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Past Tense: Contemporary Korean Ceramics

Korean ceramic traditions reinterpreted

Lectures and guided tour by Isabelle Leemann, Natasha Fischer-Vaidya and Yujin Kim

Friday 21 and 28 October 17:30 


The works of the eight artists shown in the exhibition move in a creative field of tension between tradition and innovation. Traditional forms, colors, techniques and motifs of Korean ceramics find a new artistic expression in these works. At the same time, the works challenge existing conventions, encourage us to rethink them, or at best reject them completely. Thus, each of the artists represented in this exhibition engages with the legacy of Korea's long ceramic history in a different way. 

This kind of experimentation with the medium of ceramics is not new, as numerous examples in Korean art history attest. Since time immemorial, artists have sought to explore and transcend the boundaries of ceramic traditions. These creative processes have resulted in new and unique fabrication processes, forms, and decorative designs that have resulted in effective works with highly individual qualities and extraordinary appeal. 

This lecture will introduce some of the traditional aspects that the artists refer to in their works by looking at the main ceramic traditions of Korea. At the same time, the continuity of creativity, innovation, and reinvention of the technical possibilities and aesthetic potential inherent in the medium of ceramics and this material will be highlighted. 

In the subsequent guided tour of the exhibition space, the artists' production processes, ideas and thematic concepts will be conveyed. On the basis of an in-depth examination of their works, the handling of medium and material as well as the connection to ceramic traditions and new conceptions of existing techniques will be discussed in more detail. 

Selection of works from the lecture:

청자 참외 모양 병
Melon-shaped bottle
Goryeo dynasty, 12th century
H: 22.6 cm
National Museum of Korea, 본관 4254
National Treasure No. 94


청자 투각 칠보무늬 향로
Incense burner
Celadon with openwork decoration

Goryeo dynasty, 12th century

H: 15.3 cm

National Museum of Korea, 덕수 2990

National Treasure No. 95




청자 상감 구름 학무늬 매병


Celadon with inlaid cloud and cranes design

Goryeo dynasty, 12th-13th century

H: 30.0 cm

National Museum of Korea, 덕수 2182



청자  동화 모란당초무늬 완


Celadon with underglaze copper red decoration of peony scrolls

Goryeo dynasty, 13th century

H: 6.1 cm

British Museum, 1938,0524.763



청자 연리무늬 완

Celadon bowl with marbled design

Goryeo dynasty (918–1392)

H: 5.2 cm, D: 9.0 cm

National Museum of Korea, 종 7091



분청사기 인화무늬 대접


Buncheong ware with stamped design

Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)

H: 8 cm, D: 17.6 cm

National Museum of Korea, 신수 14443



분청사기 철화 넝쿨무늬 항아리

Jar with floral scroll decoration

Buncheong with iron-painted design

Joseon dynasty, late 15th–early 16th century

H: 10.6 cm

National Museum of Korea, 덕수 6439



분청사기 귀얄무늬 대접

Buncheong bowl with white slip-brushed design

Joseon dynasty (1392 –1910)

H: 6.7 cm, D: 17.2 cm

National Museum of Korea, 신수 10377


백자 항아리

White porcelain jar

Joseon dynasty, 15th–16th century

H: 25 cm

National Museum of Korea, 신수 13494



백자 청화 난초무늬 항아리

White porcelain jar with orchid design in underglaze cobalt blue

Joseon dynasty, 18th century

H: 26.2 cm

National Museum of Korea, 동원 415




백자청화 동화 십장생무늬 항아리

Blue-and-white porcelain jar with design of ten longevity symbols and copper-red underglaze

Joseon dynasty (1392 –1910)

H: 37.3 cm

National Museum of Korea, 덕수 4801



백자 끈무늬 병

White porcelain bottle with rope design in underglaze iron brown

Joseon dynasty, 16th century

H: 26.2 cm

National Museum of Korea, 신수 12074




“Moon jar”

Joseon dynasty, 18th century

H: 47 cm

British Museum, 1999,0302.1


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