Bohnchang Koo, born in Seoul in 1953, graduated from Yonsei University and studied photography at the Hamburg School of Art and Design. Leading the “constructed photography” trend in the late 1980s, he has played a pivotal role in Korean photography, using myriad of photographic experiments to expand the realm of this art. His work can be seen as an ongoing meditation on the finiteness of existence and is presented with an acute sensitivity, often offering a minimalist oriental aesthetic.
His recent project of photographing white porcelain vessels of the Joseon Dynasty, deals with the theme of “empty space,” an important subject matter in Korean traditional art. In this series, the photograph becomes a form of meditation, the camera eye centering on the inherent beauty of natural and geometrical forms.
‘‘In 1989, I came across a small picture in a magazine that inspired me to take a fresh look at the beauty of Korean white porcelain ware. It was a portrait of the Anglo-Austrian ceramic artist Lucie Rie, taken in her studio by Lord Snowdon. The portrait showed Rie dressed in white, sitting next to a large white porcelain vase against an enveloping white background.
At first the vase’s immense volume and effortless form moved me, but it was its bare, naked presence, exposing its timeworn scars and sense of displacement, that made a permanent impression on me. It is 15 years since that encounter but I still remember its imposing and stoic presence- standing next to Rie not like an ornament but her lifelong partner.
I tried to retain that perspective in which that vas is more than a precious antique object but rather a soul-embodying vessel, with unlimited capacity to embrace the heart of its viewer and its potter. In photographing the white porcelain series I approached each pot in the museum display and in the archival collection cautiously, as if to discretely unveil a demure model in portraiture.’