Axel Vervoordt Gallery is proud to present Bae Bien-U’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong 分合 - PART:MEET in which he will show new works from the Sonamu - Pine Tree series.
From the very beginning of his career as a photographer, the forest in the mountains of Gyeongju, where pine trees surround the royal tombs, has been Bae’s preferred subject. Pines carry a long tradition in Korean culture. The energy of life is believed to pass through them. They mediate between heaven and earth and are important in many rituals of life and death.
The ritual of coming and going, of man’s short “encounter” with and in life and nature, is expressed in the exhibition’s Chinese title 分合 (fēnhé). This phrase refers to a paradoxical meeting. It contains the signs for both separation (分fēn) and incorporation (合hé). An encounter always implies a parting; a presence holds an absence and the visible, what is unseen. (Human) nature is never fixed but always unstable and transforming between counterparts. Beautifully opposing forces are its drive. For Bae the pine tree forest is a metaphor for human society in which different forces continuously interact.
At once vibrantly energetic and comfortingly still, the pine forest is a balanced paradox. It appears to be peaceful and in perfect vertical balance, yet its surface hides a chaotic constellation of swarming roots. The forest is a kind of in-between space in which one experiences a mysterious equilibrium that is the result of a permanent process of balancing and counterbalancing between different states of being.
When Bae Bien-U presses the shutter, he captures this invisible process in a split second and condenses it into a photograph. The pine trees are caught in their true “here-and-now-ness”, they do not have a past nor a future but are most of all present in a space that transcends the physicality of real life’s paradoxical forces.
Bae’s ideas are enforced by the proportions of the photographs’ frame. For the first time since the 1980s, he decided to again use 6 by 6 negatives with a 1:1 ratio, instead of the panoramic 6 by 12 negatives. His choice for the 1:1 ratio is inspired by the deeper meaning it holds. 1:1 symbolizes a mystic experience, an opening in life to holiness. In many different cultures this ratio is symbol of (en)light(ment).
Bae’s photographs extend beyond their frames. They are openings. The viewer is invited to step into them, wander through the forest and encounter the equilibrium of nature in boundless transformation.