“The Duchess Anna Amalia Library, German” (2018) by Lim Young-kyun / Courtesy of 2Gil29 Gallery
By Park Han-sol
Photographer Lim Young-kyun poses in front of his work, “Nam June Paik in his Studio, New York” (1983) / Courtesy of 2Gil29 Gallery
To photographer Lim Young-kyun, libraries have long been more than just repositories of books. In fact, these buildings have left their mark in history as a symbolic archive and birthplace of humanity’s collective intellectual achievements.
The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany, for instance, is often cited as a representative example of Weimar classicism, which was a late 18th-century German literary and cultural movement. Having had author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as a regular patron, the library houses the world’s largest “Faust” collection. It was also a central stage for lectures and recitals by Schiller, Nietzsche and Mozart, with records of these historical moments preserved in every corner of the building to this day.
This German library is one of many cultural heritage sites around the world featured in Lim’s photography series, which aims to capture not only their splendid architectural beauty but their distinct cultural characteristics and spirits within the larger history of humanity.
“The Library of Admont Abbey in Austria” (2018) by Lim Young-kyun / Courtesy of 2Gil29 Gallery
A total of 15 works from the series ― including those of the National Library of France (BNF), Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library and Haein Temple’s “Tripitaka Koreana” hall ― are scheduled to be on display at his upcoming exhibition, “Artist’s Eyes,” at 2Gil29 Gallery in southern Seoul.
It was December 2016 when the artist happened to visit a famous art auction house and bookstore in Paris, only to realize shortly that the world heritage sites shot, edited and featured in their publications were, whether consciously or not, seen through a Eurocentric lens.
“I started wanting to re-record these sites from my own perspective,” the 66-year-old artist said during his interview with 2Gil29 Gallery, expressing his wish to bring in a worldview that can constructively challenge and coexist with its Western-based counterparts. Thus, his library photography series was born, starting with the New York Public Library, one source of Lim’s personal artistic inspiration.
“The Richelieu-Louvois site of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France” (2018) by Lim Young-kyun / Courtesy of 2Gil29 Gallery
“The Tripitaka Koreana” (2021) by Lim Young-kyun / Courtesy of 2Gil29 Gallery
In order to reduce the feeling of distance between the viewers and the sites themselves, Lim visited each library early in the morning to capture the fleeting moments when no patrons would be present. As each space is quietly summoned before our eyes, it feels as if we were walking straight into the scenes, guided by the artist’s unobstructed gaze alone. The experience becomes almost meditative.
“[The photography series] contains Lim’s contemplative view that aims to capture every detail of the space and maximize its presence,” art critic Park Young-taek wrote, adding that these effects are made possible by his emphasis on preserving the natural light and color tone of the scenery that can gently approach the onlooker’s eyes and mind.
The exhibition, “Artist’s Eyes,” will be held from Sept. 18 to Oct. 7 at 2Gil29 Gallery.Internet Explorer Channel Network