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Pandemic-weary seek solace in garden exhibition

"Holobiont” by Choi Jeong-hwa (Piknic)
Gardening has become a new trend recently as people start to turn their eyes to nature to seek comfort from it. Although gardening is not easy in South Korea as many live in high-rise apartment complexes, many are growing potted flowers and plants at home and take care of them as “pet plants.”

Why are we attached to plants and flowers? The exhibition “Gardening” at Piknic in central Seoul explores our psychology behind gardening and how we can interact with the nature. A variety of artworks as well as actual gardens are presented and philosophies of renowned landscape architects devoted to gardening are introduced throughout the show.

Visitors are greeted by “Holobiont,” an installation of colorful large kinetic plants, created by installation artist Choi Jung-hwa at the entrance to the exhibition. Walking through the kinetic plants, visitors may feel as if they were interacting with nature.

At the outdoor space is “Urban Forest Garden” designed by landscape architects Kim Bong-chan and Shin Joon-ho and built as a primeval forest. The plants featured include types of ferns that are found very deep in forests. 

“Urban Forest Garden” by Kim Bong-chan and Shin Joon-ho (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
“Urban Forest Garden” by Kim Bong-chan and Shin Joon-ho (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
"In a temperate region like Seoul, flowers do not last for more than 20 days. So this is a place where gardens need to be beautiful even without flowers. You take a plant that grows in an actual primeval forest and put it in Seoul in spring or fall. It will not survive,” Kim said in a video. “I wanted to show the true life of the forest, and I asked myself what I would need to do to achieve that (for the exhibition).”

British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was one of the most influential garden designers in history. Creating more than 400 gardens in Europe and the US, her works have become the cornerstone of today’s garden design theory, according to the museum. Her books that offer gardening tips are also on display.

“The lesson I have thoroughly learned and wish to pass on the others is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives,” reads a statement by Jekyll that is displayed on a wall. 

"Exceeded Scenes” by Goo Gi-jeong (Piknic)
In Korea, garden designer Jung Young-sun is a first-generation landscape designer who has created gardens at popular attractions such as the Seoul Arts Center, Seongydo Park, National Museum of Korea and Asian Park in Seoul. The exhibition shows blueprints of her garden designs and her design philosophy.

The exhibition leads to the rooftop where a garden designed by Jung with plants and flowers native to Korea, including tress that grow on Namsan and Seongbuk-dong area in northern Seoul. 

A garden at Piknic designed by garden designer Jung Young-sun (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
A garden at Piknic designed by garden designer Jung Young-sun (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
"There is an ironclad rule in Korean gardens that you should have low walls or fences so that you bring the surrounding landscape into your garden. The scenery of a mountain, stream, rice paddy, or whatever that is becomes part of your garden. Making most of the surrounding landscape is very important,” Jung said in a video. “I showed a Korean-style garden here with that philosophy for younger generations to experience it.” 

A garden at Piknic designed by garden designer Jung Young-sun (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
A garden at Piknic designed by garden designer Jung Young-sun (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
The exhibition also introduces renowned artists, novelists and film directors who were inspired by gardening, such as Korean novelist Park Wan-suh (1931-2011), American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), German novelist Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) and English film director Derek Jarman (1942-1994).

"The exhibition runs through October, so visitors may have different feelings depending on the season in which they visit,” said Kim Ji-eun, a public relations official of the museum.

Online reservation is required at bit.ly/piknicG and tickets are priced at 18,000 won.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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