BAE Bien-U

It has passed thirty-seven years since my photographic journey stated in the age of twenty. My twenties were the times for an inner journey under the influence of the works of American landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams or Edward Weston and the writings of the Bauhaus professor Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; my thirties, in turn, were spent in an external (or world) journey searching for traditional painters of the Far East, which led me to convince that it is only the natural environment and tradition where the artist lives that forges his own unique artistic vision.

The Chinese painter and calligrapher Dong Qichang(1555-1636), whom I met in books during the period, observed that an artist can acquire qiyun shengdong, or the lifelike spirit if he reads ten thousand books and travels to ten thousand ways, even though he is not endowed with it. If all of my long journeys, readings, and paintings are founded upon such belief, it surely comes from Dong Qichang’s thoughts.

The photographic journey in my twenties gradually moved from the general natural environment of Korea to the more specific ones like Korean pine trees, the oreums(parasite volcanoes), the sea and the sky of Jeju island in Korea, the Jongmyo royal ancestral shrine, and recently, even the Alhambra Palace in Spain.

In my thirties, I came to know Gyeomjae Chong Son(1676-1759), a pre-eminent painter in the Joseon Dynasty. He depicted the native scenes of Korea inspired by true representations of actual landscapes in the cultural renaissance of the dynasty.  Indeed, the pine trees found in most of his paintings vividly represent what they meant in the nature and life of Korea.

Considering the camera as a modern version of the brush, I am describing the Korean landscape with the former instead of the brush of the Joseon period. My most known and important work is the pine tree series, which started in my early thirties and still continue until now. In particular, the series about pine trees in Gyeongju is going on for more than twenty years. The pine trees in the royal tombs in Gyeongju were the object of worship as the passage or medium through which human souls (the Kings) go to the heaven, as the Japanese people sanctified pine trees as the place where god descends.

I hope that my works could succeed to the tradition of the English Romanticist painter Caspar D. Friedrich (1774-1840)’s Morning(1821), Dong Qichang’s The Qingbian Mountains, and Tohaku Hasegawa’s folding screen of  Pine Grove in order to be born as a landscape of novelty. I believe this will contribute to showing that the Koreans’ cultural gene is universally common and thus appeal internationally, as well as offer an opportunity that the spirit of pine tree will inspire the culture and art of the Far East.