Exhibition visit: Najeon and Ottchil, at Asia House

Jang Chun-cheol: red and blue Najeon side dish box set: Harmony
Jang Chun-cheol: red and blue Najeon side dish box set: Harmony

The current exhibition at Asia House, featuring exquisite work by contemporary master craftsmen and women, celebrates 70 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and the Republic of Korea. Najeon is the craft of decoration using mother of pearl, usually made from abalone shells, while Ottchil is the craft of creating objects out of lacquer. In her welcoming remarks to open the exhibition, Ambassador Enna Park told us that when the crafts of Najeon and Ottchil come together, the results are said to last a thousand years. The exhibition thus symbolised a wish for the relations between the two countries to bear fruit for centuries to come.

Im Chong-hue: peony and chrysanthemum Najeon jewel box
Im Chong-hue: peony and chrysanthemum Najeon jewel box

The objects assembled for the exhibition fell into two categories: boxes and cabinets using traditional motifs and designs – peonies, butterflies and other symbols of longevity or good fortune; and objects with a more contemporary style of design and decoration.

Among the modern-style objects, the black moon jar decorated with hangul in mother-of-pearl by father-daughter team Kwon Young-jin and Kwon Mi-jeong, and a lustrous vase with a yin-yang motif by Lee Ha-young were getting some covetous glances. But the traditional style objects were also much admired for the freshness and intricacy of the handiwork.

The exhibition coincides with Asian Art in London, and lasts until 14 November. Catch it while you can.

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