The life and art of Roe Kyung Jo

Imre Molnar,
Dean of the College, College for Creative Studies, USA

Workshop 2010
201 E. Kriby Detroit, Michgan, 48202-4034, USA
31 Oct. - 4 Nov. 2010

The life and art of Roe Kyung Jo are each a perfect balance of traditional and contemporary forms. My first introduction to professor Roe was at Kookmin University, two years ago. At that time, he served as the dean of the design school, which is highly esteemed for its technologically advanced pedagogy, celebrating handmade and digital forms. Upon our second meeting, he invited me to his studio. I recall the three-hour drive out of Seoul and into the mountains, above a number of villages. His studio is nestled in a birch forest, where a serene stillness pervades. I was immediately struck by the environment, which stands in steep contrast to the chaotic, austere city in which he works. Roe told me that he built his studio and planted the white birch trees, which appear as if they have been drawn across the landscape.

The interior of his studio presented a superb, carefully selected collection of Korean antiques, displayed in a minimalist setting. There he served me traditional Korean tea and sweets, and spoke to me about his work, art and design. It was there that I learned the profound influence that Korean ceramics had on modern Japanese aesthetics. We walked from his studio to the kiln room, filled with sophisticated, temperature-control technology and there, between the kilns, stood a state-of-the-art full-sus pension mountain bike professor Roe¡¯'s other passion.

German philosopher and art critic Walter Benjamin has written that a man¡¯'s private interior is a personification of his character. I find this to be true with Roe Kyung-Jo. He adopts the most advanced technological processes and applies them to traditional field of craft, perfecting a technique that has existed for centuries while finding new innovative forms of expression. His art celebrates duality; the juxtapositions of old and new, and nature versus what is man made; however, it is anything but simple. His art is an expression of exquisite tension.