Axis of Horizon is a feature exhibition focusing on work from the international art collection of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA). The exhibition was designed to show contemporary reinterpretations of “nature”—a traditional subject matter and theme that has long been explored and used as a focus of artistic representation in the post-Renaissance transition to modernity—and to explore it in different forms.
In the history of Western art, “nature” was long overshadowed by mythology, religion, history, and portraiture as themes derived from religion and human-centered thinking; it was not until the 17th century that landscapes became established as an independent genre that was actively pursued in art. Axis of Horizon illustrates approaches toward nature that have undergone continuous transformations since the first landscape paintings that regarded nature as a topic for subjective artistic treatment. In addition to exploring nature based on its reinterpretations through aesthetic experimentation within contemporary art, the exhibition takes a comprehensive look at the relationship between nature and human beings, society and the individual, and history. Works of art that show experimentation with and expansion into a range of different visual arts genres—including sculpture, photography, the moving image, and installations—also encompass multiple layers of meaning from a multi-dimensional perspective.
If the Eastern view of nature is understood to signify nature that has not been subjected to artificial human forces, then the view of nature in the West has treated it as a subject of conquest. The concept of the “landscape” as we ordinarily use it also refers to nature that has been developed or natural scenes that have been transformed into different forms of “civilized states.” The concept of “Arcadia” as an ideal, primeval form of nature has long existed in Western history, but even this is but a beautiful and abundant utopia that originates a view of nature centering on human ideals. The nature that is to be examined here is nature in a broader sense, where the elements that exist behind what is seen—the present time and history, the individual and society, the phenomena of nature themselves—are condensed and transformed into individual artistic works. The exhibition title Axis of Horizon symbolizes the aim of presenting a new perspective—one that freely crosses boundaries between within and outside of nature, or between humanity and civilization—by attempting to establish an “axis” for portraying different coordinates along the horizontal point of contact where sky meets earth or water. In that sense, nature is something that exists on the boundaries, like a window or threshold looking into different worlds and dimensions, illustrating the competitive relationships that have formed within the ways in which time, history, humanity, and nature itself have existed. Through its depictions and representations of nature, contemplations of life, and the messages implicit in contemporary art as it evokes an awareness of humanity as part of nature, the exhibition aspires to reflect on the present while exploring the future.