AUGUST CHALLENGE DAY 10
For the Silly Season I've set myself the challenge of visiting a different art exhibition on every day of the month and blogging about it.
Monday 10 August
Exhibition: Korean Craft
Place: Korean Cultural Centre, London
My idea of South Korea, which I have never visited, is of a rich and successful industrialised country that emerged in the last third of the 20th century from a long period of colonial repression and ideological warfare. This small exhibition brought to London by the Korean government seeks to balance this image by looking back to the days of the Josean monarchy, which survived in Korea until ousted by Japan’s colonial invasion of 1910.
Dessert tray, dry lacquerwork, by Lee Ui Sik
It concentrates on the continued survival of handcrafts from that period, mostly in replicas of 19th century objects and artefacts – storage boxes, tableware and wearing apparel. I was struck by the domesticity of the display and the absence of anything military or martial. But domestic does not imply drab: these are lavishly ornamented objects.
Ceremonial wig with hair ornaments.
One item that catches the eye is a royal ceremonial wig pronged with air ornaments. The nearest European equivalent of this jewelry would be highly elaborate hat-pins but many of these Korean pins are designed to stand proud of the hair, like gorgeously jeweled antennae.
Nearby, in the gallery window, hangs headgear of another kind, hats as worn by Confucian scholars – the Korean equivalent of our academic mortarboards. Hanging by long threads of different length they turn gently in the draught like a mobile.
Document box by Choi Syuk Hyun
Most of the more spectacular exhibits are in lacquer, with mother-of-pearl decoration. The exploitation of mother of pearl, the shapes edged with copper filament, is exquisite, with images of dragons, phoenixes, butterflies, flowers, birds and sea creatures, but no people. Anyone interested in lacquerwork is going to be mightily impressed.