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Spindle Vases Made by Young-Jae Lee to Open at Pinakothek der Moderne
Spindle vases made by Young-Jae Lee. Photo: Haydar Koyupinar.

MUNICH.- Following her exciting installation of 1111 bowls in the Rotunda of the Pinakothek der Moderne in 2006, the Korean potter Young-Jae Lee will be exhibiting further examples of her work.

Again, the show is about variations on a single design form, this time that of the spindle vase. From 54 individual pieces Young-Jae Lee has developed a minimalist-conceptual, numbers-magical room installation especially for the Rotunda of the Pinakothek der Moderne.

In taking up the theme of the spindle vase, the artist, who has been living and working in Germany for the past thirty years, is referring to the traditional jar form of ancient Korea, whereby two separately made bowls are joined up in a way similar to bringing together two arched palms of the hand. As a result, they create a spindle-shaped contour and form an encased hollow space.

Through this reference to tradition, Young-Jae Lee links the pursuit of harmony to the joining of the two bowls, coming close to pure beauty in colour and form. In her hands the design of these ancient storage jars, known as »moon bowls«, gains the force of a sculpture, the individuality of a masterpiece.

No one piece is like another. Nevertheless, there are considerable similarities between the vases which are produced by Young-Jae Lee as a series in a limited space of time. The serial nature of the Korean potter’s work reveals an almost meditative discourse with the boundaries of the medium of clay.

Young-Jae Lee makes each spindle vase as a two-part piece of ceramics: The artist joins the two separately moulded halves, each resembling wide bowls, while the clay is still malleable. In doing so, she roughs the surface of their rims in order to facilitate the joining of the two bowls, one of which is placed upside down on the other. She then has to break through the base of the inverted bowl designated as the top half of the vase, widen the hole and sculpt an opening. The double vase created in the process looks like a spindle. To ensure that the two halves fit together properly to form a spindle vase, she has to produce for each vase two bowls of the same diameter and more or less the same height and volume.

On closer inspection, one can detect small traces of where the master ceramicist has gently pressed her hands on the bowls to mould the two halves of the spindle vases into a single entity.

The individual spindle vases in this synchronous series differ considerably in height, breadth and diameter, thus making each one an original.

Young-Jae Lee’s method of glazing remains true to the tradition of Korean aesthetics while at the same time allowing her individual scope to apply a wide range of colours.

The spectrum of colours of her spindle vases varies from shades of light, shimmering coarse silk to iridescent, blue-green water tones and delicate rose pink, in most cases transparently glazed. Tiny dots on the elegant bodies of the vases give the impression of darting about and so loosening the stringency of the surface. The clear, uncompromising shapes of the spindle vases appear to be a reflection of the direct and open character of the artist herself.

Young-Jae Lee has chosen from this series of spindle vases a group of 54 exhibits designed especially for the Pinakothek der Moderne in terms of size, colouring, shape and numerical sequence.

In the circular-shaped exhibition rooms on the second floor of the Rotunda the artist has divided the number of spindle vases into two halves, each half consisting of 27 single items that are joined up again like the two parts of the vases to create a major, room-filling sculpture of double vases.

The Korean artist Young-Jae Lee has been living and working in Germany for the past 30 years. Her work, for which she has received several awards including twice the Bavarian State Prize, is determined by her discourse with the traditions of Korean pottery craft and with Western art of the 20th and 21st centuries. In it, she engages in the encounter between oriental and occidental philosophy and ways of life, between tradition and modernity, the individual and the group.

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