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Professor Kwack, Tae-young:  Communications

Professor Kwack speaks at the Australian National Universities ARTFORUM Lecture series about his current work during his residency as visiting artist at the National Institute of the Arts in 2001.

My integrated and consistent theme throughout my work is communication. Communication is literally defined as "making (opinions, feelings, information, etc) known to, or understood by, others, sharing or exchanging, contacting, getting along with, and conveying information and messages, transportation, and means of connection".

This has many implications. However, these definitions assume that there should be something to be conveyed and someone to communicate with. This means communication has to be made between at least two people, and it aims to convey specific information.

"Communication" is of great significance, although it is limited by time and space. In addition, modem culture and civilization, when disconnected from the old and virtuous traditions and customs, is like a tree without roots.

I do not think clay to be simply a personal tool for making communication. With clays, I portray our traditions, modem civilization, culture and ways of life. Through these, I am keen to draw a social rapport for our spiritual features from the past up to the present day.

The common theme in my works is visual effects. The effects are marks made on clays through pressing old wooden blocks, and pieces and appliances of computers symbolizing modem civilization, straight lines connecting the past and the modem life very skillfully and delicately, and sensual and sensitive arrangement of small clay boards made with skilful knives and hands.

I like to visit nearby antique dealers to look around folk crafts and antiques and to feel the past. One of the themes that I have pursued consistently is plate work associated with ancient epitaph. On the plate inscribed genuine Chinese characters of ancient Korean wooden print block. The edge of the plate has vestiges to remind broken archaeological finds.

Through careful examination of the plate, one can also find circuits of transistor radio; lines and chips are entangled.A combination of wooden block is the result of ancient culture and transistor radio is one of the representatives of modem technology.

I try to harmonize historical times and today. The style contrasts with the straight lines produced from the Chinese and Korean characters on old wooden plates, some pieces of computers and transistors, and the lines these are engraved at the heart of my works.

I attempt a new change by attaching boards around squares and circles. Expanding the boards, there came to have differences in the thickness of the boards and specifically the centers of the boards are curved inward. This aims at escaping from simple plane delineation and portrays spaces in between the boards, like inside spaces of flower bowl. This allows us to feel comfortable images and impressions that we can receive from traditional bowls, On gi, and Neopjeon. In fact, this gives us the feeling that the inner spaces embrace, the outer spaces and create simplistic forms with boundaries.

Geometrical cubic structures are another series of my works. Works combined with triangle, square and other shapes give the feeling of geometrical abstract sculpture. I combine the unique characteristic of ceramic art and geometrical abstract sculpture by harmonizing baked pottery and the touch of crude, natural color glaze.

The structure and proportion sense of these sculptures are rooted in the costume of Chosun Dynasty. Therefore, these sculptures are not only symmetrical, but also have human images. By excluding curves, however, these sculptures resemble architectural structure. More developed works of these sculptures are the ones treated by Punchung.

Not withstanding my efforts to create new effect, Punchung, giving crude surface feeling, cause the loss of clear image of my linear, geometrical sculptures. As free style and natural surface treatment of Punchung made it as precious as Koryo and Chosun porcelain of Korea, efforts to create more simple and natural sculpture seem to be needed.

I give variety by creating another series of installation works. 'Dart game at atelier' made by mould casting and several dart plates attached on the wall. The dart plate is composed with auto bicycle tubes, plastic dies and pins to symbolize certain circumstances of modem culture.

Another particular piece is that a realistically cast mackerel is placed on an ammonia plated used for refrigerator. A mackerel should be kept at a refrigerator, but is alive outside. I show the will to give life to a dying life. It send a message the modem culture is killing a life instead of saving a life.

The trial of my installation work is evaluated positively as it is symbolic, gives acute messages to modem culture, and I try to give fresh stimulus to my works. However, it does not look as successful as arousing audience's sympathy by forming artistic creature. It is noticed by the fact that sculptures send obscure messages. Besides the form, the obscureness may due to improper choice of a symbolic subject. In this case, it is more important to have clear idea and choose proper subject than to embody characteristics of ceramic arts.

Modem ceramic art must learn contemporary navigation technique to sail boundless sea of contemporary art. That is, an attempt should be made to adopt traditional ceramic ideas. Simultaneously, molding experiments should be made as a status equal to other contemporary arts genre such as painting, sculpture, installation, video art and performance. Technique and idea must be thoroughly free when one tires for the latter purpose. Dilemma of contemporary ceramic art will be continued, if ceramic art is not evaluated its value as a pottery and as a contemporary arts. My ceramic plate works combined with geometrical cubic molding are free the 'pot' form. I still use traditional technique and expression of the unique characteristics to my ceramic works.

I actively attempt to make the most of the above-mentioned expressions, in our actual lives. This mode of work portrays my functional approach. It portrays my strong will and deep interest in the flowers and flower vases that I have studied for several years. It shows my special interpretation and deep attention to flower vases.

My works portray self-restraint and fundamental beauty, which eventually shows in my symbolic portrayal of flowers.

I employ objects reflecting my personal spirituality and thought. The works usually convey my symbolic messages in a simplistic style. I try to find deep insight and interest in Korean traditions and customs. Traditions are not materials but spiritual and cultural matters. The past and the present can be communicated through the succession of traditions and customs. Traditions are so shapeless and abstract that they are not to be held, but their essence and sole can be continued and improved. They are like the rivers flowing from the upper steam to downstream. I am likely to perceive that traditions are a continuing communication like flowing water.

The shapes of fish imply the succession of traditions like flowing water, representing communication. The fish can be messengers connecting me with the nature around. Abstract shapes such as dadeum-it-dol, blocks of stone used for pounding cloths, round fulling sticks, and traditional houses convey meaningful messages, and they help us to be aware of our traditional sounds, the transit of time, and the spirituality of today. With my visual effects, I encourage you to listen to the beauty of our sounds, and to look at our spirits and cultures.

I love and enjoy my time with clays and continue to strive to understand the world of clays as a form for unspoken communication. I always try to understand all that is around me, with great care and love. For this, I try to portray and convey messages by my method of communication to develop a good understanding and rapport. In brief, COMMUNICATION as my theme, which is my way of communication with clays, my method of connecting the past and the present, my meeting place formed and interwoven by old traditions and modem civilization, and my open window for having conversations with other people.