Not currently on display at the V&A

SNM-012H

Photograph
2014 (printed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Bae Bien-U is a self-taught photographer from South Korea, known for his large scale, black and white photographs that capture the atmosphere of Korean landscape. In the 1970s, Bae trained as a designer at Hong-Ik University, and was influenced by Moholy-Nagy’s light experiments and Edward Weston’s still-life imagery and nature photographs. In 1988, he was invited by Professor Gottfried Jäger to spend one year as a photography researcher at Bielefeld University, Germany. Travelling extensively throughout South Korea, Bae photographs seascapes, mountains, and other natural scenes, particularly pine forests. His specific interest in pine forests stems from his quest for a Korean identity as an artist in a post-war, dictatorial period. For him, the pine tree embodies the same qualities that characterise Korean people: ‘eagerness, perseverance through years of conflict, and spirituality’. His works are held in the public collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.

‘Sonamu’ (Pine Tree) series
The pine tree is an age-old subject that carries various meanings in Korea. During the Joseon Dynasty (1391-1910), it was associated with literati culture, epitomising dignity, integrity, and longevity. Its trunk was used to build palaces and temples, its branches to decorate the house of a new-born, its needles, bark and pollen to prepare ceremonial dishes, and its ashes to make ink cakes. In the Three Kingdoms period (57BC-668), the pine tree was believed to be a divine being accompanying the soul of the deceased to heaven, or a messenger delivering one’s wishes to the gods. The departed was therefore buried in a pinewood coffin, and pine trees were planted nearby the tomb.

Bae is especially drawn to the lush pine forests in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom (57BC-936). The trees here are planted on the hills surrounding the city as memorials to the kings of the Silla dynasty. Over the past 30 years, Bae visited the same place at different seasons, times and weather conditions to record the numerous facets of the forests. The subsequent ‘Sonamu’ series, started in 1984, has come to define Bae’s aesthetic identity. His abstracted composition of contorted trunks recalls the wide range of brushstrokes and ink washes found in traditional Korean landscape paintings. He is also known for not retouching his photographs, echoing the practice of traditional landscape paintings that were made in one sitting.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleSonamu (Pine Tree) (series title)
Materials and Techniques
Gelatin silver print
Brief Description
Photograph by Bae Bien-U, 'SNM-012H' from the series 'Sonamu (Pine Tree)', 2014, gelatin silver print
Physical Description
A black and white photograph of pine trees in a forest
Dimensions
  • Paper mount height: 246mm
  • Paper mount width: 202mm
  • Height: 1250mm
  • Width: 2500mm
Production typeLimited edition
Credit line
Purchase funded by Samsung
Summary
Bae Bien-U is a self-taught photographer from South Korea, known for his large scale, black and white photographs that capture the atmosphere of Korean landscape. In the 1970s, Bae trained as a designer at Hong-Ik University, and was influenced by Moholy-Nagy’s light experiments and Edward Weston’s still-life imagery and nature photographs. In 1988, he was invited by Professor Gottfried Jäger to spend one year as a photography researcher at Bielefeld University, Germany. Travelling extensively throughout South Korea, Bae photographs seascapes, mountains, and other natural scenes, particularly pine forests. His specific interest in pine forests stems from his quest for a Korean identity as an artist in a post-war, dictatorial period. For him, the pine tree embodies the same qualities that characterise Korean people: ‘eagerness, perseverance through years of conflict, and spirituality’. His works are held in the public collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.



‘Sonamu’ (Pine Tree) series

The pine tree is an age-old subject that carries various meanings in Korea. During the Joseon Dynasty (1391-1910), it was associated with literati culture, epitomising dignity, integrity, and longevity. Its trunk was used to build palaces and temples, its branches to decorate the house of a new-born, its needles, bark and pollen to prepare ceremonial dishes, and its ashes to make ink cakes. In the Three Kingdoms period (57BC-668), the pine tree was believed to be a divine being accompanying the soul of the deceased to heaven, or a messenger delivering one’s wishes to the gods. The departed was therefore buried in a pinewood coffin, and pine trees were planted nearby the tomb.



Bae is especially drawn to the lush pine forests in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom (57BC-936). The trees here are planted on the hills surrounding the city as memorials to the kings of the Silla dynasty. Over the past 30 years, Bae visited the same place at different seasons, times and weather conditions to record the numerous facets of the forests. The subsequent ‘Sonamu’ series, started in 1984, has come to define Bae’s aesthetic identity. His abstracted composition of contorted trunks recalls the wide range of brushstrokes and ink washes found in traditional Korean landscape paintings. He is also known for not retouching his photographs, echoing the practice of traditional landscape paintings that were made in one sitting.



Associated Object
E.91-2015 (Series)
Collection
Accession Number
E.92-2015

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record createdFebruary 24, 2015
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