South Korea Day 4

Second day at Kookmin University and I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Japanese artist and Professor, Yuhki Tanaka. The work of this Japanese artist focused on transmitting cleanliness and silence through an impenetrable white colour on solid and solid forms gene rated after many hours in the kiln causing their controlled deformation. Although the lecture was translated from Japanese to Korean and sieved to English, it grabbed my attention as to why asian culture produces work in a vast amount with such skills. It’s very much about based on commercial values, pricing, target markets, popular culture, small, cute, aesthetically pleasing, tableware.

In Japan, each year an animal is assigned and he produced a series of allusive hundred figures. Yuhki Tanaka finds funny how you have to adapt the figures to market demands. He modeled an animal, but was forced to make it smaller, as buyers did not seem very happy to have a  fifty centimeters high beast in their houses. He also produces porcelain tableware decorated with traditional techniques and motifs. These works, which might seem basically a source of income, Tanaka considers part of what it means to be ceramicist. Although he has had an artistic training, in the Western sense, his understanding of the work of ceramics is undoubtedly marked by the Japanese concept.

Ten minutes until the end of the presentation, Gareth came, and let us know he was doing a presentation on CSAD, plus wanted me and Eleri to talk briefly about our courses, scary stuff.

I really wanted to get to know more about the ceramics department here in Kookmin University. Why are they so skilful? Perhaps a stereotype that all Asians are good at everything.  A thought that has been carried along and prior to my trip to South Korea. I started by reviewing their work once again around the exhibition, lurking at their throwing/studio room and  looking at their massive kiln site which by the way was impressive. Just a real shame I didn’t manage to immerse myself on making and seeing all the workshops fully going.

I began to interact with the students, trying to get myself informed. A way of reenforcing and rejecting stereotypes within their culture and education. It really intrigued me how some students were talking about how they only made ceramics just for the joy  of making it, not really looking at contextual or conceptual aspects. In addition, a student went into the extent of saying western ceramics is “more creative”. But why? Perhaps, back home being more of a multicultural society where there is a bigger and more diverse way of making and designing where different ideas are shared and therefore being “more creative”? However, they are taught in a very specific way. While lurking around the basement where some students were, I noticed a teacher going around  the students and telling them on how to improve aesthetically their work. There is something specifically they look for in a piece. But I believe its up to the artist/maker/designer to evaluate what is aesthetically pleasing. In addition, students are encouraged to stay and work for long periods of time on their work which as a society is also equated and is reflected on their skills, where as back home, students only go to lectures they have to go and that is it.

Ceramic has been an integral part of human civilisations ever since agrarian societies began to create communities and store grains.  Now those utilitarian forms of pottery  are treasured in museums. Attempting to unravel the mysteries of their forms and decorations often leads to a better understanding their ancestors. Korean ceramics has also played a vital role as a nexus through which Korean culture has been preserved and presented. Today we can say that ceramics as an art form embodies the cultural characteristics of their contemporary societies. The department of Ceramic at Kookmin University actively encourages students to recognise traditional Korean culture and its guiding influences in shaping of both historical and contemporary ceramic works. The student, also achieve a disciplined skill base through various explorations into their own originality and exposure to the tactile nature of various mediums. In combining these aspects of academia and studio practice it is desired to produce professionals for one of three possible career options: Ceramic Artist for personal expression, Studio Potters for production studios, and Ceramic Designers for the mass market.


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BA (Hons) Final Year Ceramics student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Love experimenting with material and techniques and work on a range of medium.

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