EssaysCeramics: The Joy of Shared Revelry by Moon Yujin

Foreword

Ceramics:  The Joy of Shared Revelry


Moon Yujin



          Ceramics contains countless stories. Or, rather, ceramics is in itself countless stories. It entails both history and aesthetics, symbolizes cultural diversity, and moreover provides an arena for the unfolding of dilemmas. The history of humanity is embedded in ceramics. In addition, ceramics is a component of material culture in which differences in geographical region, religion, material, and technology have spurred mutual exchanges and development through dialogue and acceptance rather than creating competition or confrontation. In this light, it has served to amplify technological and cultural diversity and thereby deserves to be considered a symbol of reciprocity. Ceramics is an art and science that has struggled to maintain a balance between practicality and aesthetic effects. It is a product of the evolution taking place at the crossroads of the machine and the human and of industry and expression and has undergone turbulence and evolutionary selection. It has endured over the ages and is therefore intricately intertwined all of the above and full of character. Much of the notable ceramics of our time is still waiting to be discovered. It needs only the proper moment to unravel its trove of rich and complex narratives.


          Dochwi: A Guide to Discovering Superordinary Collectibles is a carefully curated project that aims to offer practical guidance to people wishing to immerse themselves in ceramics and enjoy the delights of acquiring the wondrous beauty of this field. It explores the multi-dimensional world of contemporary ceramics through two main efforts: serial exhibitions at which the works can be viewed and appreciated in person and a guide – available both in print and on the web – providing detailed verbal and photographic descriptions of the artists and artworks alongside insightful commentary. The project seeks to explore Korean ceramics and the fascinating narratives embedded within and present them in a structured yet unconventional manner that creates opportunities for ceramics to be more widely and deeply enjoyed.

          Dochwi (K. 도취), meaning in Korean “to be enraptured by the beauty of nature and art, arriving at the state of losing oneself,” is derived from Chinese word “陶醉,” with the first character meaning “ceramics” and the latter meaning “to be drunk with” or “to revel in.”  Thus, was born the name of the project, Dochwi, which is aimed at offering an opportunity to acquire and revel in ceramics. Above all else, however, Dochwi was created with the aspiration of becoming enraptured together. Dochwi actively presents under-discovered contemporary artists and their works and invites the public to revel together in their stories.

          Delving a bit deeper into the origin of the word “dochwi,” we come across a work by an eighth-century Chinese poet who wished to enjoy drinking alcohol with a good friend. In “A Climb on the Mountain Holiday to the Terrace from Whence One Sees the Magician: A Poem Sent to Vice-prefect Lu,”[1] the Tang poet Cui Shu (崔曙, 704-739) observes a landscape before him and longs for the Daoist immortals who renounced worldly life to become ascetics. He expresses his desire to become inebriated with a friend who in his mind resembles them.[2] In the last verse, the poet alludes to his friend Lu, who at the time was the magistrate of Pengze County in Jiangxi Province, as Tao Yuanming (陶淵明, 365-427). Tao had been a government official of the Eastern Jin (317–420) but declared that he can only find true happiness by becoming one with nature. He thereby resigned from his position as county magistrate just eighty days after his appointment and returned to his hometown to live as a recluse and write poetry. Cui Shu tells how he would like to share the chrysanthemum wine[3] that Tao Yuanming enjoyed in nature with his friend and take pleasure in getting tipsy together. 

          Such a desire to drink alcohol like Tao Yuanming suggests that perhaps even the Daoist immortals who renounced the world to purse a solitary life found it was more enjoyable to share spirits embodying natural elements such as flowers and the wind, with a friend rather than drinking alone. In fact, Tao included the word “liquor” or terms related to it in almost all his poems. It has been interpreted that for Tao, liquor served as “comfort food,” “a way to celebrate pleasure and life,” and a means to provide companionship, that is, a channel “to build heart-to-heart relationships.”[4] As was the case for Tao Yuanming and Cui Shu when seeking to escape the troubles of daily life and heighten our emotions, sharing a drink with someone who understands our minds will generate greater sensations of pleasure compared to drinking alone.

          Etymologically, the character “do” (K. 도, Ch. 陶) in “dochwi” denotes a state of being intoxicated, yet it is clear that “do” was a poetic term mediating between nature and humanity as well as between individuals. The insights of the twelfth-century mystical Arab poet Ibn al-Farid seem to give power to the metaphor that binds alcohol and ceramics together. In a poem praising the mystical power of wine, he sings:


          “…Yea, its qualities I know:

          Not water and not air nor fire nor earth,

          But purity for water, and for air

          Subtlety, light for fire, spirit for earth—"[5]


Here, “it” refers to wine. Therefore, if we add a bit of imagination, there is no reason you cannot get enraptured by the beauty of a ceramic vessel made of water and art, fire and earth, that contains liquor imbued with a chrysanthemum fragrance. In this light, the aim of the project Dochwi is imbibing the mindset and approach of the old poets who sought a Tao Yuanming-style delectation, to narrate stories through ceramics, and share thoughts and feelings of beauty and consolation. To this end, we seek to engage with artists, researchers, audiences, and consumers at every stage – creation, mediation, and acceptance – and continue with the following efforts to expand the realm of the ceramic arts. 

          First, Dochwi aims to inspire artists to undertake new creative experiments, thereby expanding the realm of ceramics. While highlighting the distinctive styles, materials, and techniques of individual artists, Dochwi seeks to provide opportunities to test out artistic and technical approaches and expressions that were previously unthought of or considered too challenging to attempt independently. The inspiring experience and energy gained by the artists while studying and exploring new themes or techniques or while working together with artists and specialists from other genres will be imbued into the newly created works and directly conveyed to audiences. In this way, Dochwi will continue to expand its reach outside of the studio.

          Next, Dochwi will create exciting opportunities for the public to appreciate and collect ceramic works. We intend to establish a foundation for reaching out to a wider audience and sharing the joys of discovering, understanding, collecting, and using works of art that suit personal tastes and preferences. We will discover and share narratives related to contemporary artists, works, and creative processes, and moreover present specific guidelines for appreciating and enjoying ceramics, along with selection criteria for acquiring them. Dochwi will produce and publish a wealth of content, including in-depth analysis of artists and their works complemented by photographs and videos. Furthermore, by translating and making available major content through on- and off-line channels, Dochwi aims to expand access to Korean ceramics in the global art market and contribute to building up the related knowledge base. Above all, it is hoped that Dochwi, as an open platform for discovering new writers both at home and abroad and encouraging them to contribute their work, will be able to spark vitality in the research and criticism of contemporary ceramics. Such a collaborative “thriving together” methodology and the expansion of the platform for research and enjoyment are expected to present all of us with a moment of “reveling.”

          In this way, Dochwi aims to become a companionable guide not only for connoisseurs of art and ceramics, but also for neophytes who may be interested but are hesitant out of a belief that they do not know how or where to start. We hope to offer a small yet reliable guide that allows anyone and everyone to freely enjoy at least one charming work of ceramics in their daily life.


“He hath not lived here, who hath sober lived.”[6]


(August, 2020)


Notes 

[1] This is a lüshi, a form of classical Chinese poetry characterized by an eight-line regulated verse form with lines consisting of seven characters. A lüshi is paired in two lines in the form of couplets where the first couplet is for the exposition of the subject, the second and third couplets are for the development of the topic, and the fourth couplet is for the conclusion of the verse. Although bound to a set of strict formal rules in terms of number of characters, verses, and tonal patterns, lüshi poems are considered to delicately express landscapes and lyricism. This particular poem is included in the fourth volume of the Three Hundred Tang Poems, an anthology from the Chinese Tang Dynasty (628-907) compiled in 1763 by the Qing scholar Sun Zhu.

[2]Cui Shu, “A Climb on the Mountain Holiday to the Terrace from Whence One Sees the Magician: A Poem Sent to Vice-prefect Lu,” in Three Hundred Tang Poems.

[3] “菊花杯” (literally, chrysanthemum flower cup) in the last line can be understood as a metaphor for chrysanthemum wine. Tao Yuanming is widely known for his deep affection for alcohol and chrysanthemum flowers, as evidenced by the fact that these two elements often appear in both his poems and records related to him. For example, his poem “On Drinking Wine, No. 7” begins with the lines, “Autumn chrysanthemums have lovely colors; I pluck the blossoms dampened with dew” (秋菊有佳色 裛露掇其英).

[4] Yong-jun Song, “The Significance of Alcohol in Poems by Tao Yuanming,” Journal of Humanities 65 (2011): 308-317.

[5] Lines 49-52 of Martin Lings’s translation of the poem, “Al-Khamriyya” by Umar Ibn al-Farid, “The Wine-Song (Al-Khamriyya),” The Matheson Trust, accessed August 10, 2020, https://www.themathesontrust.org/library/the-wine-song-al-khamriyya.

[6] Ibid., line 93.


*This essay is featured in Dochwi:  Imaginary Animals, Auspicious Companions (Seoul: The Written Hands, 2020). 



Carefully curated,

Carefully crafted,

도취도취 드림