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Tongyeong's traditional lacquer artwork 'Najeon-chilgi' and modern 'Ottchil' paintings
Updated: 2021-04-01 03:55:02 KST
The traditional Korean craft of Najeon-chilgi is known for its illuminating beauty.
Masters first apply coats of lacquer to wood, then cut and inlay pieces of mother-of-pearl on the surface and coat it again with more layers of lacquer.
Tongyeong is the home of Najeon-chilgi where it was produced at workshops that were established during the Joseon dynasty, when the city served as a naval headquarters to protect the country from Japan.
Being the spot where warm and cold currents meet the perfect conditions for the most colorful abalone shells Tongyeong's exquisite artworks soon mesmerized the whole country, and were even supplied to the royals.
The craft has been passed down through the generations, and one master says that though the process is very demanding and complicated, he feels very proud.

"Shells and abalones' colors in Tongyeong are much more vivid than in other regions. When I complete one, I feel very proud. I would say I am addicted to its beauty."

These traditional crafts have now been reimagined as contemporary art.
Artist Kim Sungsoo thought the resin from lacquer trees used in Najeon-chilgi, could be great material to be used in painting.
While most Western countries usually call this technique 'lacquer', the artist used the word 'ottchil' to show how Korea uses the pure sap from trees instead of adding synthetic material.
Using this 'ottchil' technique and mother-of-pearl, he has created a new genre 'modern ottchil painting'.

"'Ottchil' is a valuable technique and as its substances are resistant to insects, water and humidity they are perfect for making containers. I thought it was a shame that we are not using this ottchil technique so I decided to do these unprecedented ottchil paintings. I would call it art passed down through the ages because I have fused traditional ways of making Najeon-chilgi to create a canvas and turn it into a modern painting."

"From traditional Najeon-chilgi to modern Ottchil painting, Tongyeong is a place where craft history can expand its boundaries and live through the present and the future.
Kim Bo-kyoung, Arirang News, Tongyeong."
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