Korean Compositions [Obangsaek series] / 2011, 2015 - 2016
Jung's textile compositions started in 2011 while co-directing a multi-disciplinary group exhibition exploring the multiple notions of ‘home’ (translated in Korean in two ways 집 'jib': shelter-dwelling-residence + 고향 'gohyang': expressing a deeper sense of connection and emotional attachment to the native land) in the context of today’s deterritorialization of culture and identity.
Her inquisitive exploration resulted in a series of semi-abstract compositions, which juxtapose architectural floor plans of contemporary Seoul apartments that she grew up in with the spiritual elements of Korean culture inherent in the traditional crafts and color theories.
These colorful compositions are made in linen, hand-sewn by artist using the traditional Jogakbo (Korean patchwork) technique. Inspired by her fond childhood memories of her grandmother making Hanbok and delicately crafting domestic items such as Jogakbo beddings and wrapping cloths, Jung self-taught the techniques of Jogakbo in order to understand, research, and re-connect with her history, culture, and tradition.
Jung's textile work ‘KOREAN COMPOSITION: 18_22_34_43_56_80’ (2011, 2015-16) is in the permanent collections of M+ Museum, Hong Kong.
Over the last 60 years, Korea has witnessed the fast development of its major cities as a result of the rapid economic development of the country. While less than 40% of the population lived in cities in the 1970s, it is now estimated that over 91% of all Koreans inhabit a densely urbanized metropolis.
In order to respond to the sudden increase in demands for urban housing, new solutions had to be found rapidly; and soon, large apartment complexes grew, replacing the traditional housing, Han-ok, which had sheltered countless generations of Koreans.
In this transformation of urban landscape over the last few decades, the apartment floor plans have been evolving constantly, reflecting the desire, culture, lifestyle, and various socio- economic status of Korean society.
The ‘KOREAN COMPOSITION : 18_22_34_43_56_80’ (2011, 2015-16) by Boyoung Jung [WOLFS+JUNG], is based on contemporary apartment floor plans in Seoul, invites viewers to observe the evolution of Korean society and to reflect on the contemporary cultural identity of Koreans, whose daily life is likely to be laid out in one of these arrangements.
The title’s numbers indicate various sizes of apartment floor plans by Pyeong (1pyeong = 3.3058m2), and these 6 plans were based on widely used apartment floor plans in the 6 typical categories by surface area in Seoul apartment market: XS, S, MS, ML, L, XL- from the purely functional 60sqm studio, to the 300sqm urban mansion.
While in many countries, such as France, the US and England, those large projects are now seen as urban planning mistakes and have often failed to elevate the life of its inhabitants; in South Korea, on the other hand, they can largely be seen as one of the reasons the country managed its rapid economic development.
One reason might be that, rather than starting from a purely modernist plan, often seen as dehumanizing, the Korean apartment buildings chose to find inspiration in the traditional Korean home and lifestyle; for instance, still bearing the trace of the traditional housing typology- such as focus on the availability of natural light and ventilation, floor heating, as well as the preservation of an area at the periphery of the apartment, a veranda of sort, that mimics the covered outside space of the Han-ok; thus establishing an emotional and practical connection between the old and new.
JOGAKBO is a Korean traditional patchwork technique, dating back 200 years, which naturally emerged as a complimentary activity to traditional dressmaking. The geometric construction of the Hanbok produced leftover patches of scrap fabric from which women made Jogakbo trying to make the best use of the precious material, creating colorful hand-sewn textile pieces.
These traditional Jogakbo pieces are much appreciated for their delicate and abstract compositions, and the craft is still practiced today. Since then however, a lot has changed- fabrics are not as precious as before, people are not making their own clothes any more, and most contemporary pieces are made from new material rather than leftover.
Seeing the tradition of Jogakbo more as an open-ended practice rather than an ornamental technique to be perfected and repeated, Jung sees today’s apartment floor plans to be the unlikely continuation of this Korean tradition, in its inherent spirit of making the best use of scarce material. Constantly evaluating, adjusting, adding and dividing; both compositions are the productions of countless delicate decisions, trying to get an aesthetical balance between what’s available and what people need and desire.
The imperfection in her hand stitching invites viewers look beyond the lines and planes, and connect to the human elements hidden in the composition. This experience of the manual process of making Jogakbo and using its visual language allowed her create a juxtaposition of traditional and modern, spatial and spiritual, personal and collective memories, and also to gain access to the philosophy of this old tradition driven by creativity and ingenuity of women: their desire for aesthetic individuality, and their self-expression within the constraints of patriarchal Confucian society.
Jung’s self-realization as a woman artist adds a conceptual layering to this medium of Jogakbo, known as crafts of ‘women’s quarter.’ Jogakbo making requires tranquility, time and self- meditating-like labor, all of which are scarce material for an artist who is also a mother of two young children. Although women today are not limited of outside activities like those in Joseon Dynasty, yet today’s women struggles in their efforts to realize their full potential within these hidden boundaries that still exist today.
‘Korean Composition: 18_22_34_43_56_80’ uses primary colors, also known as ‘OBANGSAEK’ (5 traditional colors of Korea - red, blue, yellow, white, black- each containing a spatial and spiritual meaning) and one added neutral color (beige- grey).
Obang means "five directions" and Saek means "color" in Korean. It is used to represent the 5 cardinal directions and is also associated with five elements and other symbolic beliefs.
- North (black: representing winter, water, sorrow, Yin),
- South (red: fire, summer, sunlight, pleasure, yang energy),
- East (blue: representing spring, tree, birth),
- West (white: autumn, iron, righteousness),
- Center (yellow: representing soil, the center of a universe)
Based on these meanings that are associated with the 5 colors, as well as Jung's interpretation, the composition uses:
- Yellow for the living room (as the space is traditionally in the center of the house, where people spend most time during the day)
- Red for kitchen and dining area (as it is a place using fire to cook, and share warmth)
- Blue for the bedroom (where we rest at night and renew ourselves)
- White for the restroom (where we clean ourselves)
- Black for the wall (as it blocks the light)
- Beige-grey as additional neutral color for spaces ‘in-between’: such as balcony, and utility room (not fully outside nor inside: quite particular in Korean traditional housing)
'Always on My Mind: home |hōm|'
Australia - Korea Art Project co-directed by Boyoung Jung & Laurens Tan
- presenting 20 artists' multi-disciplinary works
/part01. Museum of Art Seoul National University(MoA)
/part02. Seoul Square Media Canvas Screening by Gana Art Gallery
moving image public screening 2011
@Seoul Square Media Facade
Nov - Dec 2011, Seoul, Korea
Making of Korean Composition No.43
Beijing Studio, 2011