A noble sense of beauty

Vessel by Pon-ch'ang Ku




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.