CLAYARCH GIMHAE MUSEUM SPECIAL EXHIBITION FOR THE 1ST HALF OF 2018
Exhibition in honor of the Korea/UK 2017/18 cultural exchange programme
HUMANISM - Poem of Earth for Human
○ Period : 2018. 4. 6 (FRI) ~ 2018. 9. 2 (SUN)
○ Venue : Clayarch Gimhae Museum Dome House
○ Artists : Gosari Revolution(JIN KIM&BAEK kyung won), Maeng Wookjae,
Seok Chang Won, Woo Kwan Ho, Yoon Jung Sun,
Christie Brown, Clare Twomey, Eva Masterman, Phoebe Cummings
To stimulate cultural exchange between Korea and the UK, an exhibition introducing contemporary ceramic art from the two countries has been organized, with humanism as its theme.
Recently, issues of human dignity and the recovery of humanity have arisen anew, as the appearance of any number of evils and malignancies in various parts of society have provoked questions like “What does it mean to be human? What sort of beings are humans?” Though we live in a world marked by greater affluence than at any previous point in history, many socio-political problems continue to pose a threat to human rights. Among them are refugee problems, racism, hunger, disease, war, environmental destruction, and forced evictions and dismissals from employment.
Though coming from different historic and cultural backgrounds, the ten artists (representing nine artmaking entities) selected for the exhibition ‘HUMANISM – Poem of Earth for Human’ are working in similar areas of interest (humans, society, environment, communication, community). The darkness and shadows hidden behind the brilliant achievements of humankind through the ages are what they deal with—war and slaughter, environmental destruction, social problems. Their works transmit a warning to people about the diverse social issues surrounding us and embody propositions for the recovery of our humanity. In particular, a local community ceramics project (Life Exchange project) was conducted with public participation by Clare Twomey and Eva Masterman, featuring some 250 participants from the two countries. Transcending nation, region, culture, and generation, this project forged communication and bonds between artists and participants, and museums and the public, and between families.
A notable element of this exhibition is the number of works that invite the viewer to participate in the actions or ideas on display. A piece by Kwanho Woo entitled "Ten Thousand Gifts," installed in the Central Hall, requests participation through interpersonal communication, with gifts from the artist as the catalyst. The ‘Life Exchange Project’ causes us to pause to ponder and reflect on the questions posed by the artists. Eva Masterman and Christie Brown exhibit works on communication and interaction between objects, humans, and animals. Clare Twomey's ‘Exchange’ encourages the viewer to do one good deed to benefit society. Changwon Seock and Jungsun Yoon present works that stir empathy for the inner side and essence of human beings and their imperfections. The artist group Gosari Revolution (Jin Kim, Kyungwon Baek) seeks to publicly air the issue of unreasonable dismissals and treatment of workers, concerns about the objectification of workers in today's society, and the value of labor. Phoebe Cummings and Wookjae Maeng warn about the dangers of environmental destruction and talk about restoring the ecosystem through reconciliation between humans and nature.
We call human beings social animals. Humans cannot live alone; it is only by keeping relationships with others that we are able to exist, and we must live alongside multitudes of other people. In order to maintain human dignity and recover our humanity, humans must live in balance with all beings—not only human beings but all beings that exist in nature. I hope that this exhibition will inspire visitors to the museum to reflect on humans and life.
▲ Woo Kwanho
Kwanho Woo aims to “break down the boundaries between people and art, artist and viewer, and analog and digital.” He seeks to bring art into daily life, creating communion between art and the lives of regular people. To achieve this, he has launched a project in which his displayed works are presented to museum-goers as gifts. The gifts, made by the artist, are child-like ceramic heads and raccoons called tanuki in Japanese. Visitors can choose for themselves any piece they like. According to the artist, the head motif signifies human nature, and the tanuki raccoons symbolize human instinct. After museum-goers take the gift they have chosen, they place it somewhere in a location or situation within their lives, take a photograph of it, and then send the picture to the artist, along with the place and their name. After receiving the photos, the artist uploads them on social media
(e.g., Facebook, Instagram, WeChat) and shares them with the whole world.
The ceramic objects in this exhibition, installed in the tower structure of the Central Hall, embody a metaphorical expression of the horrendous acts, such as wars and slaughter, perpetrated on our planet by humanity from the last century to the present. Tens of thousands of the child-like heads, charred black, are installed in the tower structure. Viewing these blackened ceramic objects, it is not such a difficult thing to imagine the countless victims killed by war. Some hundred thousand ceramic objects used in the tower and round structures are there in pursuit of interchange and communication among all the world’s people, transcending borders, culture, and race. This manifests a desire to pursue the restoration of humanity and peace among humankind.
▲ Eva Masterman
The artwork of Eva Masterman starts from the relationship between objects within the studio and the environment and the creator. She engages in forming relationships between the objects that exist in a given space and the creations she makes herself and the people who use the space. For example, the artist moves around the objects and creations to place them in the proper positions, finding out the optimal positions. Placed in this way, they give a sense of stability and tension at the same time, visually speaking. Seeking out optimal combinations of ceramic objects in various forms made in the UK and the furnishings, shelves, and other tools with different functions found at Clayarch Gimhae Museum, Masterman creates new images. Her works encourages viewers to interact with objects in the space, as indicated by the title 'Touch Me Use Me'. The objects serve as intermediaries for viewers to connect with the artist. This gives rise to sharing with more and more people as the exhibition period goes on. In this way, keeping up the relationship between artist and objects, objects and people, and people and artist through the ceramic objects she makes, the artist establishes solidarity.
▲ Christie Brown
Having long explored human beings, Christie Brown has focused on the relationship between human beings and animals, creating works that embody human beings’ inner sides as animal faces. Sculptures of the hybrid animals/humans gaze out expressionlessly as they occupy the space. Connoting physical or psychic wounds, her hybrid sculptures stir feelings of compassion for those who are socially vulnerable or marginalized. In this way, her ideas concerning the nature and imperfections of humans evoke an emotional response from the viewer. ‘Ambika's Dream’, shown in this exhibition, is a work based on a spatial interpretation and personal experience of 'Ambika P3', an exhibition space in London, England. This space is supported by the 'Ambika Paul Foundation’, created in honor of the daughter of Lord Swraj Paul, Ambika, who died at an early age. Using Ambika’s beloved London Zoo as a backdrop, Christie Brown has staged a scene in which many figures of young children walk through the zoo. In ‘Ambika's Dream’, viewers are invited to join Ambika and the other children on a journey, experiencing eternity in the world they unfold.
▲ Clare Twomey
Clare Twomey's ‘Exchange’ is a piece designed to induce positive social change. It was first introduced at the Foundling Museum in London in 2013. The Foundling Museum is a public art museum established in an old orphanage that had been the first in London. She created this piece with the unique history and tradition of the Foundling Museum in mind. Her piece consists of 1550 coffee cups which have been inscribed with ideas collected from all over the UK for various positive actions or good deeds. The actions range from things we can easily do in our daily lives—such as 'Open your home during Christmas', 'Send a thank you letter', 'Write a letter to a friend or family member', 'Regularly buy a Big Issue (street paper)', and 'Run a marathon for charity'—to things that require lifelong commitment, such as 'Adopt an orphan'. Clare Twomey suggests that, by encouraging museum visitors to do one good deed by participating in the project, society and human beings can change for the better.
▲ Seock Changwon
Changwon Seock uses painting and ceramic art to express the complexities of the human inner world, such as good and evil, reason and emotion. His delicately painted ceramic objects show the intersection of polarities like war and peace, madness and innocence, desire and morality. Seock creates self-portraits with clay because he believes it is the material that best conveys emotion. He attempts subtlety of expression by identifying with, or empathizing with, the subjects being represented in his creative process. Among the parts of the human body, the face is where human nature and primal desires are most aptly revealed. As such, the ‘Self Portrait’ series expresses images of repressed desire and the imperfect humanity of modern man. On the other hand, his inscriptions invariably include yellow butterflies. To become butterflies, larvae must go through the pupal stage. Only by tolerating this period of endurance and attaining their wings are they able to enter another world and fly towards freedom, dreams, and ideals. As entities that embody the will to break through the shell of pain and suffering to reach a new world, the butterflies in his work are breaking through stereotypes and limitations, acting as a projection of the artist’s consciousness, headed towards the shore of the other world through self-reflection.
▲ Yoon Jungsun
Jungsun Yoon uses paintings and ceramic objects to express private thoughts about women's spaces, dreams, and memories. Her paintings chiefly feature the figures of children or women seen from the back. In compositions that seem to have been triggered by the artist's recollection, the women, apparently mothers, are either looking at a child or gazing into space. The addition of ceramic objects enhances the washed-out painted images of forlorn women and the associated emotion. As companions to the paintings, the ceramic objects evoke marble or fossils showing the traces of time, representing the deep scars of women as much as the path of time. Besides being a projection of the artist’s inner aspect, the women appearing in her works overlap with the image of present-day women. In the piece shown in this exhibition, ‘Gardener's Memory’, Yoon tries to heal the wounds of lonely souls wrought by lost dreams and social isolation.
▲ Gosari Revolution(Kim Jin, Baek Kyungwon)
Creating a revolution inspired by the hand-like fern is the intent of Gosari (Fern) Revolution, a project team springing from the kindred spirits of two artists, Kyung Won Baek and Jin Kim. Through research, they identified common points in the Korean and British ceramics industries, and used these as materials for their artwork. According to their survey, far more females than males are working in ceramics manufacturing in both countries, and women are more likely to be assigned to jobs requiring simple and repetitive labor than professional positions. In the case of the Stoke-on-Trent ceramics factory in the UK, the percentage of women workers was as high as 80 percent when the ceramics industry was revived, but when the industry declined, it was largely women workers who were dismissed. As a piece about the treatment and realities of British women workers, ‘Shadow Workers I’ elevates the value of labor by featuring classical Greco-Roman figures as the main decorative motif. ‘Shadow Workers II: Workers and Their Tools’ tells a story about workers of Hankook Chinaware, located in Cheongju. It tells the stories of the lives of craftspeople who perform highly technical work but live as an nameless laborers. Gosari Revolution produced these works by hand, following the same ceramics production methods as the workers depicted. Through these activities, they sympathize with the value of labor and seek to publicly air the issue of workers’ human rights.
▲ Phoebe Cummings
Phoebe Cummings uses raw, unfired clay to create plants that do not exist on Earth. Her work stems from concern for humankind’s destruction of the natural environment. Rapid industrialization and capitalism are the greatest factors in the planet’s destruction. Environmental destruction and degradation through reckless development, and the resulting loss of ecosystems, have already reached severe levels. To increase awareness of this, Cummings collects various plant forms and creates delicate and profuse new species of vegetation, representing the planetary ecosystem. These delicate plants, composed only of clay, gradually transform and break down over time. Records of the transformational process are captured through photography and video. And when a piece is dismantled, the clay is recycled in the production of subsequent works, whenever possible.
▲ Maeng Wookjae
In recent years, outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Korea have led to mass culling of animals including cows, pigs, chickens, and ducks, in which they are killed and buried in the earth. In this process, animals that were not yet dead end up buried alive, and large numbers of carcasses in the ground result in problems from secondary contamination. Humans have developed livestock breeding methods for efficient food production, but in order to meet the rising food demands that accompany human population growth, inhumane methods came into use. The most common method for mass production is factory farming, in which animals are confined to narrow spaces where they cannot move. However, this method carries high risk of diseases like avian influenza. Once an outbreak occurs, the disease spreads rapidly and causes catastrophic losses, entailing the killing of almost all livestock. The essence of Maeng’s work is to warn of the risk to ecosystems that results from such human-centered mindsets, and to seek ways to coexist with nature. In his installation ‘3 Gardens’, he represents the mutation of living things from environmental contamination and destruction of the ecosystem, showing three different viewpoints in terms of what situations the beings are faced with in an anthropocentric environment. In order to overcome the ecological crisis faced in the present age, he suggests that efforts are needed to harmonize nature and humankind, as well as a shift from anthropocentrism to ecocentricism.