Merry Christmas to the four people who consistently read my blog! I hope you had a great time with loved one(s) and reflected on the year we’ve just had. I have been absent on my blog due to visa struggles and moving house! All of our dilemmas have been solved and we are back to our happy normal life selves. My husband and I recently ventured further south east to Yongin in Gyeonggi Province. We feel so excited to move a little further from Seoul away from the chaos…
Today, we spent our afternoon gliding around City Hall’s ice skating rink in an attempt to enact Frozen 2 on ice. It was my first time strapping into ice skating boots and slipping on ice (I’m Australian, this is all foreign to me, I’ve never even been skiing). I managed to find my rhythm rather quickly thanks to many summers spent rollerblading in my local neighbourhood.
There was ample space for skaters of all varieties: speedsters, grandpas, clusters of friends who all kept falling over, and nervous parents. There was a special section for little kids to learn how to skate and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As well as the learning zone, there was a separate rink for kids and parents to fall over in. I also saw some people playing curling and assumed they were Canadian because who plays curling? Does one ‘play curling‘ or simply just ‘curl‘?
In any case, I regretted not wearing a cape for this icy occasion but I’m pretty sure I’m a contender for Disney’s Frozen 2 On Ice Korea Tour 2020. My husband seemed to be a seasoned skater and glided around effortlessly. He’s good at almost everything so it was no surprise that he had skater’s legs and could spin without hesitation!
How to Ice Skate in Seoul:
If you’re visiting Seoul between Jan and Feb, the ice skating fun will be up and running. Just head to City Hall station on line 2 or line 1 and follow the signs! It’s hard to miss. We were lucky to have a sunny blue sky over us as we skated! It costs 1,000 KRW (roughly $1) to skate for 1 hour including skates and a helmet! How cheap! Also, bring a 500 won coin to use the lockers to keep all of your belongings safe (not that anyone would touch them in Korea!)
Yesterday morning, we popped open our umbrellas and hopped through puddles to get to Seoul’s ‘Jewelry City’. Yes, that is a real place in Seoul, and yes, we finally bought wedding rings as a proclamation of our love. We hadn’t planned on it, but Gwangjang Market was located right next to the city of jewels. We had really been wanting to go there for a long time, what a cowinky dink. My husband is particularly keen on street food and was in heaven at the market.
I’m not sure why I thought otherwise, but shopping for wedding rings is so difficult. Why do western men have to shop alone for engagement rings? What a terrible culture. We went to four different sellers, touched a lot of hands and saw a lot of fake diamonds (they don’t put the real diamonds on display for some reason??). Because of this difficult shopping decision, we had to take a time out and feast on street food. We decided to eat some 족발 (Jokbal – pig’s feet), 잡채 (Japchae – sweet potato noodles) and 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes). We then went in for a second sitting and ate 빈대떡 (mung bean pancakes). What’s was even better was the stall seats were heated. You definitely need a warm bottom to consume things like pig’s feet and mung bean pancake.
It was a happy accident that I had my camera in my bag yesterday. I just woke up with that feeling that a good snap was waiting for me, you know? Despite the cold, the rain and the difficult decision making, we ended our day with full bellies, three wedding rings and the realisation that my husband and I have the same ring size! Enjoy some of the pictures I took, but just remember that I was really hangry whilst taking them. Let me know if you’ve been to the market, I’d love to hear about what you ate!
I recently wrote about a hip, hop, happnin’ area of Seoul called Sharosugil. In said post, I wrotethat while we were there we needed to ‘take mental notes for future date plans so we can come back every single week for the foreseeable future’. Sure enough, we went back exactly one week later for another too-adorable-for-words date. I was in a pizza/pasta or hardcore Korean set meal mood after work. I guess that’s a very vague hunger mood to be in, isn’t it? I was too afraid to rule out any tasty possibilities we may have stumbled upon so I came prepared with back-up hunger cravings.
Wandering down a small street in the university town, we saw this gorgeous little restaurant that we could have almost mistaken for an indoor plant shop and walked right past. When we sat down, we realised that it was, in fact, a risoteria and not a pasta restaurant. Never fear, according to the waitress, the chef can whip you up just about any pasta dish your hunger mood can concoct. The name of this place is Marcus and you can click the link to find out where it is and what they sell because this Jo So Ko blog isn’t intended to be very informative or useful, it’s a hobby. I must add, the service was amazing and if Korea were a tipping country and I had a job that afforded me the luxury to be able to tip, I would have probably considered tipping them. Enjoy the pictures, the food, the neighbourhood, your life, the vibe etc.
So, you’ve got yourself a hole in the wall? No worries, shove some corks in it! What hole?
They should probably rename their restaurant ‘al dente AF’ because that’s exactly what this carbonara was. So good.
Seafoody, tomatoey risotto!
Meanwhile, on the (narrow) streets of Sharosugil:
Have you been to this area of Seoul? Which restaurants should we try next? Have the best day!
During a trip to Busan last year, I had to complete a “Museum Walk” for my ‘Art after 1945’ class at KAIST (great class, highly recommend)! We were to go to at least one gallery, write about a piece of art and show the ticket stub to prove that we actually went there! I obviously went to more than one gallery while I was in South Korea so I had to pick just one to write about.
Lee Ufan (이우환) is one of my favourite Korean artists and I thought I would share the essay I wrote about the Busan space and the specific painting I chose to write about. For the first time on Jo So Ko, I will be using images from other sources (OMG what!?). All image sources and references will be at the end of the essay! Enjoy! Please don’t sue me, I don’t have the resources. (I have since learned how to properly cite an in-text reference so please forgive me, I will endeavour to fix it soon!)
Space Lee Ufan – Busan
Wandering through the light, airy rooms of the Space Lee Ufan in Busan was a highly transcendental, meditative experience. All of the works of Lee Ufan work collectively to tell a greater story of time and space, however, ‘From Line’ is one that was particularly captivating. ‘From Line’, painted in 1976, consists of delicately painted vertical blue strokes that take its viewer on a captivating journey. This has a similar effect to the colour field paintings of Mark Rothko from almost two decades before this work was painted. The Space Lee Ufan itself is also what I imagine the effect the Rothko Chapel (pictured below) might have on its audience, a similar spiritual engagement between the artist and the viewer. Lee’s paintings invite his audience to travel within themselves and reveal thoughts and emotions that may otherwise remain hidden – at least that is how I have experienced his work in the past.
Lee was a key figure in the Mono-ha movement in Japan in the late 1960’s. During the context of post-war Japan, Lee and the other members of the Mono-ha movement challenged the idea of representation previously portrayed in Western art. The relationship between space and matter was explored using materials from the natural world with little manipulation. On the other side of the world, the Minimalist movement was taking off in the United States and had similar principles to those of the Mono-ha and Gutai groups in the East. The influence of Lee Ufan’s work during this period in history is still easy to appreciate in our modern world as the ideas explored transcend the notion of time.
Interestingly, Lee Ufan paints his works from directly above the canvas. He places the canvas on the ground beneath a wooden bench upon which he lies. Supposedly, Lee has preferred this technique since he was a child as he feels like he fully emerges within the work. This technique is similar to the painting process of American artists from the 1940’s abstract expressionist movement and later, the 1980’s postmodernism movement. Jackson Pollock, for example, was famous for his action paintings where his canvas lay flat on the ground as he painted standing up, often walking over the strokes he paints. Similarly, Jean-Michel Basquiat adopted a similar working style by placing his large canvases on the floor of his New York Studio in the 1980’s.
This process of painting is vastly different when comparing the likes of Jackson Pollock (pictured below), with his layered webs of dripped paint, to Ufan (pictured below) whose paint strokes are placed ever so delicately. It seems as if Ufan were to make one slight mistake, he would have to start all over again. Whereas, Pollock probably did not consider the option of “starting over”, based on the nature of his work. While Pollock expressed the inner turmoil from his psychiatric state to apply paint, Lee Ufan explored the art of calligraphy and understanding the relationship between the “mark making and the medium of paint itself”. It would be interesting to have the two painting side by side to see how their understanding of their medium and their mental state influences the marks they make on their canvases despite working in similar ways.
Jackson Pollock (below)
Lee Ufan (above) (very hard to find an image of Ufan painting while suspended above his canvases, actually, finding any image of Lee Ufan is VERY difficult).
Having experienced Lee Ufan’s collections at both the Lee Ufan Museum in Naoshima (Japan) and Space Lee Ufan in Busan (South Korea), it is important to describe ‘From Line’ in relation to the works as a collection, from the viewer’s perspective. Walking through the adjoining rooms within both museums, it becomes clear that these pieces belong within the same art institution. It is almost a meditative experience, the increasing simplicity of each piece clarifies the viewer’s mind.
I am incredibly honoured that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience Ufan’s work in this capacity and only wish I could further explain the way the works in his museums make me feel. I truly feel at peace in the presence of Ufan’s work and I hope to experience and be once again captivated by his careful brush strokes and sculptures. On this visit to Busan, I had to take time to think about exactly why I love his work. I had to ponder this for a long time and I eventually decided that it is because his work is not so much about the work, or the technique, it is instead about the viewer. About all of the people who often need a pre-fabricated ground from which to build an understanding of their inner thoughts and the world around them. In some ways, Ufan has the very complicated task of simplifying these ideas for a universal audience. I don’t think of it solely as a piece of art but also a form of self-reflection and a chance to feel gratitude for all of those you love in your life. So, beyond the precise blue faded strokes and generous usage of the canvas, I believe that ‘From Line’ exceeds my simple understanding of artistic principles like composition and tonal value. These principles are overpowered by my desire to contemplate and reflect.