Professor Roe Kyung-jo (노경조) made a rare appearance in London yesterday for the opening of his exhibition at Galerie Besson.
Roe’s work was on display in London last year as part of the Traditional Yet Contemporary exhibition at the Air Gallery, and for me his marbled vase was one of its highlights. What is new in this solo exhibition, apart obviously from the greater number of works, is that some of his early oil paintings are for sale alongside his ceramic work.
Look at some of his paintings and they could almost be close-up views of his vases. The same muted colours, almost the same textures, and inspiring the same feeling of peacefulness as you stand in front of them. Some are abstract in composition, while there’s also a self portrait and a portrait of his sister which has echoes of Modigliani, and two impressionistic paintings of his high school (above), painted in 1973 at the age of 22.
Roe is best known, of course, for his ceramics, and he is professor in the Ceramics department in the College of Design at Seoul’s Kookmin University. He is known as the “master of Yeollimun ceramic”, according to the catalogue notes by curator Miyoung von Platen (장미영):
Yeollimun is a traditional Korean ceramic technique meaning marbleware. Marbleware seems to have originated in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Korean marbleware had different designs from those used in China, it was less prolific and thus little has been written about it. Yeollimun ceramics appeared in the Koryo Dynasty (935-1392 AD), but owing to the difficulties in making them, nearly disappeared in the 13th century.
The full range of the works on show can be found on the gallery website (links below) but you really need to see them in real life to experience them to the full. There’s the earthiness of the unglazed vases – my own personal favourites are pictured below, the swirling designs in the pastel colours giving endless pleasure – while the glazed ones have the irregular patterns of tiny cracks that you expect to find on a celadon. All of the vases have that slightly imperfect geometry (edges not quite straight, faces slightly convex or concave rather than perfectly flat) which make you want to contemplate them from different angles, to pick them up and handle them.
Well worth a visit. Gallery open weekdays only, 10-5:30.