Spirit of jang-in

28 October 2011 - 12 February 2012

From the Korean Bronze Age to the present day artisans, traditionally known as jang-in, have used metals to create functional objects, objects of great beauty and objects of powerful symbolism. The way metal has been used and regarded in Korean society tells a compelling story of its history, culture and most meaningful rituals and beliefs.

This exhibition traces the development of metal craft from ancient artisans to the spectacular ‘kingdoms of gold’ of the Silla royalty, the influence of Buddhism on craft skills and practice, the simple beauty of everyday objects, and the impact of the dark days of the early 20th century. Reflecting a contemporary spirit of jang-in, a selection of works from Korean artists living in Korea and Australia is also featured.

Spirit of jang-in celebrates the Year of Friendship between Australia and the Republic of Korea, marking our 50 years of bilateral relationship.

This exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the National Museum of Korea.

About jang-in

The Korean word jang-in means ‘artisan’, ‘craftsman’ or ‘master’. In Korea, people who devoted themselves to a particular profession throughout their lives, or who mastered a particular craft skill, were called jang-in. They believed in setting high moral standards and considered their works to be their ‘other-self’ because they embodied the passion, soul and dedication of the maker.

During the Confucian Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), jang-in belonged to the third class of society. They were below aristocrats and farmers, but above merchants. From a 21st century perspective, it is worth revisiting the concept of jang-in to review the Korean artisan’s work ethic, which was traditionally about enduring intense labour, gaining skill from repetitive practice, and knowing materials through understanding their essential nature. Today the jang-in is no less an artist than he or she who bears that title. Objects that embody the spirit of jang-in reflect the maker’s spirit and the making process itself … and they touch the viewer’s heart.

This exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the National Museum of Korea.

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