Why was I constantly humming Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” during my recent trip to Jeju? Maybe the Kim Young Gap Gallery holds the answer.
This is one of the least-publicised, least-touristy and best-hidden of Jeju’s museums. In fact I had never heard about it before my WKB tour, and to be honest, although interested, wasn’t 100% convinced of the appeal. Could 200,000 photos of Jeju landscapes really be that enthralling? On visiting the gallery, I became a true convert.
The photographs on display perfectly captured Jeju’s beauty, and each told a story (or poem) with a mesmeric quality, and without the need for any words. Kim’s talent and eye for beauty was immediately obvious.
And what was equally as fascinating was the story behind the artist himself. Kim was an eccentric, hippy character from mainland Korea. Like so many others, on visiting Jeju, he fell instantly fell in love with it, and spent the remainder of his life there.
From 1981, he dedicated himself to capturing the essence of Jeju’s nature in his artwork, and would camp in orum (hills / mountains) for days waiting for the perfect scene for a photograph. To feel completely at one with nature, Kim would also be naked while he worked. His ideology was to “take photos of the wind”, looking to catch a moment of movement forever, in the form of a still image. In this sense, his photographic artwork is the complete opposite of a “movie”. In keeping with the natural theme, he also included Jeju’s natural rocks and minerals in other aspects of his art such as sculptures and totems (on display in the gallery’s gardens).
Unfortunately, Kim was diagnosed with MS in 2001 and passed away in 2005. His memory strongly lives on through his artwork and the space devoted to it, and to this day, he has a dedicated movement of fans. The gallery itself is run by volunteers who admire the artist, and you can feel the essence of his style and philosophy in the arrangement and decor of the gallery building and grounds.
As I was so impressed by Kim’s photographs, I tried to take photos of them myself, but simply couldn’t replicate the characterful work that was before my eyes. I couldn’t help but be inspired and influenced by what I saw and heard, though.
I tried to be at one with the fruits and nature of Jeju (without nudity!):
- Full gallery details can be found here.
- There is still time left to vote for Jeju as a New 7 Wonder of Nature. Voting ends 11th November so place your vote at www.new7wonders.com now! 🙂