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Lee Sisan’s ‘Neo-Primitive’ is an aesthetic dialogue between nature and function
‘Neo-Primitive’ by Lee Sisan
Image: Courtesy of Lee Sisan

Lee Sisan’s ‘Neo-Primitive’ is an aesthetic dialogue between nature and function

The South Korean designer draws inspiration from natural objects to create their aluminium counterparts, thus producing chairs, stools and tables with a futuristic outlook.

by Ayushi Mathur
Published on : Aug 17, 2022

Somewhere in the depths of the Papuan rainforest in New Guinea, the bowerbird collects twigs and sticks from the forest floor to create an extraordinary nesting shrine. Just as a fellow earthling, this avian architect accentuates the purpose of a nugatory object from nature in a way that it not only becomes purposeful but also a sight to behold. Objects and artefacts that serve as avid sources of inspiration range from a pile of sun-dried branches by river sides to discarded car parts in landfills. Lee Sisan is one such designer from South Korea who can derive inspiration from natural entities and configure them to fulfil functional roles. “I believe in the power of nature, such as mountains, trees, stones, and rivers, and bring them into my work. In addition, artefacts that contradict nature are another inspiration to me, and I pursue a way of working in which natural and artificial objects are harmoniously balanced,” expresses Sisan describing his artistic oeuvre and its primary source of innovation.

A sand-cast tree trunk for a Neo-Primitive stool Image: Courtesy of Lee Sisan

The product designer has been actively creating objects inspired by contrasting elements of the natural as well as the urban jungle. His latest collection titled ‘Neo-Primitive’ consciously deciphers a design dialogue between art, functionality and the environment using organic branch shapes and silver-white aluminium.

The Neo-Primitive stools Image: Courtesy of Lee Sisan

The collection consists of a series of sculptural objects, chairs and a table that Sisan creatively carved using natural elements such as branches, twigs and even a tree trunk and sand-cast them into their aluminium versions. “The branches I found in nature were replaced with materials using aluminium casting and their shapes were preserved. The resultant product still has traces of nature, and the aluminium material creates a mysterious atmosphere,” says Sisan.

The South Korean Designer seeks to make design outcomes in a meticulously refined language and form that holds the ability to suit functions, and ergonomics while being in tune with nature, retaining its organic shape.

Aluminium branches used to create furniture pieces Image: Courtesy of Lee Sisan

“Nature could one day disappear in the distant future. I materialised its value as an unchanging material,” says Sisan upon the conception of the collection and particularly the Rimowa chair. As part of the Neo-primitive collection, Sisan joined forces with the high-quality luggage manufacturer Rimowa based in Germany to create an eclectic aluminium chair design. The functional furniture piece was also displayed during Rimowa’s exhibition ‘As Seen By’ in South Korea alongside other adaptive interpretations of Rimowa’s suitcases.

Process of creating the Rimowa chair Image: Courtesy of Lee Sisan

The chair is designed using the industrial designer’s signature aluminium branches that support a seat created using Rimowa’s grooved aluminium sheets, as used in the manufacturing of its carrier bags. To sustain the structure, the aluminium branches are arranged by leaning on each other, and the metal sheets are connected by bolts. The combination of two components made of the same material but in opposing silhouettes generates a mystical atmosphere, demonstrating nature's and creature's harmony and cohabitation. “Neo-Primitive Chair is a work about the relationship between primacy and modernity, nature and artificiality,” says Sisan.

The Rimowa chair in the exhibition ‘As Seen By’ Image: Courtesy of Lee Sisan

The designer constructively taps the elemental nature of the malleable metal and drapes an ordinary organic object into it. The result, though appearing light and delicate from afar, holds a strong and well-structured character that blurs the boundaries between technique-driven art and a love for nature. Sisan, with his wildly creative mind, elaborates on his approach, “I found branches in nature that I often go to. The branches were replaced with materials using aluminium casting and their shapes were preserved. The resultant product still has traces of nature, and the aluminium material creates a mysterious atmosphere.”

Lee Sisan resides and works out of Changju in South Korea post his major in interior design, where he is closely surrounded by lush green landscapes, the river and the mountains. Alongside the Neo-Primitive collection, he has previously designed furniture using rocks and metals in contrasting textural identities and is now looking forward to a brand new sequel to Neo-Primitive, that is, Neo-Primary. It is a series of sculptural furniture designs that the designer envisioned even before the collaboration with Rimowa. It will be exhibited in September, at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul.

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