Memories and food are often entwined. Like Marcel Proust and his Aunt Léonie and her lime blossom madeleines, Korean-Australian artist Joungmee Do’s memories are closely linked to the food she ate as a child. She explores her own personal memories through tableware and Korean tradition. Rice being a food staple is not only culturally significant but the rice bowl is a central functional object that Do interprets through her work.
Of her work titled Rice Bowls, Do says ‘The concept and aesthetic style of these bowls was influenced by the Korean daily utensil, the rice bowl. When I started making these bowls I was thinking about my childhood memories which are linked to the idea of the rice bowl. Personally a bowl not only acts as a container for objects but it also symbolizes a receptacle for the thoughts of myself or someone else.’
Do’s Rice Bowls created from oxidised steel and inlaid with gold, silver, bronze and odong (a copper-gold alloy) wire use the traditional Korean metal craft technique of jjoum ipsa (or choum iybsa). The artist uses a chisel and chasing hammer to create closely spaced indentations across the entire surface of the object in horizontal, vertical and diagonal directions. The resulting surface of the object has the appearance of woven fabric. Metal wire can then be inlaid into the chiselled surface to create a pattern.
Rice Bowls is created as a pair to represent the male and female is a traditional Korean convention. The male rice bowl has a domed lid covering the bowl and both the lid and bowl are densely covered in intricate inlaid patterns with a blue-black oxidised steel background.
The female rice bowl is also decorated with inlaid wire against an oxidised steel background and has a hole in the centre of the lid. It is less ornately decorated with a delicate chiselled surface that mimics a fabric-like texture.
The inlaid patterns used by Do were inspired by Joseon dynasty bojagi or wrapping cloths. In an ordered Joseon society wrapping cloths were a way in which women could creatively express their respect, love and wishes for the recipient and their family. Wrapping cloths were used in many different ways, to wrap, cover, carry or store objects. The sang po for instance is used to cover food or tables where food is served.
Through her work Do brings together childhood memories, Korean cultural traditions and the handicrafts, the ipsa technique and bojagi style of decoration with it’s inherit meaning.
Do says, ‘When I was practicing the iybsa technique, each chisel mark and hammer stroke proved equal to every single line of stitching in a wrapping cloth. The feelings involved in the chisel mark or stitching line were very similar, and this united and transcended the past and the present.’
You will find Rice Bowls in Spirit of jang-in: treasures of Korean metal craft closing 12 February 2012. Joungmee Do will be participating in a workshop at the Powerhouse Museum on this final weekend.