Drawing of Birch Forest
-between painting and craft-

Lee WonBok,
Director of Gwangju National Museum

¡ºWhite Forest of Korea¡»(Printing Plus One, Korea 2005)

It is curious and palpitating to look at the surroundings of an artist. The surroundings represent the artist's acquaintances, including family, friends, masters and pupils. At the same time, it implicate an atelier; a private space for the birth of work, a cradle of creation. As a critic or an art historian, watching either acquaintance or atelier is an indispensable process of understanding and describing an artist and analyzing the work. To most people who know him, Roe Kyung Jo conjures up images of porcelains. More than twenty years ago, in 1982, he was invited to the exhibition of Birmingham Museum at the age of 30 in the U.S. It was a very rare opportunity. He was boy-faced then; now he has 30 years of experience as an artist. Although it may become broken, a porcelain never decomposes. The history of porcelain has been continued from the New Stone Age to present. Moreover, he is still as young as people who make porcelains or study them.

I shared a childhood with Roe Kyung Jo in the same town. It is little strange that there were many well-known people near him. Sculptors, Kim Jong Yong(1915-1982) who is the father of my high school friend, Kim Ik Tae, and Kwon Jin Kyu(1922-1973); painter Jang Woo Sung(1912-2005) who is father of a college senior; the first art historian Whang Soo Young who lived to be eighty years old; Jin Hong Sub: they all lived near his house. They all left the town but Roe Kyung Jo and I still live in Samsun-dong. Famous actor Ahn Sung Gi and singer Cho Yong Pil are middle school friends of Roe Kyung Jo. However, our serious relationship started when I began to work at the National Museum of Korea in the late 1970s. I watched Choi Soon Woo(1916-1984) who was a superior officer for 9 years and loved Roe Kyung Jo. I could conjure up memories of our childhood when I met Roe in the director's office since he kept his childhood face. Thinking back, we are closely bound together. I did not expect to write about his paintings instead of his porcelains.

Roe liked to paint before he chose ceramic as his primary medium. Our generation thought art was drawing pictures. He never put his brush down even after he changed his major to ceramics. But Roe did not reveal this part. He had a firm-set mouth like a painter in the literary artist's style. However, his painting style is indirectly appears through the shape of his porcelains and the sketch of patterns. His early paintings, done before the age of 30, are collected in one place. I remember an elder critic's old suggestion to exhibit Roe's paintings with his porcelains.

I only came to know 20 works of Roe's in a limited period. The paintings were worked in 10 years since he became a University student, and they can be called Roe Kyung Jo's Blue Period. He drew self-portraits, a woman, landscapes near his school or house, a puppy, paintings on porcelains, abstractions, ect. On canvas or paper, and this shows his broad interest in subject matter. Among these works there is a work which shows the process of changing paper to canvas. His space is familiar to me since I went to the same high school and lived in the same neighborhood. He learned Korean painting style under Kim Young Gi(1911-2003) when he was in university, and developed special interest for the traditional paintings from frequent museum visits. Roe had experience with paintbrushes. His landscape in porcelains which shows Byun Kwan Sik(1899-1976)'s painting style and woman shaped with a fast brush strokes are the evidence of his experience. Roe's paintings pursue the difference and freshness although his colors or style are not as unique as his porcelains.

In formative arts there is no limit on genre these days like the overall arts. Roe can hold his personal exhibition with paintings and can draw pictures in porcelain beyond the ornament as Picasso or Matisse did. We are the descendant of this tradition. Unlike mere the mass production of Chinese porcelains, it is hard to find the same shape among Korean celadon porcelains and white porcelains. The patterns in the porcelains were not worked by potters but by painters in government office. Pictorial style of porcelains' patterns are well known to everyone. Roe knows about it more than anybody. I can see his energy for tradition from the penetralia. Moreover, we may expect his experience including the beautiful scenery he saw while he was wandering the whole country for kiln places in his paintings. I am pleased with reading his capacity in Roe's paintings. I hope it is not just a dream. Is it an unreasonable and one-sided request to the artist?