also what I imagine the effect the Rothko Chapel (pictured below) might have on its audience, a similar spiritual engagement between the artist and the viewer. Lee’s paintings invite his audience to travel within themselves and reveal thoughts and emotions that may otherwise remain hidden – at least that is how I have experienced his work in the past.

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Lee was a key figure in the Mono-ha movement in Japan in the late 1960’s. During the context of post-war Japan, Lee and the other members of the Mono-ha movement challenged the idea of representation previously portrayed in Western art. The relationship between space and matter was explored by using materials from the natural world with little manipulation. On the other side of the world, the Minimalist movement was taking off in the United States and had similar principles to those of the Mono-ha and Gutai groups in the East. The influence of Lee Ufan’s work during this period in history is still easy to appreciate in our modern world as the ideas explored transcend the notion of time.

Interestingly, Lee Ufan paints his works from directly above the canvas. He places the canvas on the ground beneath a wooden bench upon which he lies. Supposedly, Lee has preferred this technique since he was a child as he feels like he fully emerges within the work. This technique is similar to the painting process of American artists from the 1940’s abstract expressionist movement and later, the 1980’s postmodernism movement. Jackson Pollock, for example, was famous for his action paintings where his canvas lay flat on the ground as he painted standing up, often walking over the strokes he paints. Similarly, Jean-Michel Basquiat adopted a similar working style by placing his large canvases on the floor of his New York Studio in the 1980’s.

This process of painting is vastly different when comparing the likes of Jackson Pollock (pictured below), with his layered webs of dripped paint, to Ufan (pictured below) whose paint strokes are placed ever so delicately. It seems as if Ufan were to make one slight mistake, he would have to start from scratch all over again. Whereas, Pollock was probably not privy to this concept of “starting over”, based on the nature of his work. While Pollock expressed the inner turmoil from his psychiatric state to apply paint, Lee Ufan explored the art of calligraphy and understanding the relationship between the “mark making and the medium of paint itself”. It would be interesting to have the two painting side by side to see how their understanding of their medium and their mental state influences the marks they make on their canvases despite working in similar ways.

Jackson Pollock (below)

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Lee Ufan (above) (very hard to find an image of Ufan painting while suspended above his canvases, actually, finding any image of Lee Ufan is VERY difficult).

Having experienced Lee Ufan’s collections at both the Lee Ufan Museum in Naoshima (Japan) and Space Lee Ufan in Busan (South Korea), it is important to describe ‘From Line’ in relation to the works as a collection, from the viewer’s perspective. Walking through the adjoining rooms within both museums, it becomes clear that these pieces belong within the same art institution. It is almost a meditative experience, the increasing simplicity of each piece clarifies the viewer’s mind.

I am incredibly honoured that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience Ufan’s work in this capacity and only wish I could further explain the way the works in his museums make me feel. I truly feel at peace in the presence of Ufan’s work and I hope to experience and be once again captivated by his careful brush strokes and sculptures. On this visit to Busan, I had to take time to think about exactly why I love his work. I had to ponder this for a long time and I eventually decided that it is because his work is not so much about the work, or the technique, it is instead about the viewer. About all of the people who often need a pre-fabricated ground from which to build an understanding of their inner thoughts and the world around them. In some ways, Ufan has the very complicated task of simplifying these ideas for a universal audience. I don’t think of it solely as a piece of art but also a form of self-reflection and a chance to feel gratitude for all of those you love in your life. So, beyond the precise blue faded strokes and generous usage of the canvas, I believe that ‘From Line’ exceeds my simple understanding of artistic principles like composition and tonal value. These principles are overpowered by my desire to contemplate and reflect.

Written by Johanna Quinn 2017

References

Gayford, M. (2017). Solitary Soul: Interview with Lee Ufan | Apollo Magazine. [online] Apollo Magazine. Available at: https://www.apollo-magazine.com/solitary-soul-interview-with-lee-ufan/ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2017].

Ocula. (2017). Lee Ufan – Artist Profile, Recent Exhibitions & Artworks. [online] Available at: https://ocula.com/artists/lee-ufan/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

Ocula.com. (2017). Lee Ufan at Kukje Gallery | Ocula. [online] Available at: https://ocula.com/art-galleries/kukje-gallery/artists/lee-ufan/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1225?locale=en [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

 

Image Sources

Space Lee Ufan – Busan Museum of Art (2017). From Line, 1976. [image] Available at: http://art.busan.go.kr/spaceleeufan/eng/index.jsp [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].

ROTHKO CHAPEL, BY MARK ROTHKO. (2017). [image] Available at: http://www.markrothko.org/rothko-chapel/ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].

IEMA (2016). Forgery scandal surrounding Lee Ufan’s work grows in Korea with three arrests. [image] Available at: http://iema.in/blog/forgery-scandal-surrounding-lee-ufans-work-grows-in-korea-with-three-arrests/ [Accessed 27 Nov. 2017].

Phadion (2017). Pollock signature misspelled in the Knoedler case. [image] Available at: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2014/june/12/pollock-signature-misspelled-in-the-knoedler-case/ [Accessed 27 Nov. 2017].

 

Read more about my visit to Busan last year

 

Train to Busan | Gamcheon Culture Village

And read more about Naoshima, Japan, where Ufan’s other art site is located (on my other blog about Japan called Jopan!)

Summer in Seoul: Royal Food

We ate Royal Food like a couple of Royal Korean Emperors and Empresses and boy did we EAT. We ate a LOT. I’m not exaggerating. So much so that, as the meal went on, my enthusiasm for photographing the food faded as my belly became fuller and fuller… and FULLER. Also the images look hella yella (=really yellow toned in Australian) so please excuse the weird colour of these images.

I could not tell you the names of all of these dishes. I mean, I could go and look the names up on Google and write them down beneath each picture… but we all know that we will NOT remember the names and it will be a huge misuse of my precious holiday time… just take my word for it, it was all delish.

At the end of the meal, the lovely Ajumma serving us kindly offered to roll us out of the building and onto Cheonggyecheon like a pair of royal bread rolls. We gracefully declined her offer out of politeness and concern that she would crack a hip. Fortunately, the restaurant overlooked Cheonggyecheon (a masterpiece in landscape architecture and urban planning), and we were able to walk off our enormous meal without any additional rolling assistance.

Round 1:

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Okay, this was the best Japchae of my entire life:

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Okay, I’ve lost track of the rounds…

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Final round aka “sorry, no crib for his bed, food consumption does not compute”

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Is it legal to leave yet? It should be like when you get a vaccination at the doctor and they make you wait for 5 minutes to make sure you don’t pass out. I feel like there should have been a lounge for a post-royal food siesta to make sure we didn’t plummet to our deaths on the elevator ride.

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Cheonggyecheon!

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There is a law in Korea that states ‘thou shalt not sit on the banks of any Korean river (or in any open space for that matter) without a lover by their side’. I wish I was joking. This is a real law and the punishment for all you single rulebreakers is a lifetime of loneliness.

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Misty clouds to cleanse the palate after what felt like a 300-course meal. I highly recommend a Royal Food experience if you travel to Seoul and you want to taste all of the flavours of Korea in one sitting. It was the tastiest night of my entire existence.

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What happens in Korea literally only happens in Korea

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Hello, followers of the most sporadically updated blog in the history of WordPress. I have been working on this post since August 2017 when I spent my first week in Seoul. I’m hyper-aware of everything in my surroundings, even the things that aren’t there. I’m definitely not crazy but we’re working on figuring it all out. I wanted to compile a list of observations I made about South Korea while I was living there last year. Some of them may be common knowledge, some of them may be random, once off encounters. These are the observations of a young and energetic Australian human lady so I hope you enjoy learning more about Korea as you read!!!

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1. Oh, you want to walk through a door? Well, don’t expect anyone to hold it open for you

When it comes to door time, it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. Also, don’t expect people to applaud you or give you a fist bump for holding the door open for them. I’ve found that holding doors open for people is actually MORE annoying than the alternative and you tend to get in the way. Just worry about your own entrances and exits, folks. Eyes on the handle, not the crowds.

This is a tricky situation for a western person to navigate because I’m one of those people who will see a complete stranger 10m away and stand and wait to hold the door while they awkwardly shuffle inside and mumble a thank you. It’s because I just don’t know what else to do. Maybe that person was having a bad day, I don’t want to ruin it by slamming the door in front of them and completely ignoring the world around me. But in Korea, it’s just kind of expected that nobody will hold the door for you so there are no door opening expectations to be met. I really need to CALM DOWN with all of the door opening manners.

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2. So, you want to take a 30kg suitcase on the Seoul Metro system?

That’s fine, just don’t expect any elevators to be hanging around. Your broken rib cage will NOT be thanking you later. PACK light, pack like those people you see eating baked beans out of their Vibram FiveFingers sock shoes on the side of the street while wearing their 5kg hiking backpacks and 1okg dreadlocks. It’s not that there aren’t any elevators and escalators, it’s just that they’re quite tricky to find.

Sometimes you tap your train card to get into a station and realise the elevator is 500m in the other direction and you can’t figure out how to get there. It’s also super busy on the Seoul metro so your suitcase is going to really be a point of contention between you and the other commuters. I did have one experience in Dongdaemun where a man hauled my 30kg suitcase up a broken escalator on the first day that I ever went to Korea. I hope that guy is doing well and eating all of the kimchi and drinking all of the soju.

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3. Found a person you love more than you love yourself?

Well, firstly, that’s really sad, self-love is super important. Secondly, go to town on those milestones. Wear matching outfits, buy matching underwear sets or even purchase a 2 pack T Money train cards designed for couples (which I made the devastating mistake of doing). Korean couples won’t really gross you out with public kissing ordeals and excessive touching, but they’ll dress identically to show you that they’re exponentially happier than you will ever be. (Edit: I wrote this before I fell in love with a Korean man and ironically did all of the couple things with, so take Number 5 with a grain of saltiness).

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4. Helmets? Safety? Who needs them?

I know this is not unique to Korea, but people really don’t want to get helmet hair. It’s understandable that you don’t really need to wear a helmet on a university campus while peddling around, but being on a motorcycle on a busy road in Seoul, sans helmet!!!?? That makes me feel uneasy n queazy quite frankly.

5. Sorry, SORRY, sorry, I’m so sorry, oh I’m sorry, hey there I’m sorry

Do you often find yourself using the word ‘sorry’ excessively? Well, perhaps you should take a trip to South Korea and learn how to get your ‘sorry’ usage down to an appropriate amount. It’s not that people in South Korea aren’t sorry that they’ve just walked directly into you or shoved past you on a train, it’s just that they aren’t sorry enough to say sorry. This is my personal favourite because it’s really teaching me how to control my sorry’s. Sorry if this offended you.

6. People in Korea brush their teeth anywhere at any time of the day

I have actually adopted this habit since starting this blog post. Maybe it’s because I experienced living at a university and people study really hard and rarely sleep, but people were just brushing their teeth all over the shop. Walk into a classroom, BAM, you’ll hear the “ch ch ch” of a set of pearly-Korean-whites being scrubbed. I love this. Koreans eat a lot of garlic and kimchi so #8 is admirable. It’s also a sign that people in this country actually take care of themselves and employ impeccable hygiene strategies just about anywhere they go.

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7. The Hiking get-ups are no joke

If you fall over in a Korean forest, and nobody can hear you, did you really fall? YES! You did. The combination of leopard print, fluoro yellow, pink and orange will be audible from SPACE. I LOVE Korean hiking fashion. Please refer to my personal fave snap from our Gyeongju trip last October!

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8. Korean people are nocturnal

Ew, did you wake up before 10am and leave the house? Okay, you need to work harder. Okay, so this one might just be applicable to university students. If I went for a run on a Saturday morning, the streets were as quiet as dead moose. Silent. No people. Meanwhile, standing at 2am at the ramen vending machine was like being on a crowded train carriage during peak hour. Damn, do they know how to STUDY. It’s just so safe in this country! The image above is Seoul at night: couples, beers, a river you’re not allowed to swim in which is a law people actually obey and smooth live music from various buskers. What a life! You just couldn’t have a place like Cheonggyecheon in Australia. People would completely disobey the no swimming rule, there would be public urination, people would throw shopping trolleys in there, there would be graffiti everywhere and silly drunk people would be a danger to themselves.

9. People are chilled out

Probably due to their Jimjilbang (sauna) culture and readily available Soju.

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10. Korean spicy does not feel like other spicy

We’re talking 1 minute of ‘Oh yeah, this isn’t too bad, omg this is not spicy at ALL ahahah are you joking omg you’re crazy, you completely underestima…..’ to an entire night of ‘WATER. MILK. CTRL + Z. Please knock me out cold so I don’t have to be conscious for this ‘. (I’m not a spice lass so please acknowledge the exaggeratedness of this).

Image Above: It may not look like it but this was the spiciest meal of my life. 감자탕 (gamja-tang) is a Korean pork bone soup and it is normally one of my fave meals but this bad boy you see here was like eating a small chilli farm.

11. Learning Korean is hard 

It’s a language. It’s hard. This is not a revelation. Fortunately there are many amazing resources that can help us in our struggle to learn Korean. I love Talk To Me In Korean, watching YouTubers who speak Korean and also, Netflix. I have a blog post coming up about my favourite Korean things on Netflix that you must watch!

12. Singing is a completely normal thing to do

So it should be? Korean Noraebangs (translates to ‘song rooms’) are ubiquitous on the streets of Korea and are also part of people’s lives. You will often see a group of friends or even a solo song lover wander into a Karaoke room like it ain’t no thang. This is not a thang in Australia but it SHOULD be.

13. Google maps and the whole Google family is redundant in Korea

Use Naver. Don’t bother with Google. You’ll get lost. However, Google works wonders in Japan.

14. Appearances are everything

You can’t stereotype a country and all of its citizens by generalising that every human in that country cares collectively about ONE thing, that’s just not a thing you can do. Not everyone cares about their appearance in Korea. However, from what I have observed and may be well known to the outside world is that skincare, beauty, fashion, cleanliness, politeness and respect are all important aspects of Korean life. The way Korean people value their appearance and allow their external and internal selves to look respectful and put together is a great thing. It’s something I am sure Koreans are very proud of.

Appearances aren’t always just about how beautiful you are or about trying to make yourself aspire to a certain beauty standard. There is more to appearance than just aesthetics and I think western culture could possibly learn a thing or two from this Korean philosophy. Be the best version of yourself. Be polite. Make an effort. Be proud of yourself. These are not bad things.

Yes, South Korea is known for its plastic surgery and its extreme beauty standards but, HELLO, have you seen an old person in Hollywood? Korea just decided that if they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it really well and be renowned worldwide for it. In Western culture, plastic surgery is seen as this secret little demon that must never be mentioned in the light of day. To keep this sort of physical body change a secret is to deny that you are trying to feel better about yourself. It instead teaches young women that they can be beautiful and skinny and sexy with minimal effort.

We may not be as vocal about it as Korea but we all have unattainable beauty standards embedded within our cultures. Even people who say they don’t care about the way they look are putting effort into making it known that they don’t in fact care about how they look. That seems like a lot more effort in my opinion. Either way, you’re giving a fork about some kind of appearance philosophy and I am so fascinated by Koreas openness about this. However, it can be disheartening to hear people say that the more attractive you are, the easier your job and life prospects will become. It is also rather disturbing to see perfect K-Drama stars attain the lives of their dreams effortlessly and without much of an inner struggle. I think in the future, Korea will figure out how to balance this incredible ideology with the way it is portrayed to the masses. In the meantime, I shall continue to take care of myself and my appearance and not give a shiz about who knows it.

 

15. Koreans don’t do drugs (This is a great thing). It’s incredibly illegal and frowned upon

Instead, they do K-DRAMAS. K-DRAMAS may as well be drugs, people! Those shows are more addictive than any street drug I’ve heard about on Vice. K-Dramas will make you want to stay at home, order-in, sit in your pyjamas and completely immerse yourself in a fictitious Korean political scandal or impossible unrequited love situation (that 9/10 times has a happy ending).

16. South Korea is gosh darn COLD in winter

I was not aware of this last fact. They get this bone-chilling wind known as the Siberian Anticyclone and it is particularly problematic in December and January. Be warned, intrepid travellers.

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Do you have any more observations you’ve made about Korea? Let’s discuss below!

Don’t forget to follow my instagram for more snaps and drawings!

I went back to Korea a few weeks ago and didn’t blog about it… Hongdae + Lotte World

I am currently in my final year of university and squeezing in trips to South Korea here and there has been my number one motivation to work harder! Although the workload is challenging, what is important to me is this new life I’ve discovered in Korea. About three weeks ago, I slipped away to Seoul for a week right before my final honours presentation for the semester. We stayed in Hongdae and Jamsil and managed to cram a whole lot into a very short space of time! Here is a collection of really random photos taken on my phone and my small tiny point and shoot that doesn’t take very good photos despite being less than a year old and not very cheap…yay cameras.

Hongdae streets at night!

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Naengmyeon (vinegary noodles), BBQ, Kimchi Fried Rice and other yummy things that I don’t know the names of!

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In Korea, fans pay to celebrate the birthdays of their “idols”. It’s like a Kickstarter but for birthday advertisements. I’m still trying to grasp Korean Idol culture…will keep you posted (will literally keep you posted in a blog post…)

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Yellow stairs and mirror situation. Seoul is a giant city but everyone is so chilled out (in my opinion..)

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Lotte World Yes, we wore a couple outfit and I bought bunny ears that I will never get rid of (I’m not putting these pictures on the internet, I like to keep SOME of my pictures private…).

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After exploring Lotte World and becoming delirious with motion sickness and the realisation that we are adult-sized children, we ate potentially the spiciest gamjatang (pork-bone soup) of my entire life. We had to constantly pour water into the pot and look around the room to make sure people couldn’t see us being spice-wusses.

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Our Seoul trip was short and very sweet. We managed to go to an amusement park, a water park, eat a 4-million course Royal Food degustation, go clubbing in Hongdae, eat every tasty Korean dish available, visit our Kakao friends in Hongdae and have an amazing dream-like experience (in 3.5 days). For any long-distance lovers out there, you must know the thrills and joys of being able to spend even just a silent moment together. Time is precious and we certainly don’t have time to waste on super spicy pork soup or bad sushi!!!

So Long, KAIST + South Korea

Even though I have been in Japan for over a week and I left Daejeon 2 weeks ago, I’m still very sensitive about this whole “leaving Korea” nonsense. However, I was fortunate enough to be able to show my parents around KAIST in Daejeon. While I’m more sad about leaving the people than the dorm room I shared with 3 years worth of dust and hair, it was still hard to close my dorm room for the last time and not have to think about whether I remembered my card key or not. My mum being my mum made me stand in front of my bike and insisted on taking photos of everything from bird nests to street signs. I’m glad she did because now I think we have enough photos of KAIST to throw together a VR walking tour for future exchange students.

Goodbye, terrible bike I used 6 times and left unlocked outside W6 for any unfortunate thief to steal.

Goodbye, the adorable sign that makes no sense because why wouldn’t you want the cat to come in?

Goodbye, bike racks and all of my memories of running late to class

Goodbye, steps we used to get ramen at 1:30 am

Goodbye, birds nest I saw for the first time on my last day at KAIST. It’s the circle of life really.

Goodbye, window drawing I did in the summer and forgot about