▲ Fabric artists Kim Mi Sun and Jang Sun Ja showed about 300 hand-dyed scarves at Artspace C. Photo courtesy Artspace C
On arriving at the Artspace C gallery in Nohyeong-dong, visitors are greeted by a glass door with wrought iron handles and a distinctive tan rust. It swings open with a slight thrust of the wrist to wooden steps that twist downward past the poster-lined walls of the staircase and into a gallery astir with conversation. One’s first sight is of four panels of grey cloth strung across the entryway, which feature a series of hills and valleys that stream across the cloth. The grey of the silk feels in balance with itself and there is a sense of muted respect within the fabric as fragrant as the indigo flowers used to dye it.
The occasion was the opening of “Wear the Light,” an exhibition from Dec. 4 to 6 of about 300 scarves by artists Kim Mi Sun and Jang Sun Ja, who together make up Muldrine Studio. A few steps further led the onlooker to a sea of blue tapestry hung from a shiny, lime-green bamboo pole by tenuous threads of woven string, and the scarves rolled along the gallery wall in waves. A small wooden table low to the floor held jars of various pigments and, nearby, one bright pink and one purple scarf scrolled down like a pair of vibrant companions. The center of the room is a large open square and to the left, a dance of scarves was taking place. Rows upon rows of scarves in colorful layers ranging from yellow to red to green were clipped to line to display both the beauty of each individual piece and their collective power.
The labor of dying materials with pigments sourced from the lush plant-life on Jeju has been prevalent as long as people have lived on the island, and it is this art form that Kim and Jang practice at their natural dyeing studio.
During the opening event, gallery director, An Hye Kyoung, showed slides to tell the story of the dyeing process and of a camp held to teach the art to students. Noting the deep-dyed fingernails and hands as the artists and helpers dipped, dyed, hung, dried and finished the work, observers could sense the passion held within their hands.
A special blend of dyes was used to create a set of three striped blue and brown scarves that were placed upon a wall with another low wooden table beneath them. On this table, a dish of shells and indigo leaves represented the one-of-a-kind dye mix. The stripes were achieved by meshing indigo flowers and traditional persimmon dyeing techniques to give an animal-like print.
The gallery was rich with life as visitors tried on scarf after scarf from bamboo racks and checked their images in wood-framed mirrors. Each scarf told its own story, on which the artists were happy to elaborate.
Gallery director An said about 500 viewers visited the exhibition in the three days it was open and more than 100 pieces of the wearable art were sold during that time. Art works inspired by the beauty and traditions of Jeju will now be seen on Jeju streets and further afield serving a practical as well as aesthetic purpose.
Artspace C is located at 1295-13 Nohyeong-dong, Jeju-shi, and has a Web site at www.art spacec.com. Pictures of the exhibition and information on Muldrine Studio are available on the site but you may need assistance from a Korean-speaking friend as most of the text is in Korean.
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