The List of Landscapes

Haven, the Spectacles of Modern Society​

 

Seung-Gu Kim focuses on sights that we can easily come across in our daily lives, shedding new light on those sceneries found in the city and its surroundings as seen through the eyes of an artist. To compensate for the disappearing nature, the city’s landscapes are being replaced with man-made modifications that create an environment that is seemingly familiar, yet is a rather awkward and stilted when scrutinized. Kim hones in on such sights, and thus our modern society, through the artificial transformations that have come to stand in for its natural counterparts. Due to rapid dustrialization, modern society has largely lost its natural habitat, its original state continually fading away with time. In a city where nature has lost its place, artificially created rocks, trees, parks, and landscapes are being installed as an attempt to hold on to and appreciate the disappearing natural beauty. The artist goes round to places like parks of residential apartment complexes or festive events in the outskirts, in search of and to contemplate over such unnaturally designed “naturally” symbolic objects.

 

In his exhibition The List of Landscapes, Kim simply captures and shows the city and its outskirts in their changing states through seasons, sights that are usually dismissible as they are too familiar. He also seeks out and observes nature themed festivals about light, ice, flowers, etc. that people turn to fill their need for nature. The people who flock to such festival in search of nature and respite are ironically met with artificially constructed lights, ice formations, fountains, trees and landscapes. The artist realizes that blinded by the pectacular lighting and visual aesthetics, people convince themselves they are witnessing natural beauty, and busily capture those moments in pictures. Observing the people who are comforted by the synthetically created environments – the ice formations deliberately created by pouring water, man-made fountains, and greenery that have been intentionally planted between rocks for a picturesque look – the artists contemplate about the emotional and sentiments of people of modern society.

 

His work <Jingyeong sansu> is a reinterpretation of the classical Korean landscape painting style with an urban twist. Instead of the traditional Korean giwa and choga houses that are surrounded by mountains and waters, Kim’s version shows man-made or arranged gardens, fountains, rocks, etc in and around apartment complexes, capturing them in film to convey opposing meanings. Through the work the artist reveals his understanding of the reality of our society, where people living in cities that can be rather bleak actually take solace, if only for a moment, from the colorful artificial structures. In <Bamseom>, Kim has captured the scenery of the long neglected island of Bamseom, to show how nature rejuvenates with time and passing seasons. He has been interested in isolated areas within the city that have been out of people’s reach thereby managing to maintain their natural wilderness, such as the Saetgang Natural Park, Nodeulsum island, etc. He has diligently observed their sceneries, noting how they change over time. An island that was blasted for city development in the past has now become an island filled with greenery. Kim expresses a sense of emptiness through the concrete filled devitalized image of the city seen from the island as it is in such contrast with the green image of the island visible from the city.

The artwork of Kim represents his view on how artificially created "nature" is readily taking the place of real nature that continues to disappear in the city. For this exhibition, Kim inventoried pictures of city landscapes he has observed and collected for a long time to present to viewers in an attempt to induce them to contemplate about what people of modern society feel comforted by and what they are emotionally drawn to.

By Hae-Ni Park, Laurence Geoffreys