Thursday, March 20, 2008

Satisfying Lee Kang Hyo

Lee Kang Hyo is a master of the buncheong style.

Buncheong style is a broad categorization that covers most stonewares made in Korea. It carries no strict prescriptions- it allows for the free expression o f the artist. It is a reflection of their humanity.

It is humanity.

This style is common throughout the southern tip of the peninsula where kilns once littered mountain sides. Buncheong is characterized by rough, textured, natural clay flourishing under thin, soft, shinny glaze that usually only partially covers the gritty clay beneath.

Buncheong presents a dichotomy of elements that are resolved in its whole.

Buncheong style values the beauty of cracks, holes, and asymmetry- natural beauty. Like the artist, its creator, who gave birth to it, and like the one who sips tea from it now- it is imperfect.

It silently teaches us the beauty of imperfection.

This tea drinking bowl by Lee Kang Hyo is one of these great teachers.

This piece exquisitely exhibits most of the common elements of the buncheong style. Dark reddish clay coated in a translucent glaze then coated in a fine white glaze before being fired.

In the kiln, the energies of earth and fire majestically tangle.

Clay finds gaps in thin white glaze, taxed to its limit under the heat of the kiln, delicate cracks are formed. Air and grains of sand trapped within disperse, forming black spots. Large stones housed within the reddish glaze rupture under the intense heat and bleed through the delicate white glaze creating large pink blotches like flowers that bloom under the warm spring sun. Surprisingly these aren't the work of paints. Only the magic of the kiln can create such wonders as these!

When the tea bowl is removed, it is something that it was not before entering.

This piece was likely fired at a remarkably high temperature given its thin walls and high note. It has the characteristic birth mark of the Korean buncheong style found on many pieces- five rough, unglazed protrusions impressed in the shallow of the bowl. These marks are left after the tea bowl is removed from the fire retardant stand onto which the bowl rests upon while being fired. It too creates a natural footprint and serves as a constant reminder of the kiln's essential contribution.

This bowl's true beauty cannot be full appreciated until powered tea is whisked within. At this instant, the hues of bright greens pull at the pink blotches contained on its walls. They seem as though to come alive fighting for attention over the tea in the bowl- both pinks and greens complementing each other, adding to each others beauty.

In the powdered tea ceremony, one must give their full attention to the preparation and drinking of the tea itself. It isn't until after the tea is mindfully consumed that ones attention shifts to the bowl- then covered in frothy green residue. In this way, this tea bowl by Lee Kang Hyo strengthens ones mind. Only a strong mind can resist the allure of this bowl- how difficult it is to walk down the path of a wonderful spring garden without looking at the flowers?

Lee Kang Hyo says that in the thirty-five years of making pottery, he is most satisfied with this single tea bowl.



MarshalN said...

I must say I am extremely disappointed.

You tease, but you don't show.

I need a shot of the side of the bowl, now, or I'll stop reading this blog forever because I don't want to be tortured.

Salsero said...

An exquisite post in all respects! Thanks. I could be teased like this for a long time before becoming frustrated.

If you show the side of the bowl, I'll stop reading this blog forever because I don't want to be disappointed.

Matt said...

Thanks again for your support Salasro,

One can't hope to please them all. Marshaln is the one and only exception (Every rule has one right?).

You do make an excellent point about the bowl. When one takes one first glance at this bowl its side view is nothing special, just a normal looking tea drinking bowl. Nothing too breath taking or mind boggling. More than likely, if it were on a shelf with many other tea drinking bowls it may just be skipped past by the causal observer.

This is what makes Korean tea drinking bowls so wonderful and this is the reason that Sen No Rikyu of Japan coveted Korea's craftsmanship.

The best tea drinking bowls are the ones that, at first glance, aren't so wonderful but, five years latter, one can still find something in it that they didn't appreciate the day before. So too is the way we find joys in everyday life.


Matt said...

Ohh.. killed your name, sorry SALSERO.

Double Peace

Space Samurai said...

damn. that's something else. wow, thanks for sharing that.