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Transcending Time: Traditional and Contemporary Interpretations of the Moon Jar

A moon jar exhibition to coincide with Chuseok:

Transcending Time: Traditional and Contemporary Interpretations of the Moon Jar

Work by Dansan Do Jae-mo | Kang Min-seong | Kim Gyu | Yang Seong-hoon | Yun Jun-ho
Date: Thursday 1 September - Wednesday 5 October 2022
Han Collection Museum Street | 33 Museum Street | Bloomsbury | London WC1A 1LH | | [Map]

Tickets: Free | Full details here

Transcending Time - poster

The Moon Jar – an iconic image of Korean ceramics. Appreciated by many for its simplicity, serenity, and timelessness. The genesis of the moon jar is attributed to the 17th century. Large, globular jars were first used for storage of sauces, pastes and other culinary items, before being produced by the royal kilns. At the Royal court, they were used as flower vases and as display pieces – appreciated for their pure white surface. Purity and modesty – two words we can use to describe the moon jar.

During the highly Neo-confucian society of pre-modern Korea, the values of purity and modesty underpinned every inch of all social spheres – from the lowest to the highest classes. This is what we find embedded within the moon jar – Neo-confucian moral codes; the lives of the pre-modern Korean people; and the longevity of traditional Korean society. However, what happens when we reinterpret what we know as the moon jar, and how do artists create a new image of the moon jar today, relevant to the contemporary period?

Our exhibition, Transcending Time: Traditional and Contemporary Interpretations of the Moon Jar features five participating artists, as well as some antique examples, to demonstrate the diverging interpretations of the moon jar in contemporary Korea. We aim to present not only the varying aesthetics, techniques and materials used by these artists, but also their artistic processes. Why do they create? Why the moon jar? What do their creations themselves, create? All of these questions will be answered – not only through the words of the artists, but through the pieces themselves.

Buncheong, porcelain, oil on canvas, glass, and wood. Discover the beauty of the Korean moon jar in a new light. Appreciate all forms, materials and techniques. Embrace the emotion ingrained within every piece, representative not only of the artist, but of the hearts and minds of the Korean people.

Dansan Do Jae-mo

Ceramic artist Dansan Do Jae-mo, expresses traditional ceramics in a modern form. Tradition is not a visible style, but rather a spiritual consensus of various cultural phenomena that occur in a certain space for a long time. The artist states that he is interested in recreating the spirit contained within traditional ceramics, making it suit today, rather than simply creating a resemblance of the external form. His expressive brush strokes lie within the harmony of serenity and chaos – contemporary, relatable and yet traditional taking inspiration from the charisma that can only be felt in iron buncheong of the fifteenth Century. These strokes are free and diverse as if they are representing the artist’s thought process and raw emotion. In addition, naturalness is found in the deformity of his pieces; rough and intense textures in the clay are read together with the surface designs, harmonising with the form of the object, creating a rhythm to which the patterns dance across the unsmooth surface of his work. It is this sense of natural freedom that the artist intends to manifest through his artistic process.

Kim Gyu: artist note

My work explores the value of objects made in nature; under the theme of the ‘New Wooden Age’, it is conducting sculpting work based on the motive of earthenware and the shape of moon jars.

New Wooden Age

Imagine the night of the ancients,
in a cave, carving the round moon in the night sky using wood.
Burning it with fire, emptying it, carving it with stone, and cutting it into a sphere,
using ancient wooden tools that the soil and trees of today remember.
In this fantasy, I dream of the revival of the Wooden Age and the arrival of a New Wooden Age

Yang Seong-hoon

Painter Yang Seong-hoon aims to represent the emotions of the Korean people which are embedded within moon jars. His subtle application of oil paints to the canvas on top of a gesso base, creates a sleek and milky effect which mirrors the whiteness and subtle radiance of the porcelain moon jar. The surface of the moon jars which he paints are most similar to those produced in the South West of the Korean peninsula during the 18th century. Gentle blending of colour creates a gradient from white to blue, and even to orange and pink. His paintings are subdued and quiet, while also grand and imposing; a 2D reflection of the emotions contained within the traditional ceramic moon jars

Yun Jun-ho: The Life I Live + Goheung

I work on the theme of The Life I Live. It is not someone else’s life, it is my own story. We are all subjects of our own lives. Among many jobs, I chose to work with clay; to express myself and my emotions as a human being.

Korean Buncheong ware is a genre of pottery that flourished from the 14th to the 16th century. It is a ceramic made by the people who lived in the moment. They were able to capture their “life” and their “present” in the rough clay. Now living in the 21st century, I do not make Buncheong ware based on the past, but I aim to demonstrate The Life I Live. I live in the present. I want to permeate the characteristics of  the Goheung area, and implant my own subjective emotions into my work.

Human beings are just one small existence in the grand scheme of the universe; in nature, the great physicality. I want my presence to blend with the hump. It is transformed into a material that does not decompose easily. I want to remain as an existence that can play a role, just as the fired clay plays its role.  I hope it contains my story. I hope to assimilate into the substance.

When matter and the mind become one, something truly new is created. It is not about admiring an object; a moment, but in fact it is admiring the spirit embedded and intact within the piece. I think it is a process  that is created through self-discipline.

I wish to become an artist who creates and shares work that can have a good influence on others, through living my own life.

Kang Min-seong artist note

Visual imperfection has constantly been the topic of the Moon jar. Through this discourse, it has ripened into full maturity and expresses transcendant beauty. Whether purposeful or not, the line and shape represents the meaning of Korea.

My work starts with the intention of combining the meaning and aesthetics of the moon jar, characteristic of the Joseon Dynasty, with various materials to express it in a new formative language. Through this, it is possible to convey a wider range of intentions. Through deriving the characteristics of two materials, an unexpected elegance and beauty emerges.

With respect to the moon jar, there is relatively little information despite the fact that artists began craft them not long ago. Perhaps it is because the moon jar has been reinterpreted in countless medias and mediums in the contemporary period. Perhaps this is why it can be considered to represent the aesthetics of Korea. The purpose of my study is to examine the shape and understand the formative aesthetics of moon jars, based on their traditional lines and curves, and simplicity. In this study, the top-bottom joint method, which is technique used when crafting traditional moon jars, was applied to combine ceramic materials with glass. This was an attempt to not only physically combine ceramics and glass, but also to combine yet distinguish the different aesthetics, properties and techniques of the moon jar. To pursue formative inquiries based on jointing, there was a need to identify the characteristics of the two materials. Thus, the process was initiated by examining the lexical definitions of “ceramic” and “glass” and the characteristics of the two materials.

This study was carried out to assess the reason why many people are captivated by moon jars. I hope my work will help people to realize the need for further research on the moon jar, and inspire others to produce diverse works by applying traditional formative elements to contemporary ceramic art, in consideration of the tradition and current trends

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