Michael Kenna captures Korea’s mysterious side

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Michael Kenna captures Korea’s mysterious side


“Tree and Slippers, Woljeongsa Temple, Gangwondo, South Korea” (2005) by British photographer Michael Kenna from his solo show “Korea - Part 1.” [GALLERY KONG]

Visitors to Gallery Kong in central Seoul may feel like they have finally found shelter from the noise and the dust.

The small, square black and white photos of calm landscapes now on view at the gallery, shot and printed by hand by the famous British photographer Michael Kenna, contrast sharply with the flood of big, flashy digital images we see everyday.

Kenna, who is best known to Koreans for his “Pine Trees” series which he took in Wolcheon Village, Gangwon, presents more than 50 photos in this solo exhibition entitled “Korea - Part 1.”

The works on view include a new “Pine Trees” photo which he took at Unyeo beach in South Chungcheong, as well as photos of a broken railroad and other ruins he found in the demilitarized zone.

“Photographing Korea is essentially an ongoing work-in-progress,” the 65-year-old artist wrote in a preface to the photo book for the exhibition. “I sincerely hope that some day soon I will have the opportunity to make more prints and exhibit ‘Korea - Part 2.’

“Between 2005 and 2018 I have explored and photographed here at least a dozen times, journeying North, South, East and West,” the artist also wrote. “I always enjoy locations that have mystery and atmosphere, perhaps a patina of age, a suggestion rather than a description, a question or two. South Korea has been a treasure for me in that regard as it has been inhabited for so long. Memories and traces are everywhere, in the air and embedded in the earth.”


“Floating Seaweed, Jeung-do, Shinan, South Korea”(2012) and “Watchtower, Study 10, Wolcheon, Gongwondo, South Korea” (2006) by Michael Kenna are part of the solo exhibition of the British photographer at Gallery Kong in central Seoul. [GALLERY kONG]

Kenna’s photos of calm, meditative seascapes taken with hours of exposure and snow-covered Buddhist temples suggest the dwelling of time and memories there.

Some of his photos of Korea, including those taken near the DMZ, also show the scars of Korean history and its lingering pains.

“Korea is still, technically, a country at war which dramatically and visually affects its appearance and atmosphere,” Kenna wrote in the preface.

“I had, for example, never before seen beaches protected by barbed wire. I found the lifeguard watchtowers became much more ominous the closer I got to the DMZ.”

He added, “South Korea has provided me with very interesting material to photograph. I cannot imagine what I would find in the North, but I truly hope that one day I get the chance to see for myself.”

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]

The exhibition runs through April 28. Admission is 5,000 won ($4.40). The gallery, located near the Blue House, is closed on Monday.

For details, visit www.gallerykong.com or call (02)738-7776.
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