1 July – 28 August 2021
Lineage is Yoona Hur’s first solo show with Francis Gallery, featuring vessels inspired by traditional Korean forms, as well as organic ceramic sculpture, and canvas works in hanji, gesso, acrylic and glue. “There is multiplicity in the term lineage,” says Hur. “For me, it points to both traditional Korean art and craft, and the modern art movement Dansaekhwa – a distinct heritage that I deeply respect. The term also refers to nature and the environment, which is where the materiality and textural focus of my work stems from.”
Expanding her ceramic practice to incorporate hanji was a natural step for Hur: the material has a malleable quality similar to clay, and holds an important place in Korean heritage. The works range from canvases with a surface of stoneware-like coarseness to those with a multitude of ridges, waves and peaks. Here, the fibres of the paper are scraped up with a brush, forming gestural, painterly brush strokes in subtle relief. The paper, made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree, loosens its fibres when mixed with water; once altered, it is set with gesso and glue. “Hanji has this tactile quality that is very sculptural,” says Hur. “There is also an emptiness in the works. In Korean heritage, the void is considered a generative space, one that speaks to something beyond the artwork itself. I think the sense of ensemble the hanji pieces create with the other works is very important. No one piece is the defining statement; rather, they collectively create a space in which the environment around them becomes the main focus.”
Hur has also introduced new ceramic materials to her practice, including red clay, a mottled green glaze, porcelain, and golden leaf. The pieces draw on the language of traditional Korean forms, such as Joseon-era moon jars and pieces from earlier periods of ceramic history. The Moon Cloud series in Lineage diverges from Korean tradition in that the pieces are formed in their entirety using a coiling method, rather than two hemispheres thrown on the wheel and fused in the kiln. “Coiling is an ancient process that is found across various cultures of the world. It has a more primitive and open spirit to it, which I try to express through explorative textures and imperfect forms. I feel it is more natural and honest that way,” says Hur.
The Archive stoneware vessels in the show are a continuation of Hur’s series from 2019. These additions have a mottled, matte green glaze with an inconsistent, cloudy finish, achieved using a gas-fired kiln, which applies heat unevenly to the jar. “The gas-fired kiln introduces an unpredictable element, which is the aspect of ceramics that fascinates me – I love the parts of the process that are outside my control,” says Hur. The forms are inspired by historic ceramics from the Goryeo period (918-1392 CE), including vessels with a separate stoneware lid. Underneath, the lip of the jar is finished with golden leaf. “These pieces were traditionally given as gifts during ceremonies,” says Hur. “They contained honey or alcohol, which were the most precious commodities at the time. Many of the historic examples on display at museums do not have the stoneware lid – they have been overlooked, lost or destroyed over the years. I think it adds such an interesting element in combination with the golden leaf: you lift the lid and the gold is revealed. It is very subtle.”
The hanji works are inherently delicate. As Hur explains, this quality of transience is significant to her: “I remember seeing work by the Dansaekhwa artist Yun Hyong-keun for the first time in Venice, alongside something he wrote in his diary: ‘since everything on earth ultimately returns to earth, everything is just a matter of time’. It was such a powerful statement to me. His work acknowledges the impermanence of matter; it reminds us of this ultimate truth. I wish to continue embracing that in my work.”