Korea’s window on ceramic arts

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Korea’s window on ceramic arts

The government leaders of Gyeonggi province have labored nonstop in recent years to restore their region’s status as an artistic hub.
First, they erected a performance hall in Suwon for 2,000 people. Then, they unfurled an ambitious urban development project to turn a part of Paju into a publishing industry center. Plans were also afoot to build an animation complex, an artists’ village in Heiri and an exclusive town where residents would only speak English. Ironically, it seems the more officials tried the more barren Gyeonggi’s urban centers became. With rampant construction of love motels in Ilsan, Gyeonggi province’s reputation has fallen even farther.
The 2003 World Ceramic Biennale, the second show of its kind in the province, running from Sept. 1 to Oct. 30, is the latest attempt to rehabilitate Gyeonggi’s wrecked image.
The show, whose aim is to cement the area’s reputation as a center for traditional ceramic pottery, is smaller in scale compared with the 2001 show but better organized. With a more formal arrangement, its focus is more on substance, with style taking a backseat.
One of the notable achievements this year is the display of unique pottery-making traditions from the Gyeonggi area, the location of some of Korea’s oldest kilns. Organizers have reconstructed a traditional clay kiln at the biennial site and invited 31 professional potters to demonstrate the original process of ceramic-making.
The special exhibits warrant a notice. Included are ceramic dolls from Guangdong, China, porcelain from Spain and a display of ceramics made by Picasso, who exerted a strong influence on contemporary ceramics by moving them beyond the functional.
The biennial takes place in three cities, each about 20 minutes apart by shuttle bus, which will run during the festival period.
In Icheon, which produced several masters of traditional ceramics and where the Joseon-era royal kilns have been housed for more than 500 years, the focus will be on the changing trends in contemporary ceramics around the world. Yeoju, with more than 600 kilns, is famous for its high-quality white porcelain clay; about two-thirds of domestic tableware is produced here.
In Gwangju, Gyeonggi province, a major producer of white porcelain, the focus will be on traditional ceramics and its origins. The Joseon Royal Kiln Museum here will display 247 ceramic artifacts dating from the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910); seven of them display such technical precision that they are classified as national treasures.
You can reach Icheon by bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal. A ticket for the entire biennial costs 6,000 won ($5), or 4,000 won for one city. For more information call (031) 631-6513.

by Park Soo-mee
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