Two artisans honored for preserving traditional art
The YEOL Korean Heritage Preservation Society recognizes and commemorates the works of craftsmen who practice and preserve the culture of Korean traditional handicrafts. This year’s Artisan of the Year is Lim Keum-hee, who has mastered the art of “dahoe-mangsu” over the past 30 years. The Young Craftsman of the Year award goes to Kim Sanghoon, who recently won 1st Junior Prize at the Silver Triennial in Germany.
Since its launch in 2014, the YEOL Project has chosen one outstanding individual every year in each of these categories. Chaired by Kim Young M’Young, the daughter-in-law of Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, YEOL is a Korean word meaning carefully preserve the beauty of Korean cultural heritage.
Dahoe is a cord (or cords) that is woven from silk thread, while mangsu is an intricately woven net at the bottom of the cords. Oftentimes, the final product is finished with tasseling details at the ends and is shined with gilt paper or dusted quartz. Dahoe-mangsu was widely used in the 1392-1910 Joseon era for fashion and ceremonial purposes and was, according to Lim in an email interview, “absolutely essential to the fashion of the [time].” She also described its rarity in modern-day culture as part of her dedication to keeping the art form alive.
Master Lim mentioned the contrast between the complex nature of society and the tranquility of creating dahoe-mangsu. “Unlike the complicated real world, dahoe-mangsu can be created with the concentration, patience, and delicacy of a single thought,” she said. “I love that its beautiful nature allows me to fully immerse myself.”
She also spoke of the changing times of traditional Korean art culture and the implications of its modernization. “The most crucial aspect of traditional art is its transmission. Today, however, this is lacking. … If materials, design, color, packaging, and even exhibition space can be properly adjusted, I think that modernized traditional Korean art could effectively come into its own.” Craftsman Kim also shared his experiences and thoughts on his metal work through an email interview with The Korea Times. He works mainly with silver, nickel and red brass and uses techniques called raising and chasing to create shapes and textures in his pieces.
“I originally majored in visual design, but soon realized that learning about computer programs or sitting in front of a computer screen was not right for me,” he said. “On the other hand, craftsmanship piqued my interest in that I could physically deal with actual materials … I liked the fact that rather than just creating a 2D visual, I could express my thoughts with my own hands and tools.”
Many of Kim’s works display motifs from nature.
“Nature has this free air about it. Rocks and cliffs give off a strong, intense impression while simultaneously having this isolated quality to them. Bodies of water or flowing streams have a soft and dynamic property. I wanted to express this diverse imagery in my pieces.”
Kim hopes to give those who are busy with their everyday lives a sense of peace through his work. “Although we see the sky, the clouds and even the Han River, we are not able to see much nature in the city because of space or time constraints. I wanted to emulate in our homes and buildings those instances of when we observe nature,” he said.
Both Lim and Kim were present at the 2019 YEOL Project opening event held on Sept. 19.
There they gave their regards to those who had supported them and also expressed their hopes for the continuation of YEOL and its future project endeavors.
Many of their works were on display at the exhibition, which will run at YEOL Bukchonga & Hanok in Jongno-gu until Oct. 19.
Metalwork artist Kim Sang-hoon’s works, top, are on view at the YEOL Project opening event in Jongno-gu, Seoul on Sep. 19. Kim, right bottom, was chosen as the Young Craftsman of the Year. Lim Keum-hee, master of dahoe-mangsu, won the Artisan of the Year.