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Heyri, The Day Trip of a Lifetime

August 17, 2010

After the extremes of Hongdae’s titillating art scene, this blogger needed a little break and a trip out of the city. Heyri, only 35 minutes from Seoul, proves to be just the kind of get away you ought to treat yourself to if you want a nice trek in the countryside for a day with more cafes, restaurants and galleries than you can shake a stick at. And being outside of the city, you can actually find that stick, too!

Heyri is an art village right nearby Paju Book City and features a diverse array of artists and artworks, all Korean. Even without going into the galleries, however, Heyri proves to be a beautiful place, full of interesting architecture of a very modernist stripe that seems to just sprout out of the otherwise green and open grounds.

There are, in addition to the buildings and galleries, a number of more family oriented attractions, museums about Korea and Korean culture, and other sites of interest if you are looking for a little more than art. Featured above is the Toy Museum…

…here, the Hangul museum, a history of Korea’s written language…

…and the Museum of Musical Instruments, featuring musical instruments from around the world, several of which you can play on.

But we were looking for art, and the first place we stumbled across was this one — Flower Language, an exhibit about… flowers.

I’m more of a cactus guy myself.

The next gallery, a little closer to my heart, featured food. But did it have to be squid and grapes, my two least favorite foods, and both of which happen to look awful sitting next to each other?

At the TouchArt gallery, an exhibit called Wild Nature explored the colorful possibilities of life in nature with a series of paintings much like these two.

And at Gallery SoSo, an exhibit called “In the Ragged Mountains” explored mountain landscapes, craggy surfaces and the texture of a snow-covered peak viewed from various angles — the sculpture-cum-painting above was done on a small, carved out piece of wood.

The galleries, whatever one’s opinion on the art, made good use of the space, and out here in the countryside they had plenty of that to play around with. The small block on the left placed in contrast to the larger pictures (no, not Ian’s head) was itself an art work — a compact cluster of what looked like twisted adobe tiles, with nothing else but ‘Existence’ scrawled on the bottom of it, and fit in nicely with those larger, more diffuse and anarchic swaths of paint on their tan canvas.

Book house was one of the most interesting places to visit and to browse, with its two galleries and its three floors of art books, foreign novels, prints and more. It featured another exhibit on nature and flowers. Did I mention Heyri’s diversity?

The flower photographs of Kim Jung Man were among my most favorite, putting me in the mind of Georgia O’Keefe’s labia-inspired flower paintings. The impressions of these photographs is similar, subtly erotic — either that, or I think about sex way too often.

The flower photographs were on the basement floor — on the top floor of the same Book House was this spiritually-thick space featuring glossy, dark pictures of the sky with religious words like ‘forgiveness’ written on them and, in the basement, a series of books with “knowledge” written on them with large swords driven through each one, or resting on top.

The artist’s intention, according to the exhibition literature, was to reveal the religious/spiritual experience as something beyond the dictates and strictures of a system of knowledge. The exhibit, in any case, evoked a good deal of that religious/spiritual experience, especially through the ethereal choir melismas in the looping soundtrack that accompanies the art.

As much as I love art, this is by far my favorite spot in Heyri. Called the Music Space Camerata, it features a drop-dead gorgeous sound system and a classical/jazz DJ who will play most varieties of classical, operatic and instrumental music on request — each table features pencils and paper for making requests. It is a fantastic place to get a coffee in the mid-day and relax at until dinner, taking in the diversity of music that the cafe’s patrons — or you — will request. The only catch is the 10,000 won price, but this includes a drink, infinite refills (for coffee, at least), and as many muffins as you can eat.

And, once you make your way to dinner, a good, cheaper option is Lime Tree, a restaurant cafe which serves up amazing sandwiches for around 6-7,000, including smoked salmon, bulgolgi and cheese, and chicken and bacon. Mmmm

And, for dessert, check out the Chocolate Design Gallery:

The chocolate is the art here, and masterworks at that — they include a large diversity of truffles (below) as well as cakes, cookies, brownies, and so on.

Of course, no art trip would be complete without having something to ask that timeless question at “Is it art?” Such was the dispute over this strange installation, seen on the way out of Heyri. I personally thought it was put there intentionally, as art, and not just as some decrepit functional structure fallen into desuetude. But you be the judge — is it art?

How to get there:

Go to Hapjeong Station, Exit 2. There will be a bus stop right in front of you on the right. Take bus 2200 (it will be red). After about 45 minutes, you will arrive at the “Heyri” stop — a large black stele will mark the entrance. There is an information kiosk at entrance gate 4.

For Brown Passports very last neighborhood review, the next post will continuing the tour of Hongdae with cheap eats and a night out near Children’s Park!

This post was originally published at Painting the Passports Brown
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3 Comments
  1. intrepidtraveller permalink
    September 19, 2010 6:47 pm

    Wow this post and accompanying photos make this place look nicee I went there my 2nd day in Korea with my Boss and co-workers and thought it was just a tacky, bad version of some part of Disney Land with giant Hello Kitty, Pokemon and other ransom cartoon memerobilia.Im sure it was a lot cooler of a place a few years ago when it was just the artists and not tacky shops. Nice post. 🙂

  2. September 29, 2010 10:47 am

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