Seeing the secrets of Korean beauty
in Korean inlaid celadon

I would like to know why you chose to work with porcelain as your ‘artistic medium.’
I studied Fashion Design for about two years in college, and then I shifted to painting when I realized that fine art suited me better than commercial art. My art teacher recommended that it would be good for me to major in Ceramics, and I chose traditional porcelain over modern porcelain. It turned out to be a wise choice. Each step of the process, from clay to porcelain, was amazing.

Please elaborate the meaning conveyed by your creations.
There is no consistent message. It changes every time based on my situation, interests, and even my mood. For instance, the subject of this series with the black-and-white printing of human faces on the cups is ‘who killed these people.’ When I made it, there were major protest actions against the anti-democratic suppression of the government in Turkey, and many students’ lives were sacrificed. I projected the faces of the students who were killed at that time onto the form of a gas grenade. These two plates with young children express ‘Optimism,’ which was the subject of an exhibition in Turkey. Though the exhibition was about Optimism, there were wars and manslaughter everywhere, so I captured the children who were indifferent to the fear of war and titled it, ‘Pessimist.’ The messages of my work have changed constantly based on how I felt under different situations.

Why do you choose casting over hand-building?
It does not have anything to do with my artistic contemplation, but with my essential tremor. Even a surgical operation could not fix it, so I could not carry anything heavy. I had to look for another method besides hand-building. I chose casting, thinking that it would be fun to create ceramics by using tools or a piece of equipment. It was interesting that the outcomes varied significantly with different tools or equipment. Personally, I prefer a shape that is smooth and flawless, and casting yields that are much better finishes than hand-building.

I can see that you transcribe the writings or images onto the surface of porcelain.
When I was in the master’s program, I enjoyed traveling and took many pictures. One day, it occurred to me that I wanted to use those pictures. I studied the ways in which I could use the images, and learned various printing techniques. I don’t fear trying to come out with new experiments, experiencing many failures with various printing methods. Still, it was so fun to learn and discover new techniques. I felt that printing is better and more interesting for me than hand-printing.

Turkey and Korea have a special relationship. How did you form a relationship with Korea?
I participated in the Gyeonggi World Ceramic Biennale in 2011. I met a German professor who was teaching Ceramics at Kyunghee University as a visiting professor, and exchanged emails with him for several years. He recommended that I apply for the position as his successor when it was time for him to return to his country, and here I am. I thought it would be hard for me because it would be my first time living abroad, but I was actually very happy because many people have accepted me as part of the family or as a friend. It is probably because Korea thinks of Turkey as a ‘brother land’ because Turkey fought for Korea during the Korean War. The people of Turkey are also fond of Korea.

Turkey is the border between the East and the West. How do you see Korean culture based on your experience of both cultures?
The west of Ankara, the capital of Turkey, has embraced the Western culture, while the east is close to the Eastern culture. I am from the western region (Izmir), so I am more accustomed to the western culture and modernism. Turkey is lucky to experience both Eastern and Western cultures. Coming from this perspective, there are so many beautiful things about the Korean culture that I can’t just pick one. Yet if I have to pick one, it is the beauty of the Goryeo celadon with gray inlay. It is indescribable. Traditional structures, such as Korean houses or temples, are very beautiful with the lines, colors, and harmony in the background.

How is Turkey’s traditional ceramics different from that of Korea? How would you compare their characteristics?
What the ceramic cultures of Korea and Turkey have in common is that they have developed a unique, original culture although they were historically influenced by China and other neighboring countries. In the case of Turkish porcelain, there was a strong Chinese influence at first with heavy blue tones, such as Blue China, and also with patterns, colors, and shapes, though it also has monochromatic tones and has developed various shapes through the intermediate period. By the late period, there were many bright colors, such as green and red. Turkey had a form of porcelain similar to the white porcelain of Joseon. The white porcelain of Joseon endured a high temperature of over 1,200~1,300°C prior to completion, but that of Turkey was baked slowly at a much lower temperature. I was so mesmerized by the beauty of the Goryeo celadon with gray inlay, and I wrote a thesis about it for publication on an American journal. I have visited the celadon museum in Gangjin and the old kilns of the Goryeo celadon as part of my research. In the case of the Goryeo celadon with gray inlay, it is one of a kind, has won over the originals from China, and has been acknowledged as ‘the world’s most beautiful porcelain.’