⟨ Book ⟩

A noble sense of beauty

Vessel by Pon-ch'ang Ku

Texts and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

指尖翻開具本昌的攝影集《白磁》時,撫著明明是粗糙的紙張,感受到的卻是白磁溫潤、柔美如絹的觸感。

韓國的白磁有著極為久遠的歷史,源起五千年前,後來才傳入中國及日本。朝鮮時代(1392年-1910年)推崇儒家思想,儒家思想對事物本質的追求,也影响了人們對美學的看法。器物講求簡約潔淨,所有裝飾及色彩都褪去,曾經流行一時的青磁,也被更為質樸的白磁所取代。在15世紀後半時期,朝鮮王室設了官窯燒製宮庭內使用的器皿,自此往後的四百年間,朝鮮至平民百姓,均鍾情於沒有任何圖案、繪畫及素淨白磁。同時期的中國及日本,都對彩繪磁器情有獨鍾,與朝鮮文化剛好形成有趣的對比。

朝鮮時代的器物,今天教歐美國家及日本收藏家趨之若鶩,除了其歷史價值之外,它作為一件物件所展現出來澟然高尚的美感,是其更重要的魅力所在。

具本昌,韓國最具代表性的攝影師,攝影風格曾經極為激烈,在十多年前卻轉變了,更重視透過攝影展示被攝體的根本質性。他感到自己走出了西洋美術的影響,回歸到韓國傳統美學之上。彷彿為自己進行回歸的儀式,他走訪了大英博物館、法國的Guimet Museum、日本民藝館、韓國三星現代藝術館等十多家博物館,為當地收藏的韓國白磁,拍下肖像照。在粉紅色的背景之下,白磁看來柔軟如肌膚,展現了著溫暖的表情,比起實物,似乎更能讓我們看清朝鮮白磁樸實的美。

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.