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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

SeMA and Anne in Ik-Seon-dong (Day 265)

Today we visited SeMA and Anne in Ik-Seon-dong - one delightful and interesting day.

Imagine if you had a large 2m square cream canvas and a very long string of bright mid blue sequins. What would you do with them? We were on the top floor of the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA)and one of the first works of art was an exquisite piece called Constellations_9 Gemini by Noh Sang-kyoon made of said material. Large 3D neat circles, some with a centre point, others with a small crater in the middle. We both loved the simplicity, yet the skilful application of it. Another of our favourites was an oil painting of grasses with some butterflies and thistles by Lee Sook-ja, again not complex in subject matter yet what talent. I wonder if both of these artists have practised their 10,000 hours to master such skill.

The main building of SeMA is quite small by UK standards, three floors with a total of 6 exhibition halls with one permanent collection called Eternal Narcissist by Chun Kyung Ja. This was the only room where photography was not permitted, which is a bit daft as all the paintings are easily found via google. An interesting title, especially as the majority of paintings were of the artist herself. One of her paintings I loved was “Madonna as a Vase”. Does this prominent South Korean painter have a sense of humour?

In one of the rooms was a robot arm with a camera at the end. It scanned an area and projected this onto a large screen distorting the image. It was almost like an impressionist painting. We did have fun posing for it. Another interactive art installation was “Poster Generator 1962-2018” where visitors can create different art posters. We touched a screen which displayed 1 of 19 artworks displayed at the exhibition. The painting is covered with words that were used to describe the work by critics and reporters in the past. We could then choose three of these words (randomly for us as it was all in Korean), then the computer program reinterpreted the work based on the three words and generates a poster. Very enjoyable.

Just outside the SeMA building were some statues of people which looked as if a large hand had squashed them called Jangdockdae by Yi Hwan Kwon. Again, very cleverly created. I couldn’t resist having a photo amongst them.

We then walked back to our apartment via the Cheonggyecheon Stream again, had lunch and then went to meet Anne, who ran the cookery lesson we went to during our first week here in South Korea (Day 222).

It was so lovely meeting Anne again and she took us to the Ik-Seon-dong area, which is literally within 5 minutes of where we are staying and we knew nothing about it. This area is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the centre of Seoul and used to be a slum area. Only in the last few years, young people have started to turn the small Hanok buildings into groovy cafes, art houses and restaurants. It was great to walk down the narrow alleyways twisting and turning and now a thriving area full of hip people…and us.

Anne took us to a lovely café in original Hanok buildings with a glass roof covering what once was the centre garden area. Drinks and cake were ordered – none for me though. I really have not much desire for sweet things now. And we sat chatting for nearly 3 hours! Anne is active in a committee lobbying the government to change the education system. Currently, it is very biased towards young people with good memories of learning facts by rote, not great for those who are better at concepts and ideas. She already knew about the system changing in Finland and I am sure she and her fellow committee members will be closely following the progress of this, like us. We also talked about the change that this country has gone through in the past 65 years. Anne shared a few stories of suffering and of inspiration. The school her parents went to was just a makeshift tent, there were no books and much of the lessons were through drawing in the sand. No-one had a watch, so a stick was put upright into the earth as a sundial. What change they have seen in their lifetime and they are not that much older than me!

Anne is so easy to talk with. It is her and her husband’s dream to go travelling like us, so we shared some of the things that we have learnt during our travels. We did have a laugh coming up with ideas of Airbnb experiences that we can run in the future, not that I’m going to share our top ideas here, we don’t want anyone nabbing them!

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