|“PLT1A-033H,” 2002 by Bae Bien-u (Gana Art Gallery)|
Ever since pine trees launched photographer Bae Bien-u to global fame, they always seemed to remain his signature pieces.
But long before he began capturing pine trees, he had had a broad range of subjects in mind. Born in the southern coastal town of Yeosu, the artist was inspired by natural elements such as the sea, wind and trees.
Having photographed diverse landscapes for more than 20 years, Bae gathered pictures under the title “Windscape” for the first time and showed them in Paris, Berlin and Zurich last year. His works are particularly popular among Europeans because of their meditative and calligraphic quality.
|“OM1A-049H,” 2003 by Bae Bien-u (Gana Art Gallery)|
Some 30 works in his “Windscape” series are now being showcased in Korea at Gana Art Center in Pyeongchang-dong, Seoul until Oct. 27.
“Some of the photographs on exhibit have been shown before, but it’s the first time they come under the same title ‘Windscape,’” Bae told The Korea Herald at the exhibition opening last week.
“They are landscapes, but have a common feature ― wind. They are scenes taken on windy days,” said Bae.
Raised in a fishing village, Bae said he likes wind, especially the wind blowing from the sea.
“People are scared of wind. But the wind makes the sea complete. I like windy days on Jeju because the wind gives Haenyeo (women divers) and fishermen a break and plenty to harvest and fish when they go in after the wind stops. The wind helps the water circulate and bring more fish in,” he said.
Jeju landscape photographs consist of sea, small volcanic mountains covered in rich vegetation called “oreum” in local Jeju dialect, and grass and trees. It’s the wind that gives motion to the otherwise static landscapes.
Grass leans in one direction or the other; Jeju’s shoreline basalt rocks are covered in the flow, and the outline of a small mountain fades away in the gray-white sky.
Layers of wind movements are captured in long exposure, turning the invisible wind into an apparent feature of the landscape.
|“SEA1A-085H,” 2012 by Bae Bien-u (Gana Art Gallery)|
“Bae’s photography captures the essence of nature on film. One can detect the calm in the storm and the motion in rest in the rendering of the landscape. One can hear the rush of the water, smell the scent of grass, and sense cold or hot in this tranquil, temporary moment,” wrote art critic Jeong-hee Lee-Kalisch in the exhibition catalogue.
|Photographer Bae Bien-u at work|
Bae, whose success with pine tree photographs is often attributed to British singer Elton John’s purchase of one, denied that his popularity was all down to the singer.
“The Elton John factor is just gossip for people who want to make an interesting news story. My works became known to the international art scene after I had two exhibitions in Japan. The two exhibitions at the National Museum of Modern Art and Mito Art Museum gave me exposure to the global art world. Since then, I have been included in exhibitions featuring Korean modern and contemporary art,” Bae said.
The exhibition runs until Oct. 27 at Gana Art Gallery in Pyeongchang-dong, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 720-1020.
By Lee Woo-young (email@example.com