The trouble about trying to keep a blog while there are lots of exciting things going on, is that there is no time to actually blog! I am sure this sentiment is shared with everyone else on this site.
There has been so much going on in Seoul over the past few days that I have not any time to update – and in about one minute I am leaving for Seoul train station to catch a train to Gimhae, where I have had a special invitation to visit ClayArch Gimhae, the biggest and most well respected centre for Korean ceramics and residency centre in Korea. This is the start of a 5 day trip in south Korea so I will hopefully find the time to chronicle my last few days while I am there.
In the meantime, I will leave you with this photograph taken by four very cute and enthusiastic school students who interviewed me yesterday as a school assignment about what foreigners’ experiences of Korea are.
Today’s appointment was with Eui Jeong Yoo; a visit to his solo show that ends today, hence the haste to make sure we didn’t miss it. Won has been impressively efficient and thorough organizing a schedule that includes meeting up with each Seoul-based Korean artist, either at their studio or exhibition. We met after she had taken her own show down and set off for Gallery Purple, just outside of Seoul in a town called Namyangju. It was refreshing to be surrounded by fields of corn and mountains, but even here, where you would not expect to find sophistication, there were several very trendy cafes and the Gallery Purple complex. What a place! I discovered that it is a philanthropic enterprise, owned by a couple who are collectors. They have established a model whereby they invite artists to do residencies in a fantastic purpose-built space, with spacious studios and a very well appointed gallery, and in exchange they receive artwork for their collection. This kind of thing does not happen in the UK! But it should! It is a well-trodden path in the US, but then there is not much public funding there.
Anyway, it was a treat. Eui Jeong Yoo caught my attention because his work fits the Made in Korea theme very well. My idea behind the theme is that is questions identity and provenance and values of the mass-made versus the hand-made. Made in Korea is something one sees stamped on the bottom on mass-produced goods a lot, whereas the standard of craft, and in particular, ceramics, from Korea is exceptionally high (in my opinion). Therefore to give a ceramic show of high quality the name Made in Korea is a little ambiguous. In addition, all the artwork is made by Koreans, but not all of them reside in Korea. Anyway. I digress! The reason I was drawn to Eui Jeong’s work is because he refers to the traditions of Korean ceramics by re-creating classic forms, such as moon jars and vases, and he sometimes mixes the traditional designs, such as cranes and clouds, with contemporary highly commercial brands. So he is questioning various things – what is fine art in relation to craft and how famous brands acquire new significance through mass populism.
His solo show was stunning. The first thing we encountered were three man-sized vessels. Wow. The first thing that came into my head was, he must have had access to a BIG kiln! It turns out he made them at ClayArch Gimhae, the Ceramic Collection and Residency Centre who have made me a special invitation to visit. It is a centre for architectural ceramics, hence why I am interested as that is my specialism!
Afterwards Eui Jeong invited us into his studio and we chatted about his work and the practicalities of the exhibition in the UK. He then gave us a lift back towards the city, while light mist descended over the mountains surrounding us.
We stopped off for another spectacular Korean speciality for dinner in Hongdae again (even buzzier as it was Saturday). We had a spicy chicken soup with red peppers. Yum!
I am loving it here in Seoul. Admittedly I was a bit frazzled even before I boarded the plane, having completed the final event for the Landscape : Islands project (that has been going on for 14 months) a mere four days before leaving, what with the jet lag on top, but it’s so exciting to be here at last!
After two years in the planning, it was so great to finally meet up with KyungWon Baek again. I haven’t seen her since European Ceramic Context on Bornholm in Denmark in September 2014.
She whisked me straight off to an opening on my first day. Deokho Kim’s exquisite works were well worth seeing. I was surprised and delighted to see that it was Gallery LVS Project, whom I met at Collect at the Saatchi in May 2015. I had been meaning to get in touch with them and here I was! KyungWon introduced me to Minsoo Lee and his partner Bokyung Kim, both participating in Made in Korea, and Inhwa Lee, another brilliant ceramist who I have been connected with on FB for a while. In the schedule is a visit to the studio where Deokho, Inhwa and MinSoo are all doing a residency at Yanggu Porcelain Museum. Sounds like a fabulous place!
The exhibition was extremely well presented; excellent works, beautiful interpretation material and literature in a very elegant space. A long, chic bar contained a row of tempting Korean morsels and flocks of almost exclusively female visitors buzzed around. A perfect way to start the trip.
Then the gallery director turned up and I introduced myself. She almost remembered who I was (don’t blame her – there must have been thousands of faces coming and going at Collect), but once I started telling her about the project, before I knew it, she was talking about potentially involving me in the Cheonju International Craft Biennale. When the head curator arrived, who remembered exactly who I was, we went further discussing possibilities and it remains to be seen what may come of this. But what a great start. One of the outcomes I would like to achieve from this trip is to find a venue for exhibiting my work in Korea. The Craft Biennale has been mentioned to me by many people as a good thing to be involved in, so here’s hoping!
Then Won took me out for a walk around Hongdae, a super buzzy, incredibly busy place – even more so as it was Friday night! We went to a local place she knows to have a traditional Korean barbecue where they bring you loads of dishes surrounding a fire pit in the middle of the table (constructed out of an oil drum) where you cook your own meat. Very tasty and great fun! I reckon these three weeks are going to fly by!