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Kwang-cho Yoon

Heart Sutra

Yoon Kwang-cho. Heart Sutra, 2007. Asian Art Council Acquisition Fund.

Korean ceramicist Yoon Kwang-cho is best known for his inventive works inspired by traditional Korean buncheong ware, distinctive blue-gray stoneware with white slip decoration originating from the early Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). Under the guidance of Choi Sun-woo (1916–1984), his mentor and former director of the National Museum of Korea, Yoon became one of the key figures in the movement of several artists to revive and reinterpret the traditional form and technique of buncheong ware in a modern way. 

As a devout practitioner of Zen Buddhism, Yoon roots his practice in Buddhist philosophy, and his work demonstrates his attempt to be free and in harmony with nature. In the 1980s Yoon abandoned a wheel-thrown pottery method, instead building free forms using his hands. This technique allows him to block out the distractions of modern life while referring to traditional art forms and writings to bring peace and harmony to his own work. For Heart Sutra, in the Art Institute’s collection, Yoon created an unusual sculptural form by hand and inscribed the surface with the Heart Sutra, a short Buddhist text. This inscription is a manifestation of the artist’s meditation, as the act of writing out such texts is itself a meditative act—it requires utmost concentration and dedication.

Yoon’s work is internationally renowned, and he continues to be a leading voice in Korean ceramics, bringing together the past and present in a way that both respects tradition and embraces originality and the process of creation.

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