The Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum, located in La Conner, is currently showcasing the textile art of 13 Korean artists.
Curated by Misik Kim and Patti King, this group show is titled The Quilt Road: Contemporary Korean Quilts, on view through June 26th. Featured artists have a shared background of completing the Quilt Specialist Course at Sookmyung Women’s University Museum, located in Seoul.
The exhibit highlights an eclectic body of work created with a delicate touch and close attention to detail. The Museum’s website says of the exhibit, “The methods and materials utilized to work with textiles are becoming more diverse, and the demand for and execution of artistic production is gradually expanding beyond genres. You will discover the life of Korean quilting in a new light via the continuity of past, present, and future.”
While each artist’s works possesess a distinct voice and unique thematic symbolism, they all share immaculate craftsmanship.
An enduring art form, the Korean quilting technique of Pojagi originated centuries ago. The earliest documented record of Pojagi dates back to 42 AD, which was approximately 2,000 years ago.
Predating Western quilting methods, Pojogi has maintained longevity through the ages. In ancient Korea, the most widely available fabrics were cotton, silk and ramie (sourced from nettle fibers and similar to hemp and linen.) Discarded textile scraps from clothing production were stitched together, often in a square shape.
In addition to decorative uses and accessorizing, Pojagi is commonly used to wrap, carry and store items. Traditionally, there were various class-specific styles, colors and techniques for crafting Pojagi. Generally, the patterns and shapes of the fabric were irregular and arranged in a variety of mosaic-like designs, often resembling a pane of stained glass when held against the light.
Contemporary Pojagi has continued to evolve as an art form. Some of the quilts featured in this exhibit have a stunning, almost photorealistic quality, depicting landscapes, animals and portraiture. Others embody a more abstract or surrealist approach, equally impressive in their intricate designs. Their motifs are diverse. There are many memorably surprising and unexpected quilts.
For example, Spiderman suspended upside-down over a marvelously abstracted nighttime cityscape. Another quilt depicts a tiger rendered in a vivid psychedelic palette. The portraits of people are moving and original.
Many artists reference the pandemic’s influence on their displayed works in their artist statements. The artist’s statement of a personal favorite, titled “Mother’s Arms” by the artist Cho Hyunjoo, reads as follows: “I thought of a HAVEN that wasn’t in a pandemic. It’d always be warm and cozy.” This quilt immediately captured my attention as I entered the room, creating a welcoming presence and impression of warm luminosity with its circular patterns of gradient pastels.
The gorgeous quilt on the wall opposite “Mother’s Arms” is titled “Spring Garden” and is meticulously stitched together from a vibrant and luxurious collection of Hanbok fabric. Yoon Hyngae’s statement for “Spring Garden” reads: “I got the idea because I randomly found some Hanbok fabric. I put my heart into expressing brightness and warmth, like the energy of Spring. With that warmth, I hope that the hard times will go far away…”
While the act of creating elaborate quilts in this centuries-old tradition is an homage to Korea and an expression of national pride in and of itself, one artist’s work, in particular, celebrates their home country. Kim Kyungil’s work “Teageuk-Korean Flag” is accompanied by a heartfelt statement that reads as follows: “Among the images representing Korea, the first thing that comes to mind is the Teageukgi. I decided to disassemble it and combine the little pieces back together. As I was working, I was reminded of the love that I have for my country, so this was a very meaningful work for me.”
The practice of quilting seems to provide solace and refuge for these skilled artists, and these works are a testament to their cultural and generational pride and resilience.
The Quilt Road: Contemporary Korean Quilts is a group show curated by Misik Kim and Patti King. It is currently on view through June 26, 2022 at the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum. 703 South Second St. in La Connor,WA. 360-466-4288 or try qfamuseum.org.