Porcelain Jar with Iron Oxide 2015 Porcelain decorated with iron oxide under transparent glaze Reduction firing 44(ø)X48(h)cm

REE Soojong’s rough, pristine and dynamic works deliver Korea’s unique aesthetic sensibilities in his own formative language. Seeking to achieve equilibrium between tradition and modernity through a balance of natural ingredients and the human body, he said, “it’s not about making vessels with clay; it’s about finding vessels in the clay.” As such, he communes with nature, explores clay, and embraces its properties in his ceramic making process.

To understand his ceramic works properly, his cheolhwa buncheong (iron oxide on buncheong), mostly made in 1990s-2000s, needs to be observed first. “The beauty of buncheong stems not from its free-flowing forms, but from its restrained elegance.” Unlike buncheong vessels of the Joseon dynasty — white slip on dark clay bodies attempting to attain a brighter surface — the surfaces of his vessels are treated like paper, almost like traditional ink brush paintings with much spontaneity and vigor. The simplistic form, the crude surface, the inscriptions and iron paintings revealed in between the boldly applied decorative clay traverse between conception and abstraction, delivering a strong vibe and a spirit of freedom.

The exhibition presents his white porcelain moon jar, instead of his emblematic iron-painted buncheong vessels. Focusing on the contemporary translation of traditional ceramics, Lee has increasingly made baekja since the late 2000s, notably moon jars. They, as was the case with iron-painted buncheong vessels, are daring and imaginative. Though inspired by moon jars of Joseon dynasty, his pieces refuse to simply reproduce tradition. He sought to make moon jars that are “adequate in size for users to keep for ornamental purposes, having a voluminous form with natural colors, which are fitting for the 21st century,” through continued studies. Lee does not polish or refine the surface to complete the typical shape of moon jars; rather, he chooses to lay bare where the two bowls join together. In addition, he makes a powerful yet restrained iron painting on the surface to give a magnificent effect and depth to the vessel, charting a new path for contemporary moon jars.

REE Soojong

  • 1979MFA in Ceramic Design, Graduate School of Industrial Design, Hongik University
  • 1971BFA in Ceramics, Hongik University
30 Solo Exhibitions
  • 2013Rising Moon over the Clear Spirit, Zien Art Space, Yongin, Gyeonggi Province
  • 2010White Porcelain ‘Moon Jar’ of REE Soojong, YIDO Gallery, Seoul and more
Main Exhibitions
  • 2017Buncheong, its Liberal Spirit, Clayarch Gimhae Museum, Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam Province
  • 2015Korea NOW! Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France
  • 2012PRISM, Clayarch Gimhae Museum, Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam Province
  • 2007The 4th World Ceramic Exposition, Icheon World Ceramic Center, Icheon, Gyeonggi Province
  • 2004From the Fire; A Survey of Contemporary Korean Ceramics, touring exhibition in USA (13 venues, -2010
  • Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK)
  • Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Canada)
  • Taipei Fine Arts Museum (Taipei, Taiwan)
  • National Art Museum of China (Beijing, China)
  • E-Land Cultural Foundation (Seoul) and more