Wook Jae Maeng had been on my list ever since reading the article in Ceramic Review written by Hye Young Cho that inspired me to pursue this project. His unforgettable work consists mainly of wall-based figurative sculptures of animals, often fantastical, hybrid surrealist compositions. I found it so different to everything else I had seen and tracked him down.
Kyung Won accompanied me, as usual. She was such an immense help, organising the schedule, coming to most appointments, and really going out of her way to help.
Goyang is a town north west of Seoul and to get there involved trains and buses, but it was a straightforward journey. Hye Young had tipped us off that the studio would be immaculate. In fact her words were that it is “like a hospital”, it is so clean. She was not wrong! I have never seen such a clean and tidy ceramic working space. It doubles as his studio and showroom, with beautifully presented work on the walls and surfaces. He had prepared for us, too, by unpacking some sculptures that were ready to be sent for an exhibition, and laid out an impressive collection of magazines featuring his work and catalogues.
On one shelf was a collection of mice, and he showed me a photograph in a catalogue of the first iteration of this installation. Ah-ha, I thought, how about having an installation of his work in the show, now that I know his likes to make installation pieces. It also brought to mind the idea of pairing him up with a sound artist who could create a sound piece for the installation. As soon as I mentioned this, oh yes, he said, I usually add some sound to the work! However, he means he finds sounds online. So now I have a lovely mission (or rather Joseph Young, my sound collaborator, does) to find a sound artist to work with Wook Jae.
He treated us to a lovely Korean lunch before we headed back to the city. Korean hospitality is A+!
So that little adventure into thinking about sound two days/two meetings in a row, with Chun Bok Lee and Wook Jae Maeng led nicely on to my only meeting with a sound artist in Seoul. Joseph had fixed this up. The artist is called Hankil Rye and is established on the sound art scene in Korea. He was in the middle of organising a sound performance festival at MMCA Seoul (Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art) over 3 days. I went along after travelling back from visiting Wook Jae, and sadly only had an hour to visit what turned out to be an impressive, cavernous museum with multiple excellent exhibitions on.
I was pleased to see that Kiho Kang, one of the Made in Korea artists, was featured in an exhibition called Craft Narrative: The Place, Process, Perspective about craft, with a good collection of his work alongside various other crafts makers, all presented with really good films showing their processes. Film is definitely a winner to include in exhibitions of craft and art practices.
Hankil was pretty stressed – well, it was a big festival he was organising – and I was amazed he managed to take an hour out to talk to me. But it was a very productive meeting. He not only knows sound artists to put me in touch with, he also says he knows the perfect field recording artist (the only female sound artist specialising in field recording in Korea, so he says) who can record the bamboo forest for Chun Bok Lee. And on top of that, he is coming to the UK next year to stay for a while, so hopefully he will be able to collaborate in the exhibition too. Having said that, the sound element of Made in Korea is totally dependent on a successful funding bid, which I am about to start work on very soon!