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World's largest biennial ceramic festival begins late April

Three serene cities in the vicinity of Seoul are getting ready to host the 5th World Ceramic Biennale to be held from Apr. 25 though May 27.

The three cities, Yeoju, Icheon and Gwangju, all in Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province), are known for their long-standing tradition of firing ceramics in kilns, and have been holding the World Ceramic Biennale every two years, as the name suggests, offering an opportunity for a closer look at the rich cultures of earthenware from Korea and around the world.

The biennale, founded to promote and popularize Korean ceramics culture, while pioneering new fronts for future ceramic art, has become the world’s largest ceramic event and it offers a variety of events, including international exhibitions showing the trends in contemporary ceramics, as well as symposiums and workshops involving renowned potters and scholars.

The biennale’s central venue is the EXPO Park and Ceramics Village in Icheon, roughly a one-hour bus trip outside of Seoul.

Icheon was well known as a production center for ceramics in the 16th century.

Icheon has been selected as the main venue because it was known as the ceramics capital of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and was famed for creating famous Joseon baekja, or white porcelain.

This year’s theme is “The Adventure of Fire.”

It was chosen to emphasize the significance of fire in creating ceramics, as flames blow life into clay and transform it into the ultimate creation of all three-dimensional arts.

“The Adventure of Fire” symbolically represents the adventurous and innovative creations of ceramists who ceaselessly explore the real heart of ceramic art: fire.

An exhibition not to be missed during the biennale is the “International Competition Exhibition” at the Icheon World Ceramic Center.

It features a total of 179 prestigious celadon pieces selected from entries submitted by 1,726 artists in 70 different countries.

’Remembrance 080902’ by Seo Byung-ho The exhibition itself runs from April 25 to June 21 and it will show the current trends of the contemporary ceramic art.

While at the exhibition, do not miss the two pieces that won Gold Prizes in the competition in the categories "Ceramics for Practical Use" and "Ceramics as Artistic Expression."

Stefanie Hering Esslinger (Germany, 41) won the Gold Prize in the “Ceramics for Practical Use” category for her work titled “Fine dining-Pulse,” while Seo Byung-ho (Korea, 48) was awarded the prize for “Remembrance 080902” in the Ceramics as Artistic Expression category.  

At the World Contemporary Ceramics exhibit, also to be held at the Icheon World Ceramic Center, visitors can explore new trends and ideas set by the world’s leading ceramic artists.

The passion and adventures of the fire of 41 artists from 13 countries await to be discovered.

Meanwhile, the “Ceramic Space & Life”’ exhibition will present a combination of architecture and contemporary ceramics at the Yeoju Ceramic Livingware Gallery.

Also at the same venue, selected and winning ceramic works from the Beautiful Korean Ceramic Competition will be displayed to shed light on the interpretation of traditional Korean ceramics in a contemporary artistic vocabulary.

In addition, the Bunwon Royal Porcelain exhibition presents some masterpieces of Joseon white porcelain, the pinnacle of Korean traditional ceramics, along with the works of Korean contemporary ceramists upholding the traditions, at the Gyeonggi Ceramic Museum located in Gwanggju.

The biennale, however, is not just about seeing ceramics.

Musical and other performances will be put on during the Biennale, too.

Furthermore, visitors will be able to make their own pottery and buy ceramic goods.

Plenty of workshops and hands-on ceramic lessons will be held throughout the festival.

You can find more about this event by visitng here (in English, Korean and Japanese).

By Han Aran Staff Writer

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