Feeling a painter’s breath
The genre, which literally means “mountain water” in Chinese, is the opposite of today’s values in the art world.
While contemporary art screams for attention with materials and visual concepts that borrow inspiration from the most unlikely sources, Shan Shui maintains purist aesthetics, keeping visual elements that might potentially stimulate viewers to a minimum.
That’s what makes Park Byoung-choon’s “Collected Mountains and Water” at Ssamzie Space so interesting, because he plays around with Western artistic practices while sticking to the principles of Shan Shui.
Instead of drawing imaginary landscapes based on the genre’s most hallowed conventions, Park tries to capture the natural landscape. In fact, many traditional Shan Shui painters did the same, creating artistic travelogues.
In Park’s works, the mix of modern- day nature and everyday moments ― such as a tiny drawing of a couple holding hands ― make up a playful mix of reality and tradition.
In “Accumulated Shan Shui,” he fills the gallery’s entire wall with drawings of mountains and waterfalls from his journeys to India and Israel. A lot of the scenes include small objects that hint at the artist’s memories about each place.
This departs from traditional Shan Shui approach in which artists present an objective view of the natural world and neglect whimsical additions.
Park cuts black rubber into thin strands and uses them in a collage of mountains. In “Noodle Landscape,” the crushed contents of 300 bowls of instant noodles are used to create a forest landscape. In “Butcher Shop” Park explores the mystery of traditional Shan Shui by putting giant drawings on meat hooks hanging from the ceiling, mimicking butchered meats.
Viewers will almost be able to feel the breath of the Shan Shui painters as they swim across a sea of hanging paper and spread apart the drawings with their hands to see the entire picture.
“Collected Mountains and Water” runs through Dec. 4. For more information call (02) 3142-1593.
By Park Soo-mee Staff Writer