Translated Vase: A Memory of Korean Pottery

This can be a story concerning the heyday of Korean ceramic artwork, but additionally a tragic story of disruption and anxiousness.


It began for me when I discovered the newly acquired Translated vase by Yeesookyung. This modern murals consists of shards of celadon and white porcelain which have been pieced collectively till they change into an natural form that appears to develop, as if every bit has a lifetime of its personal.

Translated Vaso_2015 TVGW 3, 2015

The higher half consists of damaged items of Korean celadons, the inexperienced glazed stoneware that exemplifies the creative achievement of the Goryeo dynasty (912-1392). Goryeo celadons are characterised by a rare jade colour and inventive figurative shapes. In some circumstances, they’ve elegant floor designs inlaid with clay of a special colour, a technical innovation from the Goryeo dynasty known as bleed.

the decrease half of Translated vase contains fragments of white porcelain, a kind of pottery from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). They’re identified for easy shapes, a white colour that symbolizes the Confucian advantage of righteousness, and generally pictorial designs on their floor with luxurious cobalt blue pigment.

Translated vase resonated with one other modern work I got here throughout across the identical time: the work of Nancy Rubins Our pal fluid metallic, on show on the museum’s Bluhm Household Terrace. For his collection, Rubins had collected deserted kids’s toys from playgrounds and amusement parks and reassembled them in a dynamic approach. Joined collectively by strains of wire, the ensuing form expands like an atomic construction.

Made by artists from disparate cultural backgrounds, Our pal fluid metallic and Translated vase differ in scale, materials and approach. Nevertheless, they’re comparable: whereas the second works with disused on a regular basis objects, the primary turns to discarded fragments of conventional artifacts which are thought of an epitome of conventional Korean tradition.

Yeesookyung (born 1963) feels one thing of an aura from Korean ceramics displayed in a museum, particularly since he grew up in Korea, the place Goryeo celadons and white Joseon porcelains are prized as quintessential beauties of the nation’s creative heritage.

After I take a look at Goryeo celadon tableware in a museum, evidently the time and area contained in the window and out of doors are fully completely different…. I really feel just like the time and area they went via received frozen and crystallized. I’m mesmerized by the mysterious and transcendental magnificence they exude.


Nevertheless, she additionally sees the condensation of maximum stress and anxiousness. After being molded and baked at an especially excessive temperature, Korean ceramics should additionally bear the burden of custom and the parable of the “masterpiece”. Potters in the course of the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties are stated to have destroyed pottery that didn’t meet their splendid requirements.

Devotion to the concept of ​​a masterpiece intensified in the course of the twentieth century. After the violent disruption of Korea’s cultural heritage in the course of the Japanese colonial interval (1910-1945) and the Korean Conflict (1950-1953), Korean ceramic artists strove to regain their heritage by learning overseas in Japan and the USA, the place the Korean pottery custom had dispersed and been practiced throughout these durations. This effort to protect and succeed Korea’s wealthy ceramic custom bolstered the inherited splendid. Within the aspiration for perfection, items with a small unrecognizable flaw had been thought of insupportable to potters, one thing to be discarded into oblivion.

I noticed a Korean grasp potter in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do, break nearly all of the porcelain he made in a standard kiln due to small flaws. Even right this moment, grasp potters enable solely a small variety of their finest works to outlive and unhesitatingly destroy the remainder. I consider such habits is a approach of decoding Joseon white porcelain in Korean ceramic artwork right this moment.

— Yeesookyung

From Yeesookyung’s perspective, the Korean pottery shards are usually not remnants of failure, however are full of latest tales. Taken away from their supposed type and performance, they’re launched from the immense stress and anxiousness that perfection brings.

Goryeo-style celadon shards with their imperfect jade hues or imperfect shapes now type a harmonious unity, a refined gradation of shades of inexperienced that provides chromatic rhythm. The imperfect white moon jar items now type the hemispherical base of a novel teardrop form. New natural shapes are molded in keeping with the failings of every piece. And the artist connects and highlights their fractures with treasured gold or geuma Korean phrase that means “crack” and “gold”.

Yeesookyung sees Korean ceramics as a visible and tactile medium for translation throughout time and area. Abandoning the pre-modern fantasy of the masterpiece, the artist absolutely embraces the vulnerability of magnificence and celebrates the journeys these conventional ceramics have taken, whether or not via imperfection or via the fragmented cultural reminiscence of a rustic.

—Doyun Kim, Korea Basis intern in Arts of Asia


Yeesookyung. “Fragments that transcend time and area”. Nationwide Museum of Korea Journal vol. 51, 2020.


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