brilliant 30: Sekyun Ju
Creative Proposal for a Moment of Pause
Sekyun Ju, Seeking Uniqueness in Tradition
As a major part of Ju Sekyun's body of work, the Tracing Drawing series explores the artist’s present self through encounters with familiar traditions that he wishes to pass on, expressed through porcelain. For Ju, the conflicted boundary between past and present is a reminder of the artist's unique identity. The gap is experienced as a sort of warp between his present reality and cherished, familiar traditions; these experiences lay the foundation for his artistic perspective.
Every white porcelain piece in the Tracing Drawing series was created by the artist on a pottery wheel, complete with hand-drawn graphite images of valuable traditional artifacts laid onto the surface. The graphite patterns and designs were drawn based on how the artist perceived and remembers the artifact. What we find on the surfaces of the porcelain pieces is similar, yet upon closer observation, the very fine details of national treasures and this pottery are dissimilar. Sekyun Ju deliberately widens the distance between his artistic reproduction and the real, in order to ultimately convey a sense of the 'insecurity that our contemporaries experience.' Standards and definitions and the existing way of things are confronted by unforeseeable contemporary situations, warping and twisting, offsetting our sense of equilibrium. Heuristically, that rift is cause for agitation and insecurity. The artist visually expresses contemporary anxiety through "discontinuous patterns” in his works.
The patterns found in Ju's works were originally familiar; they underwent processes of variation, transformation, derivation and mediation. The result is the product of a wholly different process with different standards. Something incomplete and partial is created amid abrasion and conflict on the tangent of time, which, at a different point, may be a tradition; a starting point for another tangent. The 'impetus for novelty' as presented by the artist may be understood as the past-present-future communicating without respite, in a 'wheel of time.' To develop the idea further, the artist's creative impetus is drawn from tradition, which we easily forget or consider mundane. The artist's traditional treatment of porcelain works was a result of a dialectic between his past and present selves suggests that today is not a severance, but an interaction with the past.
In the way that our past traditions affect our present, our contemporary practices will one day become the past - a tradition. In the present era which is fixated on change served by speed and quantity, Sekyun Ju's works ask the viewer for a moment of pause, to reflect on the distance covered and to consider the path ahead.
Q. Could you provide an explanation for Tracing Drawing series, a major part of your oeuvre?
A. The Tracing Drawing series was in a way 'tracing over' what was already known. My works are representations of difference, or that distance between traditions that I know and cherish and what is actual in my present reality. My works are created by drawing on porcelain pottery, one of Korea's best-known cultural artefacts. On the white porcelain, I pencil in patterns from images collect from the internet. Only the surface of these images is visible, causing distortion and modification to occur when transferred to the three-dimensional porcelain. Whatever is beneath the surface, I fill in the blanks with inference and imagination. Through this process, I visualize the disturbance and anxiety caused by the confrontation of believed-to-be immutable tradition with the coincidences and irregularities of reality. This represents contemporary anxiety as a result of conflict with the past. It translates into 'discontinuous patterns' in my works. Those patterns settle in as future traditions, testifying to the organic connection between the past, present and future. Working with discontinuous patterns in my work has been an ongoing thing. The Tracing Drawing series is part of that ongoing process.
There is a gap between how I perceive the present and the present in its universal sense. That gap can be uncomfortable, but once that incongruity is accepted, communication becomes possible, and can even become a source for novelty for the future. - Sekyun Ju -
Q. Was there a specific inspiration for the Tracing Drawing series?
A. I would cite my Mother's porcelain collection, which she took quite seriously. She was also had a great appreciation for porcelain tea sets. Naturally, I developed an interest in pottery at an early age. Art was like an heirloom passed down through my family. I perceived it as something to be treasured and cherished with seriousness. That perception was shattered by the contemporary art I encountered at art college. It was very different. I felt that contemporary art existed through violent means. It made me feel uncomfortable. That was maybe why I found my footsteps meandering towards the pottery studio, as a result of my aversion to what I was undergoing in the lecture halls. At the studio, I encountered many different masters from whom I learned the craft. From them, I acquired diverse pottery techniques, and began developing my own methods. White porcelain is generally glazed and fired twice, I fire it once at 1150 degrees (Celsius) and apply the design over the white porcelain before completing it with a coating.
Q. Time is a significant element in your work. Could you explain on how you signify the past, present and future?
A. To me, time works in terms of repetition; not like a carbon copy, though. It is not an unchanging reiteration of identical means and nature. The past affects me in the present. There is a gap between how I perceive the present and the present in its universal sense. That gap can be uncomfortable, but once that incongruity is accepted, communication becomes possible, and can even become a source for novelty for the future. To me, the past, present and future are inseparable in their contemplation.
Q. What is the seed of your imagination?
A. I am inspired by standard, everyday things. For instance, I watch dramas on TV and share the thoughts and sentiments of my fellow Koreans. Obviously, some things are exaggerated, but family interactions caught on camera are interesting to watch. Perhaps it has been my living in Seoul for so long, away from home and family. The tube does an alright job of filling that sense of wanting. Watching other families on television helps.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. For now, I will be continuing what I am doing. Within the larger context of fine art, I would like to continue working with art that touches on craftsmanship. There are lines being drawn between fine arts and craft, but I disagree. They are not very different. Contemporary art has been putting in a lot of effort to collaborate with many other fields, but there is much left wanting in our traditional crafts. What it means to be Korean and to our identity in terms of contemporary craft is sorely lacking aesthetic and philosophical groundwork. It is my hope that traditional crafts and fine art will mutually develop through close interaction with professional art experts capable of pondering and seeking common ground, even if it is limited to theory.
Tracing Drawing 68. 2012. Pencil drawing on ceramics. 44.5 x 25 x 25 cm
Moon Jar. 2013. Single channel video. 00:14:12
National Flag Part 2. 2011. Single channel video. 00:09:00
Tracing Drawing 93. 2013. Pencil drawing on ceramics. 35 x 35 x 47 cm
Tracing Drawing 133. 2013. Pencil drawing on ceramics. 32 x 24 x 42 cm
Sekyun Ju received both his M.F.A and B.F.A in sculpture at Kookmin University. Selected solo exhibitions include <Wheel the World>(Makeshop Art Space, Paju, Korea, 2014), <Whiteout>(Openspace Bae, Busan, Korea, 2013), <Notional Flag>(Brain Factory, Seoul, Korea, 2011), and <Black Sign>(Syart Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2010). Selected group exhibitions include <Korea Tomorrow2014>(Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul, Korea, 2014), <Objet>( Gallery27Museum, Gyeonggi-do, Korea), <Taiwan Ceramics Biennale>(Yingge Ceramics Museum, New Taipei City, Taiwan, 2014), <Admiration of White Porcelain>(Seoul Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2014), and <ART SHOW BUSAN>(Bexco, Busan, Korea, 2014).