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Feb 21, 2024

Iconic Korean Moon Jars by Renowned Artist Oh Kwan Jin on Exhibit in Upstate NY

MIDDLETOWN, New York — Serene and intricate traditional Korean paintings grace the walls of a new gallery in upstate New York, which opened its doors for a ribbon-cutting event from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday. Feb. 16.

Located in Middletown, an up-and-coming community in western Orange County, Gallery Chang at 55 North St hosted over a dozen pieces by famed painter Oh Kwan Jin, whose work has featured in over 20 Korean TV dramas.

The inaugural exhibit is titled Emptying to Enrichment: Moon Jars Path. It will remain open to public viewing at Gallery Chang until March 17.

Works on display revolved around the theme of moon jars — a type of Korean pottery developed during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). The simple appearance at first glance of the paintings belies finer details that reveal themselves easily upon scrutiny.

A Korean moon jar motif brush painting by artist Oh Kwan Jin on display in the Gallery Chang C2. Photo taken Feb. 16, 2024 in Middletown, upstate N.Y. (Image: Vision Times)

A piece by Korean artist Oh Kwan Jin, entitled “Emptying and Enrichment Holding Blessings” on display at the Gallery Chang C2 location in Middletown, N.Y. (Image: Provided to Vision Times)

Eastern and Western technique is visible in Oh’s art, which carries a contemporary feel while retaining the subtleties and atmosphere of traditional Korean brush painting.

One of his new paintings, displayed at the entrance of the gallery, includes Blue Dragon, inspired by the Eastern astrological tradition where 2024 marks the Year of the Wood Dragon (in the ancient theory of five elements, wood is signified by the color blue). This thematic piece adds a unique cultural resonance to the collection, complementing Oh Kwan Jin’s new 2024 works.

Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano was in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, held shortly after 5 p.m.

Middletown, N.Y. mayor Joseph DeStefano (center, holding scissors) attends the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Gallery Chang at 55 North St. Artist Oh Kwan Jin and Chang Jun Hwan (L-R from DeStefano) are also in attendance. (Image: Vision Times)

Director Chang Jun Hwan, known for his involvement in notable endeavors including the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in Seoul, envisions Gallery Chang not merely as an art gallery, but as a dynamic cultural hub fostering creativity, igniting community engagement, and catalyzing artistic expression in Middletown.

The Middletown location is the second Gallery Chang, following the original location in central Manhattan. Another Gallery Chang in Palisades Park, New Jersey, is planned to open in 2025.

Moon jars: calm and peace

Oh Kwan Jin has worked with moon jars and moon jar-related themes for over 35 years. The moon jar “represents calm and peace.” The contrast of the white jar on a blue background is a “perfect example” of a moon jar painting, Chang Jun Hwan said at the opening event, pointing at one of Oh’s works.

Moon jars are intentionally made to be slightly asymmetrical. They feature a smaller base and larger top, which simulates the impression of floating in air.

“Blue Dragon” seen near the entrance of Gallery Chang. (Image: Vision Times)

Chang, accompanying Oh, explained at the opening event that the moon jar motif “represents our life, which is not perfect. … The imbalance itself is natural beauty.”

Elaborating on the name of the exhibit, “Emptying to Enrichment,” Chang said, “All of these drawings represent one big theme: a philosophy of emptying and filling. In order to fill yourself, you first have to empty yourself, that is the Asian, the Korean and Chinese mindset. You first have to give out to get something.”

Some of the artworks featured symbolism relating to Eastern culture and customs. For instance, one piece had a moon jar placed upon a wooden chest, which in Asian countries are used to store money and other valuables, Chang said.

Chang Jun Hwan (R) poses with a visitor to Gallery Chang. (Image: Courtesy of Gallery Chang)

“We put the moon jar on top of it so that it can be protected, even in the nighttime,” he said through the aide, pointing to an actual moon present in the painting.

Occupying a central place in the gallery was a piece with several moon jars on a dark blue background. The dark blue, Chang explained, represents the darkest night before the sunrise.

“The sunrise is hope. Just like Middletown is reviving itself [and entering] a new stage,” he said.

[Source from VISION TIMES press release, provided by Leo Timm]

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