Korea has a vibrant and distinctive tradition of making ceramics which dates back thousands of years. Contemporary artists working with clay in Korea have transformed the old traditions into a modern style which neither blindly replicates the past nor ignores the wealth of forms and decorative techniques which make Korean ceramics so different from the neighboring traditions of China and Japan. Coming posts will introduce ceramic artists that we have visited in South Korea and will show examples of the type of work being done today in clay.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Baek Un Chol 백운철 12:23 PM
We have come to Mokseokwan on a quiet rainy December morning without any clear idea of what will unfold on this visit. Visiting Jeju island in search of the fast vanishing Jeju onggi pottery tradition, the visit to Mokseokwon rock and root collection is a time filler before a scheduled afternoon appointment. And what exactly is a rock and root collection? Well its a collection of curiously shaped pieces of lava and gnarled stumps beautifully displayed in a landscaped park with many examples of the traditional Jeju thatched buildings scattered about. And all of this is the brain child of Baek Un Chol a native of Jeju who fell in love with the faces and stories he could see in the stones and trees. Although his parents considered him a bit crazy and enlisted the efforts of a shaman to change his behavior, he has persisted in pursuing his various dreams to this day.
After graduating from Seoul Arts University with a drama degree and pursuing a career as a photographer, he began to assemble a collection of rocks and stone grave markers. He auditioned his prospective wife with a wheelbarrow and finding her capable and willing he married her and integrated her into his scheme of landscaping. And somewhere along the way he decided to start firing the local clay in a small woodfired kiln built among the rock huts. He concentrates on figurative sculpture most of which illustrates themes of familial love related to the traditional Jeju story of the progenatrix who gave birth to five hundred hungry sons who accidentally ate her after she fell into the stewpot. His figures are rough and many have suffered from the hazards of woodfiring but the sheer vitality and the enormous number of them give them a power which many trained potters lack entirely.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Han Young Sil 한영실 12:26 PM
When we asked Han Young Sil what her first impression of America was, she quickly answered “liberty of my hand”. She was contrasting the education she had received in Korea with its countless lists of rules about what she couldn’t do and the freedom to explore her ideas which she felt in the Art Academy in San Francisco. The four years she spent in America were crucial to the maturation of her sculptural ideas and her first solo exhibition on her return to Korea revealed a confidant and powerful artist who showed a range of pieces based on human figures struggling with their emotions.
Maybe her life as an artist and gallery owner was preordained because she was born in Busan to a family which was just setting up a business importing and selling art supplies. Han Young Sil’s earliest memories are of walking home from school through the rice fields and then playing amidst the stacks of paper and shelves of colors. Her family was totally supportive when she entered Ewha Woman’s University and received her BFA and MA. At this point she set off for San Francisco and spent four years working to explore the expressive qualities of clay and to develop a personal viewpoint. On her return to Korea she married and started a family while also managing to spend a period of time in Paris as an independent artist.
Now she owns and operates a gallery in the idyllic arts community called Heyri Art Valley north of Seoul. When we visited on a sunny winter afternoon, she took time from gallery duties to show us her studio space which is located on the floor over the gallery. Many full size figures were standing about in various stages of completion and as we wandered among them we discussed the difficulties of combining clay with other materials, the metaphors which the wing like structures in the torsos signify, and the likelihood of weather damage to clay figures left out in the Seoul weather. We gained the impression that Han Young Sil is a mature artist with a desire to explore ever farther and a sense of impatience for the next development in her career.
1988 M.F.A., The Academy of Art College, San Francisco, California
1985 M.A., Graduate School of Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea
1983 B.A., Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea
2005 Hakgojae Art Center, Seoul, SK
2001 Jong-Ro Gallery, Seoul, SK
1997 Art Center, Seoul, SK
1995 Kum-Ho Museum, Seoul, SK
1993 Espace Bateau Lavoir, Paris, France
1990 Hyun-Dai Gallery, Seoul, SK
1998-99 Instructor, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, SK
1996-98 Instructor, National Poly-Technique University, Seoul, SK
1994-95 Instructor, Mokwon University, DaeJeon, SK
Address:1652-345 Buphung-ri, Tahnhyun-meun, Paju, Kyunggi-do, South Korea
Friday, August 28, 2009
Hong Soon Jung 홍순정 12:30 PM
Perhaps it was preordained that Hong Soong Jung would be a ceramic artist since she grew up as the daughter of Cho Chung Hyun one of the most prominent Korean ceramic artists of her generation. But it was her mother who questioned Hong SongJung’s choice of clay at age 13. Certain of her own love of clay she entered Ewha Women’s University and commenced a career that has never failed to reward her. In 1993 after receiving her BFA and then her MFA from Ewha she went to Faenza Italy where she studied architectural ceramics at the prestigious Instituto Statale d’Arte per la Ceramica. It was in this new environment that she began to explore ceramic ideas which were quite different from the Korean traditions stressed by Ewha University. Primarily investigating surface applications for ceramics in architecture she produced slip cast and molded panels and tiles many of which sported colorful floral motifs.
The practical side of this learning is apparent in the bathrooms of the home which she shares with artist Lee Eunmee in Heyri Art Valley north of Seoul. Beautiful custom tile installations transform the bathrooms from mundane utility rooms into colorful places for enjoying water. The viewer friendly nature of her work is purposeful because Hong SongJung believes that ceramic art should be accessible beautiful design for everyone. She is serious about public access, devoting the entrance room in her house to a cafe where customers who order coffee get to drink it out of handthrown porcelain which she and Lee Eunmee produce for sale. “The stripes are my work and Eunmee does the spots and plain”. Besides being lined with shelves of functional ware, the cafe is decorated with some of Hong SongJung’s floral sculpture.
Patterns from trees and flowers are a recurring theme in her work and she has recently developed a body of work combining heavy steel wire with clay leaves or flowers. The wire is very thick almost rod like so that it has a strength and visual weight of its own. In an installation that she took us to see in Heyri the twisted wire was almost the dominant element in the piece. This movement towards the use of other materials contrasts with the purely clay installations of vast numbers of leaf forms of somber color or seed pods which she has exhibited in the past.
Hong Soon jung is in the middle of a fruitful career with evident enthusiasm for both purely functional work with playful decoration and strong colors and also for exploring stronger emotions in a range of ceramic and mixed media sculpture.
Instituto Statale d’Arte per la Ceramica, Faenza, Italy
M.F.A., Ewha Womans University, Seoul, SK
B.F.A., Ewha Womans University, Seoul, SK
2007 Gahjin Gallery, Seoul, SK
2005 Terra Gallery, Paju, Sk
2004 Terra Gallery, Paju, SK
2001 Tho Art Gallery, Seoul, SK
1998 Tho Art Gallery, Seoul, SK
Address: 1652-316 Heyri Art Valley, Tahnhyun-meun, Paju, Kyunggi-do, South Korea
Tel: +82(country code).(0)31.949.7879, +82.(0)10.7999.7619
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Huh Min Ja 허민자 12:40 PM
For 35 years Huh Min Ja has been a guiding light to contemporary ceramics on the island of Jeju. That is not to say that she hasn’t had her doubts about coming to what is now one of Korea’s top vacation spots. “I cried” she says of the moment when her new husband introduced her to the then poverty stricken and undeveloped island where he was seeking to make a career. Born and educated in Seoul, Huh Min Ja eventually made a complete transition and now shudders when she mentions the traffic and congestion in the nation’s capital. She has nurtured generations of ceramic artists at Jeju University where she teaches and she maintains an active studio in the landscaped compound next to her home.
Although no one in her family was an artist, she credits some of her artistry to her mother who she says was adept at all kinds of hand work, particularly sewing and embroidering. After finishing an undergraduate degree at Seoul National University, she received an MFA from Ewha Women’s University. Because the course of study at Ewha did not supply hands on experience in kiln firing, she worked in a pottery workshop in the ceramic town of Icheon south of Seoul to gain practical experience. She has always taught all her students at Jeju to make clay, formulate glazes, and fire kilns. Although they have sometimes commented on all the heavy labor, they also realize that they have a much better knowledge base than many other Korean clay students. The balance between teaching and maintaining a life as an independent artist is difficult but Huh Min Ja has sought to keep a fresh perspective by stepping out of her teaching role when needed. By spending a year studying in Kyoto she returned to Jeju with new eyes and changed her style to accommodate the influence of Jeju’s dramatic natural landscape.
The volcanic origin of Jeju is always evident in the black and gray lava everywhere at hand. Island residents speak of the three things they have in abundance; wind, rocks, and women. Both women and rocks figure prominently in Huh Min Ja’s sculptural work. Overt references to the columnar basalts of the seacoast and the rough texture of the lava clinkers underfoot are easy to see. The women in her work are most often representative of familial love and sometimes an expression of her Catholic faith. Huh Min Ja also produces functional ware often glazed with a combination of native clay, wood ash, and volcanic stone. Particularly noteworthy is the teaware which has a rough dignity suited to meditative sipping. A divergent style of work is the pure white porcelain which she throws and then has a noted calligrapher decorate in blue cobalt. All of her various types of work and her teaching furnish practical evidence of the vigor and dynamism with which she undertakes her creative life.
1993 M.F.A. in Ceramics, College of Design, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, SK
1984 Kyoto Art College, Kyoto, Japan
1967 B.F.A. in Applied Arts, College of Fine Art, Seoul National University, Seoul, SK
2006 The 12th Exhibition, Glory to God-On Earth Peace, Gana Art Center, Seoul, SK
2001 The 11th Exhibition, Together in Love, Continenetal Gallery, Sapporo, Japan
1998 The 10th Exhibtion, Stones, Jeju Art Center, Jeju, SK
1997 The 9th Exhibition, View Point: 97 Ceramics, Hyde Gallery at Grossmont Collge, California, U.S.A.
1996 The 8th Exhibition, The Stone Image, Hansol Gallery, Jeju, SK
1993 The 7th Exhibition, The Image of Jeju, Tho Art Space, Seoul, SK
1990 The 6th Exhibition, Ceramics in Living Space, Sejong Gallery, Jeju, SK
1985 The 5th Exhibition, Catholic Center, Jeju, SK
1984 The 4th Exhibition, Ceramic Lamp, Gallery Maronie, Kyoto, Japan
1981 The 3rd Exhibition, Shinsegye Gallery, Seoul, SK
1979 The 2nd Exhibition, KAL Hotel, Jeju, SK
1977 The 1st Exhibition, KAL Hotel, Jeju, SK
Ichon World Ceramic Center, Ichon, SK
Jeju Art Center, Jeju, SK
Changwon Patima Hospital, Changwon, SK
Art Museum of Jingdezhen University, Jingdezhen, China
Yixing Art Museum, Jiangsu, China
Trios Gallery, California, U.S.A.
Catholic Diocese of Kyoto, Kyoto, Japan
Present Professor of Jeju National University Department of Industrial Design
Address: #690-121,1744-1, Ara-dong, Jeju City, Jeju-do, South Korea
Tel: Office: +82(country code).(0)64.754.3690 Fax: +82.(0)64.755.3680
Studio: +82.(0)64.702.1003 Home: +82.(0)64.702.2651 C.P: +82.(0)11.690.2651
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Huh Sang Wook 허상욱 1:00 PM
The contrast between the traffic choked streets of Seoul and the quiet valley where Huh Sang Wook’s studio sits is eased by a CD of jazz saxaphonist Art Pepper that Huh Sang Wook plays while we navigate the freeways. The same need to transition between the traditional Korean ceramic heritage that he studied in college and the contemporary Korean marketplace where he is trying to carve out a career as a self supporting artist is evident in the work we see on the shelves of his studio.
Mostly functional ware it is buncheong style meaning that the dark stoneware body is covered with white slip and then a clear glaze. Popular among the common people of the last dynasty who were forbidden by royal edict to eat from porcelain, it has a lively spontaneous feeling due to the speed with which it was produced and the coarseness of the materials employed. Now buncheong serves to evoke a nostalgia for a bygone Korea. Yet Huh Sang Wook is not merely imitating a set of historical models, he is using an historical style for the production of contemporary functional ceramics. Much of his production has vigorous sgrafitto decoration in floral motifs. This seems to accord with a somewhat ornate decorating trend that is popular in Korean interiors today.
Yet when asked to point out his favorite pieces, he unhesitatingly chooses a trio of small lidded boxes with a stamped decoration that has been filled with white slip and then scraped to leave a textile like patterning on the darker clay body. These quieter pieces seem to lead towards the philosophical path of his mentor, Roe Kyung Jo, who urges his students towards an overall order and simplicity that seeks its vitality in small gestures of spontaneity that strain against a larger discipline.
2007 Buncheong, Tongin Gallery, Seoul, SK
2007 Buncheong Ware Gallery Sigijang, Seoul, SK
2001 Craft Promotion Foundation of Korea, Seoul, SK
1999 Gallery Kyungin, Seoul, SK
Chosen Royal Kiln Museum, Kwangju, SK
Ichon World Ceramic Center, Ichon, SK
Kookmin University, Seoul, Korea
Victoria and Albert Museum, UK
Yeoju World Ceramic Livingware Gallery, Yeoju, SK
Address: #516 Sinbok-ri, Okchon-myun, Yangpyong-gun, Kyongki Province, 467-831, South Korea