A couple of weeks ago I participated in a weekly challenge called Monochrome Madness on fellow bloggers site Leanne Cole Photoraphy . Leanne is a photographer and her site is obviously about photography. This weekly photo challenge is relatively new and is a great challenge and attracts some fantastic artjst contributions… so I thought I would give it another go this week…
My contribution is a photo I took in Seoul, Sth Korea in August 2011 while participating in a ceramics festival and exhibition in Gangjin, a coastal town famous for its celadon ceramics in Sth Korea. After the festival we traveled throughout Sth Korea ending in Seoul, where we saw lots of fantastic architecture – and my image for this challenge was of a great building I saw in Seoul which featured a wall garden – it was one of the first wall gardens I had seen in modern architecture in real life.
The complete Monochrome Madness post on Leanne’s blog can be viewed HERE Check it out for the other great entries 🙂
I am going to share a few signs with you from my trip to Korea in 2011 : basically they illustrate the importance and esteem that ceramics and ceramic artists, or potters, are held within this society.
Why are they held in such esteem? To answer this we need to explore a little history (in a nutshell) …
Korea was invaded by the Mongols in the 13th century, and the Japanese in the 16th century, causing the production of ceramics and specilised glazes, such as celadon, to be severely hampered. During the Japanese invasion many potters were abducted and forcefully relocated to Japan to produce porcelains and Celadons. Eventually, this resulted in the development of both the porcelain and tea industries of Japan. Since these earlier invasions Korea was then invaded by Japan in 1910: political freedom was restricted and cultural assimilation was attempted. Since independence in 1948, there has been an emphasis in Korea on revitalising cultural identity: this has been achieved through a variety of different cultural festivals AND the passing on of specific ceramic techniques and traditions within families. Usually, due to patriarchal tradition, this is passed on to the male members of the family, however, during my trip to Korea I did come across two families who were passing the knowledge onto female members – how times have changed! This break in tradition was either due to no sons being born within the family, or the sons not being interested in working in the ceramics industry (mind you, in times past the boys would have had no choice).
Kim Jong Ok: cultural treasure number 105 – This is the cultural treasure marker outside his home. I was lucky enough to visit his home and studio. Images of this visit can be seen in my Facebook album here.
Why is this sign, and what it says, so fascinating to me? Well as an artist and ceramic artist, it is so intriguing when the arts are viewed as reverent by other cultures, rather than threatening or challenging, or hippy artists sitting around doing nothing… Mind you, one could assert that this concept is being used to enforce national pride and patriotism – which is also not a good thing (look at how artists were used during the Russian revolution and other movements, and/or excluded from it : Nazi Germany), however, from what I observed the South Korean government initiative seems to be a passive (not aggressive) attempt to rediscover cultural identity, and I think this is what makes the difference.
Another sign I found intriguing in South Korea was a framed pamphlet I couldn’t help but see mounted on the inside of a toilet door. Now in Australia – well alot of Australia – what you will see inside toilet doors is adverts/ campaigns educating people about drug use, safe sex, environmental issues, etc. However, in South Korea it’s all about ceramics exhibitions or festivals!! Another sign of the value that is placed on ceramics and the arts in general. Yay!!
Now, this image is a bit blurry…. BUT cut me some slack: I was sitting on the toilet!!
The final image I would like to share with you is an image of the banner my partner and kids made for me when I got home from Korea after a two week tour – it was the longest I had been away from them all, so it was very cute!!
More entries to this WordPress Photo Challenge can be viewed here:
In July-August 2011, I was lucky enough to be invited by the Korean government to participate in the annual Gangjin Celadon Ceramics Festival where, along with other international ceramicists invited from the USA, Israel, Pakistan and Germany, we exhibited in an international ceramics exhibition and demonstrated our making techniques during the festival.
In return for our participation we were provided with yummy Korean meals, accommodation, and were treated to workshops devoted to local and traditional techniques given by Korean potters.
Korea has a long history of invasion and cultural assimilation, from the Mongols in the 13th century, the Japanese in the 16th century, and the Japanese again in 1910. Since independence in 1948, there has been an emphasis in Korea on revitalising cultural identity: the Gangjin Celadon Ceramics Festival has become a beneficiary of this South Korean government initiative.
As a group we began by arriving at Seoul Airport then travelled to Incheon, where we stayed overnight. Then we bused it way down to the other end of South Korea, Gangjin, where we stayed for a week while joining the festival.
The actual festival was a fantastic experience, with many new friends made. As ceramics has a huge cultural identity in Korea, the festival was visited not only by ceramics ‘geeks’ but by families and general members of the community who were treated to market stalls, hands-on making marquees and traditional tea ceremony experiences.
The second week of our stay we all climbed on a bus and embarked on a Korean government subsidised ceramic tour of South Korea. The tour involved visiting National Treasures, Master Potters, Tea Masters, Temples, Museums and Galleries. It was amazing!
The following week’s tour was a marathon effort, though well worth the on and offing of the bus. It is hard to fathom the value the government and people put on ceramics, when one comes from Australia, where artists have to struggle to make ends meet, and many give up altogether. In Korea ceramicists are well respected, and some are national treasures (and this is noted on posts outside their homes) or have titles as officially developing, maintaining and handing down certain ceramic traditions.
While on tour we travelled from Gangjin to Boseong to Hadong to Gimhae to Busan to Ulsan to Gyeongju to Daegu to Mungyeong to Suanbo to Yeolu to Icheon, then back to Incheon then on to Seoul, where we stayed in Insa-Dong, a suburb of Seoul. Here we were able to stay a few days and nights to explore and have free time. Insa-Dong is the cultural & arts hot spot of Seoul, and the food was great. Of course I did my fair share of shopping while in South Korea, both at the festival and while on tour. As well as clothes and present for family I also purchased some beautiful tableware and tea-bowls.
I had previously been exposed to the ‘tea ceremony’ via my research of Japanese Ceramics, and like most people believed that this is where all the tea traditions were founded. My Korean experience, and the knowledge I gained, particularly while on tour, changed this notion and fuelled my interest in this area of ceramic history. As a result I am currently compiling a book of my Korean experience, containing a brief history of Korea and Tea, and an extensive photo gallery of my ‘tea’ experiences while in Korea. I am constructing the book using Blurb, and hope to have it finished by the end of the month, at which time it will be available to purchase online.
Left & Below: Ancient Korean Ceramics showing tea-bowls in the foreground.
The following slideshow is a collection of images captured during a ceramics tour of South Korea after attending the 38th celadon ceramics festival in Gangjin, South Korea earlier this year.
Korea has a long history of invasion and cultural assimilation, from the Mongols in the 13th century, the Japanese in the 16th century, and the Japanese again in 1910. Since independence in 1948, there has been an emphasis in Korea on revitalising cultural identity: the Celadon Ceramics Festival has become a beneficiary of this Korean government initiative.
I, along with other international ceramic artists, were invited to exhibit and demonstrate their skills during the festival. Afterwards we were treated to a ceramics tour of South Korea. Due to Korean history there was a strong emphasis on tea and teawares, with which I fell in love.