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Wonmin Park’s <s>Un</s>ding exhibition exemplifies Byung-Chul Han’s theories
Plain Cuts Remediated Floor Light by Wonmin Park
Image: Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Wonmin Park’s Unding exhibition exemplifies Byung-Chul Han’s theories

Park’s solo exhibition at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery comprises the showcase of sculptures and furniture made using coloured resin, glass, stone and dyed steel.

by Almas Sadique
Published on : May 05, 2023

South Korean artist Wonmin Park’s creations are like constellations—ethereal and mesmerising. They sit like totems, lit up by incandescent rock-like formations and imprinted with tactile patterns evocative of the natural tessellations paramount in densely landscaped areas. Park’s works sometimes serve as decorative sculptures, sometimes as avant-garde furniture, and at other times function as conduits for the passage and metamorphosis of ordinary thoughts into aberrant and anomalous ideas. His ongoing solo exhibition at the New York location of Carpenters Workshop Gallery is a constitution of some of his recent works. Titled Unding: Restoration of Existence, the exposition is on view from May 9 to July 27, 2023.

South Korea-based Park’s Unding: Restoration of Existence, on view in the United States of America for the first time, artistically expounds the theories of the German-Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han, with the showcase of the Korean artist’s latest experiments. The title of the showcase, too, is derived from the concept of Unding, meaning ‘unthing’ or ‘non-object’. According to Han, Unding is the objective absence of real objects, and their replacement with insubstantial non-objects, all as a consequence of the emerging ubiquitousness of digital reality and digital spaces. “Unding itself means an object or environment that has become futile - dinge means object. So, strike through Un to get unding. (Nonobject),” shares Park.

On display at the gallery are Park’s sculptures and sculptural furniture—eleven in number—crafted out of volcanic rock, industrial steel, coloured resin and glass. Each piece is crafted out of contrasting materials. The juxtaposition of stone with steel, and resin with glass, is an attempt to position naturally derived materials against industrially acquired ones. The materials used by Park depict a certain meaning, too. For instance, the volcanic rock is a metaphor for the core of the Earth, and the coloured resin blocks represent an inland sea. “With the development of digital technology and urbanisation, we have lived a comfortable life, but the experience of nature and real objects has become distant, and we only see and know through information. This led me to consider natural objects, digital objects, and handicrafts,” asserts Park. In using tangible objects to construct these pieces, Park proves that their unique characteristics and the emotions evoked by them cannot fluidly be duplicated in the information-based reality.

Park’s Plain Cuts Remediated series is the reinterpretation of one of his previous collections, the Stone and Steel sculptures, in resin and glass. The Plain Cuts Remediated Floor Light is a floor lamp made out of coloured resin and glass. Standing tall at 118 centimetres, the floor lamp commands a conspicuous presence wherever placed. Its form is inspired by volcanic formations. The resin on the lamp, when lit up, evokes the burn visible in volcanic explosions. At the same time, they also emit warm light in the spaces where they are placed.

The form of Wonmin’s Plain Cuts Remediated series mimics the visage of his Stone and Steel sculptures, with resin bases replacing the stone ones, and panes of glass being used in place of sheets of steel. Although made using different materials, the forms of the furniture under Plain Cuts Remediated collection are similar to their original inspirations. The base of each piece is hand-finished by Park, imbuing them with naturally occurring textures and patterns.

The Plain Cuts Remediated Chair and Table, too, are material explorations of chair designs and table designs previously developed by the artist in opaque materials. The subtly coloured resin of the chair allows for the unique absorption, distortion and dissipation of light, such that the chair and table appear like surreal objects from fantastical lands. These resin bases serve as metaphors for water. The centrally placed resin base in the table represents a still lake, as visible from afar. Like still water, one can glance at the resinous formation and view their reflections.

Park’s Plain Cuts Stone and Steel series, the original furniture design from which the resin and glass pieces are inspired and structured, are also on view at the gallery. These designs are representative of the artist’s inclination towards creating without following too many rules. In most of his designs, especially those made using natural materials, the artist allows their unique and individual potential to shine through the sculptural medium.

Through the Stone and Steel collection, Park intends to explore the full potential of the materials used, while also exploring the various changes in their state. The stone bases of the chairs are presented in three different states---the natural exterior of stone, the stone's cut and polished interior, and the modified version of the exterior crust by Park, wherein he carved atypical patterns onto the surface. The tables and chairs in the collection are the reconciliation of the contrasting natures of natural volcanic rocks and contemporary industrial steel. While the tabletop, made out of steel, is precisely cut and epitomises the control that manufacturing processes come with, the stone bases bring to focus the geological processes in nature that can shape rocks and imprint unique patterns onto them.

The shape of the table tops of each of the tables in the Plain Cuts Stone and Steel series is determined by the shape of the base stone. The tables are a combination of stone and steel, a naturally crafted material and an artificially shaped one, an imperfect design again a uniform one. While the table top is homogeneously coloured and textured, the stone base is coloured in various shades, on account of the high iron content of the volcanic stone, which gives off both the dark metallic shade and the rust-like texture.

Wonmin Park’s ‘Unding: Restoration of Existence’ is on view from May 9 to July 27, 2023, at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery, 693 5th Avenue, New York.

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