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Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale 2017

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 Column _ April _ 2

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After being engrossed for some time in the moving scenery, however, you would have arrived at your destination before you know it. As you begin walking with a bag on your shoulders to carry a new story, a new world will unfold before you.

 Icheon A Space for Creation and Convergence of Contemporary Art

When I arrived at the entrance to Seolbongsan Mountain, I heard the faint sounds of gugak (Korean traditional music) in the distance; when I followed the people up to the park, the sounds got louder. When I entered Seolbong Park, where a lake surrounded by a lovely walking trail could be found, the sound of gugak changed to loud shouts of drill commands coming from a taekwondo demonstration. I looked around this taekwondo demonstration taking place on the road;

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to the left, the sight of foreigners wearing aprons and kneading and shaping clay under a wide tent caught my eyes. Some were squatting to turn the potter’s wheel. I had come to the 2017 International Ceramics Inter-Local Workshops. Crowded with tourists taking pictures, it was an event that was apparently very popular among the people. It was interesting to watch artisans from around the world create unique works of art in the open space. Still, what I found refreshing about the event was that it provides a space for people to communicate with each other. In this event where several different languages could be heard, I saw a small child asking questions while clinging to her mother’s hand and the artist patiently answering the child with a smile. After watching this scene, the fog of ignorance that had surrounded the subject of ceramics slowly began to clear in my head. I decided to accomplish two things on my trip here: listen to the stories of the artists and learn about the trends in ceramics today. Adults can learn from children, too.

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From twisted liquor bottle and animal shapes to abstract works, there was a foreign feel to the ceramic art created by the artists at the festival. The artworks remained in their clay state, not having been baked yet. A big smoke was billowing in front of the tent, and lots of people were sitting in groups to watch and listen to experts explain how ceramics are baked in the kilns. I presumed that was where the ceramics were being baked, and I moved to where the tent was. Wow, the temperature in the area was like that in a furnace. I definitely recommend coming here at night when it is cooler.

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This location was also where the street food market began. A weather like this called for some ice cream. As if to echo the image of Icheon as a city of rice, rice ice creams were selling like hotcakes. Soon, I, too, was holding a rice ice cream in my hand. A white-haired foreigner was sampling rice cakes in a nearby booth, and he could be heard muttering “delicious” repeatedly. There was a couple taking photos in the photo zone.

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After watching with some interest kids who were painting ceramics with color paints in the experience program zone, I decided to take a look around 3 stores selling ceramic products. Kitchen bowls, tea cups, kettles, landscape art, flower bases, seals, flower pots, flower vases, spoon rests, and other daily utensils made from beautiful ceramics were for sale, awaiting their future owners. Bowls and cups attracted housewives, whereas children and couples were gushing over accessories. I felt that ceramics carried a timepiece inside. The shape and color reminded me of a particular place. Icons of nature and geometrical expressions made me recall the times gone by. We fall for ceramics probably because it can function like a projector that tells our story.

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The most interesting sight was a demonstration of ceramic forming using 3D printing technology. It was fascinating to watch several long arms working together to create a ceramic object. The completed object had a very refined appearance, but it could not be compared to a ceramic produced using a kiln. Anyhow, I was completely taken aback by this cutting-edge technology.

I came out of the store and decided to take a look at the exhibitions. I had to walk up further, but in the exhibition area, I could get free bottled water by throwing clay like darts, so I expended some energy. Finally, I arrived at the World Ceramic Center. There was an entrance fee, but it was completely worth every penny because I could look at works by famous ceramic artists from around the world.

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The ceramic artwork that I wanted to see the most at this exhibition was Neil Brownsword’s “Factory.” Since this year was dubbed “The Year of Mutual Exchanges between UK and Korea,” there are many opportunities for experiencing British culture this year. A few days from now, the “British Culture Day” festival — which promises to be a great opportunity to learn about each country’s handcraft culture — will be held. “Factory” was an artwork created for planned exhibitions, but a British woman was giving a performance wherein she would bake flowers using clay and then throw the flowers on the ground. This action was repeated endlessly. When I approached her out of curiosity, she said she was a floral artist participating in this exhibition. According to her, there used to be factory shops in Britain where artists would make ceramic products and sell them on the spot, but they have all but disappeared. She wanted to express the value of that ceramic making practice from days gone by. As for herself, she was scheduled to hold a flower making event for children a few days later. I was a little disappointed that I could not meet Neil Brownsword, but I could already imagine smiling children making flowers with a British floral artist, and I realized I should not ask for more.

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There were many other impressive works of art being shown at the World Ceramic Center. The glass craft making corner and many other zones where artists were busy making art made me realize how big this festival was. Sitting on the 2nd floor of a café, I looked at Gumiho Fountain and across the vast festival grounds. The thoughts of the works and artisans I had seen that day then came to me, and so I wrote a few words about the lingering imagery.

Yeoju A multi-shopping Venue for Livingware

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Not far from Yeoju Market is a temple called Silleuksa Temple. It will make you realize that a temple is not a place visited just by Buddhists. After passing by the huge parking lot, I arrived at the temple with a somewhat biased view of Buddhist temples. Soon, however, I discovered that the place was a temple in name only — it was in fact a recreation area. There were a temple, a museum, and an art gallery. The temple grounds were flat, which made walking pleasant. In addition, there were many coffee shops and restaurants to satisfy every taste, just waiting for you to drop by. After passing through the entrance, I was greeted by the sensation of being in a large botanical garden. Well-trimmed trees lined the wide road that unfolded like a handheld fan all the way up to the pavilion on top of hill, next to the banks of Hangang River. I followed an adequately small trail that led to the temple, an art gallery, and a world of ceramics. As I followed the trail, I felt as if I were entering a different world. I passed a waterwheel and a pond where fish could be seen moving in the shape of an S.

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Soon, I came face to face with a master artisan with a white beard intensely examining a ceramic next to a large kiln. I think I stopped briefly to watch the man for some time. Either my steps must have followed my thoughts, or they have been led by the sounds of a scene, but I arrived at the place where the ceramic festival was taking place and where the Bandal Art Museum and Dojasesang could be found. I had to climb up the stairs to see the source of all that noise. The sounds were coming from a hanok-styled event venue, right in the middle of a group of ceramic stores. People were sitting around in about 30 chairs and were busy making pottery, guided by a master artisan on a stage. This master artisan is said to own a workshop that made dishes for holding food.

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He chose to specialize in making dishes with lids because a lid had the power to impart feelings of mystery, curiosity, and emotion. This refers to the emotion stirred in the mind of the special person lifting the lid of the dish containing food. When I looked around, I could see many people enjoying the festival. There was a band of musicians performing with guitar and drums. Some were making their own personal potteries using watercolors and brush. The waterwheel experience, hand painting, and especially the clay stomping program where participants get to run around on clay show the diversity of activities available for the enjoyment of the public. Ceramics have many uses, but Yeoju Ceramic Festival was exhibiting ceramics for use in daily life. They were all beautiful, and each had a character of its own. One particular ceramic product — a shallow bowl made in the shape of a lotus flower — caught my attention. I took it and placed it on my palm. Fascinated by how snugly it fit in my hand as well as its beautiful jade color, I bought several with the intention of putting them on my dining table.

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This time, I ventured into the Bandal Art Museum. If the Icheon festival was about “memories,” then the Yeoju festival was telling its story with “commemoration” as the motif. At first, I was perplexed because of the nuances that the word “cinerary urn” brought to mind. When I began to think how life is valuable because it is met with death, however, I began to understand the meaning of the exhibition, and my time in the gallery seemed worthwhile. Moreover, a clip of an interview with a female artist at the Italy-Korea Ceramic Arts Exchange Exhibition left a deep impression on me. According to her, the ceramic festival was brilliant because it did not limit itself to the ceramic material alone; it was brilliant because visitors could view the flow of modern art that used clay as material. I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment.

Finally, there was an exhibit of ceramic works submitted to an international contest for handicapped artists. I could feel subtlety in all the works and had no feelings on whether a work would fit in a particular place in my house. Crafts that involve manipulating clay with the hands are said to have the benefit of improving emotional health among handicapped people. Still, the effect of their artistic touch on us seems to be even greater. Personally, I found the work titled “Myself Always Be There” to be the most interesting. The mirror and the ceramic craftwork complement each other well.

Outside the art gallery, the pottery and the oil lamp in the shape of King Sejong, together with the lights from the distant traditional kilns, create a fantastic spectacle. I started walking toward the tavern on an embankment by Namhangang River for some acorn jelly salad and mung bean pancake.

Epilogue

On the way back home in the subway train, I drew in my head the ceramic works I had seen and thought about the color of the ceramic biennale that I had witnessed. I felt as if I were leaving after hearing many different stories — in other words, I have been privy to the life stories or personal opinions about different topics from many different people. Similarly, I expect people from around the world to be able to enjoy many different activities here and to listen to the story that clay can tell us.

Further Information 

Fifth-day market opens every 5th, 10th day in Yeoju & 2nd, 7th day in Icheon

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Icheon Ceramics Festival

Date : Apr. 28 ~ May 14

Address : 167-29, Gyeongchung-daero 2697beon-gil, Icheon-si, Gyeonggi-do (Icheon Cerapia)

Transportation : take a taxi from the Icheon Intercity Bus Terminal for Icheon Cerapia

Location : Icheon Cerapia

Inquiry : +82-31-631-6501

Yeoju Ceramic Festival 

Date :  Apr. 29 ~ May 14

Address : 301-1, cheonsong-ri, Yeoju-eup, Yeoju-gun, Gyeonggi-do

Trasportation : transfer to the bus bound at Yeoju Terminal for Yeoju World Ceramic Livingware Gallery

Location : Yeoju World Ceramic Livingware Gallery

Inquiry : +81-31-884-8644

Website : http://www.gicb.kr/eng/    

http://www.gicb.kr/eng/n03_info/04.asp   (how to get to the Icheon cerapia

 2017 Gyeonggi Tour Line Shuttle Bus (view more)

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