With Kang Ik-joong’s specially commissioned work floating prominently on the river outside Tate Modern, Robilant and Voena have chosen an opportune time to exhibit a collection of his moon jar paintings. Also on show is Things I Know (2010) an installation of 500 small moon jars arranged in a circle. He may have been pulling my leg, but the artist told me at the exhibition’s opening that actually there were only 499 – one of them got damaged in transit.
The moon jar, as well as being the most celebrated achievement of Joseon dynasty ceramics – a milky-white orb never perfectly spherical – also chimes nicely with Kang’s reunification project on the Thames: Moon Jars are made in two halves, joined at the equator: a suitable symbol of a reunified Korea.
This installation is supplemented by tiny loudspeakers in the vases connected by a tangle of wires which looks like tendrils of a creeper. From the vases emerge the sounds of birdsong, perhaps recalling the status of the DMZ as a wildlife sanctuary.
Laid out on the floor of the gallery it makes a nice foreground to the paintings on the wall – some an authentic milky white, others colourfully decorated. Each will have their own favourite. My own is the one placed against a background consisting of a brightly-coloured mosaic of smaller moon jars: they almost seem to flash with a rhythm that recalls a retro video game. But the small colourful squares also recall another strand in Kang’s practice: the mosaic of 3-inch square pictures collected from countless children around the worked or, in the case of his Thames project, the displaced people who fled south during the Korean War.
Kang Ik-joong’s Moon Jar is at Robilant + Voena until 23 September 2016