Woven Bamboo Screen 48 × 85 cm

The Bal (meaning woven screen), which was made by weaving thinly split bamboo or reeds, was a useful daily item. It was used as a space divider in a traditional Korean house, or for blocking sunlight while letting wind circulate in summer. Because it makes the inside quite dark and protects privacy, it was traditionally used as a symbol to represent the sacred place of a King or a noble person. Among commoners, it was used to hide the face of the bride in a palanquin at a wedding. It was also used as an ornament with beautiful inscribed images.

“Yeomjang” refers to an artisan who weaves the screen. Cho Daeyong is the fourth generation to produce Tongyeong bamboo screens. In 1856, his great-grandfather, Cho Nak Sin, who was born in 1831, made a woven screen to amuse himself while waiting to start work after passing the army examination. He presented it to the king, who was quite satisfied with it. His skill with bamboo screens was handed down to Cho Daeyong’s grandfather, Cho Seong Yun; and again to Cho Jae Gyu, Cho Daeyong’s late father. Cho Jae Gyu wove bamboo screens as a hobby, and in his 60s he became serious about it. He won prizes at various craft competitions and at the Traditional Korean Handicraft Art Exhibition.

Cho Daeyong started to learn the technique as a teenager, while helping his father. He trimmed and cut bamboo. Sometimes he helped to make screens without patterns. And in 1974, he began to make his own work.

Bamboo screens require many hours and much effort, starting with the material. Usually bamboo that is used to make screens is collected between November and December by the lunar calendar. Three-year-old bamboo is the best. The bamboo is cut into pieces the width of a person’s foot, and gets dried by the sun for two months. After it is repeatedly exposed to frost and dew, it is split and boiled in lye. While it is still hot, it needs to be shaped properly. Then it is allowed to cool down, and trimmed to 5 millimeters for weaving. Making one bamboo screen requires a tremendous amount of work. These days the style of housing has changed, and air conditioners have become widely available; so demand for bamboo screens has drastically decreased. Accordingly, it is impossible to make a living just by making bamboo screens. Cho Daeyong still produces bamboo screens while doing other jobs. He won the President’s Award at the Traditional Korean Handicraft Art Exhibition in 1995, and he was designated the Important Intangible Cultural Treasure no. 114 as artisan of woven bamboo screens.

With his knowledge of the traditional techniques, he strives to reinvent the practical everyday woven screen into an engaging artwork.

Biography

Cho Daeyoung was born in Gwangdo-myeon, Gyeongnam Province, in 1950. In 1996, he started to learn the bamboo screen craft from his father, Cho Jae Gyu, making him the fourth generation of the family business. His work was selected for the Traditional Korean Handicraft Art Exhibition in 1982. Since then, he has won numerous awards, including the Special Award, the Award of the Minister of Culture, and the President’s Award. In 2001, he was designated the Important Intangible Cultural Treasure no. 114 as an artisan of woven bamboo screens. In 2007, he had his first solo exhibition, supported by the Arts Council, under the Cultural Heritage Administration, and another solo exhibition at Nanum Gallery. In the same year, he showed his work at the Sulwhasoo Exhibition, administered by Amore Cosmetics. He had exhibitions in which he demonstrated the production of bamboo screens at various places, such as the folk village in Nagoya and a folk art university in Kyoto, both in Japan, in 2001 and 2003; the International Exposition in Paris, France, in 2005; and at an invitational exhibition at The Korean American Association of Greater New York, in 2006. In addition, the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage published his book, Master of Woven Bamboo Screen, and he reproduced Sinryeom at Jongmyo (the Royal Ancestral Shrine), which is currently in the possession of the National Palace Museum.