Tradition Unwrapped: Korean Bojagi and Joomchi Now
February 6 – 28, 2014
Artist Reception: Saturday, Feb 8, 1-4pm at ArtXchange Gallery
Opening First Thursday, Feb 6, 5-8pm, ArtXchange Gallery presents an exciting look at Korean craft traditions that have evolved into stunning contemporary art. Featuring work by Chunghie Lee, a bojagi artist and Jiyoung Chung, a joomchi artist. Lee and Chung find rich inspiration in the textile and papermaking traditions of their native country, Korea. In addition, work by contemporary artists from Korea will be exhibited alongside select work by Lee’s students from the Rhode Island Institute of Design. This comprehensive exhibit gives viewers an overview of the diverse styles, techniques, and innovations being created by contemporary artists around the world working with bojagi and joomchi techniques.
At ArtXchange Gallery: The Tradition Unwrapped exhibit opens First Thursday February 6, 5-8pm (artists not present). On Saturday, February 8, 1-4pm, Chunghie Lee and Jiyoung Chung will be available at ArtXchange Gallery for an afternoon artist reception, providing an in-person experience with the artists and discussion of their work. The exhibit and artist reception are FREE and open to the public.
At the Burke Museum: On Sunday, February 9, 1-3 pm, the Burke Museum and FA3 present a special artist talk on Bojagi by Chunghie Lee. The price for FA3 members is $10 and Non-members is $15. For advanced registration, contact FriendsOfAsianArt@Earthlink.net.
Featuring Chunghie Lee and Jiyoung Chung
Exhibition co-curated by Chunghie Lee
Presented in partnership with Korea Bojagi Forum, Seattle Friends of Asian Art Association (FA3), and the Burke Museum
Opening First Thursday, Feb 6, 5-8pm, ArtXchange Gallery presents an exciting look at Korean craft traditions that have evolved into stunning contemporary art, featuring work by Chunghie Lee, a bojagi artist and Jiyoung Chung, a joomchi artist. Lee and Chung find rich inspiration in the textile and papermaking traditions of their native country, Korea. In addition, work by artists from Korea will be exhibited alongside select work by Lee’s students from the Rhode Island Institute of Design. This comprehensive exhibit gives viewers an overview of the diverse styles, techniques, and innovations being created by contemporary artists around the world working with bojagi and joomchi techniques.
Bojagi (Bo-Jah-ki) is ancient Korean folk tradition of pieced textiles for both every day and ceremonial use. Originally started by women in the domestic realm to fulfill a practical need along with an artistic impulse, Bojagi has gained popularity outside Korea due to the increasing interest in the value of handmade items as well as interest in recycled materials and the politics of sustainability. This uniquely Korean folk art, given down by anonymous ancestors, has evolved from a functional craft into a contemporary art form embraced worldwide.
Chunghie Lee is the leading force in the world of art-Bojagi. She is a renowned contemporary artist using Bojagi techniques in wall-hangings, sculpture, and wearable art in addition to teaching at Rhode Island School of Design, curating exhibits, and contributing to scholarship with books and catalogs (most notably the publication Bojagi and Beyond).
Also featured in Tradition Unwrapped is Jiyoung Chung, whose stunning works of Joomchi have been featured in publications including American Craft and Surface Design Magazine. In Joomchi, layers of Hanji (Korean mulberry paper) bond together using only water and hands in a process similar to felting. The results are stunning mixed-media works of rich color, shadow and texture. Jiyoung Chung is the author of Joomchi and Beyond, the first book examining Joomchi as a contemporary art media, and teaches this form across the US.
What is Bojagi?
Bojagi (Bo-Jah-ki) is an ancient Korean folk tradition of pieced textiles for both every day and ceremonial use. Originally started by women in the domestic realm to fulfill a practical need along with an artistic impulse, bojagi has gained popularity outside Korea due to the increasing interest in the value of handmade items as well the use of recycled materials and the politics of sustainability.
Bojagi flourished during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), although their beginnings appear to be from the Three Kingdoms Period. Bojagi occupied a prominent place in the daily lives of Koreans of all classes. They were used to wrap or carry everything from precious ritual objects to everyday clothes and common household goods and also to cover foodstuffs from ritual offerings to dining tables and trays.
Many different types of bojagi can be categorized by the background of users, design, material and size. Traditional bojagi are square and can be made from a variety of materials, though silk is common. Embroidered bojagi are known as subo. Pieced together bojagi is known as chogakbo. Wrapping cloths used within the palace were known as kung-bo. They were produced by the artisan organizations that were specializes in each step in the whole process-weaving, dyeing, drawing, and sewing.
Min-bo were the bojagi used by common people. There were many kinds of min-bo as diverse as the items wrapped in. People used bojagi for daily use purposes, weddings, special events and rituals. Patchworked bojagi (jogakbo) were made exclusively by and for the common people using various colors of small remnants. Jogakbo are comparable to modern abstract paintings. The talent and aesthetic sense that created a work of art from discarded scraps of cloths were sufficient to make jogakbo excellent works of art.
Bojagi are usually square and come in a range of sizes. Fabrics used in bojagi include silk, cotton, hemp and ramie. There are many different types of bojagi including lined or unlined, embroidered, painted, gold-leafed, quilted.
This uniquely Korean folk art, handed down by anonymous ancestors, has evolved from a functional craft into a contemporary art form embraced worldwide.
What is Joomchi?
Joomchi is a unique traditional Korean way of making textured handmade paper by using only water and eager hands. In a sense it is like ‘felting’ paper. Joomchi creates strong, textural and painterly surfaces by layering and agitating Hanji (Korean mulberry paper). The end product can be either functional or fine art-oriented. Joomchi can incorporate surface design, collage, and/or new ways of drawing or making free-standing objects.
Water, a Table, and Eager Hands
by Pam Thomas
Excerpt from American Craft Magazine, July 2012
A loose ball of dampened white paper strips in her hands, Jiyoung Chung sits in her studio in Providence, Rhode Island, and talks about the art of joomchi. She works the fibers, “agitating” them as Korean artists have for centuries before her. She passes the ball back and forth from hand to hand, swiftly tugging the shredded bits apart and pressing them back together, much as a baker might knead and pull dough.
The process, the artist explains, “breaks the layers of paper and reconnects them into one piece,’’ which she ultimately forms into a sculptural sheet. Fibers must be agitated for hours to fuse together, but Chung enjoys the process. Indeed, she sees it as an essential dialogue with the material – and more than that, a way to grapple with deeper issues.
“It’s not boring,” she says. “I’m negotiating with the material as I do it,” stretching the fibers wide apart and studying the holes and shapes that emerge. “Paper softens. I see the hardness of the agitation as life. The more you deal with it, the easier it gets. I’m not dealing with the paper but with the process of creating.”
The centuries-old art of joomchi emerged from the even more ancient Korean art of hanji, a paper made from mulberry tree bark that has been boiled and pounded. Mulberry trees are plentiful in Korea, and until recently, fabric was expensive, so hanji became a kind of substitute for more traditional cloth. Koreans found that they could fuse as many as 20 layers of hanji by squeezing and rubbing the damp sheets between their hands. The result is the much stronger joomchi.
Because it is so labor-intensive, joomchi eventually fell out of favor in Korea. But Chung is helping revive it by transforming it into abstract art. She makes textured hangings, rent with holes, layered with various colors, overlaid with collage pieces, or stitched with a riot of paper yarn. She also transforms joomchi into clothing, lanterns, and pouches, and combines it with found objects such as stones or wood.
Pieces from her Whisper-Romance series adorn the walls of her crowded studio. The fabric planes, most in rich red or black, are hung so that they appear to float away from the wall. Light filters through the fabric’s scattered holes, casting shadows and illuminating facets of the rough, wrinkled fibers. Air currents stir as people walk by, rippling through the work, as if the material itself were breathing.
“Art creates art,” Chung says. “It’s like letting nature finalize the work by creating its own shapes.”
Today, she feels like “a cultural ambassador, showing the beauty of Korean tradition and handing it down to the next generation.” She loves teaching joomchi to Westerners and showing Western interpretations in Korea.
“I feel so blessed that other people’s cultures are responding to ours, and they are creating their own version of joomchi.”
Excerpt from http://craftcouncil.org/magazine/article/water-table-and-eager-hands#sthash.PCAWLq0M.dpuf