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Korean screen - najeon chilgi
Once again, I find myself stepping into something new, but rather quite old.
Several months ago I was in South Florida and saw a rather unusual black lacquer floor screen inlaid with abalone. It was priced above my limit for something I’m not familiar with, but the store owner knows me , and promised me a call if it didn’t sell.
Well, the call came last month, so I paid for it over the phone, and only just yesterday found the to make the 7 hour round trip journey to pick it up.
Well here it is!
I’ve come to learn this type of artwork is called najeon chilgi, and originates from Korea.
The art form dates back a thousand years, but has transformed in recent years.
Early pieces used white shell, cut into rudimentary shapes to form geometric designs.
18-19th c. examples incorporated the use of white mother of pearl, and designs sometimes had dragons and phoenix.
In the mid 20th c., the art form changed again, using mostly white mother of pearl, but also brightly colored abalone shell to create, to depict highly detailed and densely decorated furniture like this:
The quality of these mid to late 20th c pieces varies a lot, but the extreme density of the designs has not garnished much interest among collectors… but the art has changed again!
Fairly recently (so I’ve read), artists are using contemporary forms and designs - taking into account the visual impact of the polished black lacquer against the striking color and texture of the abalone shell.
In my opinion, they’ve hit a sweet spot!
In the case of my screen, they used more traditional techniques rendering the flying cranes with white mother of pearl, but left the 6 panel screen mostly undecorated except for of course the striking pine tree and subtle millet grass.
The colors are even more vivid than the photos show as for some reason my phone filters out red from light refraction.
I’d be interested in knowing if anyone in the Forum has come across any of the more modern pieces of najeon chilgi… if so, please post pics!
There appears to be some galleries active in Korea that have done work for several designer companies, including Rolls Royce… the examples I saw were amazing, and the gallery prices for even small pieces was hard for me to believe.
My screen is the only example I’ve ever come across.
I think it’s it’s an amazing piece of artwork.
Hi Greeno -
I know nothing about such but, visually, its undoubtedly a striking piece of work ...
The use, as mentioned, of negative space in the overall design is especially beautiful ...
My congratulations on acquiring ...
Its a most interesting and impressive lacquered screen. Wow!
Is it marked?
@imperialfinegems Unmarked- which I think is the norm.
The AHL Foundation is an organization in New York that is working to promotes Korean modern art and artists in the USA, so I’m hoping they may have some information. They actually sponsored an online lecture on Korean lacquer from past to present by Eleanor Soo-ah Hyun, Associate Curator for Korean Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The MET recently purchased several pieces to build a collection of modern Korean MOP and lacquer.
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