Korean Painting and Craft Art, "Korean Arts and Crafts: Tradition and Creativity"

Date: 11 Nov 2008 – 4 December 2008
Venue: Korean Cultural Centre UK, Grand Buildings, 1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5BW

The exhibition showcases JU-WON JANG, NAMI KIM, CHEON-BO, and YOUNG-JUN KIM, four Korean artists who have shaped recent developments in precious ornaments, embroidery, painting and modern lacquer manufacturing.

Korean Jade by Ju-won JANG
Jade has been used in Korea from the Stone Age onwards, especially during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC-935 AD) as evidenced by the many jade beads excavated from various ancient tombs. The white, soft qualities of Jade convey persistence, mildness, subtlety, and patience. Emblematic of the Korean character, Jade symbolises the best of human qualities. During the Goryeo Dynasty (AD 918-1392) jade craft developed into sculpted ornaments for the royal families and aristocracy. Jade ornaments were also heirlooms passed down from mother to daughter and mother-in-law to daughter-in-law.

From his childhood, Jun-won JANG learned the traditional methods of trimming, creating and repairing artistic objects made of jade. He has gone on to develop his artistry with Jade carving openings, elaborate incense burners, kettles, and pedants. He is especially famous for his unique ability to carve linked chains of Jade.

Korean Embroidery by Nami KIM
For more than 2000 years, Korean traditional silk thread embroidery has developed the ability to harmonise Korean colour patterns using blue, red, yellow, white and black in particular, as illustrated on court dresses and suits, and with the symbols of good fortune, lucky pocket bags used as wedding gifts. This exhibition present the work of a mistress of this tradition, Nami KIM (born 1939), including a pair of flower-patterned shoes, decorated with peony blossoms, hand-sewed with leather. Red, blue and yellowish green are her preferred colours.

Korean Painting by Cheon-Bo
Traditional Korean paintings use brush, ink, paper, and ink slab with an emphasis on the speed at which the artist wields the brush and the shading of the ink. Compared to Western paintings that attempt to fill the entire space, the empty space is an important dimension of the art work. It is the way the artist utilizes the power of the strokes and the beauty of the empty space that creates the desired aesthetic. Here the four works of “Audacity”, “The Face of God,” “Dirt ” and “Climbing up that Cliff,” portray Cheon-Bo’s ideals and thoughts using the medium as of old. In “Audacity” if you are bold you can even avoid death. In “Someone Climbing up the Cliff” you can climb the mountains of life and faith without ever becoming discouraged. The work is 135 cm long and 75cm wide that exhibit power and a remarkable aura. Yet the brush stroke takes only 30 to 60 seconds to complete, without a breath, and in absolute focus, in a line that takes hours of practice and effort to achieve.

Korean Lacquer Ware Inlaid With Mother-of-Pearl by Young-Jun KIM
The sophisticated craftsmanship of Korean lacquer wares is admired and sought after by collectors and aficionados worldwide. Widely used as household items in the past, they are now gaining a reputation in the luxury art market. The Korean phrase “najeon chilgi” literally means “lacquer ware decorated with mother-of-pearl” also called ‘nacre’. Korean ‘nacre’ is thought to originate from the third century. It gained popularity during the unified Silla period (668~935). The oldest surviving lacquer wares are those from the Goryeo Dynasty (918~1392).
Lacquer, as a resin made from highly toxic saps of lacquer trees, a variant of poison ivy, can cause serious skin rashes. Lacquer on wood, often referred to as a natural plastic, is remarkably resistant to water, acid and heat. The secret to this resistance to heat and water lies in a coating of many layers. The colouring is normally black or dark brown although variation comes through adding natural and artificial agents. Young Jun KIM studied design in Italy and married traditional techniques with modern design in applications that range from the interior of cars to the X-Box that Bill Gates gave to Korean President Lee.

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