For ceramic lovers, a festival awaitsCeramic ware aficionados have a reason to cheer. The World Ceramic Biennale, a festival of china and porcelain, opens tomorrow in three suburban cities near Seoul that have been the center of pottery production in Korea for centuries.
The event, which runs until June 19, is taking place in Yeoju, Gwangju and Icheon, all in Gyeonggi province, reachable from Seoul by a one-hour bus ride.
Yeoju is the largest center of ceramic production currently, while Gwangju has a 400-year ceramic history, having been designated as the center for pottery production for the royalty of the Joseon Dynasty. Icheon is also a major producer, both in scale and quality.
Korea’s history of ceramic ware developed in the three cities, from the renowned celadon of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to the white porcelain of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). No wonder this biannual event, the third of its kind, is taking place in this cluster, where about 900 studios and kilns for ceramics still function.
Since 2001, the biennale has attracted 10 million visitors, cementing its status as the most well-received ceramic event in Asia, in size as well as reputation, according to the organizer, Yang Hyeong-chan. More than 3,000 celadon artists and craftsmen from 67 countries are gathering for the festival. In the three cities there will be 11 exhibitions, along with workshops and lectures by acclaimed ceramic craftsmen from both the East and West.
Under the theme “Ceramics That Fill Culture,” the focus of the biennale is on the modern adaptation of ceramic ware, which has been part of human history for millennia. From a 10-meter (33 foot) high ceramic artwork installed outdoors to affordable souvenir ceramic ware for visitors, the biennale remains true to its form. Also on display are 190 artworks that won a public competition out of more than 2,400 submissions received from around the world.
Visitors can also check out their talent in ceramic making. The opportunity to use a potter’s wheel is open to everyone, and expatriates are heartily welcome. Special performances with a ceramic ware theme will also be held in all three cities.
Throughout the festival, shuttle buses to the Gwangju Joseon Royal Kiln Museum will depart from the COEX Mall in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, every 50 minutes on weekdays and every 40 minutes on weekends from 9 a.m. Shuttles that go around the three cities are also easily available. Explanations in English and Japanese are available for expatriate visitors, organizers say.
An adult ticket costs 8,000 won ($8), with special offers for groups, and for teenagers and children. For more information, call (031) 631-6509.
Icheon highlights latest trends
The biennale not only shows the history of ceramic ware but also the latest trends in the worldwide ceramic art scene and industry. And when it comes to trends, Icheon is the right place to be, with an exhibition titled “Trans-ceramic Art” at the World Ceramic Center in the city.
Artists come together under several themes, such as “Poetics of Domestic,” where kitschy and witty adaptations of the art form are presented. In “History, Tradition and Culture,” artists show interesting interpretations of tradition and convention in a modern context. Under the theme “Post-global Society,” on the other hand, artists demonstrate their sociopolitical involvement in a world suffering from conflicts and confusion, with interests ranging from ecology to media to politics.
Also on view are the winners of an international competition in which the grand prize went to “Human Bowl Faces” by Philippe Barde, a 49-year-old Swiss artist.
For those who want to feel the spirit of spring as well, an outdoor exhibition titled “Scenery and Ceramics” is being held in a park under the themes of sound, landscape, color and character. Throughout the biennale, the city’s own ceramics festival is taking place at Seolbong Park and Doye Village, where visitors can meet local ceramic craftsmen.
For more information, call (031) 631-6507.
For tradition, try Gwangju
If you’re most interested in the more Asian and traditional side of ceramic art, check out Gwangju first. Under the theme “World Celadon Exhibition,” about 150 historic pieces of celadon from China and Korea are being presented at the Gwangju Joseon Kiln Museum. The organizers say this exhibition is the biggest of its kind ever in the world.
Celadon, whose manufacturing techniques were developed in China and imported to Korea in the 9th century, has been a specialty of both countries. This exhibition is an ambitious project of the curator Jeong Yang-mo, former head of the National Museum of Korea, and displays many items of “national treasure” stature from the two countries. About 20 celadon pieces from collections of museums in Japan, China and Europe are presented as well.
From May 2 to 10, a workshop on kilns will be held, in which visitors can see how Korean traditional ceramic kilns function. For a more modern taste, check out “Ceramic House,” in which ceramic ware is used in the kitchen, study, living room and other rooms to show how it can influence everyday lives.
Another noteworthy place to go, especially when you’re looking for presents for friends, is the World Ceramic Souvenir Exhibition, which is handling items from around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Chugai Toen collection from Japan.
For more information on Gwangju, call (031) 797-0614.
Stroll amid ceramic art in Yeoju
The place for taking a walk outdoors amid ceramic art forms is Yeoju. A promenade connecting the exhibition center to the nearby Sinreuk Temple has ceramic installation art produced under the theme of hangeul, the Korean alphabet. Consonants of the alphabet are reborn in a 6-meter-high art form, providing a perfect place for a souvenir photo.
After the spring walk, visitors in Yeoju can enjoy a workshop by 30 ceramic artists from various countries, including Belgium, the United States, Japan and Canada, who share one interest in common ― the adaptation of ceramic art to other genres like painting, sculpture and architecture, under the theme “Neo-ceramic figure.” The studios of the invited artists will be open to the public from April 23 to May 1 at the Yeoju World Living Ceramics Center.
For more information on the exhibition, call (031) 884-8715.
by Chun Su-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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