Carpenters Workshop Gallery presents Stone & Steel, a new collection of 10 works by South-Korean artist Wonmin Park, as part of London Design Festival. The collection presents a continuation from his previous series Plain Cuts, but whereas Plain Cuts used thin aluminium sheets to explore sleek cut geometries, Stone & Steel is shaped by the artist’s use of volcanic rock and industrial sheets of steel.
The volcanic rocks that form the bases of the tables in Stone & Steel are mined in Japan, and when cut open reveal dark, iron-rich interiors in contrast to their ochre, brown shells. This rust- like characteristic is the result of air and moisture penetrating deep fissures in the Earth’s crust and oxidising the iron content of the stones, giving each rock a natural patina.
Hand-shaped steel table tops are then fitted perfectly around each stone centre, with engineering levels of precision. The stone centres of each table are highly polished to achieve a jet-black, marmoreal finish, accentuating the contrast with the rough, grainy surface of the stone’s exterior. Wonmin is intrigued that every stone is unique, the product of a geological accident millennia ago. He brings this internal history to his work, as evidence of forms and processes greater than himself and his art.
Wonmin Park comments: “The cut of the stone is vital to the success of each piece. Its linearity is something that nature cannot produce – only humans work in straight lines. Their flat-cut sides serve to highlight the textured lines and irregularities of the stones’ exteriors, and emphasise their natural beauty. The steel adds dimension to the cut line of the stone and extends it further into space, creating volume and balance.”
Loïc Le Gaillard, co-founder of Carpenters Workshop Gallery, comments: “This exhibition at Carpenters signals the growth of Wonmin Park’s work. At the heart of Stone & Steel is Wonmin’s need to explore the full nature of his materials through their various changes of state as he works and processes them.”
Wonmin’s practice is rooted in Korean and Pan-Asian Aesthetics, which he defines as embracing irregularity, naturalistic simplicity and a disinterest of controlling each aspect of the work. Korean Minimalism, which developed in the 1970s, married human skill with the many imperfections seen in nature, and Wonmin continues this symbiosis in his work. The stones used in Stone & Steel are the same as those used by seminal artist Isamu Noguchi, but Wonmin stops short of considering this an homage to the American master. The reference is a material one, not aesthetic, and denotes a continuation of process and tradition that stretches far beyond Noguchi’s practice, since the stone has been mined in Japan for centuries.
Within this web of art historic influence, Wonmin does not like to work within too many rules, nor overthink his practice. He is led by the shape of each stone, which in turn shapes the steel components. Fulfilling the potential of his materials is his main focus, keeping the design as effective yet minimal as possible.