In Korea, contemporary ceramic art practice can be roughly divided into three different approaches. First of all, there are artists who adhere to tradition, preserving the cultural heritage of the nation. Secondly there are those who pursue innovation, seeking artistic originality and individual expression. The third trend bridges these two by reinterpreting tradition with creative experiments. The combination of these three attitudes ensures a bright future for Korean ceramics, challenging the boundaries of contemporary creative practice and taking ceramic art to a higher level of aesthetics.
To reflect this, the Korean Gallery presents a new display of works by two contemporary Korean ceramic artists, ‘Vases’ by Cho Chung-Hyun (b. 1940) and ‘From Circle’ by Ro Hae-Sin (b. 1965). This display compares and contrasts their different attitudes towards tradition.
This pair of long neck vessels, ‘Vases’, is inspired by Korean earthenware onggi vessels. Onggi has been used to store fermented sauces and condiments since the Korean Prehistoric Age (prior to 300 BCE). Experimenting with various shapes and decorations, Cho rediscovered the artistic possibilities of the humble container. The shapes of ‘Vases’ are reminiscent of the tall vessels used in early burial rites during the Three Kingdoms Period (37 BCE – 668). The blue inlaid motifs on the surface are a modern take on the Sanggam technique which was developed since the mid-12th century during the Koryŏ Period (918 – 1392) as a method of adorning celadon wares.
In contrast, Ro’s multi-coloured sculptures, ‘From Circle’, are created using processes that break with traditional Korean ceramics. They are made using the slip-casting technique, which was introduced in the 18th-century Europe to mass produce pottery and ceramics. Slip-casting is a process of creating a clay object by filling a plaster mould with liquid clay. Through this modern practice, Ro explores the relationship between colour and form. Building up the colours and carving out the patterns is a painstaking process, but the soft pastel tones and simple repetitive motifs lend the balls a light and playful quality. Unlike ‘Vases’ which transforms and reinterprets tradition, ‘From Circle’ creates a quality of aesthetic ingenuity, distinct from tradition.