Exhibitions

Huge photographs of Iceland’s greatest waterfalls shown for the first time

All images © Boomoon, courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York

A new series of large-scale photographs of Skogar Falls, Iceland, by South Korean photographer Boomoon, will be shown in the UK for the first time in a solo exhibition at Flowers Gallery in East London.

The exhibition “presents the powerful elemental force of the waterfall as the subject for Boomoon’s take on the ungovernable character of the natural world,” Flowers Gallery said in announcing the exhibition.

The exhibition, titled Skogar, brings together a selection of black and white photographs from a series of 300 exposures.

Each is taken from the same frontal viewpoint, capturing distinct variations of light and form within the momentum of the huge waterfall.

Skogar #911, 2015, Pigment Print, 140x180cm (c) Boomoon, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

To capture the shot, Boomoon had to enter the freezing water of the pool below the falls to attain a position where the ‘horizon’ would be situated precisely at the lower third of the frame.

The photographs are composed horizontally, contrary to the essentially upright configuration of the waterfall itself, and are cropped closely to exclude all peripheral detail and sense of scale.

He did so to present “an immersive view, which appears to extend beyond the limits of an individual standpoint or subjective experience.”

Boomoon, Waterfall #2069, 2015 (c) Boomoon, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

Whilst taken from the same position, each image records the discrete changes in focus and detail from one unique moment to the next; the shifting cascades and veils of spray providing “a complex and evocative layering of the image.”

Born in Daegu, 1955, Boomoon currently lives and works in Seoul and Sokcho, South Korea. Having commenced his artistic studies as a painter, Boomoon began to explore photography in the early 1970s and enrolled in the Photography department at Chung-Ang University, Seoul.

Throughout the 1970s, Boomoon recorded the rapid transformation taking place in Korean society, looking at deserted villages and the heightening contrast between rural and urban communities.

Since the 1980s, Boomoon has produced large format photographs of vast expanses of sea, sky and land. He sees this, he says, “as a means of self-reflection.” Charlotte Cotton, the celebrated curator, has described Boomoon’s work as allowing us to contemplate “the unknowable and uncontrollable character of nature.”

Poet and critic Shino Kuraishi has likened Boomoon’s approach to photography as the “pursuit of the sublime” in Northern Romanticism, particularly the work of German painter Caspar David Friedrich.

The Romantic movement, in both art and literature, has tended to dramatise contrasts between man and the natural world, seeing the two as distinct forces often caught in conflict.

Boomoon’s photographs lean towards “a more totalised assimilation of the self within nature,  resonating with the pursuit of the sublime within the Minimalism movement.”

Skogar #384, 2015, Pigment Print, 140x180cm (c) Boomoon, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

According to Kuraishi, Boomoon’s photography dispenses with a sense of the passage of time between the distinct past and future – focusing us instead to consider the power of present moment.

“The destination or the end of time is permanently postponed. The waterfall keeps falling self-recursively, aimlessly, and meaninglessly carrying the undetermined present,” Kuraishi says. “The waterfall descends defying associations of any other place and any other time.

“In the minimalist waterfall captured by Boomoon, I as an observer am liberated from the bondages of both the identity of the ‘artist’ and the ‘work’ and the identity of ‘another self’ chained to the system of appreciation. The falling waterfall declares my freedom. ‘I’, facing the waterfall, am free.”

Also on view will be selected works from the series Sansu, including the exceptionally large-scale photographic print Untitled #18134,

Inje, spanning ten metres in length, which was first displayed in the Salon D’Honneur at Paris Photo 2015. Each of the photographs on show will be displayed for the first time in London.

Sansu, meaning ‘mountain-water’ in Korean, is a core concept centred on a metaphysical union with nature, in the representation of landscape in Far-Eastern aesthetics.

Boomoon’s contemporary vision of Sansu comprises of mountain landscapes and forests blanketed by snow, often presented in large scale, balancing an intense clarity of detail with atmospheric passages of snowfall and mountain mist.

Bomoon, Untitled #18134, Inje, 2011 (Detail) (c) Boomoon, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

Boomoon has exhibited internationally in South Korea, Japan and Paris. His work is exhibited as part of the permanent collections of the Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul.

From October 2013 to January 2014, a retrospective exhibition of Boomoon’s major landscape series, titled Constellation, was held at the Daegu Art Museum in South Korea.

Boomoon will be exhibited at Flowers Gallery, London, from 18 May – 25 June, 2016.

More information available here.