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TITLE : Kim Airyung, Preface to "Boomoon_Sansu & Naksan", 2011
DATE : 08/23/2011 02:56

In BOOMOON SANSU & NAKSAN, Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul, 2011                        


Sansu and Naksan, the new solo exhibition of Boomoon featured in two independent spaces, displays an array of new works entitled Sansu and Naksan, partly shown in Korea and elsewhere since 2007.

The Sansu series is Boomoon’s most recent work and simultaneously a much expected vertex the artist has attained since the late 1970s, when he found his way into the photography of plain landscapes without any human presence. It may seem surprising that a theme as imbued with cultural and historical implications as sansua core concept in the representation of nature in Far Eastern aesthetics, which means “mountain and water” - was chosen by Boomoon, who adheres to a modernist stance, and thus pays attention to the specificities of the medium and emphasizes the sincerity of attitude and the immanence of expression. That is why it seems important to underline that Boomoon’s Sansu has nothing to do with the postmodern historicism or hybridization.


Boomoon has always considered the pursuit of photographic images as a methodology and as the result of "standing in front of the object." He compared the landscape with “a cloud afloat in the wind”: “it takes form in accordance with the receptiveness of my spirit and my capacity for interpretation. Fluid, it fluctuates; it is a process of exchange between me and the visible world.”¹ Therefore, viewing landscapes ultimately means discovering and reflecting upon oneself, and the images coming out of such an experience can be “a frightening, lonely mirror.”  In traditional aesthetics, sansu was equally considered as the materialization of the Confucian value of ren, and of the Taoist value of tao. Contemplating and depicting sansu meant opening and purifying one’s mind and soul. At the intersection of the traditional concept of ‘mountain-water’ and Boomoon’s Sansu, dwells the idea of ‘image as an attitude.’ 

The stillness and the solitude emanating from the works of Boomoon do not only depend on the fact that there is no human presence. The viewers in front of the works are themselves utterly left alone. That’s a sine qua non to experience a landscape. Solitude has to be overcome to stroll in the image. “In my works, the place for people is not in the image but in front of it, where I stood with my camera, and which is open to everybody.” Big size is a necessary apparatus to allow the viewer, including the artist himself, to stand once again in front of the scene, at the departure point of the landscape experience. The technical and physical efforts required by big size photographs would simply be impossible without the mind of “serving and respecting the image that comes to me.”


Photographers produce images mediated by machines like cameras and printers, unlike painters who are completely free in front of the canvas. Moreover, it is not easy to find an untouched scene with the fervent development in today’s Korea. In fact, landscapes captured through the camera are the only ones which can induce the “culminating moment of a complex experience with the world” the artist is looking for; hence they become the “way that reveals fantasia.” It is all the same for the Naksan series. Boomoon occasionally took pictures on the seashore of Naksan since 2000 but he encountered the true faces of the place amidst the heavy snows of 2005 and 2010. The site comes to us in his photographs as an immense spiritual landscape, beyond the geographical location called Naksan on the Korean east coast.


Today, everyone produces and consumes photographic images. Digital technology blurs the boundaries of reality and creates other realities. Photography seems to enjoy prosperity and a newly established market. Yet it faces a great confusion about its identity, its definition. With the invention of photography, painting was relieved from its duty of representation and was thrown into an unpredictable adventure. Likewise, photography, being destabilized in its function and validity as an index, opens up possibilities as a self-reflexive artistic discipline. The era of defining the value of photographs with subject matter and story-telling content is ended. That should be dealt with in domains which need narration and communication. Photography as a contemporary art is self-reflective. The author’s consciousness about the process of making images and its results is decisive. As the image production has to entail mechanical intervention and systematic organization, the artist has to be aware of multiple aspects of the present world. However a photographer still has the privilege to work with the world before him. In this context, Boomoon’s works are precious examples of convergence between the artist’s vision and contemporary technology, in order to create an image both real and mental.


Kim Airyung

 (Translated from the Korean by Ginny Kyung In Chung)



1. All quotations from the artist are excerpts from undisclosed interviews organized by the author between 2007 and 2008 with the art historian Catherine Grout.

2. Shino Kuraishi, “Snow, Sea, Light”, Naksan, Nazraeli Press, Portland, 2010