Exhibits put focus on the simple beauty of plants

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Exhibits put focus on the simple beauty of plants

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Left: A snapshot of “A Little Something...,” a three-minute, single-channel video by Natasha Frisch. Right: “Mirabilis jalapa” by Yoon Bong-sun Provided by the galleries

In the hustle and bustle of urban life, it can be easy to miss the beauty around us. Beauty can be as simple as small plants that blend into the background so well that we hardly notice their existence, let alone take the time to appreciate them.

In order to foster more plant appreciation, several art exhibitions in Seoul have arranged displays inspired by the natural world. The artworks show us the common beauty found in plants and redefine the relationship we have with them.

In “Our Forest: Yoon Bongsun + Yokoyama Mieko,” a two-person exhibition at Shinsegae Gallery, you can see the care and love that the two artists have for nature, though their way of expressing that love diverges.

Yoon Bong-sun, a botanic miniaturist who draws detailed illustrations of plants, says his affection for living organisms has been the driving force behind his work for the past 20 years. His artworks are simple but precise paintings of familiar plants like bracken, pasqueflower, iris and more, and each is painted in watercolors on separate pieces of white canvas.

“I consider the object of my drawings as my other self,” said the 51-year-old artist at a press conference held in Shinsegae Gallery in central Seoul on Thursday. “Due to that special relationship, I treat each plant with utmost sincerity.”

Yoon replants his subjects when he is finished painting them and keeps each painting covered in hanji, a handmade traditional paper, to prevent wear and tear.

Yoon shares his attitude toward nature with Mieko, a Tokyo-born florist who runs a weekly flower academy in Japan and makes wreaths with the materials she collects throughout the year.

"I think it is our privilege to be able to enjoy the forest no matter where we live. With that in mind, I make my own forest with wreaths, appreciating and enjoying every process,” said Mieko.

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She usually makes wreaths in Japan with dry flowers, but for her first Seoul exhibition, she included fresh, vibrantly colored flowers and local materials such as jujube, which she bought at Gwangjang Market. Other materials such as basil leaves, red berries and dried roses take away the common notion that wreaths are only for Christmas.

When asked about how she thinks her artwork should best be preserved, she answered with a puzzled expression.

“It’s up to people’s own opinion how they will enjoy nature and art and to decide what to do with it. What is important is the process, not the aftermath,” she said.

Following in the vein of plant exhibitions, “Flora Society,” held in Gallery Factory in Jongno District, central Seoul, explores not only plants’ appearances, but also their relationship with humans.

Five artists provide their interpretation of the natural world and our connection to it in various forms, ranging from installation art to DIY workshops.

For example, Natasha Frisch, an Australia-based paper artist, created a three-minute, single-channel video showing a paper plant next to bushes and grass on the sidewalk.

The subtle manometers shown in the video seem to make the artificial plant almost blend in with the real ones.

*“Our Forest: Yoon Bongsun + Yokoyama Mieko” runs through May 12. Admission is free. Hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday; Friday to Sunday hours are extended to 8:30 p.m.

Shinsegae Gallery is located on the 12th floor of Shinsegae Department Store’s main branch. Hoehyeon Station, line No. 4, exit No. 7. For more information, call (02) 310-1924.

“Flora Society” runs though April 20. Admission is free. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday to Monday. It’s closed on Mondays.

Gyeongbokgung Station, line No. 3, exit Nos. 3 or 4. For more information, call (02) 733-4883 or visit www.factory483.org.

BY JIN EUN-SOO, CONTRIBUTING WRITER [estyle@joongang.co.kr]



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