Byun Young Geun exemplifies his command over the brush in an illustrative ode to Ladakh

The Korean illustrator demonstrates his painterly prowess in this most recent work of art, taking us on a tour of breathtaking views of India's Ladakh.

9 January 2020

In every corner, nook and cranny of Byun Young Geun’s painterly illustrations, the Korean illustrator demonstrates a masterful command over the brush. When we first came across his evocative portfolio last year, we couldn’t help but gaze in awe at the softness of touches dabbed onto pages of textured watercolour paper. His control over the thin washes of paint are immediately evident to the viewer, which, in turn, allows Young Geun to suggest a movement so realistic, the convincing artworks often seem more evocative of photographs mid-movement rather than paintings.

In his latest zine, A subtle duet, Young Geun visually retells his ongoing adventures in the ethereal landscape of Ladakh, India. Over the past six years, he’s journeyed to the sandy land many number of times, even completing a short residency in the mountains where he painted many of his watercolour paintings from life. With each visit, he was overcome with an intense emotion, “strange enough to make me feel afraid,” he says. And with this in mind, the intention of his zines is simple; to express these feelings through a series of immersive illustrations. “The story of the series is very simple,” Young Geun tells It’s Nice That. “It starts from one of the most noisy and confusing places in India and finishes at the peaceful place where things are slowly flowing.”

For this reason, he calls the first zine of the series, The most silent zine that is drawn in the extremely loud land. The story may seem simple in its atmospheric documentations, tracking the illustrator’s journey from the urban to the wildly picturesque Kashmir region. But with each panel, Young Geun evokes a sense of tranquility through a microscopic attention to detail, distilling moments of serene contemplation in its delighted viewers. He adds, “In each zine, I wanted to depict the diversity of nature, the city and their feelings in detailed scenes.”


Byun Young Geun

Consisting of four zines so far, Young Geun has sketched, painted and pondered Ladakh countless numbers of times for the project. The latest zine delves deep into the Himalayan region at the very north of India. Using only two tubes of watercolour paints, the illustrator manages to express a myriad of tonal hues in the moving landscapes. With yellow and indigo at the tip of his brush, Young Geun somehow coaxes out the wonder of the Himalayan highlands through – what can only be described as – total artistic control.

As Young Geun precisely blends together smidgens of yellow and indigo together, he marks the page with dots of green throughout the zine’s illustrations. “Because of the high altitude,” remarks Young Geun, “the mountains in Ladakh don’t have trees and it can be seen as a barren and wild landscape.” Despite this, “you can still discover the life and the green,” asserts the illustrator, and in his mind’s eye, he hints to the evergreen spirit of Ladakh’s wilderness through the gentle mixture of two watercolours.

Hoping to complete the project with a total of 200 beautifully illustrated pages, so far, Young Geun has finished 140 pages and four zines. Though its narrative is subtle in its exploration of place and memory, it never fails to compel through the magnetism of the composition. Unable to be categorised as either graphic novel nor illustrated novel, the immersive zines are a homage to the spectacular place that is Ladakh, and the feelings the alluring scenery can’t help but create.

GalleryByun Young Geun

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Byun Young Geun

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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