Snappy Sunday in the Park With John & Co.

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Snappy Sunday in the Park With John & Co.

Yongsan Family Park, one of the best known parks in the capital, reopened to the public Thursday. This European-style park with its rolling hills and scenic ponds was originally used as a supply base by the Japanese military during its invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, and later by the United Nations Command and the United States Forces Korea during the Korean War. For many years after the war, until the Korean government took possession of the 89,100-square-meter site in 1992, the site was a golf course of the 8th Division of the United States Army.

The park has three ponds lined with willow trees, a "Barefoot Park" where visitors can walk without shoes along a pebbled path (the pressure of the small, round stones on your feet are said to be good for your health), a flag park and a botanical garden.

In an effort to create cultural spaces within the city, the park now has several outdoor artworks, too. Under the patronage of the British, Canadian, Swiss, French and German embassies, and numerous sponsors including Renault Samsung Motors and Laurence Geoffrey's Ltd. of Korea, nine artists from seven countries donated their works to the park.

According to Goh Kun, the mayor of Seoul, the contribution is a multinational effort done in appreciation of the Korean people. During the keynote speech at the opening of international sculpture garden, the mayor said he had been impressed with other cultural efforts, such as art exhibitions held in subway stations and on trains, and he announced that adjacent to the park, the Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Arts, due to open next year, is another important part of turning Seoul into a cultural center that embodies nature, environment, science and human beings.

The nine artists whose works grace the park are Canada's John Greer, Germany's Hubertus von der Golts, the United States' Christian Herdeg and Robert Rustermier, France's Edouard Sautai, England's Bill Woodrow, and Korea's Yi Gee-chil, Choi In-su and Choi Pyoung-gon.

Yongsan Family Park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. From October to March, it closes at 6 p.m. There are no snack bars inside the park.

For more information, contact Lee Jung-woo at Laurence Geoffrey's Ltd. (02-551-2741)

How to Get to Yongsan Family Park

Bus: No. 81-1, 797

Subway: Line No. 4, Ichon station exit No. 2

Car: The park is located on Seobinggo road. Parking available. 1,000 won (about 80 cents) for the first 30 minutes and 300 won for each additional 10 minutes.

"Gathering" (2001)

The Canadian sculptor John Greer's "Gathering" at first strikes you as resembling the dark shells of giant cosmic bugs you might see in "Star Wars." The shape of the three works, each 2 meters wide, is almost surreal as they stand against a green backdrop of a small forest.

To Greer, the creation symbolizes protective covers for the people, who come together to share ideas. When he was first approached to work on the family park, he said that he connected his ideas with family, with adults and children sharing nature and art, and protection as a basic family instinct.

He told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, "I speak through form, and I find it the most satisfying means of communication." To express what's on his mind upon arriving at Yongsan Family Park, he chose a particular spot where his work "Gathering" would be close to a small woods, a place that he considered sort of a wilderness.

"It's like you need to get out of urbanity once in a while, and collect your own thoughts," he said. To Greer, family is also about maintaining one's lifeline through those close to you, which is a common concern of all people.

The black-colored bronze works embody dichotomy. To the artist, "Gathering" is a metaphor for the human body and mind, and since each piece is split, they represent the opening of the mind. Greer suggests viewers go under the cover of the sculpture and see the world from inside. "It's like a rosebud. It bears a rising tension from within. It is about to split open and become light and be able to take off."

"Natural History" (2000)

The structure that resembles a tree stands upright and a metallic branch sheds drops of water. The artist Bill Woodrow said that it wasn't mechanically devised and that the pressure on the ground made the water shoot up. "It could be tears, or passing of time or positive life," he added.

Woodrow wanted to create something that sustains. Yet his presentation of life was a bit more than that. "A tree needs rain, but it sheds raindrops, so in a way it's a contradiction."

The form of the tree-shaped construction, which stands 6 meters, includes a pile of books. Viewers can imagine a narrative within the work. When creating "Natural History," Woodrow was imagining a distant future when human beings might miss trees, and so come up with something that resembles the tree they once knew. "It's a reconstruction of a tree. Maybe there would be no more trees left in the world, and one day, something sparks a memory about a tree in the future." But, the artist's vision is not limited to the future only; it goes way back to his personal past as well.

His works represent a process of sorting out what's in his mind. He likes to deal with narrative, bits of stories connected and networked in order to make a story. Looking at his work, he pointed out that "Natural History" is also about going back to the origin.

"The tree is after the original material of what the book was made from to begin with. It's a materialization of where or what the origin means."

by In? Cho

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