2009年02月21日

The Dawn of a Korean Mihara Ken

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I think it was the first or second day of Yeo Byung Uk (呂棅旭 1969- )'s debut exhibition at Yufuku Gallery in 2008 that I noticed that our clients were sensing something deeply moving about the work of this virtually unknown ceramist from Korea. Judging from the curious clientele who turned up for the show, and by their enthusiastic reactions, it seemed as if I was witnessing the nascence of a ceramic artist whose talent had only just begun to flow into a larger, yet still unchartered ocean.

Surprising, moreover, was the thought that not only was this exhibition Yeo's first in Japan, it was in fact his first solo exhibition ever.

For 10 whole years after graduating with a Masters from the Musashino University of Arts and building his kiln in the outskirts of Seoul in 1998, the artist would not exhibit his works to a discerning publich; rather, he would keep his creations to himself, working diligently with clay in his studio. The reasons for this are many, but mostly stemmed from a deep disatisfaction with his ceramic style, or lack thereof. Yeo was actually skilled in various glazes and techniques, yet could not pinpoint a single style with which he wished to call his own.

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One night, Yeo found beauty lying to be discovered in the kitchen windowsill of his family home. It was a small Korean pot made centuries ago, rustic and worn, subtle yet sublime. The work's iron-like facade was borne from polishing flaxeed oil or amani-yu (亜麻仁油) onto a stoneware surface. Yeo took the pot in his hands, and found its patina to be a source of inspiration for his future creations.

Fast-forward to 2008. Yeo's first Yufuku exhibition, for a debut by a foreign artist, was a success. A famous Tokyo contemporary art dealer, who would only be attracted to Mihara Ken ceramic works outside of his typical contemporary art landscape, found a similar espirit in the works of Yeo, and would later eagerly acquire the Korean artist's work. A dealer from Nagoya was equally enamored by Yeo's minimalistic forms and austere firings would later hold the artist's second exhibition in Nagoya. And just recently, a museum in Korea telephoned our Tokyo gallery to ask how they may get in touch with Yeo so that they could invite the artist to exhibit at their annual ceramics exhibition. After 10 years of quietly perfecting his art, recent events have finally begun to shine light onto Yeo's talent for creating contemplative stoneware shorn of excess embellishment. Beauty within simplicity is often times the most difficult element to achieve. Yeo understands this, and confidently so.

Which brings us to Yeo's current exhibition. Using stoneware clay taken from the southern regions of the Korean peninsula, Yeo forms his works by hand and by the potter's wheel, and fires his works twice (bisque-firing, main firing) using a gas kiln. The works remain unglazed after firing, and the real battle for Yeo begins by the application of the flaxeed oil. Literally rubbing the oil into the clay surface, the artist polishes out a finish that can be easily mistaken for tarnished metal. Achieving such a metallic tinge is the most difficult part of Yeo's creative process, and a final firing after extensive polishing cements the colors onto the surfaces.

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Yeo's demeanor is calmly serene, much like his works. Speaking in fluent Japanese, the artist says, "since a child, I enjoyed art and the process of creation. I've tried several mediums, yet it was my chance meeting with a ceramics teacher in junior high school which made me understand that working with clay was my calling."

Please find images from the artist's Yufuku exhibition here. Talented ceramists do not only hail from Japan, and Yeo's current exhibition is a clear reminder of such a truth.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

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posted by Toku Art Limited at 00:32| Comment(0) | Yeo Byung Uk (Korean Stoneware) | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

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