Galerie RX, Paris

Bae Bien-U

The Grain of Time

For his 4th solo exhibition at the RX gallery, Korean photographer Bae Bien-U (born in 1956), will present 3 series, each testifying to his ability to capture the essence of what he portrays. From the forests of South Korea to the trees of Seville, Bae Bien-U also takes us to the heart of Venetian architecture in The Grain of Time. After having presented Venice at the Wilmotte Foundation and Alhambra at the Guimet Museum, these works will be shown in a gallery for the very first time. As for Sonamu, some of the rare square formats will be on view.

            There is like a grain, the slight peculiarity of flesh that makes each being different. On the lagoon in Venice, the still water evokes skin, the hairs undulate on its surface. Nothing is surrounded, the light slides, nebulizes, undulates. With Bae Bien-U we remember the trees; they seem to walk. With Bae Bien-U I remember that the body is everywhere. The trunk in front of the lagoon hides the sparkle on the mirror, it is the hand that protects our eyes. These algae are the secret bushes of the body, this is the next moment. The grain of time. The foliage is like hair in the wind. In Bae bien-U's gaze nothing is literal, everything speaks of something else, the being is everywhere yet nowhere to be seen. He is the very language of images. He is the measure of the world; he has become indistinct by the interplay of glances. Near or far? Landscape or detail? And the absence of the sky, or often its milky sinking into the space of the photo, its disappearance, maintains this ambiguity of a deciphering which can be done according to two quite different prisms, the apparent and the hidden.

            From the Venetian series I retain the sensuality of a lurking animal. He emerges from the water like a body on the crumpled white of a sheet, he is captured in the distance in a low-angle shot, tired, limbs folded. The fog rises; one thinks of rest in the humid heat of the summer. I almost find there a particular smell, one that mixes mud and herbs - like that of a body in the sun -, the brackish water, not quite of the sea.

            Not quite... reminds me of My familiar dream written by Verlaine. His unknown woman, "is, each time, neither quite the same, nor quite another". So, it is with the world following the artist who seizes differently and makes us see differently.

            Rarely have I been more intrigued by the work of one’s eye than with Bae bien-U in Granada, despite it already being a "familiar dream" to me. He has captured the movement of the trees as if they were walking towards an elsewhere, a place that the frame does not allow us picture. Human trees that move like a crowd. These photographs, taken in 2009 during a residency in Granada, at the invitation of the Patronato de la Alhambra, capture their dance, under a rain of divine light. It is soft, cottony, not very Mediterranean in fact; it contrasts with the blackness of the pine trees, a common tree in Korea, and, sometimes, with the detail of their scaly epidermis, like a skin on which time has operated.


Sophie Makariou