Psychology and its relationship with nature came into focus for a photography exhibition held at Artspace C in Tap-dong, Jeju-si.
The display can perhaps be described as the result of an awakening by Ko Hyun Joo, who took up photography some 16 years ago.
It was the second of her Jungsangan exhibitions - she held one in Seogwipo, her hometown, in 2015. The displays are the creative result of a time of pause, for reflection and re-evaluation of life following a severe bout of depression.
Jungsangan means Jeju's backbone and, as symbol of strength, it came to symbolise support as she picked herself up from troubled times.
The Jungsangan is also the mid mountain region of Mt. Halla where one can find not only grassland and farms but also oreum and gotjawal forests.
▲ Jungsangan Photo by Ko Hyun Joo
Finding solace from her illness through experiencing the natural landscapes of the island, she began to focus her lens on them.
Ever present in her work is nature - be it the sea, coastline or forest. Yet, the focus is not simply the landscape, nor the lone person within the scene. Rather it is the figure’s gaze that captivates the viewer.
The solitary figures silently gazing into the distance away from the camera’s lens are various middle aged women.
But the photographs also represent Ko being at one with nature, enveloped by the land or the sea about her.
The subject stands motionless in reflective mood, purposely placed far from the camera as a small figure among her environment. By doing this the photographer aims to show completeness is gained by being one with nature.
▲ Jungsangan Photo by Ko Hyun Joo
By appearing small compared to the larger, all embracing landscape around her she aims to show triviality in human existence and its relatively short timeframe compared to the infinity of nature.
She also attempts to force the viewer to step back and see the figure in a wider expanse.
This sense of 'stepping back' is linked with Taoist philosophy of retreating all thoughts and the mind from the secular world to gain aesthetic freedom.
Staring into the distance seems to represent gazing into infinity and the condition of nothingness - the same condition before creation and the final mental stage.
Art critic Youngtaek Park, a professor at Kyunggi University, says of her work: "Ko Hyun Joo’s pictures are not about objectification of Jeju's natural beauty. The core of the pictures are not the figures but the figures' gaze.
“They stand gazing somewhere. But their gaze is free from nature. Standing with one's back to us and against nature, their gaze means infinity and emptiness."
Ko Hyun Joo's Jungsangan exhibition was held from at Artspace C, Tapdong, Jeju City from June 8-18.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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