APark Seon-gi, "A Play of Perspective - Illusion" /Courtesy of Seoul Museum
Seoul Museum's ‘baekja' exhibition to be held through August
By Kwon Mee-yoo
"Baekja," or white porcelain, is known for its milky white color and simplicity, representing the pragmatism of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) art. The porcelain had many practical uses during this period of Korean history, and later, it also became a source of inspiration for artists.
Seoul Museum's new exhibition, "Admiration of White Porcelain," celebrates the simple beauty of white porcelain and how it later inspired Korean artists.
The exhibition is organized in three parts that each highlight works of artists from the early 1900s, the influence of white porcelain across contemporary art genres and the influence of traditional styles in ceramic works of today.
"Many artists collected white porcelain, fascinated by its aesthetics. This exhibition is designed to bring together tradition and modernity," said Kim Ga-yeon, the museum's chief curator.
One highlight is a series of paintings by Kim Whan-ki (1913-74). The white porcelain jar was one of Kim's favorite subjects, and he himself had a large collection of round, moon-shaped jars.
Kim Byung-jin, "Pottery - Love"
Kim painted many moon-shaped jars, emphasizing a quality he described as "cleanliness."
While Kim's paintings of white porcelain and flowers are familiar to the public and are often exhibited in Korea, this is the first time that his "Island Sketches," painted during the 1940s, will be shown.
The works, portraying island women with water jugs in a style similar to Cubism, were acquired by the Seoul Museum at a Christie's auction last year.
Do Sang-bong (1902-1977) painted many still-life works featuring white porcelain, sometime with other objects such as wooden vessels or flowers.
"He often painted white porcelain jars with lilac or forsythia, whose colors complemented that of the jars," Kim said.
The second part of the exhibition is highlighted by white porcelain monochrome paintings from the 1970s.
"These monochrome paintings are similar to the beauty of white porcelain, where the simplicity of the lines portrays infinite possibilities," Kim said.
Park Seo-bo recreated the ivory-white color of porcelain on canvas, while Jung Sang-hwa recreated the cracks on the glaze of white porcelain on his.
"These monochrome paintings are similar to the beauty of white porcelain, which is empty but full at the same time," the curator explained.
White porcelain continues to inspire today's contemporary artists. Photographer Koo Bohn-chang captured white porcelain in two photo series, which have been displayed in notable museums across the world including the Koryo Museum of Art in Kyoto, Japan.
Lee Seung-hee paid tribute to the craft of porcelain making by putting porcelain soil on the canvas and shaving it. Ju Se-kyun questioned stereotypes by coloring in white porcelain with pencil and black porcelain with white chalk. The exhibit will also allow viewers an opportunity to stroll around Seokpajeong, the old residence of Prince Regent Daewon-gun, father of Joseon's King Gojong (1852-1910). The house is usually closed for preservation, but the museum decided to use the space for this display.
Seoul Museum is located in Buam-dong, Jongno-gu. The exhibit runs through the end of August. Admission is 9,000 won for adults. For more information, call (02) 395-0100 or visit www.seoulmuseum.org.