Nov 6, 2015

Ping-Pong and Pictures

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

The Neighborhood Artists - 15.Byungwoo Bae

Pictures, Style, and Daily Life

About Pictures

Pictures draw time and space from nature. It is to select, condense and show. So different eyes create different pictures. This is why all the pictures are different wherever they are taken at the same place. A picture is not showing as the world is, but interpreting the world. Only people who become a master based on a long-time training can show their own interpretation through a machine called a camera.

Byungwoo Bae, <byungwoo bae, picture with lights< /i>

To tell a story about photographer Byungwoo Bae, I cannot help starting with nature. His works began with nature and i guess will end with nature. The photographer from Yeosu spent his childhood in the blessed environment surrounded by sea and islands. He actually said the root of his ecological sensitivity is sea and islands in Korea. He is famous for a pine photographer but it is said that the first thing he took a picture of was actually the sea. Then while he took a picture in front of Naksansa in 1984 he encountered a pine like a destiny. At the very time, photographer Ties between photographer Bae and a pine began. He saw himself, Korea and furthermore modern people in Pine trees. He saw a human being in the nature of a pine, and a human being was what he faced eventually when looking at various natural objects such as sea, islands, volcanic cones, flower plants and so on. So it is a little bit inappropriate to interpret his way of working as a journey to see through the only root of nature. He considers nature not to be seized by human technology, and so the nature is the other’s territory which we can have a relation with. Therefore when we see his pictures, we had better focus more on how to take a picture than what to take a picture of.

About a Style

Photographer Bae gave an unexpectely wise answer to my silly question of how can we take a picture ‘well’. He said there are no pictures taken ‘well’ but just pictures of his or her own ‘style’. Then what is a style on earth? Of course it can be something that cannot be created voluntarily and actively because a style is built regardless of our consciously selecting. In this sense a style can be a kind of habits. So it is very difficult to define a term of a style but an obvious fact is that a style is more closely related with an art than anything historically. It originated from stylus, which was understood as ‘style of writing’ in literature. Then in 18th century when institutional rules on pure arts were set in Europe, a style started to be used as an important methodology to understand arts and today became informal terminology to use like a habit whenever we talk about arts.

In the late 19th century, Heinrich Wölfflin who is renowned for laying a foundation of style theory as a methodology in art history argued the importance of the concept of a style in earnest, saying “It is important for artists how to say rather than what to say.” But ‘how to say’ here should not be understood as cumbersome fopperies to decorate a substance. It implies unlimited possibilities of building various relationships which result from unfillable gaps between an object and a subject. The discussion has been expanded in 20th century as the crossover of daily life and an art happened frequently. Susan Sontag emphasized a style is inevitable in an artwork through her paper <about a style>. According to her, a prerequisite for a work of art is to distance the work from the real world the work reproduces, and a style is gestures of a human being caused between the distances. In this context, a style can be traces of arbitrary human behaviors which never go with a scientific causal relationship.

Lately Richard Shusterman stated his comment on somatic dimension that arbitrary behaviors of a human being take through his paper <somatic style>. To put it concretely, Shusterman emphasizes that we can never put aside a somatic dimension when building a ‘style’ suggesting a concept of ‘somatic style’. Somatic Style is an ingrained habit of individuals and groups and a habitual behavior pattern revealed through senses. But all habits cannot be a creative style and cannot lead to an artistic style.

Style, including somatic style, is a disposition or habit to perform or appear in a certain manner or set of ways. Though habits involve automatic mechanisms and can lead to ruinous routines, habits can also be creative in adapting themselves to new conditions and incorporating new elements and applications to improve their utility. Indeed, the power of habit depends on such creative adaptation, which ensures its reinforcement in a wide range of different conditions and uses.

In <an aesthetics of a style>,
Richard Shusterman and various authors


So following ingrained habits of artist Byungwoo Bae is just like entirely experiencing his style. On the day he opened his studio in Paju, we could meet his creative style originated from his habits as a human being.

Daily Life of Byungwoo Bae in his Studio

When I met the artist for the first time, he has told me that training his body and taking a picture have something in common. No wonder he said he cannot take a picture going around mountains and seas without strong body, but in the other hand this is the punch line to enlighten me he is taking a picture with not his eyes but his whole body. And I suggested programs to follow his everyday behaviors for the open studio. We planned to share his daily lives without flowery words.

He has worked in this studio since the beginning of artists’ village built in Heyri, Paju. He said he sometimes wanted a bigger studio but now was fully satisfied with the current studio because he thought there is no better and quieter place to work than here. Inside of the no-frills studio was a space with essential things well-arranged. There was an unnatural item placed surprisingly naturally. It was a Ping-Pong table. It occupied much space in the middle of the studio, and it was so natural that I could not notice it. The artist has continuously played table tennis since he was a teenager and that is the physical activity that he enjoys best so far. So on the day of his open studio, we had time for sharing his natural everyday life on the Ping-Pong table.

The artist prepared for the dinner three hours in advance, for participants who would visit his studio despite bad weather of chilly winds whistling through the rains. No, a few days ago he already ordered big and fresh cero from Yeosu, his hometown, and cero came to Paju as soon as it came up to the land from waters off Yeosu in the early morning. He looked as familiar and happy when he cleaned well-seasoned cero and made sushi as he is in front of the camera. He said he cooked by himself when staying in the studio. And he run a project to introduce famous restaurants which deliver a taste of Korea as a famous gourmet. When being asked if cooking is troublesome, he reproved me for being lazy saying that there is nothing more pleasant than cooking and eating for people who actually work to live. It was an autumn night when I made up my mind to live more creative lives.

Written by Nari Kim
(Creative Director/Art Critic)

Byungwoo Bae

Graduated from Graduate School of Fine Arts of Hongik Univ.
Graduated from College of Fine Arts of Hongik Univ.

Solo Exhibitions
2015 D’une forit l’autre, France Castle Chambord (Château de Chambord), France
Byungwoo Bae: Between Island and Forest, Gwangju Museum of Art, Gwangju
2014 Counterbalance, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwarf, Belgium
2011 Byungwoo Bae, Art Sonje Center, Kyungju
2010 Where God and Man Collide, Mozart House, Salzburg Festival, Salzburg
And others

Group Exhibitions
2014 Pines in Gyeongju, Castle Chaumont, France
2012 Old Future, Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul
2011 TRA: Edge of Becoming, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice
2009 INFINITUM, Palazzo Fortuny, the 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice
2008 Bozar Festival: Made in Korea, Bozar Art Center, Brussels
2006 Simply Beautiful, Centre PasquArt, Biel, Swiss; Grand Jardin, Joinville, France
1998 Alienation and Assimilation, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, United States
Korean Contemporary Art, House of World Culture(Haus der Kulturen der Welt), Berlin
1997 Inside Out, Ica, Philadelphia, United States
1996 The Facet of Korean Art in Nineties, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
And others

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Credits: All media
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