Melange of modern and traditional

Vases and chests with lacquer-work are a common sight in India. However, few would be aware that this technique of artwork is akin to the one found in Korea where the creative use of lacquer on various artefacts has been practised since ages.

A selected sample of such traditional and modern Korean handicrafts are displayed as part of the Korean Handicraft Exhibition, recently inaugurated at the Red Fort gallery by the President of Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye.

This collection of works by 20 traditional and modern artists provides a glimpse into the subtle creativity of the Korean people. While a white porcelain moon-shaped jar sans any decoration has its roots in the early Goryeo Dynasty, a basic utensil named ‘A bowl filled with your mind’ made of hanji paper is known to be used by Korean mothers to offer prayers for |desperate wishes, on a moonlit night. Both of  these are designed by the traditional masters.

Providing a view of the modern Korean handicrafts are the artefacts done in red and black-lacquer work, kettles (in unusual shapes) created out of silver and porcelain artworks. A speaker system shaped in the form of butterfly-wings reminds an onlooker of the advanced Korean technologies while the hanging Mobile art ‘Human+Love+Light-14’  indicates the effervescent thoughts of creators of these technologies. The creator of the latter, however, bases his creation on the concept of organisms that surpass their physical limitations and flow within the space.
In the section of previously mentioned traditional artefacts, the emphasis on expressing the lines and textures of different fabrics on Hanbok, the Korean traditional clothing is noticeable and a blue-coloured robe called Jang-ot with white cuffs is admirable.

The most intricate among all is the Butterfly and the arabesque patterned double chest which is “Lacquered and inlaid with mother-of-pearl,” says curator Choi Jeung Cheol informing that “Traditional artworks in Korea were usually hand-crafted by masters while modern handicrafts are a fusion of traditional beauty and modern techniques.”
As one tries to move the eyes away from the floral patterns on the double chest, the attention is captured by Bandaji, which is a Korean traditional chest and closes half. In old days, it was an essential furniture in every household irrespective of their rank
and had strong regional characteristics.

The curator informs that a lot of coloured artefacts “Are usually done by modern artists which is a change from the traditional crafts. These are not only for decorative purposes but also for daily use.” A nuance of this is the vibrant shoulder-shape pouch. It has the design of octopus-shaped tassles in front which is also displayed as a separate artefact created from coral, jade and amber, enough to bewitch any woman!
The exhibition is on at the Red Fort till February 16.

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