Themes of Life – Works by Korean Ceramicist Jongbo Oh

How can we assume that there’s no story to tell through craft? That our emotion can’t come through in to these natural materials? I suppose thousands of years of functional forms takes the edge off an art that is, and has always been, about self expression. Maybe then, it takes a special artist to really harness their inner thoughts and use craft as a canvas from which to paint upon.

Korea is one country that’s steeped in ceramic history so it’s great to see a young artist challenging the status quo and trying to tell a story through their work with uncompromising creativity. His surface etchings deconstruct and breakdown this traditional material. I even sense an element of Basquiat in his work, trying to make sense of the environment and industry that he resides, challenging it to create some kind of forward momentum or change.

Pieces such as ‘Hold’ incorporate punctures in to the surface of the clay, or ‘House’ and ‘Fish’ that seem like simple etchings but offer an abstraction of physical imagery. “Start and End” really pulled me in personally, a selection of cups and plates that feature a tea ceremony depiction with delicate but powerful messages inscribed, “We need time”. Certainly relevant in this day and age.

Some artists want to offer shock value for shock value’s sake, which is the complete opposite here. Jongbo Oh is using his work as a scrapbook of sorts to record “themes of life” and document history and stories relevant to him. Hopefully, in turn, these will be relevant for a lifetime and offer value to those who are searching for many years to come.