``Mythic Scape 18'' by Lee Jeong-lok
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Lee Jeong-lok grew up admiring the countryside and reveling in the beauty of nature. When he became an artist, it seemed almost natural that his subjects would be the rice fields, mudflats, lake and bamboo groves around his hometown of Gwangju.
Lee's exhibition at Gallery Kong shows 13 of his works from his ``Southern Land'' and ``Mythic Scape'' series, depicting landscapes around South Jeolla Province.
With its black and gray hues, the Southern Land series offers stark, almost desolate landscapes. He worked on the series from 1997 to 1998, traveling around the countryside in South Jeolla Province and taking photographs of the rice fields.
``I wanted to find out the origin of our land (in Korea) ... Everyone usually does European-style landscapes, but I wanted to capture a genuine portrait of our land. There is one photograph in the series where you can see the land was developed, but a traditional tomb was left untouched. You can see the idea of conflict, between development and conservation,'' Lee told The Korea Times at Gallery Kong.
A few years later, Lee began a new series of color photographs called Mythic Scape. This time, he focused his attention on lush green forests and bamboo groves, as well as foggy lakeside sceneries.
Lee, who considers himself a religious person, always tries to imbue his photographs with a deep sense of spirituality.
``I tried to depict emotions and spiritual imagination in that the sceneries inspired rather than recreated the scenery itself. … Every myth talks about another world that we believe co-exists with the real world we look at and live in. The other world has a powerful presence that we cannot see. The faith in this presence is basically the theme of this series, Mythic Scape, '' he said.
Perhaps the most striking images are of the trees, where the tips of branches seem to be glowing with fairy lights. In ``Mythic Scape 13 ― Tree of Life #1,'' a barren tree glows with soft lights while surrounded by a thin fog that enhances the work's mysterious quality.
He worked on the new series for a year-and-a-half until 2007. It took him almost three months to finish each piece because of the preparation involved in properly staging the photograph. Lee said he had to wait for the right time of day and weather conditions to be able to take a shot of a foggy landscape.
In order to create ``mythical atmosphere with a sense of modernity,'' he carefully incorporated props ― such as angel wings or a round, transparent ball ― into the natural scenery.
For example, ``Mythic Scape 18 ― Forest of Spirit #3,'' shows one of the balls placed amid bamboo trees.
In the future, Lee said he is looking to expand the ``Mythic Scape'' series, developing new works on a bigger scale and with more details.
Lee graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Gwangju University and a master's degree in photo design from Hongik University. He also has a master's degree in fine art photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, N.Y. As a graduate student at Rochester, one of his works was collected by international photography museum George Eastman House.
The exhibition runs through March 15. Visit www.gallerykong.com or call (02) 738-7776.