Korean Nature Artists' Association-YATOO


Nature Art Movement by YATOO

I. Yatoo, Korean Nature Artists’ Association


Yatoo is a group of Nature Artists who work in and around Gongju, a city located along the beautiful Geum River and the ancient capital of Baekje dynasty, South Korea. Yatoo was originally founded by a group of young artists from Gongju area in 1981. They have been working with nature-based inspiration ever since. The Nature Art of Yatoo has been developed through the 'Four Seasons Workshop' meetings which have been held seasonally since 1981. The members of Yatoo who grew up in an environment which is characterized by the distinct change of four seasons. As a result, they have been inspired by the continual process of extinction and rebirth around them. In the early days when the group's membership was small, other members were the only critics who could appreciate their works. Therefore, Yatoo members gradually developed their own methodology of working with nature. Over thirty five years, these newly created ideals and working practices have gradually won recognition from a large number of domestic and foreign artists. These ideals have also been spread through international events such as the Geumgang Nature Art Biennale, the Yatoo International Project, and the Global Nomadic Art Project.


II. Characteristics and spirit of Yatoo Nature Art


In the 1980's, Yatoo artists aspired to find a balance point between a living experience of nature and their own artistic will. This was seen as a preferred approach rather than pushing their own artistic idea onto nature. Yatoo artists prefer to enter into nature and work within it with as little preparation as possible. In doing so, they attempt to cultivate an unencumbered body and empty mind. Their works are often formed through using their body, and are started from an object which they stumble upon at a specific natural site. This allows them to feel as if the artwork is being created within a natural interaction with their natural surroundings.


Since Yatoo works are often created through a minimum of unnecessary action, or by using ephemeral installation or drawing methods, many people have not witnessed the works on site. Simple actions such as piling, connecting, drawing, inserting, and throwing, are often the norm. As such, these works are often visually humble in nature, and reveal a stark contrast from overtly materialistic work. Despite this lack of huge production costs, these works never lose their creative essence.


Over the past 35 years, an aesthetic of Nature Art has begun to emerge. It is one where artists start to work with little to no preparation, and yet strives to leave no remaining trace of its temporary, yet poignant existence. This methodology shows the possibility of an artistic practice devoid of political and capitalistic elements which so easily become infused with other artistic movements.


III. Yatoo’s Achievement and Vision


Since its establishment in 1981, Yatoo has distanced itself somewhat from mainstream Korean contemporary art. Instead, it has striven to find a new method using the human original artistic inclination towards nature based on Korean traditional life style which itself embraces the flow of nature's order.


Up to now, a large number of artists have worked at Yatoo sites. While many have stayed, some have left. Nevertheless, everyone who has been involved with the organization continues to broaden and develop their artistic senses based on the experience within nature. In 2011, Yatoo expanded as an international Nature Art Project and Korean Yatoo members who are currently active within the organization are Kang Jeonchung, Kang Hee-joon, Ko Seung-hyun, Ko Hyun-hie, Kwon O-yeol, Kim Soon-im, Park Bong-gi, Lee Sun-ju, Ri Eung-woo, Jeon Won-gil, Jung Jang-jig, Choi Ye-moon, Hur Kang, etc.


Above all else, the result of Yatoo's Nature Art movement can be stated to be the discovery of a new form of art called 'Nature Art'. Yatoo artists often minimized their own will to drastically manipulate the environments around them, and in return, developed the concept of 'Nature Art'. In this, nature and art are in a cooperative relationship, with nature itself having an effect within artistic endeavors. In Nature Art, nature's vitality and human creativity are simultaneously in cooperative action. Together, they present a peaceful, coexistence which is both stimulating and inspiring for participants and others in the contemporary art world.


The Nature Art movement started in a small city in South Korea, yet has spread out through international exchange projects. The exhibition in Hamburg Art College in 1989 was one such international opportunity for the group, and led to the creation of the Geumgang International Nature Art Exhibition in Gongju in 1991. In 1992, this exhibition opened in Schueberg, Germany, and another opened in Samukawa, Japan in 1994. Another interesting event was the Geumgang International Nature Art Exhibition which opened in Gongju in 1995. This was a large scale Nature Art project which involved 128 artists from 23 countries. The artists worked and stayed together for 28 days, which is a very rare event.


In the 1980s, Yatoo's activities maintained many characteristics of a research group and communicated with the public by means of a published catalogue. However, the method of presenting a detailed outcome on site was naturally required from 1991 when they progressed to holding public exhibition events. This was an opportunity for each artist to initiate a multilateral approach, in order to find their own, more direct way of expressing themselves.


In 2004, Yatoo established the first ever Nature Art biennale. It was held with a focus on this emerging yet distinct field of 'Nature Art.' Starting in 2009, the Yatoo International Artist in Residence Program, held at the Yatoo Nature Art house was opened and approximately 15 artists have come to visit each year since. In 2011, the international Nature Artist network was established through the Yatoo International Project. Currently there are approximately 130 active artists from 36 countries taking part. The International Nature Art Curator's Meeting in 2013 led to the establishment of the Global Nomadic Art Project a year later. After the 2015 Global Nomadic Art Project-India, the 2016 Global Nomadic Art Projects in South Africa and Iran are currently being prepared. Through this project, Nature Artists from various countries around the world will meet without borders, immersed in the nature which surrounds them.


After 35 years, Yatoo started to diversify its activities. In particular, it began a joint research with UNIST (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology). This is a project which combines scientific research designed to reflect the ecological cycles of living ecosystems with artistic visions of nature. This project will serve as a new opportunity for future Yatoo activities. It was also decided that the materials related with 35 years of Yatoo's activities would be permanently stored in the National Archives of Korea. Now, Yatoo is in the process of combing through what artifacts remain of its history in an effort to provide the archives with an accurate representation of its work. This process has been a reminder of the impact which the local, autonomous way which Yatoo and the Nature Art movement developed. As of now, the construction of the Geumgang Nature Art Biennale Exhibition Hall is in the planning stages. When it is completed, Nature Art pieces and other related materials will be displayed. These will be effectively used for research into future Nature Art practices.


Through a cooperation with 'Jayeonsori', which is a recently launched social cooperative, Yatoo has planned and will proceed with a joint project. This will be related to programs to inform people of the value of Nature Art and offer a direct experience of Nature Art creation. Yatoo will utilize this opportunity to ensure a cooperative approach to research and promotion can systematically take place. Furthermore this will help the organization to continue building creative bridges between nature and humans in varies parts of the world.


2016. 6. 5.


Jeon, Won-gil Artist / Director of Yatoo International Project