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Sangmin Oh’s ‘Knitted Light’ collection evokes images of vibrant underwater corals
The Knitted Light collection by Sangmin Oh
Image: Ronald Smits

Sangmin Oh’s ‘Knitted Light’ collection evokes images of vibrant underwater corals

With Knitted Light, the Korean artist and designer weaves together elastic yarns and microfilaments to build organically shaped and sturdy luminescent sculptures.

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Aug 17, 2023

Some of the most popular literary and cinematic representations of the underwater ecosphere detail and highlight the fluorescent nature of corals. Their organic forms, levitating tendrils, and soft sways lit up in portions and patterns, come together to create an enviable image of sequestered solitude. Alas, these habitats, as the illusive images of shiny and beguiling celestial bodies, are beyond reach. Their praises are etched in fantasy novellas, zealous picturisations of the animated medium, and in songs ardent upon an impassioned expression of love. Despite the richness paramount in these declarations, the absence of a tangible medium of representation often restricts the veritable experiences of such entities. It is in moments like these that material artistic renditions—moulded in the form of hyper-realistic paintings, intricately chiselled sculptures, or specially designed light projections—heighten experiences that would have otherwise been difficult to imagine or construct. One such body of work that evokes images of the vibrant and colourful coral reefs is the Knitted Light collection conceived by Sangmin Oh, an artist and designer who resides and works between the Netherlands and Korea.

Hailing from Korea, Oh completed his bachelor’s degree from the Design Academy Eindhoven. The Korean designer then went on to establish his own art and design studio, Osangmin Studio, in 2021, where he experiments with different techniques of crafting textiles and shaping sculptures. “I focus on observing trivial and small empty spaces, aside from those that are displayed among people's daily, hectic movements. I want to fill up those brief, empty spaces. They can be filled up with emotional or visual stories and even with new realisations,” the artist and designer asserts. To do so, Oh utilises commonly found materials in atypical ways, to shape objects that treat the eyes, deliver a message, and spawn an experience.

So far, he has worked with paper tissues to build a knotted sculpture that represents the strength and resilience needed to face life’s challenges, designed carpets with protuberant features to treat various common ailments with acupressure techniques, combined and composed organic textile screens to build a movable curtain, and crafted a shimmery hanging sculpture out of yarn and copper. “As an artist, my goal is to explore the relationship between people and their environments through textile materials, technique methodologies, and sculptural approaches. My artistic process begins with observation, a habit instilled in me during my childhood when my parents took me to various places and showed me different things. Now, I use my pocket-sized camera to capture momentary observations and delicate memories that reflect the emotions, seasons, and meanings of people,” the designer shares his inceptive process.

The sculpture artist’s latest innovation, Knitted Light, comes in various sizes, shapes, colours, and textures. Crafted in collaboration with the Textiel Museum in Tilburg, the sculptures are a 'blend of monofilament yarn with pipe-shaped structures to curate the effect of light in a space’. The reflective property of the monofilament, combined with the other variances of flexible elastic yarns, produces myriad interesting textures, ensuring that the sculptures do not appear flat and plain. “When the monofilaments meet flexible elastic yarns, the material shows a new type of formative fun, of contraction and expansion, giving rise to various 3D-type knitting experiments,” Oh explains. Because the lighting sculptures are inspired by coral reefs and emulate their appearance, the pieces manage to keep alive the stories of glowing ones, which are losing both their colours and luminescence as a result of rising sea temperatures. The adeptly woven pieces manage to stay sturdy while also reflecting a certain softness, on account of the gentle material used. The designer further hopes that the collection not only “presents the phenomenal beauty of light sculptures composed of textile materials, but also enlightens a new reflection of the beauty of our nature,” he says.

With this project, Oh can also be accredited the title of a textile artist and a lighting designer. With the intention of shaping objects that can help deliver atypical visual and emotional journeys, he built this series incorporating the provisions of textile art and lighting design that can, with the combination of various different colours and textures of yarns, deliver unexpected experiences. Enunciating on this thought, the Korean artist relays, “Through my work, I aim to restructure the way our spaces are interacted with by elevating tactile experiences and reconfiguring object-to-human relationships.” While the textile pieces function as sculptures during the day, one can witness new textures, colours and patterns on their surfaces during evenings and nights. Conversely, the sculptures, when exposed to artificial light, deliver an altogether different experience.

Some of the different pieces that make up the collection include 'Acropora,' 'Dendrogyra,' 'Caulastraea,' and 'Plerogyra,' all of which come in different iterations of colours, patterns and appendages. Meanwhile, 'Acropora,' the first variation in the collection, focused on the exploration of warmer tones. With his more recent sculptures, Oh focuses on hues of blue and purple. He also intends to further experiment with this collection, by employing recycled fishing line materials.

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