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TENSION AND BALANCE:

WONMIN PARK
Intuitive geometry executed with refined innovation, Seoul-born, Paris-based designer Wonmin Park’s furniture designs are contemplative yet formidable. Their monolithic sculptural forms demand attention in any space. Leading with a defined design approach, Park’s designs are minimalist yet hold a presence that is recognisable: solid, strong forms that reflect tension and balance, and are complementary of their material that engages with its surroundings.

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Park’s work sits in the precarious space between art and design. Considered functional and practical in use, his furniture designs hold an artistry that allow them to gravitate towards fine art. As collectible design for the home or museum, his works are exhibited in museums and sold in galleries and major global design fairs alike. And it’s just the beginning. Park’s designs express a visual diversity driven by their materiality. He notes, “In my designs, I want objects to speak for themselves. To be beautiful, attractive and engage with their surroundings, embracing simplicity, purity and subtlety. People who experience my design have the space to explore their own sensations and emotions.”
After having graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 2011, Park founded his studio in Eindhoven and most recently, opened a production facility in Rotterdam and creative studio in Paris. He notes, “We don’t produce the pieces in the Paris studio. Instead, we mainly work on sketches, sketch models, computer-based work, read books as well as communicate with production factories in other regions about production.”

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When it comes to form or function, he notes his intuitive approach to design: “Every time is different. Sometimes I’m looking for materials that could end up being a chair or table, or I’m looking for objects with certain materials. And other times, I’m thinking of form and function as a whole.”  His career in design was instigated by an epiphany; “One day, I realised that in a modernized living environment, everything is surrounded by products which are both designed and made by someone.” Driven by the beauty of nature, Park notes, “I draw a lot of inspiration from normal, surrounding nature. I am amazed how wildflowers, weeds, trees are in a field, and how the clouds in the sky, and the colour of the sky is constantly changing. The scenery laid out by nature is so beautiful.”

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For his first series Haze, made in resin — at the time, a surprising material for use in furniture — presented a soft and pale palette of stools and tables created with dissymmetrical volumes. The pieces evoked uncertainty, ambiguity and vagueness from their opaqueness and transparency. His second series Plain Cuts, presented a contrasting juxtaposition of sleek and sharp steel and aluminium furniture. Now, Park unveils his latest work Stone+Steel, allowing the organic forms and natural silhouettes of both materials to take shape. Like a chef, his design approach is led by the selection of his ingredients. “I am interested in all materials and techniques – it’s another language that expresses emotion and feeling. I try to use and experiment with various materials.” He adds, “I study and research the attractiveness of materials and what characteristics they have. Then, I think about how I can express this quality and show its characteristics into the material through the technique.”

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Now at the age of thirty-nine, he recalls his first sketch of the Haze table drawn ten years ago as his most memorable sketch, just one element in an intuitive approach to his design process. “The first sketch models I make are to realise my thoughts. However, since these sketch models do not have details such as actual materials and processing technology, my ideas are materialized through test samples. Usually, there are many techniques that producers try for the first time, so I explain a lot about the touch and feel I want.”
Park’s work is akin to functional sculpture, or an abstract painting. Undeniably original and unconventional, set to stand the test of time. He adds, “I want to do works that are new and fresh, whilst also representing me and my style. It is difficult to put my identity and language into the object. I aim for something more fundamental than quantitative production or popularity. I know what I am pursuing while working on a new project. It is both difficult and exciting at the same time.” 

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Sitting in the collectible design realm, he aims to continue exploring the capacity — and literal range — of design. He notes, “In the future, I am going to try something on a bigger scale. The exhibition of my new works is like a thesis. In order to feel challenged on a larger scale, I am currently doing a master's degree at an architecture school in London.” What better way to define Park’s ongoing oeuvre, constantly evolving and innovating. 

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Text: Joanna Kawecki

Images: Courtesy Wonmin Park and Carpenters Workshop Gallery

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