Ceramics Research Centre – UK

Humanism: Poem of Earth for Human

LOCATION |The Clayarch Gimhae Museum, South Korea

DATE | April – September 2018

HUMANISM – Poem of Earth for Human“, the special exhibition for the first half of 2018, was organized to introduce contemporary ceramic arts on the theme of humanism from two countries, South Korea and the United Kingdom, and to activate cultural exchange between the two nations. The exhibition airs numerous political and social problems that threaten human rights—refugee issues, racism, starvation, disease, war, environmental destruction, forced evictions and dismissals, among them—that represent the dark side of humankind’s dazzling scientific and technological advances and economic prosperity. Through such sub-themes as human nature, the essence of life, the environment, communication, and community, the exhibition seeks to approach the larger theme of ‘recovering humanity’. 

In order to give true meaning to the social theme of ‘Humanism’, this exhibition also includes works by local residents and museum goers. Such works have practical value in facilitating the realization of ‘humanism’ within society, stirring us to grapple with deep thoughts on human nature and the meaning of life and inducing empathy and communication. On yet another front, at a time when greater value is placed on the visible external world (one of the causes of the ‘dehumanization of humans’), the exhibition introduces works that give profound form to the human inner world. Embodying delicate representations of human emotion, such as the dual aspects and internal contradictions harbored within human beings and subtle conflicts of the inner self, beautiful ceramic artworks in human forms allow viewers to immerse themselves in deep reflection on humans’ inner worlds. The exhibition also features works that give vent to labor rights and women’s issues, based on interviews with women ceramics workers and pieces that elevate the value of their labor. In addition, the works in this exhibition emphasize the need, if we want to live in harmony with nature’s other creatures, to shift away from human-centered thought and towards an eco-centered approach. Looking back on the dark realities and suffering of society and the natural environment left in the wake of humankind’s splendid achievements, the artists’ works are an indictment of human selfishness and greed, posing questions about whether humans are capable of living in harmony with other beings without going against the principles of nature.

To the artists who have made these precious works, carefully crafting and submitting them for display, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation. They include British artists Phoebe Cummings, Clare Twomey, Christie Brown, and Eva Masterman, and Korean artists Woo Kwanho, Seok Changwon, Yoon Jungsun, Maeng Wookjae, and Kim Jin & Baek Kyungwon. Others whom I also would like to thank for their help in the exhibition include Cho Hyeyoung, Secretary General of the Korea Craft and Design Foundation (KCDF), and critics Tessa Peters and Lee Sunyoung. I am also grateful to our museum curator, Kim Seungtaek, who put together an exhibition rich with meaning, and all of the museum staff who worked together to prepare for the show. From reflections on humans’ inner aspect to environmental problems, this is an exhibition that invokes empathy and communication about the pain of others, showing profound concern and deep thought about the world we live in together. I hope that many people will give it their sincere attention and earnest feeling. Thank you.

Director of Clayarch Gimhae Museum, Choi Jeongeun 

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