Native Clay :
No Man Is An Island

Misun Rheem
Executive Director of the Craft Division
Korea Craft & Design Foundation
IAC Treasure Bowl Collection Curator


Today, political, social and economic conflicts are depending in every area around the globe. The enmity between regions and ethnicities has worsened.

Clay has a long history and, regardless of regional or cultural boundaries, it has been expressed in various forms and visual languages. Also, fired clay or ¡°ceramics¡± has played an important role not only as a tool to help human beings survive , but also as a medium to connect regions, societies and cultures in the process of movement , migration, and settlement. This dynamic is in line with the International Academy of Ceramics mission, which is to promote interaction and cooperation between world ceramic experts in an effort to develop a world ceramic culture. The IAC Treasure Bowl Collection has been established to facilitate IAC¡¯s role as the world¡¯s only international ceramic association.

The theme of the Treasure Bowl Collection is ¡°Native Clay¡±. The dictionary definition of this expression is the soil (clay, pottery) of the homeland (birthplace). However, the meaning of ¡°Native¡± can no longer be limited to a geographical category. Due to the rapidly changing world environment – globalization, democratic impulses, climate change etc. – modern people live a more nomadic life, by choice or by force. Moreover, the current era uses several values such as regional characteristics, multiculturalism, and migration culture, which had once been disregarded by unilateral cosmopolitanism, as a much more abundant basis for self-expression.

Around the world, each region¡¯s culture – once understood in relation to the concepts of traditional indigenousness of nature, ethnic groups and regions – is now mainly understood through the lenses of science and technology, pop culture and industry as well as through the lenses of spatial and social environment, which includes race, gender and nationality. This phenomenon functions as a condition that changes people¡¯s fixed perspectives toward local society and traditional culture. Especially, the development of science and technology, which is the most distinct characteristic of modern civilization, plays a critical role in creating distinct regional differences and characteristics. The reality of identification, translation and interpretation of cultural differences becomes a matter of individual choice. This situation requires a deep understanding of the linkages related to science, technology and infrastructure, which depend on geographical, historical and cultural contexts.

The meaning of ¡°Native¡± includes the unique characteristic of an individual formulated by the environment, history and the culture of one¡¯s homeland (or specific place) where one has settled down. ¡°Native¡± focuses on an awareness of difference and the cultural characteristics of a chosen place, either of birth or migration. Culture is an output of material and psychological process of change, which one human group or one society has made to nature. ¡°Native culture¡± is a product of living that is experienced, combined and changed by individuals of a culture over a long time. Today, travelling and moving are generalized. Glocalization is a term that combines globalization with localization, a shift from the idea of globalism. Glocalization has become a subject of research that intends to distinguish between local characteristics in relation to those that are global as a result of a process of backtracking to the origins of a locally unique vernacular.

For the Treasure Bowl Collection project, ten artists were chosen based on a topological perspective rather than a geopolitical one in order to show a contemporary cultural uniqueness and the differences that are based on the geographical (environmental), historical and sociocultural backgrounds of Asia, Oceania, America and Europe. The artists are largely categorized into three groups.

Landscape: These artists have worked on the basis of an understanding and creative interpretation of geographical and environmental characteristics. Wayne Higby ( United States ) and Philippe Barde (Switzerland) are included in this group. They produced bowls containing the nature of their homeland, such as mountains, valleys and other landscapes. Through deep understanding of a geographical context, the foundation of life that determines uniqueness can be discovered.

Heritage: These artists chose history, tradition and cultural heritage as their source of motivation. Wen Yeh (Chinese Taipei), Kyung Jo Roe (South Korea), Toshio Ohi Chozaemon XI (Japan), Gustavo Pérez (Mexico) and Abbas Akbari (Iran) belong to this group. They have inherited and developed the long history of ceramic culture of their countries, such as Junyao, Buncheaong, Raku, Pre-Hispanic and Luster. Through reconstruction of their socio-cultural foundation, they spark understanding about identity as well as the wide spectrum of ceramic culture around the world.

Cross-cultural Hybridity: The artists Janet DeBoos (Australia), Fiona Lai Ching Wong (China/Hong Kong), and Ann Van Hoey (Belgium) reveal hybrid cultural phenomena generated in the process of collision and convergence between heterogeneous cultures that travelling and movement create. In the context of postmodernity, they have experienced contemporary cultural locations represented by globalization, hybridity and nomadism through their own perspectives and expressions. Through their work, they give a cross-cutting vision of modern, worldwide ceramic culture.

As John Donne pointed out in his famous poem Meditation XVII in 1624, ¡° No Man Is An Island¡±. Each island is connected by seawater and under the sea they are connected to all the continents of the world. Numerous events occurring on the opposite side of the earth have come back around the world to appear in our daily life. The situation today desperately asks for reconciliation, coexistence and mutual cooperation.

I would like to thank the ten artists who made special efforts to contribute to this one-of-a-kind IAC project for mutual understanding and communication through the Treasure Bowl Collection.

South Korea

IAC Member since 2015

Kyung Jo Roe opened his first solo exhibition in Kanazawa, Japan, in 1979. Today, his works are held in the permanent collections of museums worldwide including the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of South Korea. Roe is currently an Emeritus Professor of Ceramic Design at the Kookmin University.

The scenery of four seasons in the birch forest around Kyung¡¯s studio is expressed on the four surfaces of the ceramic bowl, using ad iron glaze painting technique. Each surface respectively depicts spring, summer, autumn, and winter, through the changing moods provided by the hundreds of birch trees surrounding the studio. In a separate screen, the four surfaces of the bowl are combined into a single panoramic view, thus conveying the seasons together.