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Lee Kang-hyo in Making Futures at Plymouth College of Art

Doh! Things are so busy at the moment that I’m having difficulty keeping up with everything. I popped into the V+A this afternoon to check out the Korean jewellery designers who are here for the London Design Festival, and bumped into Rosalie Kim. We started chatting about the British Ceramics Biennial which starts in Stoke-on-Trent tomorrow (yes, something else I haven’t posted about yet) and she mentioned that there was a Korean potter down in Plymouth at the moment. We were both in a rush, and I didn’t have time to take down details.

Returning home to start researching what might be going on I discover that the potter concerned is Lee Kang-hyo, one of my favourite Korean potters since seeing his work – and the video of him working – at Tent London a few years ago. I have a particularly soft spot for him because I bought one of his tea cups in the MMCA Seoul gift shop when I was in Korea earlier this year, and a soft spot for this particular event because it’s in my part of the world.

Anyway, I missed it. But here, for the record, is what was going on:

Kanghyo LEE – in Performance

A truly unique live art performance by Master Korean Ceramicist Kanghyo LEE. Making Futures delegates and visitors to Mount Edgcumbe park will be able to watch as he hand builds one of his signature large scale vessels, finishing with a live slip decoration performance on Thursday evening.

Lee Kang-hyo

Mount Edgcumbe Country House and Park, Monday 18th to Thursday 21st September 2017.

Monday 18th to Thursday 21st: the artist will be working on the front terrace of Mount Edgcumbe House each day, except Wednesday afternoon, between approximately 10AM and 4PM.

Wednesday 20th, Kangyho LEE – in Film and in Conversation: The Studio Theatre, Plymouth College of Art, at 5:30PM. This is a free event open to all members of the public as well as Making Futures delegates. As an introduction to his work, we will screen the documentary ‘Lee Kang-hyo ‘Onggi Master’ produced by Goldmark Gallery. Runtime approx. 35 mins. Following the film, Kanghyo LEE will himself enlarge briefly on aspects of his work in conversation with the Korean Ceramics curator, Jungwon PARK. Kanghyo LEE will then take questions from the audience with translation support from Jungwon PARK.

Thursday 21st, Kangyho LEE – in Performance: the project will culminate in a live slip decorating performance on the front terrace of Mount Edgcumbe House. The performance will start between 6:15 to 6:30PM.

Note, all times are approximate, please check back on this page for possible scheduling changes nearer to the event.

Delivered in partnership between Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives as part of Making Futures.

Making Futures would like to acknowledge the support of the Arts Council England in supporting this event.

Making Futures would also like to acknowledge the support of the Goldmark Gallery ( with this event.

Kanghyo Lee was born in 1961, in Seoul, Korea. He now lives and works in Ochang, Chungbuk Province, Korea where he has spent more than 30 years endeavouring to interpret Korean buncheong in his own way. His technically challenging practice-based contribution to ‘Making Futures: crafting a Sustainable Modernity’ will consist of the production of one of his large-scale slip decorated coiled jars – a performance that reminds us of the ways in which many craft métiers retain strong connections to tradition, but use these to creatively mediate between past, present and future.

Kanghyo Lee’s work also connects closely with the ‘Translations Across (Post-Colonial) Local-Global Divides’ theme. In the context of rapid post-war Korean industrialization, (the late 50’s Han River ‘miracle’ and the rise of the industrial ‘Chaebol’ global corporations), during the 70’s and 80’s Korea began a process of reinterpreting its cultural assets, including ceramics. Many novice ceramicists looked to the past to modernize Korean ceramics. Lee was no exception but whereas many became reproduction artists simply copying historical items, Lee did not go down this path.

Lee originally wanted to become a painter and as he gradually mastered the skill of applying liquefied white clay to the surface of vessels and large platters, he learned to treat ceramic surfaces like paper similar to the ancient ink brush paintings of Korea. The marks he creates are comparable to landscapes depicting Korea’s four distinct seasons. In Asia landscapes are painted based on individual memory and experience in the actual environment. The ‘spirit’ of place is important so that for Koreans, landscapes are spaces to be encountered and experienced rather than subjects to be observed for replication. Lee follows this practice and seeks to imbue his work with this spirit.

From the early 2000’s, Lee became one of the first ceramicists in Korea to conduct workshop-demonstrations in the USA. His onggi building technique (involving the making of large storage jars) combined with the buncheong surface decoration (splashing with liquefied clay mixtures in the manner of Jackson Pollock’s “action painting”) has been internationally recognized and he has been in high demand over the last twenty years. His work is found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Cité de la Céramique, Sèvres, France; Gyeonggi Ceramic Museum, Korea and more.


Onggi ware is the longest existing (4000 to 5000 BC) type of ceramics in Korea and is without social class difference as it was, and still is, used by all classes. It is a type of storage jar closely related to the Korean diet – for storing fermented food. This brown ware is made from a coarse clay body, high in iron content. It is only fired once between 1100 and 1200oc. Instead of a chemical glaze mixture it is coated with ash and mineral debris found in mountains and forests and mixed together. In pre-Modern times it acted as a kind of a refrigerator by burying large jars in the earth.


Buncheong is a grayish ceramic ware that lasted for a short period of time between the 15th and 16th century during the Joseon Dynasty. The term literally means to “cover the surface”. This is an authentic Korean ceramic ware known for its surface decoration applying liquefied white clay in a number of different techniques such as brushing, sgraffito, dipping, trailing and more, fired to 1280 degrees Celsius.

Kanghyo Lee at the V&A Museum, London: Contemporary Korean Ceramics

Making Futures delegates passing through London may be interested to know that Kanghyo Lee also has work included in the V&A show, ‘Contemporary Korean Ceramics’, which will be running during Making Futures. The exhibition brings together the work of 15 emerging and established artists from Korea, offering a diversity of insights into the richness of contemporary Korean studio ceramic practice, using ceramics as a medium to engage with contemporary issues ranging from mass-consumption and pop culture to the destruction of Korea’s architectural heritage, and including experiments with new technologies and alternative materials. The exhibition originated by the Fondation d’entreprise Bernaudaud and their guest curator Hyeyoung Cho, organised and curated for the V&A by Dr Rosalie Kim, Samsung Curator of Korean Art. For further details see:

Kanghyo Lee at the British Ceramics Biennial, 2017

Following his appearance at Making Futures, Kangyho Lee will travel to Stoke-on-Trent to help open the British Ceramics Biennial on Saturday 23rd September. For further details see:


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