TEXT - ±ŰŔбâ
TITLE : Taro Amano, "Gazing at the World", 2011
DATE : 08/23/2011 02:55

In BOOMOON_SANSU & NAKSAN, Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul, 2011


Gazing at the World


Is it possible to say that the world is exposed? The world that can be apprehended through vision is always only the surface, and even if we know that structure lies hidden within, it is never easy to make this visible. We are connected to the natural world through mutual penetration, but that penetration itself remains in the realm of the invisible. For human beings, the world exists as a realm that can never be reached, while humans are not within the consciousness of nature.


Thus, Boomoon’s photographs, rather than exposing the world, can be seen as images that try to suggest the structure of the world. The details of the landscapes that suggest this structure are recreated, as I will discuss below, through a process that requires great perseverance. It is as if details that can be perceived by the naked eye were gazed upon, and the accumulation of gazed-upon details is made to suggest the image as a whole. Because, fundamentally, the naked eye cannot perceive an entire image at once, nor in minuteness. Now, the method of representing the whole, not by grasping the world through the laws of perspective, but through the rearrangement of parts, and parts grasped from multiple viewpoints, has been seen in the work of modern painters since the 19th century, particularly since Cézanne.


At the same time, Boomoon has chosen sansui (“mountains-water”, shansui in Chinese and sansu in Korean) as the theme for this exhibition. What these words call to mind is the suibokuga (ink painting) that developed in China, Korea, and Japan. It is not simply that sansui is the theme, but the composition of the frame itself also follows the form of ink paintings. For example, the extreme paring of both sides of the image to create a vertical layout is consistent with ink paintings. Suibokuga are landscape paintings, but they differ from landscapes in Western art in that they do not faithfully recreate actual scenes. Even when an actual landscape is used as the subject, details are made abstract and the entire image is deliberately transfigured. Here, importance is placed on how far a person can identify with spiritual meaning within the painting. The spirit of this type of literary artist is exemplified by the term gayû, which means to amuse oneself while staying put—to place oneself into the world of the mountains and water of the scroll painting and to enjoy the landscape from within. This could be called the act of penetrating the space between nature and oneself.


But ink paintings such as these are representations of actual landscapes. As such, they have a different character from photographic images that indicate the landscape itself. Boomoon took on this project fully aware of this difference between the painting/representation and the photograph/index. Boomoon actually employs a different methodology, particularly for large works, that is distinct from the method of taking one landscape with one photographic image. This is what I referred to as a process that requires perseverance. This process involves photographing a landscape that can be apprehended through vision and, shifting the viewpoint while maintaining a point of overlap with the previous image, continuing to photograph the landscape in sequence. It is not the shooting of one image instantaneously, but rather taking time, studying the scene with deliberation, and repeating the act of photographing. This is, as I have suggested, very much in the manner of CĂ©zanne, analogous to the process of capturing a landscape in its details while continually shifting the point of view.


In this way, Boomoon at first glance appears to follow the visual order that has been dominant in the West from modern times, in particular the relationship between the observing subject and the observed object that became fixed through the camera obscura, with the ensuing privileged status of the artist. Nonetheless, in the present day, when faculties of perception are understood to be producible, capable of manipulation, even capable of precognition, Boomoon had to engage images strictly introspectively, not with the assumption they would lay bare the world. This is because photographs and visual images—the camera and other visual image devices—have outstripped the transparent receptive model of the simple observing subject and his object, and have laden us with the opaqueness of physicality and unconsciousness. To counter the lineage of this Western visual model, Boomoon has summoned back one Eastern approach to landscapes, sansui.


Ordinarily, the act of observing, or gazing, certainly concentrates the visual consciousness and reveals the object more vividly than when one is casually “looking.” However, the act of concentrating one’s attention and focusing on one point will, in time, lead to a relaxation of consciousness and leave one ambivalent about what one was looking at in the first place, and why one was looking at it.

The vivid images that Boomoon presents interpose the camera, as if to elude the ambivalence of this kind of human visual activity. They emerge, so to speak, as a third form of vision.


I have described the images that are presented in ink painting landscapes as icons, as symbols. The viewer literally stands before the painting and searches the image. At the same time, he penetrates and identifies, for example, with a person standing at a hermitage in the painting, and he must appreciate the vista as it can be seen from that spot. The movement of one’s viewpoint, in this case, is not physical but must instead be on a metaphysical level.


It is now commonplace for pictorial images to be a visual experience imposed by controlled transmission systems. Boomoon is attempting to circumvent this environment and present the image itself in its proper form. At a time when all subjects are collected as pictorial images, reproduced, and distributed, he is attempting to awaken a gaze to be directed at the world anew. And Boomoon is attempting to recapture this gaze from the context in which it has been arranged and systematized, and to re-present it as one action of an individual human, to penetrate inside nature.


Taro Amano

(Translated from the Japanese by John Junkerman)