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Ceramics & Glass (MA)

Jihyun Song

Jihyun Song was born in Korea. She started her ceramic career undertaking a BA in Ceramics at Dankook University in Korea in 2012 where she researched the roots of Korean historical ceramics making contemporary interpretations. During her study at the Royal College of Art, she has expanded her practice within the UK, China, beyond Korea, to include film and photography alongside thrown ceramic sculpture. Her next step is to continue her research and experimentation with clay, alongside her lens-based mediums in residency at EKWC in the Netherlands.

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I am fascinated by hollow objects left behind over centuries. In the history museum, ceramic vessels that have been made for the purpose of containing have lost their function and look like permanently opened oral cavities. For the last two years, I have thus researched objects that reflect the permanent void as a metaphor for the left behind. In the process of clay becoming fired vessels, I feel the fluidity and ephemerality of the clay on the pottery wheel, changing its state depending on time. Using traditional throwing techniques, I document the transient state of the live earth, keeping its fundamental materiality. The photography and the video work are a desire to capture in different ways the movement and the elements of clay disintegrating in water, like an organism.

The passive stance of the clay depends on human desire. Humans continuously produce in order to achieve their desire but feel void even when it is achieved. They are mortal, but their possessions are left behind after death. The hollowness of the object looks as if it is opening its mouth and resonating to prove its existence.

Portraits of Hollowness

Static forms gradually revert to their primary states. The man-made hollowness resonating to prove its existence is gradually demolished and back into nature. But it exists wherever; hollowness, desire, existence proof, etc.

The series of moving images have been documented during the period of pandemic in 2020. The sound has developed and attached in 2021. Almost for a year of long journey, I broadened my practice of lens-based works.

Click the ‘Vimeo’ link at the top of my profile to browse further experimental films. I experimented with various types of clay; grogged, black, and white clay. Each clay makes its rhythmical textures at different times. Water is medium different from heat, it creates a sense of elements such as bubbles and sounds. The captured time announces the end of the fundamental materiality of clay from out of the artificial man-made structure.


Raw clay


Flower and Moon Jar — 117*90cm_ C-print_ 2019
Fruit and layered clay bowls_2019
Flower and collapsed moon jars_Across RCA_2019 — AcrossRCA, a programme to support collaboration across disciplines. The workshop I attended was held by Morgan Markey from Visual Communication, this opened up opportunities for me to learn photography skills and expand my practice.

The rich moisture-filled clay is fluid and changeable, however, it's ephemeral. Therefore it is attractive like rich and beautiful flowers and fruits that then fade and die over time. The ephemerality of the clay explores its thought of hollow space interacting with other living things.

These works exist as C-print photographs, allowing me to capture both the clay vessels and the symbolic fruits and flowers at a moment in time.


Raw clay and flowers and fruits

In the process of throwing on the wheel, I create a space within the clay, leaving traces from my fingertips as a memory in the fluid material. A lump of earth changes form from a line and a plane to becoming divided into outside and inside space. It is the hollowness within this space that I investigate in my work. The straightforward expression of hollow form symbolizes the fullness of imperfection of Asian culture, or the faded futility of the wealth left behind.

Moon jars and tea bowls are symbolic objects in Korea for their humbleness and simplicity, but the original functions and meanings have been lost in history. I interpreted these hollow objects as a metaphor for this loss, rather than connecting to their original meanings and functionality. This is also an expression of my perspective on distorted history and absence.

The moon jar in the image above, I have made using the traditional technique and decorated it with a slip and varied glaze. It was fired twice at a high temperature, the glaze layered on, the thickened glaze peeled gradually as time passed in the kiln.


Stoneware with glaze


Ceramic shell _ 2021 — Height: 30cm, Width: 11cm, Width: 30cm (including installed steel stand)
Ceramic shell _ 2021 — Height: 33cm, Width: 35cm, Width: 11cm(3 pieces) Wood-kiln firing
Ceramic shell _ 2021 — Height: 21cm, Width: 14cm, Width: 14cm
Ceramic shell _ 2021 — Height:9cm, Width: 17cm, Width: 9cm

A seashell is a symbolic object historically seen as curious and exotic, and metaphorically as a void and timeless.

This symbolic object resembles ceramic vessels in many ways particularly when it is formed on the throwing wheel; in the way they are both formed through spinning or spiraling from the centre, in the hollowness of their form and in the passive stance of their emptiness that they cannot fill themselves.

These thrown seashells were fired with layers of glaze twice each, the glaze was melted over and created unique layers like patterns. The fired clay covered with glaze is preserved in permanent time, specifically the time that passes during the firing, where the heat causes the glaze to flow and fade, capturing time passing in a material form.


Stoneware with glaze