Born in Korea in 1977 and adopted to Germany in 1978, Florian Bong Kil Grosse was first given a Korean name, Yoon Bong Kil. After three decades, he returned to Korea for the first time with a new set of eyes and language. In a location where his name is not so strange, his images are full of question marks. Hanging onto a precarious string of significance that may be placed upon one’s birthplace, Bong Kil records a culturally and physically estranged Korea with an objective gaze and an inevitable distance set up by his camera. Remembering Bong Kil’s comment about a certain intimacy of an unfamiliar place which ignited his curiosity, I come to wonder why all of a sudden such unremarkable sceneries feel so novel in Bong Kil’s photographs. For an artist who became Florian Bong Kil Grosse from being Yoon Bong Kil, his work portrays Korea as unusually tidy and tranquil. It can be assumed that his heart desires to find peace within the conventional image of Korea that is rather hectic and full of tumult. Therefore, his landscapes are not literal landscapes of Korea, but a metaphorical landscape of the artist’s mind. Florian Bong Kil Grosse’s new photographs taken in Jeju are not of Jeju either. He is rendering or seeking out a “landscape of the mind.” Although the phrase is a bit cliché, it befits Bong Kil’s images that unequivocally capture the topography of the mind, and makes it difficult to find an alternative expression to describe the work he has been creating during his residency at Next Door to the Museum Jeju. Nonetheless, the new series of work conceived on his third trip to Jeju is quite unforeseen. On his two previous trips, he focused on finding stillness within the nonnative surroundings of Jeju. Today, his attention is nowhere near the landscapes of his past interests. He withdraws from traditional landscape photography, and embarks on a language of abstraction by altering the images with a keen intention. Taking a step beyond discovering a composition within the existing landscape, an arduous process of how images are transformed and recontextualized according to the artist’s consciousness becomes part of the work.
The series Ivy Green, where the ivy willfully takes on different forms by enveloping an electric pole or a tree, reflects Bong Kil’s attitude toward creating a work of art. This summer, he watched the ivy’s resilient metamorphosis surviving through three typhoons. Facing an ever-changing natural landscape, final images of his new photo series creating nebulous forms of abstractions may continue to change pre and post exhibition. Bong Kil and his work may continue to greet the audience in an unfinished form, absent of any finality. Thus, let us together imagine the prospect of Bong Kil’s Landscape Beyond Landscape that is most vigorous in its transitory quality.
Presented by Yujin Lee, Next Door to the Museum Jeju
Sponsored by Jeju Self-Governing Province and Jeju Foundation for Arts & Culture