You don’t often see “logs” and “modern furniture” mentioned in the same sentence, but South Korean designer Shinkyu Shon has brought them together in a uniquely beautiful series. Part functional, part sculptural and part political statement, these pieces are made with Korean pine trees and polished stainless steel. Named “Split,” the series examines how Western culture has influenced Korean culture, creating a sharp deviation from tradition.
The pieces are striking in their simplicity. Some utilize long lengths of whole peeled logs, each one a little bit curved or twisted, calling to mind the natural shape of the trunk of a young tree. Others carve the logs into hefty dimensional lumber. But each piece pairs the raw wood with steel or tempered glass in harsh geometric shapes, representing the way radical modern ideas collided with Korea’s formerly isolationist culture in the early 20th century.
When it was ruled by the Joseon dynasty from the 14th to 19th centuries, Korea resisted outside influences, developing its own sense of artistic and architectural expression that related closely to natural materials growing within the nation’s borders. Then came a period of Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945, when outside ideas suddenly came crashing in. Western style grew more popular than Korean traditions.
Shinkyu’s “Split” series uses pine logs to evoke the timber used to build traditional Korean houses called hanoks. Fusing these elements with the modern geometric shapes, he attempts to bring these contrasting aesthetics into harmony.
“Shon Shin Kyu intends to express the beauty of the material nature through a deep examination and analysis of the material and based on them, he try to combine his experience with the beauty of the material. Shinkyu Shon’s Split is an exploration in the beauty standards of the Eastern and Western worlds, in other words natural versus manmade.”
“By utilizing both wood and mirrored stainless steel, Shon attempts to fuse the two worlds together in a way that allows the viewer to still see distinctive features of both materials. The pine tree in these pieces was actually used as a main pillar in a traditional Korean house.”
“Unlike other Eastern cultures, Shon says Korean design was not given the same amount of time to create a balance between their own identity and that of Western design. Through Split the hope is that two materials, so different in nature, can be expressed as one.”
Check out more of Shinkyu’s work on Instagram @shikyu_shon. You can also purchase some of these pieces through Pamono or 1stDibs.