Although Pon-ch’ang Ku used a coarse type of paper to print his book Vessel, the pages somehow gave me an almost silk-like tender touch that felt like the surface of white porcelain.
Korea has a long history of producing white porcelain that can be traced back to five thousand years ago, before the art got introduced to China and Japan subsequently. The Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) encouraged the doctrine of Confucianism, its ideals also cast a great influence on the aesthetics of the time. People of the Joseon dynasty embraced minimalistic design, which removed every trace of ornament and colour. Even the once popular celadon was replaced by white porcelain during the time. Towards the latter half of the 15th century, a Joseon royal kiln was responsible for producing pottery for the palace court; in the following 400 years, be it the royal family or the civilians, people of the Joseon dynasty had a devoted taste for pure white porcelain without any patterns or drawings. Contradictorily, China and Japan during the same era had an opposite taste for painted porcelain.
Moving on to nowadays, collectors from the western countries and Japan highly acclaim the Joseon porcelain partly for its history, but more importantly, for its highly noble aesthetics.
Pon-ch’ang Ku is an iconic contemporary photographer in Korea. His once highly expressive style has transformed in the past ten years or so. Instead of seeing the objects through his lens, Ku’s current works tend to emphasize items that he is shooting as subjects. He finally departed from the western aesthetics and has returned to the traditional Korean aesthetics. Ku visited the British Museum, Guimet Museum in France, the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art and many other museums to take pictures of the Korean white porcelain collected by these venues, as if this was a ritual to celebrate his return to his root. The white porcelain looks as soft as human skin under the beige backdrop, his photography has powerfully amplified the tenderness of the Joseon white porcelain.