Kwangho Lee’s The Shape of a River series show the designer’s deep-rooted interest in his heritage and surroundings. Our Design Miami/Basel presentation juxtaposes exposed raw copper works with cherry wooden furniture inlayed with enameled copper.The series consists of chairs, vases, stools, lamps and consoles.
The enameled copper tiles, framed in wood, are baked in a chilbo, a traditional Korean kiln that harnesses intense heat. Chilbo translates roughly as “seven colors of gem.” In the process colored glass is applied wet or dry to copper sheets and fired in the furnace, sometimes repeatedly. The size of the chilbo furnace allows Lee to open the door and check on the change of colors throughout the firing process. In these latest inlayed works, he has refined and perfected this ancient old technique.
Lee’s raw copper works investigate the chemical and compositional interplay between heat and copper. Part of the design process is left to chance, creating glistening effects as the heat moves across the copper surface. Industrial sheets of copper are joined under tremendous heat.“The only thing I intended on was leaving the welded edges of the pieces as is,“ says the artist.“Normally, one sands them down for a smooth surface, but I kept the welded trail.“
Kwangho Lee (born in Guri, Korea, 1981) completed his studies at Hongik University in Seoul, majoring Metal Art & Design, and graduated in February 2007.He currently lives and works in Seoul.Making things by hand was a great joy as a child, reminding his grandfather who, a farmer himself, constantly hand-made daily household goods from natural materials found nearby. Kwangho Lee appreciated the way he looked at everyday objects and thus began to approach things in similar ways; to give new meaning and function to the most ordinary.Today, he develops his practice by discovering moments of materials joining another.He has made works with marble, copper and enamel, steel, and rope; Lee often describes his works as an instant moment of union.
Lee’s works are in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, Australia; Leeum, Seoul, Korea; M + Museum, Hong Kong, China; Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada.He was nominated for the Jury’s Selection of Designer of the Future at Design Miami/Basel in 2009, selected as Artist of the Year in 2011 by the Korean Ministry of Culture, and Young Craftsman of the Year in 2013 by Yeol - a society for cultural heritage. In 2017 he won Made’s designer of the year.He has recently completed the large scale commission of the Amorepacific headquarters built by David Chipperfield Architects in Seoul, Korea.