The Merge Series was initially created in 2016 after my visit to Tongdosa, a Buddhist temple located in Yangsan, in the the province of Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea. The simple and tranquil scenery of the temple and the surrounding mountains left a great impression on me.
Seeing young monks smiling happily in the yard while visitors chatted, I was inspired by the harmony I felt in that location. Since Buddhist temples have significant meaning to Koreans as a part of our culture, my art focuses more on the folklore of these scenic temple views, rather than specific religious characteristics.
On the way to Korean temples one can often see piles of stones stacked on top of one another. Along with pagodas, these stone stacks serve religious as well as cultural purposes, being places where people make their wishes. The stone stacks, called Makdoltap in Korean, are often made by villagers, monks, or Buddhist pilgrims. As each stone is added to the pile, people add their wishes and prayers, taking great care not to break the delicate balance.
Inspired by these scenes of the temple, particularly the stone stacks, I created the Merge Series, a collection of furniture consisting of a table, stools and side tables etc. Each piece of the merge series is made of steel and covered in layers of Ottchil, which is the sap of lacquer trees. These trees grow in the Central Asian plateau and across East Asian countries such as Korea, China, Japan, and Myanmar. Ottchil, or Ott in Korean, Qi in Chinese, and Urushi in Japanese all refer to this particular kind of lacquer found in East Asia.
Through experimentation I created my own method of applying Ott to my designs. The colors used in the Merge Series represent the four seasons of Korea, and are blended through a meticulous process of layering and sanding. The side tables are designed to be separated and stacked in different ways.
The slanted shape reflects the precarious look of the Makdoltap I saw at Tongdosa Temple. Each piece, in different colors and forms, can be matched with another, allowing them to be "merged" harmoniously, as the name of the series suggests. I gave each item of the collection a unique touch by engraving it with a wish, signifying my hope for good fortune for its owner.
My work began with the Merge Series furniture collection and has since expanded to include paintings, sculptures, art installations, and home goods, all inspired by aspects of my Korean heritage.