Apgujeong’s Elite Keeping Korean Architects in Business

Apgujeong is one of Seoul’s more affluent neighbourhoods. There is no shortage of designer clothes, expensive schools and plastic surgeons. Today, I spent the morning walking around Apgujeong Rodeo Street (not to go shopping because I’m not a bajillionaire). Instead, I admired all of the amazing buildings in the area that house some of the world’s most expensive designer brands.

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As a designer, I looked at these creations in awe. The craftsmanship, the beauty, and the detail were spectacular. With the facades on these buildings, they were worthy of being in every design magazine.

However, when I looked at them as a human, I couldn’t help but feel it was all a bit too… too much. It almost seems like a waste to have all of this design reserved for the filthy rich. It would be great to see more of this incredible creativity distributed around other parts of Seoul. Should this all be centred around one neighbourhood of Seoul? One street for that matter.

City Hall, Lotte Tower, and the DDP are all places that people can enjoy together. They are examples of architecture that enable all walks of life to share the design. Shouldn’t we save our creative energy for everyone to enjoy? I guess not… otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this. One or two amazing buildings in a street, yes, but for every designer brand to have its own unique facade? Come on, guys! It’s too much! But I did appreciate the cool petrol station.

A Thursday Night Drawing for the Artists

Here is an iPad drawing from me to you. I think I need to face the fact that I am not an illustrator and need to learn better techniques. I shall have to add ‘digital drawing’ to my long list of things to improve upon on!

This is a drawing from a picture my mum took at my uncle’s farm. Ooft, that was a mouthful! I love the colours from the original picture and the cat’s pose! Here’s to creative growth in 2020!

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I always seem to think that the work I do will miraculously get better overnight and I will suddenly be able to pay my rent as an artist! I know that art is a long game and isn’t something to rush. I’m still 23 years old and have a lot more improving to do. I guess the rapid pace of social media and artists online can make you feel like you’re falling behind before you’ve even gotten out of bed in the morning.

I need to remember that a lot of the people I admire have been crafting their work for years, possibly even before social media came around. I can’t be hard on myself because the things I am writing, drawing, photographing and thinking are all better versions of what I was doing 1 year ago and even 5 years ago. It can be a bit disconcerting when you see teenagers on YouTube buying houses while I struggle to even get a job as a designer, something I studied for 5 years! But, we won’t go down the rabbit hole of feeling like we’re lagging behind, it’s not a race!

To any artist’s reading this; your work is great because it is uniquely yours. Keep fine-tuning it, making mistakes, showing it to people, taking feedback and trying again. The important thing is to remember the feeling you have while doing that thing you love so much! Here’s to never losing that little light inside of you that allows you to create something without needing to eat or sleep – even if you end up hating it! Our work is always better in retrospect, just like our memories!

Have a great night/day/morning/workout/presentation/spelling test!

The cat in my drawing resembles ‘Cat’ from Breakfast at TIffany’s. Perhaps it’s just the ginger hair.

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Ten things to do on public transport instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media

I consider myself to be a seasoned public transport taker here in Seoul, South Korea. Since moving to Seoul, I’ve noticed that the general Korean population are rather fond of their smartphone screens. This doesn’t just apply to the people on the subway as the title of this post may suggest. It applies to people on the streets, in cafes, restaurants, schools, gyms, and everywhere else humans gravitate. It doesn’t help that two huge conglomerate smartphone companies, Samsung and LG, are highly celebrated by the Korean people.

So, because I never use my phone and am a fully-fledged self-help guru, I’ve taken it upon myself to help everyone out with more ~mindful~ smartphone usage. Firstly, I hate the word mindful and I also disagree with the generation of self help influencers. Secondly, I have been living in Seoul for 1 year now and I, too, have a bit of a screen addiction going on. I was being completely facetious.

Here are some ways that we can better serve our brains on the subway to promote a clear mind and help validate our smartphone addictions.

1. Make a to-do list

Do you have more than two things to do after your commute? Well, that, my friend, is the beginning of a juicy list. Let’s face it, you probably won’t do all of the things on your list but it will motivate you to do the things you actually need to do.

2. Podcasts

Listen to a podcast instead of the music you constantly consume in your ear holes. You can learn something, feel like you’re having a private lecture and be that annoying person who brings up facts all the time for no apparent reason.

3. Read a book

Woah, an actual physical book? Okay, this one is for more advanced subway takers and requires a great level of concentration. I know that not everybody can get their bodies to balance on a moving train and read without getting dizzy, we are humans, not mountain goats. However, if your body can handle all of the extra stimuli, you can assert your dominance as the ‘smart’ one on the subway carriage. I read so many books this year just because of my extremely long commute to work.

4. Write a novel

I can’t offer further advice with this one. It just seems like something a person who wakes up at 4am every day would do as a way to be productive. Give it a try? Your novel can’t suck until you finish it. Then, you can make it better.

5. Start a blog

Did you know that I’m currently writing this blog post on the subway? How could you have known that? What a silly question. If you don’t think you have the time to write a blog or a diary, you’re lying to yourself and to your whole family. They will never forgive you for those lies. I have the same philosophy Re: write a novel. Your blog won’t suck unless you have questionable opinions or zero blog posts.

6. Learn a language

Duolingo is a thing and it’s there to be used, so use it. Otherwise, go back to point two, Podcasts, and combine this with language learning. If, for some reason, you decided to learn Korean like me, Talk to Me in Korean have a great podcast.

7. Do a phone spring clean

Organise your photos, emails, contacts, apps, alarms, calendars, texts, ringtones, Instagram bios etc. I’m a true believer that a clean home equals a clean mind. I also apply this philosophy to the digital living space. Think about how much time you spend on your devices and it may help you understand why it’s important to keep your digital chaos clean and tidy.

8. Unfollow people who don’t align with your future

Go onto your socials and remove all the people who aren’t on board your train to self-improvement and general happiness. This includes people you are only friends with because you feel like you have to be. Delete them all. But, as you cull your friend lists, whisper ‘thank you’ ever so quietly to make it more Marie Kondo and less Georgina from Gossip Girl.

9. Go on a Wikipedia black hole search

This is my favourite thing to do at 4am while on a Netflix binge but there is never a bad time to go on a Wikipedia binge. It will help you learn things like Queen Elizabeth II and her husband are related and other things like how long Nelson Mandella spent in prison. These are all very useful things, do not deny yourself this information. As I am editing this, I am realising that I didn’t draw this point in my hilarious cartoon version of this blog post. I will forever regret this.

10. Respond respond respond

Now, this is the thing that I am worst at in life. I don’t know how many times I have written in my diary ‘ahh I really need to stay on top of my message and email responses’ to no avail. I don’t know what it is but I’m working on it, and the subway is a great place to get it done. As I type, I am vehemently aware of all of my unread messages.

I hope this was more comical than helpful. I really don’t care how you spend your time on your commute. I don’t know what kind of day you’re having. We all need to unwind with YouTube videos to clear our cloudy brains. This is more of a cultural observation combined with a pretty useless solution to something that may not even be perceived as a problem. But, if you’re feeling guilty about your phone usage, just know that the world will continue to be flat and have zero gravitational pull, regardless of how many memes you watch on a continuous loop.

‘Well, that was an unexpected ending? I want to read more of this blog! But HOW?’ Please do, I upload when I feel like it about topics relating to Korean culture. Feel free to leave a comment, I always respond. Have a very Korean day!

A Day of Books in Seoul, South Korea

Here are a selection of images from my humble, but forever runing out of power, smartphone. I’ve been wandering around bookstores and the Seoul Metropolitan Library in the City Hall area of Seoul.

After multiple unanswered phone calls with an airline that shall remain nameless, I needed to get outside into the fresh air. Although my fingers are numb, fresh cold air is better than the music you have to listen to when you’re on hold.

I hope my 2-3 regular readers are having a great week! I would love to hear about what you get up to in the wintertime in Seoul. Stay WARM! The bookstore in this post is called ‘Arc’n’Book’.

If you’re interested, the area in the map below is a great place to walk around and find things to do in Seoul! You can kind of just wander and end up in a cool, photogenic location!

A textural photo essay

Do you ever just wander the streets of your city and snap away with your camera phone, living like there’s no tomorrow? No? Nor do I? How bizarre. Obviously, I do, this was my cute little way to introduce something I feel weird introducing so I made a weird little joke at my own expense. I do this in real life, too. Don’t worry. I digress. Here is a little snapshot of a collection of all the things I like to snap on a weekly, daily or sometimes hourly basis. These are the kind of photos that don’t really make any sense in a blog post so I’m just going to whack them all together now for you. So, without further ado, I give you my textural photo essay from the past 9 months of my life living in Seoul, South Korea as a pretty amateur smartphone photographer.

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The January Newsletter

Good evening, Loyal Fan of my blog! I have decided to draw a visual, diary entry-style comic with a few of my drawings and photos from the month of January. I’m going to be doing this each month so I can have a nice little calendar of memories from ‘the year I moved to Seoul’. Who knows, maybe I’ll make them into a little zine at the end of the year? Wouldn’t that be crazy? Yes! Download the interactive PDF of my January Newsletter here and stick next to your office water cooler.

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Thank you for reading! I hope to see you next month!

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’

1976

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!)