Quiet Beauty: Contemporary Korean Design

Virtual Exhibition



For nearly a decade, R & Company has been dedicated to the exploration and promotion of contemporary design in South Korea. Having worked with some of the country’s most revered and talented designers during this period, we have learned much about the philosophy of tradition in contemporary Korean design. The use of ancient practices and natural materials balanced with a deep appreciation for handwork is a common thread that runs throughout much of contemporary Korean design. 

Thoughtful and transformative, coarse yet precise, the pieces in Quiet Beauty demonstrate the incredible reverence for history, craft, and materials shared by three leading designers living and working in Korea today. While clay, wood, and lacquer have been at the heart of Korean art and design for millennia, Quiet Beauty is a celebration of the contemporary.

Through exceptionally skilled handwork and applied layers of patina, Hun-Chung Lee (b. 1967) transforms clay into architecturally graceful, soft-edged sculptural furniture. Lee handcrafts all of his ceramic pieces at his studio in Korea, firing them in a hand-made kiln using a celadon glaze that originated in the 15th century. The colors and patterns achieved through his master craftsmanship and painterly approach to the glazing process offer new possibilities for ceramic works in a domestic setting. 

Bae Se Hwa (b. 1980) transforms walnut by steam-bending slices of the incredibly hard wood, deriving a balance of moderation and harmony in form and function. To the artist, the steam bending process is a journey in finding the balance between yin and yang, which allows him to experience a connection with the object. His designs are based in the Korean architectural concept of baesanimsu, which translates to the ideal placement of a house with mountains in the back and a river in the front. With the aim to evoke a sense of calm and serenity in his work, the rising curves in the back of Se Hwa’s designs are meant to embody a mountain, while the gentle fluidity in the front of the works embodies a flowing river. 

Myung Sun Kang (b. 1974) harmoniously combines age-old techniques and unique materials to create practical objects that address modern concerns. By revitalizing traditional craftsmanship such as two thousand year old lacquering methods, with inlaid mother-of-pearl, Kang creates elegant and visually dynamic seating and shelving units that suggest a landscape of shimmering waves.