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An Artisanal Guide to Seoul with the 5 Senses


Guest article written by MDLR Brand Ambassador Victoria Loke.

Some of you might know her as Fiona Tung-Cheng in Crazy Rich Asians, but to us she is MDLR Brand Ambassador and a dear friend. We are so thrilled to have Victoria Loke as a guest writer on our blog! Singapore native, New Yorker at heart and big on the arts, she is a true tastemaker.

While on her journey in Seoul, Victoria has graciously taken us around showcasing Korean's artisanship through her five senses: touch, smell, sight, hear and taste, whilst carrying her Nada Libano Mini Purse.

First up, touching an artist's work of sterling silver.

 

Touch 

Location: Studio Foh, Bukhansan

Nestled at the foot of the Bukhansan is a small and unexpected artist enclave, amongst which lies the metal-working studio Studio Foh. Here the artist Yoo Eun-jung brings to life exquisite works of sterling silver, each piece delicately wrought from handmade moulds created in the back of her studio using flora found in the surrounding environment. From diaphanous leaves to the daintiest of branches and blooms, these craft sculptures reflect the meditative tranquility of nature not only in form, but in function.

During my studio visit, the artist personally brewed us a pot of tea with a set of tea-making instruments she had crafted: a tea scoop moulded from an interesting pebble she had picked up on the way home, a tea stirrer inspired by a frost-covered twig she had found over the winter, a serving spoon for a tea cookie in the shape of a ginkgo leaf. Every corner of the cozy studio is a treasure trove of metalworking artistry, elegantly crafted jewelry on one shelf and antique metal accessories she had personally sourced and reworked on another.

Smell

Location: Blute Perfumery, Hannam-dong

Stepping into Blute Perfumery in Hannam-dong is a transportive experience; the destination? La Croix-Valmer in southeastern France. Perfumer Hong So-young curated every one of the shop’s decorative elements herself, the classic vintage furniture and charming knick-knacks sitting atop, as part of an immersive spatial experience designed to complement her evocative perfume creations.

While Blute’s luxurious signature scents stir the imagination and create worlds to explore – the 684-88, a site-specific cocktail of ginger, lily, and musk named after the shop’s postal code, and the Old Jaffa, a cinnamon, vanilla, and amber blend reminiscent of an ancient spice market –  an integral part of the Blute Perfumery philosophy is to help shoppers discover the individuality of their own worlds through fragrance.

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I had the pleasure of attending a private perfume-making session with the perfumer, who guided me through the process of building my very own perfume. After smelling and documenting the individual scent profiles of each of the shop’s in-house oils, I arrived at my winning combination: a hint of rose, a touch of vanilla, a generous serving of fig, anchored by a base of cedar wood and white amber. 

 

Sight

Location: Kukje Gallery, Jongno-gu

I made my way to Jongno-gu’s art district to attend the renowned Kukje Gallery’s latest solo exhibition featuring the works of Park Seo-bo, the godfather of Korean modernist art. On display were pieces from his late-Écriture (描法, myobop) series starting in the early 2000s, when the artist began using his familiar medium of traditional Korean paper hanji to create symmetrical compositions inspired by the spirituality of nature and its colors.

Choosing to describe these works as heup-in-ji or blotting paper, the artist sculpted wet hanji into uniform lines to create paintings that are intended to absorb modern anxieties through the viewing experience via an infinite repetition of action, a concept implicit in the repetitive pencil markings made on the hanji and which underpins his own definition of the Dansaekhwa movement.

To walk through the gallery is to engage in a holistic exercise of merging one’s own self with the unhurried temporality of nature as guided by the artist’s hand, our eyes gently nudged across each canvas and its furrows.

Hearing

Location: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Jongno-gu

From an icon in Korean contemporary art to its promising new generation of artists, across the street at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art were works from the four artists selected to compete for this year’s Korea Artist Prize.

Resonating through the museum corridors were the orchestral melodies from the impeccably scored qbit to adam, a narrated video exposition on displacement, ownership, and migration by artist Choi Chan-sook, while in a quiet hall to its left, dulcet voices and the gentle shuffling of a busy crew take center-stage in Heterphony by artist Oh Min, whose work also took the form of a video installation or as she calls it, a “time-based media installation”. Coming from a background in music, the artist incorporated music into art by turning time into a material and medium, drawing upon Foucault’s exposition on heterochronia to pose the questions: can a performance live in a recorded state? What constitutes a performance? What is the here and now, and how might we capture the life in it?

Across a 5-screen setup, the artist invites her audience to reconsider the concepts of practice and practitioner through a careful choreography of subtle movements filmed in intimate close-up shots, the stillness of the frame heightening the audio experience of the performance’s in-between moments and directing attention to the recording apparatus itself rather than performer as a focal point.

Taste 

Location: Nudake, Apgujeong

As the sweet cherry on top of this journey, I stopped by the Haus Dosan in Apgujeong to sample the innovative desserts at Nudake, an artistic dessert cafe by the team at Gentle Monster.

To classify Nudake as simply a dessert cafe would be wholly inadequate: stepping into the basement space, one is greeted with a gallery-like setup displaying wax models of the menu’s sculptural cakes and tongue-in-cheek pastries, flanked by a mish-mash configuration of screens flashing through video artwork from its latest artist collaborators.

The brainchild of a graphic designer, pâtissier, interior designer, and a specialized R&D team, Nudake’s offerings lie at the intersection of creativity and confectionery, blending unorthodox designs with an unexpected combination of ingredients.

In “Ground”, the cafe’s iconic black squid ink pastry puff is embellished with a black sesame crust and filled with green pistachio praline cream. In “Apple Mountain”, cashew nut cream icing is piled into a snowy peak around a vegan almond cake with a cinnamon apple core. I washed these down with the cafe’s “Dutch Black”, a black sesame latte topped off with Dutch coffee ice cubes.

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