Anke Mellin. Interview with Ko,Seung-hyun, February 25th, 2005



1. How do you define nature?

I believe nature is created by god. Everything in the nature is perfect, the cycle of nature is a self sustaining system. For human beings sometimes damages, like Tsunamis seem to be judgements, decisions made by nature. My religion says nature, is made for human beings. But human beings also shall bring humanity to nature. Nature has potential energy in itself.
Nature is used for several purposes by those who have a good mind, but also by those who have a bad mind. We do not know about the future, how to continue, but I must say I worry.

2. How important is nature for you?

25 years ago I started to see and consider the nature through the art. It became very interesting and exciting and my curiosity for nature developed. Before I started doing artwork nature appeared in a different way. Throughout childhood nature was very simple to me. Through doing art it became more detailed. It was at a symposium at the Geumgang (footnote 1) where I started working with nature. Many questions arose: When and how did the river start? The sand- who made it? How is everything connected? At other places also I asked myself many questions about nature. Believing in my religion started at the same time and I thought about god, that nature is made by god, not by an explosion. Since then I love god but also I love nature. Through nature art I meet god and I will continue believing in god. Now I am interested in details focussing on nature and nature art.

3. Do you need nature?

Yes

4. How do you talk to nature?

I often stay alone, working, thinking, praying, then fresh energy comes to my mind, as an answer from nature. My mind is very silent and it leads me to positive thinking.

5. What does nature say to you?

Nature leads me to positive and open minded thinking. Already Everything of Nature has a message about life Nature everything. The mountains, the valleys, the forest and the river- to me the site is very important. Not only to me but to everybody, I think.

6. Is nature leading you to a certain behaviour?

Without nature I cannot develop artwork. My artwork is very simple, it touches simply emotions and causes reactions sometimes, it produces the contact to nature. I examine the nature, which is not interesting to everybody. For example I made a work with a spider. I held my hand behind a spider, took a photo and through this intervention I directed the view to the spider. I guide the people to see the nature with different eyes.
During ten years since 1991 the Yatoo Nature Art group (footnote 2) had meetings every four seasons, always in the same way. We met, made artwork related to the season and the site, and had discussions about nature art. This was very important for me and I want to continue, but also I want to develop having contacts to other artists and artist groups. During the first ten years we did not need to show our works, we did not need exhibitions. We wanted to find other ways to show our works to visitors.
Now the concept has changed, we use also material which does not come from nature, for instance as support for artworks in exhibitions. The presentation of nature art has changed too- but we use artificial material only to show the nature. (1991 and 1995 the Yatoo group participated in other countries.)

7. What do you do for nature?

I am sorry to nature! Sometimes very sorry, since I know making artwork means damaging nature. We, as human beings can decide how we use the nature, we have to control ourselves, we are conscious about problems concerning the nature. But finally the damage is acceptable, although we damage the nature, since the result is a work which leads us to nature.


8. Why are you working in nature?

9. What does working in nature mean to you?

10. The notion NATURE ART does not mean anything explicitly, what do you associate with it?


Me and the Yatoo group do think differently compared to other artists. Normally contemporary art (e.g. conceptual art) is logical, nature art is not logical. Nature Art is influenced by nature`s elements. When you go through a river, you follow the stream, the wind comes, the color is changing, you follow the natural cycle and it becomes a natural movement. Conceptual artist explain their work, many meanings are added, sometimes the recipient has problems to read or understand the work. But Nature Art is easy to understand, also children shall understand it easily, maybe only emotionally.

11. Which role does material play for you?

In my work material is very important. I follow what the material says to me: what kind of meaning does the material transport? Natural material is perfect. But I also utilize technical accessories. Another interesting aspect occurs by moving natural material to indoor sites. The contrast sometimes presents more than works realized by natural material presented in the nature.

12. Is the site important for you? Do you react to the site? Or are you looking for a suitable site?

The site is very important for me. Every nature`s appearance allows different feelings and experiences. The different materials cause different conditions, messages and ideas. For instance mountain sites have other messages than islands. Sometimes I like to visit an island where nobody lives. I get a fresh mind. Sometimes I want to go to new areas to get a new feeling.

13. Is the history of the place meaningful to you?

Sometimes natural history is important. The working material which I use says something to me. Moss, which needs a long time to develop, and very old roof tiles I like to use.
Living in Gongju, a historical city, with Sanseong Park as an important historical site means you are confronted with the past. At some places I feel connected to the past which causes strong impressions.

14. What does the duration of making an artwork mean to you?

When I was a highschool student I was drawing 5 hours per day. I could work 100 hours on one piece. Also books I was reading very slowly. But now it changed since my technique and mind are experienced. But regrettably times have changed- I face a lack of time now.

15. Does the place where you live influence your work?

Of course. I live in a small city, Gongju (footnote 3), and I like it. My life is imbedded in my family and I am part of the community and a member of the Yatoo group. The conditions in Gongju concerning education, natural and cultural conditions are satisfactory.

16. Does you work respond to reality?

My work does not deal with big cities life and environment. But I do not think deeply about this.

17. Is there any relationship to climate or weather in your artwork?

In Korea we had four explicit seasons. Each weather caused different feelings which changed the mind. E.g. Spring season gives another feeling than winter. The Yatoo group had meetings every four seasons since 1991. But remarkable changes took place which influence all nature artist and art.

18. For whom do you make artwork?

For my god- I cannot separate my self into different persons- every part of my being, religion and life, belongs together. 1991 I had a break in my work, I was focussing on religion and life, but also thinking about Christian painting.
Artists coming from foreign countries but also Koreans, are often interested in Korean culture, i.e. Shamanism. They believe that natural material contains god. But I am convinced that god is never part of the material. It makes me thinking, but I believe in god. I want to accept that each artist has his life and has to do his artwork. But for myself I am very strict against this concept.

19. Should you work be communicative?

Sometimes- this is changing very often. Sometimes I need to touch- that’s enough for myself. But sometimes I want to show it to others to provide the same experience for them. Sometimes I make photos or use another technique to pass the experience to others.

20. Should your artwork easily understood by everybody?

I do not know. But I want to compare it with the church. Sometimes the church is a very good messenger. The way in which topics are explained is very simple most times. Children and also old people get an easy access and deep impressions. Some messengers mix difficult words, use special sophisticated expressions as explanations. I do not like this way. For me also nature art should be easy to understand.

21. Should your work be only for people who are educated?

Sometimes it is ok and possible.

22. Is your artwork related to the region where you live or is it understandable to everybody, regardless of the visitors origin?

I like the regionality of artwork and want to develop locally imbedded works. I think we should continue making work which is influenced from the region. We are part of the region which formed our personality. Artwork should be personal.

23. Do you utilize art for some purpose to accomplish some meaning or to achieve something?


I am working for nature. In the beginning of my career I just was doing artwork; at this time nature did not play a big role in my work. But from 1981 nature became a topic as new, fresh and interesting. Environment and ecology was not included in my work, only the nature. Now these subjects are also becoming a topic.

24. How do you estimate the didactic and educational aspects of your work?

Should your work be educational? Yes, this is very important, but I did not find a way to realize. By having an artist in a residence program in Wongol (footnote 4) we can develop an educational program.

25. Which function does your art have?

Is it engaged in nature or does it explain the nature. Should it just be beautiful? Should the recipients become part of the artwork? My artwork shall attract visitors; looking at it should be interesting, comfortable, easy and simple. While I create a work I ask myself- do I need this object, this detail, is it necessary or can I leave it out? Other artists put many meanings in layers in their work, I want it simple.
It is my purpose that visitors touch and experience my work. They are invited to play the Kayagum (footnote 5) for instance.
In Chinese characters art means MISUL. Mi=beautiful, Sul=technique. Art in former times was beautiful, nowadays art is not only beautiful, it can include many connotations, many kind of messages about social life, environment etc.,etc.

26. Do you intend thinking towards nature?

Yes

27. Do you believe that art has some function?

This is very important. Also the officials believe in the importance of art but they do not support art as they should.

28. Do you think art should be mediated or does art function by itself?

Art can be a messenger between human being and religion, region and country, and also from the times past to nowadays. Reflections about what was going on in the past are encouraged by looking at art from the past. The thinking goes back and art makes the past understandable. Art is like a tree. Everything has its roots, branches and fruits, it depends on each other.

29. Is your intention to foster ecological awareness?

Only sometimes. I did not consider much about ecology. But the life of animals and insects is very interesting to me. I worked with shells and worms a few times. I observed the traces of insects in the bark of trees and leaves and made drawings.

30. Do you intend influence on emotion and mind by your work?

May be. I want to touch the emotional side in us and all the senses.

31. How do you see your artwork: Is every work a continuation of the former or is every work a new start?

The development of work continues from one work to another. Within a certain period my interest in a topic stays for maybe 3 or 5 years. Then another topic comes up which is connected to the former one. The variety of topics is widely angled but rooted in the same.

32. Is your work related to metaphors or symbolity?

It is not a symbol for anything.

33. How do you think about your colleages. Is there any potency or anything intensifying, and changing?

Yes, it is very helpful. The Yatoo group is together since 25 years. We understand and support each other. It was and is an interesting local nature art movement. As time passed by the group has changed, they become older, have a family and stressful jobs etc. but we still collaborate. Now the focus of collaboration lies in future concepts.

Footnotes:

1. Geumgang is the river which flows through Gongju in Chungcheongnamdo
2. Yatoo is a Nature Art group located in Gongju, Korea. They work together since 25 years.
3. Gongju is a city of 140.000 inhabitants, located in Chungcheongnamdo, from Seoul 90 minutes by car, in the South-West of Korea.
4. Wongol is the village where the Yatoo group owns a house and land. It became the centre of the Nature Art movement in Korea. It is located 40 minutes from Gongju in the west.
5. Kayagum is a traditional Korean string instrument which lays on the floor.