As part of Splendor and Serenity: Korean Ceramics from the Honolulu Museum of Art, the museum is flying in internationally known ceramic master Lee Kang Hyo from Chongju, South Korea. Starting Sept. 22, you can see the artist in Central Courtyard, where he will be working with 700 pounds of clay to create a single enormous vessel using traditional Korean onggi—or stonewaretechniques.

To accommodate Lee’s work process, the museum turned to the Honolulu Woodturners for help. Woodturners David Chung, Brian Green, Kyle Iwamoto and Warren Naai rose to the challenge to create a Korean pottery wheel for Lee. (You can read about the wheel making process on the Honolulu Woodturner’s blog.)

Famous for his interpretation of traditional Korean onggi, Lee Kang Hyo remains true to ancient practices handed down from generation to generation. In using the onggi coiling method to build large vessels decorated with white slip, he also employs the buncheong method from the Joseon period (1392–1910). Lee, who exhibits widely around the world, is equally well known for his vibrant workshops demonstrating the Korean technique of vessel coiling. In his ceramic jars, Lee marries tradition with modern innovation by building up coils of clay and decorating them with fingerprints, then applying pale gray powder to them to create unique colors and textures. To strengthen the surfaces, Lee uses multiple layers of different shades of powder and paint.

Lee’s creation in Central Courtyard will culminate with a demonstration at ARTafterDARK: Bibimbash on Sept. 25, and he leads a workshop at the Honolulu Museum of Art School Sept. 26 and 27 (it’s sold out). See a video of Lee in action.

Prior to his arrival in Honolulu, Lee answered questions via email:

Q: What technique will you use for the giant vessel you will create at the museum?
Lee Kang Hyo: I will make a jar with Taryeomjil technique—building up with coils of clay. This technique can produce a vessel that is one to two meters high. Any height is possible with Taryeomjil, and the vessel can be built quite quickly.

Since ancient times, the Korean people have kept fermented food such as chili paste, soybean paste, and kimchi. So a particular type of storing jar was required. Some houses might have 10 of these jars, while others would have as many as 40. To meet the need of the people, large quantities of onggi jars were produced, which led to the development of ceramic skills developed.

I will decorate the vessel using the buncheong technique, which originated with the Buncheong ware of Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). The buncheong technique requires the use of liquefied white clay known as slip, and onggi is made using a dark clay body. Drawing on a dark clay body using this white slip is the buncheong method. In a more literal sense, it means to power the face and this is done on clay using white slip. This method of surface decoration is known as “bunjang”—to cover the surface. This demonstration will show my interpretation of traditional Korean ceramics.

Q: I’ve seen video of you working in public, and music is often part of your demonstrations. Will you be playing music in Central Courtyard, and if yes, what music will it be?
Lee Kang Hyo: Yes, there will be Samulnori music in Central Courtyard. Samulnori basically means “four instruments” and the four instruments are Kwaengwari, jing, janggu, and buk. It has its roots in Korean traditional percussion—a Korean folk genre comprising music, folk dance, and rituals, which was traditionally performed in rice farming villages to ensure and to celebrate harvests.

Each of the four instruments represents a different weather condition—the janggu represents rain, the kkwaenggwari is thunder, the jing the sounds of the wind, and the buk is clouds. The idea of yin and yang is also reflected in these instruments: the buk and janggu, which are made of leather, represent the sounds of the earth, while the metal jing and kkwaenggwari represent sounds of the heavens. Although generally performed indoors, as a staged genre, Samulnori depicts the traditional Korean culture, an agricultural society rooted in the natural environment. Samulnori is characterized by strong, accented rhythms, vibrant body movements, and an energetic spirit.

Q: Does the music help your creativity?
Lee Kang Hyo: Yes it does. Doing a public demonstration demands a lot of concentration and bursts of energy. Samulnori music can help control energy. The basic instincts and our hidden innermost energies are waiting to come out. My emotional energy differs depending on circumstances. That’s what I want to capture in my work. The sound of Samulnori helps that energy to come through. We say that the sound of Samulnori can awake all the senses. The strong sound awakens my instincts, allowing me to express my energy onto the surface of the jar. The demonstration will be done to the rhythm and the energy.

Q: Is this your first visit to Hawai‘i? Are you looking forward to it?
Yes. I have heard that the islands of Hawai‘i are paradise on earth. I’m very honored to have been invited to do the demonstration and workshop at the Honolulu Museum of Art and looking forward to seeing the skies and oceans of Hawai‘i.

700 파운드 상당의 흙으로 작업하신다고 들었습니다. 이렇게 많은 흙을 사용하시는 것이 사실입니까?
, 사실입니다.

어떤 작품을 만드십니까?
한국의 전통 옹기 기법을 이용한 대형 항아리 1점입니다.

어떤 기법을 사용하시는지요?
한국어로 타렴질[타림질]이라고 부르는 옹기 성형기법으로 항아리를 만듭니다. 이것은 큰 코일을 만들어 쌓아나가는 기법입니다. 한국에는 발효식품이 발달하면서 오랜시간 동안 음식물을 저장하기 위한 큰 항아리(옹기)가 만들어져왔는데, 거기에서 유래한 기법입니다.

옹기기법으로 형태를 만들면, 분청기법으로 장식을 합니다. 호놀룰루미술관에서 보여드릴 시연은 분청사기의 분장기법을 현대적으로 재해석한 장식기법입니다.

작가님께서 대중들 앞에서 퍼포먼스 하시는 영상을 보았습니다. 특별한 음악이 연출의 일부처럼 느껴지더군요. 미술관 중정에서도 음악이 연주되는지요? 만약 그렇다면 어떤 음악이 연주됩니까?
제가 시연할 때 사용하는 음악은 한국 전통 음악 중 하나인 사물놀이 음악입니다. 4인조 타악기 퍼커션인데요, 굉장히 신명나는 음악입니다. 사물놀이는 본래 농악의 하나로 세상 모든 사물을 깨우는 음악이라고 알고 있습니다.

그 음악이 작가님의 창조활동에 도움이 됩니까?
특히 많은 사람들 앞에서 퍼포먼스를 할 때면, 순간에 몰입해서 에너지를 방출해야 합니다. 그 때 사물놀이 음악은 집중에 큰 도움을 줍니다. 모든 사물을 깨우는 힘이 느껴질 만큼 강렬한 음악을 들으면서 그 에너지를 체화시키고, 항아리에 투영시켜 표현할 수 있기 때문입니다. 마음의 신명을 끄집어 내는 음악, 제 마음 속의 신명을 항아리 표면에 투영시키고, 리듬에 맞춰 내면의 에너지가 이끄는 대로 몸의 느낌을 이입시키는 것이 제 퍼포먼스이기 때문입니다.

이전에 하와이를 방문한 적이 있으십니까? 만약 아니라면, 이번 방문을 기대하고 계시는지요? 그 이유를 말씀해주세요.
이번 방문이 처음입니다. 하와이는 천혜의 자연을 가진 지상낙원의 이미지를 가지고 있어서 그 자연을 느끼러 한 번 쯤 방문하고 싶은 곳이었는데, 이번에 워크샵을 초대받아서 기꺼이 갈 수 있게 되어 기대가 큽니다. 하와이의 맑은 하늘과 다채로운 바다를 즐기고 싶습니다.