Exposition : Buncheong: Traces of the Mind

 © The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.

© The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.

Buncheong: Traces of the Mind

분청사기, 무늬에 깃든 마음

The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

Jusqu’au 7 août 2016

 

Introduction

   Buncheong ware is a type of porcelain produced in the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Originally based upon the tradition of Goryeo celadon, buncheong ware eventually developed its own unique styles and characteristics, thereby differentiating itself from celadon and other porcelain types.

  This exhibition—Buncheong: Traces of the Mind—is organized according to decoration technique, allowing visitors to appreciate and compare the wide diversity of ceramic designs that appeared on buncheong ware. Renowned for their playful and whimsical expressions, the peerless designs of buncheong ware exemplify the spirit and vivacity that characterize Korean aesthetics.

A New Term: “Buncheong”

  The term “buncheong” was not coined until the twentieth century. Japanese tea-drinkers had refered to this type of ceramic as “mishimate” (三島手). But in the 1940s, in opposition to the Japanese term, Korean art historian Go Yuseop proposed that this style of early-Joseon porcelain be called “bunjang hoecheong sagi,” or “gray-green porcelain decorated with white clay.” Over time, the name was shortened to “buncheong.” Notably, Go’s term emphasizes the coating of white slip, which is the defining characteristic that differentiates buncheong ware from celadon and white porcelain.

From Celadon to Buncheong

  Buncheong ware can look very similar to Goryeo celadon. In particular, buncheong ware that is decorated with the inlay technique can be difficult to distinguish from inlaid Goryeo celadon. In many cases, inlaid buncheong ware of the early Joseon period is not coated with white slip, and the vessels often feature the same decorative motifs as inlaid celadon from the late Goryeo period. As such, many vessels have been classified as “either celadon or buncheong,” which remains a big challenge for current and future researchers.

Extraordinary Simplicity and Audacity

  In the late 1460s, the Joseon royal court established its official kilns in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, for the primary purpose of producing white porcelain. Accordingly, the development of Joseon white porcelain significantly advanced, while buncheong wares were relegated to use as everyday goods for the general public. By the late fifteenth century, the overall quality of buncheong ware had decreased. However, more decoration techniques came into use, and buncheong ware began to reflect the influence of white porcelain.

Buncheong Ware: Traditional Ceramics with Contemporary Aesthetics

  In terms of its texture, expression, designs, and overall atmosphere, buncheong ware evokes the minimalist or abstract styles of contemporary art. Breaking away from the aristocratic tradition of Goryeo celadon, buncheong ceramists embraced a more rustic and liberal manner of expression, as well as a spirit of experimentation that also provides a link with contemporary art. Despite having been produced hundreds of years ago, buncheong ware approaches us through the familiar vocabulary of today, thus awakening areas of our inner minds that have long lain dormant.

 

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Yongsan-gu

Seoul, Korea 04348

 

 


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