Forest is the Artist

In October 2017, Ten blank canvases were placed in Gomsil Forest, a remote forest in the mountains of South Korea. The forest was respectfully asked to spend a year making artworks on the canvases. Out of the ten original canvases, the forest allowed us to recover seven. These seven finished canvases were taken to Seoul, and exhibited for three weeks in a contemporary art gallery.

One of Korea’s major newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo, reported on the exhibition with the headline “Pictures drawn by the forest … in rain water, dirt, and bird shit.”

It is relatively accurate statement.

For an entire year, the processes of life, death, and regeneration played out in this forest. Bugs and worms crawled, leaves and pine needles fell, water ran its course of dripping, pounding and flowing, trees glued objects to the canvas on occasion with their sap, and of course, birds shit, as they do.

The materials on the canvases includes traces from all of the above and more.

Why is “Gomsil Forest” the artist?

In 2011 I began a friendship with Gomsil Forest that has unexpectedly carried on and deepened over the years. The decision to work with Forest on such a project developed slowly over repeated visits and inspirations gained, both from the forest and a man named Mr. Choi, who has a natural farm in the mountainside land. In these years I have become very convinced that the forest does, indeed, have a voice.

Gomsil Forest did all of the creative work. My job was simply as coordinator and ‘assistant’ to the forest, taking care of things which were impractical for Forest to accomplish alone.

Seeing these works in an urban gallery space is a way of allowing us to curiously and openly take interest in the voice of nature. It is an opportunity most of us rarely afford ourselves. There is intention here, that our interest and curiosity may help us find new ways of listening to nature, moving, if ever so slightly, in the direction of a working relationship.

The final note of the show, is that all of the artist’s proceeds from the sale of these works are paid directly to the forest in cash (Korean Won), just as any other artist would be paid. Though this may seem unfortunate, it is the only way we know to value art in our present culture.

This project was produced by City as Nature, in collaboration with placeMAK gallery in Seoul, South Korea.

Film

Exhibitions

February 9–24, 2019
PlaceMAK (Yeonhui, Seoul, South Korea)
www.placemak.com
placemak@naver.com / 017-219-8185

Press & Reviews

A Picture Drawn by a Forest … Rain Water, Dirt, and Bird Shit
Art Weekly / Chosun Ilbo (Korea’s largest newspaper) / 15 Feb 2019
“Today we are facing an ecological crisis. It is a time when the balance between nature and humanity is desperately needed … we must listen to the sound of nature. ” says Patrick M. Lydon, an artist who has been engaged in learning ways to live with the earth.

Recommended Exhibition: Forest is the Artist
Art Map Korea / 5 Feb 2019
If we regard the life of all life on earth as a creative activity, nature will not be fixed and confronted as the environment surrounding us, but will show us how to live harmoniously as a being, listening through mutually interdependent relations.

Patrick and Suhee Kang Want us to Know: The Forest is an Artist
CNB Weekly Culture and Business Journal / 29 Jan 2019
Cultivation of human beings has been made possible by cultivating natural plants and animals. As the culture of things grows, we seem to forget that we have borrowed them from nature…

February Exhibition Recommendations: Forest is the Artist
Gangnam Academy of Design

Visitor Comments

A selection of visitor comments (originally in Korean, with English translations):

몇 년 전 내성천에서 바람에 꺾인 강아지풀이 또 바람에 이리저리 흔들리면서 모래바닥에 그려놓은 그림을 본 적이 있어요. 그게 그림으로 보여서 아름다운 기억으로 남아있는데, 이번 전시도 그때 그 반가움과 아름다움을 떠올리며 보러 오게 되었어요. 곰실숲의 그림들을 보니 캔버스는 곳곳에 놓였지만 같은 숲에서 왔구나 하는 느낌이 들어요. 눈에 띄는 흔적도 아름답고 나머지 면들 위로 나타난 겹겹의 시간들도 바라보다 갑니다. 조용히 따라가는 영상도 함께 잘 보았어요. _ 알록
A few years ago at Naeseong river, I saw a broken foxtail was waving by wind, made a ‘drawing’ on sand ground. It looked like a real drawing, became very beautiful memory to me, and this exhibition reminds me of the beauty I saw. Watching Gomsil’s drawings, I felt that the canvases were put in various places, but also that they came from same forest. The visual traces are beautiful, multiple layers of time on the left sides, these caused me to stare into the canvas. The film, which follows the forest calmly, was also good. _ Alloc

자연의 소리를 더 잘 듣기 위하여 숲에게 직접 예술가의 지위를 부여한다는 시도에 매우 감동받았습니다. 곰실숲의 조수일뿐, 이라는 고백을 통해 그동안 전혀 생각해보지 못한 관점을 알게 되어 매우 뜻깊습니다. 자연을 믿고 맡긴 패트릭 작가에게 감사하며, 앞으로도 좋은 작품 기다리겠습니다. _ 혜영
The attempt to give a role to forest, to listen to the nature more carefully, was so touching. You said “I’m just assistant of Gomsil,” and from this, I came to know a very new point of view, which I’ve never thought of before. It’s really meaningful for me. Thank you Patrick for entrusting the forest to do this artwork, and I expect more works from you. _ Hyeyoung

인류가 처음으로 숲에 붓을 넘긴 놀라운 전시회네요. 이 전시회의 메시지가 널리 퍼졌으면 좋겠어요. 세계 미술사에 새 역사가 쓰여지는 전시회입니다. _ 개구리
For the very first time, we humankind pass the paintbrush to forest. That is really amazing. I hope the message of this exhibition will be spread widely. This exhibition will be recorded in the world art’s new history. Thank you for sharing Gomsil’s work. Nature is an amazing artist. _ Ara

‘생태’가 트렌드가 되어 돈을 만드는 시대. 다소 공허함에 시달리고 있는 요즈음에 만난 자연스러움이 감사한 전시였습니다. _ 서연
‘Eco’ becomes a trend, and a way to make money these days, and it makes me feel so empty. So I appreciate this truly ‘natural’ exhibition. _ Seoyeon

살아있다는 게 느껴져요. 고마워요 _ 브리다
I can feel I’m alive. Thank you. _ Brida

숲의 이야기가 들리네요 _ 이강숙
I can hear the forest’s story. _ Kangsook Lee

자연이 만들어낸 놀라운 작품에 흠뻑 취하다 갑니다. _ 앨리스
I was fascinated by the amazing artworks by nature. _ Alice

당신의 경험이 저를 치유합니다. _ 정
Your experience heals m.e _ Jeong

신성하고 아름다워요. _ 우인
Sacred and beautiful. _ Wooin

숲에게 인사하고 기도하고 대화하는 모습이 너무 좋아요 _ 시와
Greeting, praying, talking with the forest, I really enjoy to see this. _ Siwa

자연의 신성한 소리를 피부로 함께 듣고 갑니다. 감사합니다. _ 수진
The sacred sound of nature, I could listen to it through my skin. Thank you. _ Sujin

Image Gallery