Moon Jars: Contemporary Korean Masters

“In modern art, as everyone knows, the beauty of deformity is very often emphasised, insisted upon. But how different is Korean deformity. The former is produced deliberately, the latter naturally. Korean work is merely the natural result of the artisan’s state of mind, which is free from dualistic man-made rules… Here lies buried the mystery of the endless beauty of the Korean artisan’s work. He simply makes what he wants, without pretension.” Yang Soetsu 

Moon Jars: Contemporary Korean Masters at the Tristan Hoare Gallery from 7 November – 4 December 2019

Tristan Hoare is delighted to present an exhibition of 15 Contemporary Moon Jars from Korea.The distinctive shape of the Moon Jar is unique to Korea, emerging in 17th Century and reaching its peak in the 18th century Joseon period. Large vessels which can’t be made in one piece on the potters wheel, the upper and lower parts are produced separately and joined in the middle, forming a rounded body said to resemble a full moon. Because they are made from two separate parts the shape is never perfect giving Moon Jars their distinctive organic presence and character. No jar is the same, setting them apart from standardised shapes in Chinese and Japanese ceramics and imbuing them with a personality which has fascinated artists and collectors for hundreds of years.

The exhibition is a modest exploration of contemporary Korean Moon Jars and brings together works by 6 different artists. It includes a vase by Kwon Dae Sup (b. 1952), a modern self taught master who only produces half a dozen jars a year and whose porcelain is admired for its milky white translucent glaze. Another master who takes inspiration from this time is Lee Yong Soon (b. 1957) who sources clay near the locations of the 18th century Royal Kilns and uses a traditional firewood kiln. Man Pyung ( b. 1976) is considered among the most skilled of the younger ceramicists and mixes salt into the clay to create an unusual skin and atmosphere in his vessels. The exhibition also includes two photographs by Koo Bohn Chang (b. 1953) from his well known Vessels series focussing on the harmony of traditional Korean masterworks seen through a modern lens.

The inspiration for the exhibition is the great 18th Century Joseon Moon Jar in the British Museum. It was owned by Bernard Leach who admired Korean pots for their natural simplicity and unselfconsciousness and acquired it on a trip to Korea in 1936. Fascinatingly, he gave it to Lucie Rie in 1943 who kept it until her death 50 years later when it was returned to Bernard Leache’s widow, Janet. The British museum acquired the Moon Jar at the ‘Janet Leach Collection’ auction at Bonhams in 1999.

Tristan Hoare was based in Notting Hill at Litchfield Studios from 2009 to 2014. In September 2016, Tristan Hoare opened its new premises at Six Fitzroy Square, a Grade I listed building, designed by the architect Robert Adam. Tristan Hoare represents both emerging and established contemporary artists.

Photo credits: Tristan Hoare Gallery, British Museum, Cereal Magazine

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