There is something so wonderful about seeing nature being used in an exciting way to make you smile, or dreamy or escape into a world which only existed in the pages of children’s books whilst growing up or dark films you watched as a teenager or unexpected moments during your travels. I think of them as visual serendipities.
The work of Korean Artist Myeongbeom Kim is something which has this sort of impact on me. Myeongbeom Kim received his MFA in sculpture from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. Previously, he studied environmental sculpture at University of Seoul, South Korea. His work has been exhibited in the United States as well as in South Korea.
Kim’s installations and sculpture contain both man-made and natural elements, with the aim to accomplish surreal and dream-like spaces. He often incorporates suspension and living creatures confined in light bulbs or helium balloons, to produce a sense of wonderment. Or adds branches and twigs in place of other features on animals or other objects.
The meaning of most works of art can change from person to person, this process fascinates me. The relationship between the artist, the message, the art and the viewer is in a continuous state of movement. What i really enjoy about Myeongbeom’s work is his ability to move through both – being very direct about some of his pieces, e.g. the dear with branches instead of antlers is a visual depiction of the animal and their surrounding – which in its surreal aesthetic brings a sense of wonderment. Whereas for other pieces, there is a journey that the viewer undertakes whilst viewing. These abstract pieces are vague, and push us to search for a meaning, a purpose, an executed message.
Besides the search for meaning, I thoroughly enjoy his focus on nature and his manipulation of so much of it. The combination of nature with the man made is often juxtaposed with the manipulation of nature itself to create something new altogether.
A number of his pieces remind me of the extraordinary bamboo root souvenirs I saw in the ancient town of Hoi An during my travels in Vietnam last autumn.
Bamboo roots are used to be burned as firewood in rural areas of Vietnam, since farmers only used trunks of bamboo trees for handicrafts or the building of houses. So it was fascinating for me to see the use these roots in a surreal and beautifully charming way.
The craftsman Dinh Xuan Hung, 40, was was born in the pottery village of Thanh Ha, started working in carpentry. He opened a store in an alley on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, just a few steps behind the Japanese Bridge, where he displays all his works of bamboo roots and wooden statues.
“It’s a chance for me. I started making my life in carpentry and wooden carvings 15 years ago, which I learnt from craftsmen in Kim Bong on the other side of the Thu Bon River. One day I picked up a bamboo root and looked at it curiously. I just created something for myself for fun, but it eventually took on features and a unique image. A cluster of bamboo roots looks like the long beard of an old man, so I sculpted the upper part to be the face of an elder,” he said.
Hung remains the only craftsman making souvenirs from bamboo roots in Hoi An town, producing 1,000 souvenirs each year.
Both Hung and Myeongbeom’s work makes me smile, escape, laugh and ponder. There is a beautiful aesthetic to each of them which I am drawn to. There is an effortless execution however a deep rooted craft or skill required to produce them making them so much more then just pieces of art by just another artist or a souvenir by just another local craftsman.
In the words of Hung, “it is easy to find beauty in ‘useless’ bits of nature’”.
© 2014 Shroomantices ~ Rahima Begum