studio and muses,
living by the mountains.

Staying in Bongsusan - 

삼촌 works with an environmental conservation program in Korea.
A part of his job is to study the forests, and provide case studies to help create educational workshops to inform the public of the importance of our natural environment.
We were lucky to be able to visit Bongusan this week, and I was able to numerous site studies for some creative projects we are working on.  

More of my thoughts (and photos) later…!

I’ve come to love ‘hodugwaja’ Korean walnut cakes, at all the various ‘hyugeso’, highway rest stops we had visited so far!
They even have their own brand: ‘Walnut Cake Expressway’.

Giant lanterns of elaborate dragons, phoenixes and elephants line-up neatly on the asphalt in the empty carpark, obscured in the dark by the temple.

Initially planned to parade for Buddhas birthday on the 15th, cancelled due to rain.
Back in Seoul -
This week, keeping up appearances

I felt the sheer panic of forgetting to apply lipstick as I watched people filtering into GX…
Hiding behind equipment, and blending into walls in hopes of dodging any comments on what can be potentially seen as carelessness on my part…

I never thought I’ll be in a position to feel it was necessary to ‘make myself up’ for the gym. But here we are...
I’ve had comments (definitely to be regarded as advice) about the need to apply make-up, wear more makeup, and a woman’s role to be pleasant in front of others.

At times, I feel there is a lingering obligation to present yourself well here, in Korean society.

Mart, Taean-gun
“Don’t you feel lonely here ( in a coastal farming village)?”
“That’s funny... they asked me the same thing in Seoul.”

I’ve been painting in the evening, after exploring the shores, farms and mountains.

Walks and cycling around, Taean-gun

Visiting a coffee shop on a garlic farm,
Bo-yon asks: “favourite food so far?”
“Oh, that’s easy! Ganjang-gejang!”
Bo-yon: “Like a true Korean!”

Shore, Taean-gun

Taean-gun contin, -

On Wednesday she decides to sleep in a little.
So far, her meals had been predictable during the day: rice and doenjang-jjigae, rice and seaweed.  
The evenings had always been indulgent, the (mostly elderly) residents boisterously inviting her to join them for meals.
“Oh, you came from Seoul?
“Isn’t a weird time to visit the village?”
“What is a younger person doing in the middle of nowhere anyway?”

She changes into her hiking attire, neatly folding her indoor clothing and tucking her bed mat into the large square cupboard at the side of the room.

She leaves the pension, following the winding road up the mountain towards the weather tower at the peak. The panel is now rotating and bouncing light.
There is little traffic other than the odd truck downhill, it’s still off-peak season afterall. Apart from the handful of locals, hardly anyone was around.

Basking in dappled light, passing giant pines.  At intervals she pulls her notebook from her tote scribbling text and rough images.
I’ll pull out the inks and scrolls tonight, she mused to herself, the mood is wonderful today.

She pauses to admire the walk so far.
Looking down over the tiny coastal town by the sea. The inlet dotted with a handful of pensions, local diners, one jimjilbang and a GS mart.

Staying in Taean-gun, last Moon in Spring
town at the edge of the sea -

Strolling by small makeshift farms
She spots an orange stray in the setting light,
One eyed, muddy paws walking among
She calls to it / cat! mimicking a meow.

May in full force -
My windows had been wide open this season,
Allowing the Spring breeze sift in through the mountains…
I’ve slowly noticed my studio has been building up with a fine layer of yellow dust,
Pollen from the pine trees.

Back home, a snap before the jindallae wilts.
The last to bloom, swathes of bright red shrubs curated at the foot of the mountain.

In Geoje-do -
Little vegetable gardens squeezed into unused spaces.

Geoje-do, surreal in the weekend rain;
Billowing cloud embrace half-scooped forests and ocean in a thick mist. The landscape is diluted in white, where distance shades the edges of the world into a blank canvas.

Night, from the top of the mountains I keep my pace with friends in the drizzle. I worry about my footing on the slipperly uphill, and silently wish not to catch a cold before my week of meetings.
A few scattered street lamps throw faded light onto our paths. We pass a war memorial filled with still plastic windmills. The island is much darker than the never-sleeping districts in Seoul. The sound of croaking frogs overwhelming.

Huddled in my windbreaker I look over the wire fence onto a sleeping suburb guarded by giant cranes and shipping containers.
I point: the cranes are their own mountains.
Their peaks illuminated by a pulsing light that highlighted text ‘Hanwha’.
‘Goliath’ is what a friend calls them. He works with them.

This once quiet port is becoming a commercialised shipyard under mega industries.  T
here is a strange grit, an uncanniness being on a forest island that is slowly overtaken by industry...
It was like stepping into a Jeffrey Smart painting.

Spotted resident Stray on the way back from dance class.

by the mountains

The Community Garden in the mountains.

I’m so bummed I had missed the deadline to book a plot at the community gardens this year! ︎
I have a ‘to-do’ list I’m meandering through, of things I hope to see and achieve during my stay in Korea. ‘Gardening’ was a long-shot due to time and space, so I had convinced myself that living beside the mountains were enough...

Well...at least I can observe the annual gardening competition at the end of the year!

Between the trees in the Spring,
back to the mountains -

The forest floor is littered with fallen chestnuts and pink blossom petals. They’re edible, but will remained untouched for birds and squirrels.
Creeping nostalgia;

I had received a letter confirming my admission into Seoul National University’s program for language studies.
A little apprehensive about studying again, but I’ve decided take advantage of my time in Korea to formally further my speaking and writing.

Splash! Buncheong Ware with Fish Designs.

Splash! Buncheong Ware with Fish Designs, The National Museum of Korea.

I was able to catch this exhibition before it wrapped up late April. I absolutely love the selection of fish designs!

Buncheong is one of my favourite forms in Korean ceramics. At the time it was practiced regardless social class, made with free silhouettes and decorated with child-like drawings and patterns (stamping, sgraffito, incision...).
A few contemporary ceramicists (I love) who utilise the style in their work include Lee Kang Hyo and Huh Sangwook.

National Treasures at The National Museum of Korea, Seoul.

Hiking -
Gwanaksan, half awake.

I’ve been easing into a schedule that combines work and regular fitness at six-am starts. This was habitual in Sydney, but a tad exhausting in Seoul.

There is mindfulness required when adapting to Korean society (practicing language, learning manners, lifestyle, keeping up with appearances… may go into this a little more someday)!

Dance classes started this week; ridiculously fun and adjusting to the teacher’s (very fast paced) style.
The class has been welcoming despite the language barrier (I was invited into their Kakao group too!) It was also an opportunity to listen and speak, piecing conversations with words I recognise while using my ‘nunchi’ 눈치.

Spring smog wraps up March in Seoul,
and April brings in the first blooms.

In the mountains, genari, 개나리 and jindallae, 진달래 are the first hallmarks of Spring. They dot the sleeping landscape in bright yellows and pinks before the warmth ushers in the green.

I’m shy of my third week here, but the amount of administrative matters handled so far had made my stay feel close

Rainy day with coffee at a local cafe, Gentle Slope 젠틀슬로프 .

Little garden in Itaewon

Moon Jars Joseon Dyntasy,  18th c, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul.

An incredible experience to see these in real - two empty halves pieced together, and a part of my life is complete.

Olafur Eliasson, Gravity Stairs (2014), Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul.

A wonderful day with Lara and Jeonghoon at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art  in Seoul.

Strolls around the neighbourhood.

Seoul -

I spot noisy fledglings on a low hanging branch, nest made clumsily stooping over the road.
“What about passing cars and strays...?
A meow responds between a thicket of still-dormant shrubs.  An orange tabby eyes me warily, bell jingling at his collar as he lazily treads up the mountain.

... intoxicating scent of nectar,
floral pine with a hint of light honey
oozing from the centre onto my fingers, 
sticky, sticking like sap
as I harvest the sunflower seeds

A few sunflowers had bent over in the summer storms.
I hope to glean a few good seeds even though they may not be completely ready for picking!

Sydney -
Stepped into the new year with a few hour hike through the mountains, tackling steep stairways and narrow, rugged terrain carved by the wind...

...then caught in a thunderstorm.
The rain, my yearning to live in the forests:
Soaked to the bone, hearing the sound of bird calls from low land, and seeing the rifts from lightning breaking grey clouds.