Churches in South Korea

If one knows that Korea was once called “The Hermit Kingdom”, seeing the number of churches comes as a surprise.  Almost 27% of South Korea’s population belongs to a church.  Protestants are estimated at 8.1 million, while Catholics, with a history of 350 years, are estimated at 5.6 million.  Buddhism, still numerically stronger, has a history of 1,700 years.

What struck me in the various regions was the contrasting styles in the architecture of the churches, most of which are creatively modernist.

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An a-shaped church, West Seoul

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A Presbyterian church, Insa-Dong area, Seoul

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A cathedral, central Seoul

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An Evangelistic church, Jongno-gu, Seoul

With the churches, there is art, always memorable and moving.

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A Christ figure, Chinese Presbyterian Church

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A stained-glass window, Presbyterian Church, Samseong, South Seoul

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A station of the cross, Cathedral, Myung-Dong

Food for thought … In my stroll through Samseong, I saw the reflection of the church first …

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A reflection, Presbyterian Church, Samseong, South Seoul

© Will v.d.Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

July, 2007 – June 2008.

Images: Will

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Temples of South Korea

What has art to do with the soul?  My upbringing would have said nothing.  The Buddhist and Catholic child would have marveled at a different world and different set of values. My year in South Korea brought this home to me.

Yuongpyeongsa and Buddha

Yuongpyeongsa and Buddha

 

It is colours that struck me first –  the roof beams a palette of primaries, lovingly, painstakingly, applied.

Bongeunsa portal roof

Bongeunsa portal roof

Inside, as always, the Buddha figure is central, in bright gold overlay, often with two bodisattvas, flanking. Westerners need perhaps to be told that the genuflections of Buddhists do not imply worship, but respect and honour.

Gyeongju interior

Gyeongju interior

Temples are almost all built in the curled roof tradition, iconic for the East. Inside there are tapestries, sculpture and paintings that illustrate the life of Buddha or parables, together with sacred paraphernalia like the mutak, a wooden instrument that is struck to structure services.

Magoksa portal roof

Magoksa portal roof

Approaching the temples the pilgrims go through portals, also beautifully decorated.  At some temples there are protective structures that shelter Silla bells.  The Silla bells, about a head taller than a person, were cast in the Three Kingdoms period (circa 500 – 1000  c.e.)  It is a special moment to hear the bell being struck by the wooden beam made for the purpose.  On one such bell, were engraved the words To be heard at the ends of the earth.   And it’s true – years later I still hear it here in South Africa.

  A Silla bell at Bisan-ri

A Silla bell at Bisan-ri

 

© Will v.d.Walt

July, 2007 – June 2008

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Images

Will

 

 

 

Musée Peynet

The drawings of Raymond Peynet (1908-1999) interested me as a child – the little man with his round black hat (a Chaplinesque bowler?) and spikey hair and his girlfriend, demure and lovely – the essence of romance, a mix of innocence and risque.

The artist came to live in Antibes, acquiring a place for him and his wife in the neighbouring town of Biot.  He and his wife, people say with envy, were married for more than 50 years and her name, appropriately, was Damour.  And there is greater affection for his memory than for that of Picasso. A small museum to honour him was set up on the Place de la Republique.  Hand in hand, Claudie and I did our pilgrimage to it.

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Les Amoureax

Most people associate Peynet with the commercialising of his work.  It is often seen as sentimental, saccharine, cute, but it’s more subtle than that.  Les Amoureux (The Lovers) are the chief focus and the variations on this theme since the 1930s are bewildering – he’s even done a series on the astrology icons with the lovers!

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Les Remparts drawn by Peynet

In the museum they had an exhibition too, with the work of other caricaturists – Ronald Searle; Honoré Daumier and others.  One painted caricature that really impressed me was of different types of cheese in the uncanny form of Charles de Gaulle’s profile.  The idea, of course, comes from Acrimboldo.  This caricature probably refers to De Gaulle’s statement as the president that it is difficult to govern a nation that has more than 246 cheeses!

Humour conquers all, a wall legend in the museum by Paul Klee tells us.  What strikes me with Peynet is that all he does is inhabited by a smile.  With the pain, anguish and tragedy of life, there is someone who will relentlessly seek out human warmth.

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Raymond Peynet

On the way back, strolling through the Saturday crowds, I saw what I had previously missed when I went that way out of the vieille ville – the monument to the martyrs of the French Resistance, an image that touches, but it couldn’t quite banish Peynet’s doves that alight on the little man’s black hat as he cradles his beloved.

What remains with me too, is the plaque in the museum informing us that, in 1995, with the 50th annual memorial service of Hiroshima, the Japanese unveiled a bronze depicting The Lovers at the site of one of humanity’s greatest desolations.

© Will v.d.Walt

Samedi  14 Janvier 2012

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Image Sources: by Will and  www.peynet.com

Suzy Solidor – Cabaret Legend

« She was brash, » Claudie remembers, reviewing her childhood memories.  Suzy Solidor, legendary cabaret performer, with hard-hitting revues, was born in 1900 and she established herself in Paris in the early-1930s.  With an androgynous image, she performed songs that were sensual, equivocal and daring, working with the likes of  Edith Piaf and Charles Trénet. She has been called “an alchemist with words”.  She moved to Cagne-sur-Mer in the Côte d’Azur in 1960.

The Vidal-Quadras portrait 1958

The Vidal-Quadras portrait 1958

What intrigues me about her is the number of portraits of her that there are.  I stood in the hall of her portraits at Chateau Grimaldi.  There are 54 in the catalogue and 49 on display.  But this is deceptive:  it is incredible to discover that this collection is only a part of the total, some 224 portraits of her!  This is apart from the hundreds of photo portraits, amongst them, several by Man Ray.  It is like viewing a history of styles.  Most of the portraits at the Château are oils which she bequeathed to the museum in 1973.  The artists include Cocteau, Dufy and Van Dongen.  What stood out for me is the portrait done by Tamara de Lempicka in 1933, probably the most striking deco portrait I’ve seen.

The Tamara Lempicka portrait 1933

The Tamara Lempicka portrait 1933

Notable too, is the sculpture of Suzy done by Marie-Pascale Deleun in 1983, the year of her death.

Sculpture

Sculpture

 I find myself curious as to how she related to these portraits.  Did she pore over them, like the king counting his gold sovereigns?  Do we smugly judge her to be narcissistic?  Perhaps we can say with some irony that her obsession with her own image has become our enrichment.

Poster for film late-1930s

Poster for film late-1930s

Janvier, 2013

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Image Sources: Drawing and some notes from publicity pamphlet; www.terminators.com; www.starok.com and image by Will

Parc Phoenix, Nice

It is a place that makes you want to scamper around like a child and explore intriguing nooks, hide from friends and make discoveries  –   a park geared for the enjoyment of children, a place of fountains, foliage, trees, rocks, pathways and peace.  On the one side you see the striking backdrop of l’Arenas, the skyscraper showcase of post-modern architecture.  On the other, the beginning of the Promenade des Anglais, and beyond it, the sea.

Parc Phoenix

Parc Phoenix

At a menagerie under the umbrella pines, there are kangaroos, ostriches, owls and seals, the latter diving in a glass tank.  There is also a hothouse of exotic plants, a steaming rainforest, towering above the landscape of trees.

Hothouse, Parc Phoenix

Hothouse, Parc Phoenix

Exotic plants

Exotic plants

Adjoining the hothouse, with its playful, even ironical, block of Inca ruins, there is a huge display hall looking like an aeroplane hangar.  Along the walls was an exhibition of ink-on-tiles graphics by Gérard-Philippe Séllès, treated photographs of cracks in pavements, cement surfaces and so on.  Each one was something I could live with, elegantly rough and striking.

A graphic by Séllès

A graphic by Séllès

It was a day of sun and crisp cold.  Throughout the park there are figures from Chinese folktales, slightly smaller than real life, each with a little plaque explaining the expression or posture of the figure.  One was of a grumpy old man with the description that he was such a cantankerous teacher that his students had all left him, but today there was a new student.  Another figure, standing in the shimmer of the fountain, holding a mirror to her face… Meijuan’s husband had retired and she had started a fabric shop for fashionable ladies.  I suspect that the Chinese embassy, together with their involvement in the AsiaticMuseum, had placed these figures, each one the beginning of a story.

Meijuan looks at her mirror

Meijuan looks at her mirror

As I left, a huge turkey (yes, real, live) accompanied by two hens crossed my path, gobbling and pecking.

A turkey in Parc Phoenix

A turkey in Parc Phoenix

Vendredi  1 Fevrier 2013

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Image Sources: Images by Will

Château Grimaldi, house of art

The Grimaldi dynasty held a kind of sceptre over the Côte d’Azur for centuries.  The château was built in 1300 as a castle above what is today Cagne-sur-Mer and has become iconic for this coastal town, about seven kms. west of Nice.  It withstood sieges from time to time, as did Provence itself throughout its long history.

19th-c. painting of Chateau Grimaldi

19th-c. painting of Chateau Grimaldi

From the 17th-century the castle took on the character of a château with decorated salons.  The baroque trompe l’oeil designs on the ceilings of the arched first and second floor landings have been restored in recent times  –  the sharp clarity of it all is vaguely surreal for me.

Detail of roof fresco

Detail of roof fresco

This is the drumroll before you enter the Grande Salle.  From the immense flamboyant hearth to the extensive ceiling frescoes, I have seldom, if ever, been so impressed by a baroque interior.  The central fresco is that of Panteon being struck by lightning, adorned on all sides by figures vaguely reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel.  The surround of high arched windows flood the space with light.

Grande Salle roof fresco

Grande Salle roof fresco

More down to earth, on the first floor of the Château, they house the Museum of the Olive Tree, ranging from chest-high grinding stones to delicate 17th-century olive oil bottles, all associated with Cagne’s long farming history.

Olive Museum

Olive Museum

There are four further salles with art collections – a room of contemporary abstracts; the Suzy Solidor portrait collection;  many landscapes of Cagne done by foreign artists over the past 150 years and the August Renoir collection.  Below the broad staircase, there is a dimly-lit nook – a sarcophagus from the vicinity of the Château with what appears to be human bones.  “Roman,” the attendant whispered.

Roman remains

Roman remains

The Renoir collection is temporarily housed at Grimaldi while La Collette, the home where Renoir spent his last years, is being renovated.  You don’t see the well-known Renoirs.  You see paintings, sketches and a few sculptures, mainly of family members.  In one room there is his easel, chair and a number of empty canvases.

Renoir easel and chair

Renoir easel and chair

And, at one window, looking out over Cagne, there is a photograph of what you are seeing with an arrow indicating the location of La Collette.  There are portraits of Renoir himself, several by Albert André, his biographer and archivist.  In one such portrait, we see Renoir in profile, the bird-like energy, myopically close to his own canvas, intent and fragile under a broad-rimmed hat.

Portrait of Renoir by Albert André

Portrait of Renoir by Albert André

Nearby, a photograph of his easel and chair in the garden at La Collette.  Below the photograph, the chair itself.  I touched it.

© Will v.d. Walt

Janvier, 2013

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Image Sources: Images by Will 

Reflecting on Buildings at L’Arenas, Nice

Returning to L’Arenas, the showcase of post-modern architecture, I was struck again by the achievements of the place.  And the reflections in the acres of glass cladding.   I share some of what I saw.

( I didn’t note what the buildings are, so there are no captions.)

L'Arenas 113.jpg

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L'Arenas 112.jpg

L'Arenas 115.jpg

L'Arenas 114.jpg

L'Arenas 116.jpg

L'Arenas 117.jpg

L'Arenas 118.jpg

© Will v.d. Walt

Vendredi  1 Fevrier 2013

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Images: Will

 

  

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