Sisan Lee Merges Nature and History in Stone and Steel

In South Korea, natural formations and impressive stones determine this sculptor and designer’s work.

stone pagoda

"Stone Pagoda," 2021. Courtesy of Sisan Lee


May 12, 2022

Known for his work exploring stone, Sisan often seeks inspiration from Earth. To find the perfect rocks for projects like his signature series, “Proportions of Stone,” and its continuation, “Stone Pagoda,” he searches a quarry near his manufacturing factory in Gwangju, Gyeon-gi do. Once he finds his chosen rock, he takes photos, measures its dimensions, and heads back to his office in Seoul. “I carefully examine their potential as a structural and aesthetic device in my work,” he says. “The stone is the standard for determining the minimum unit, which is why I work in reverse order of designing the metal structure according to the dimensions of the stones.”

The resulting works perform a balancing act in calculated layers of rock and steel, resembling the traditional Korean stone pagoda. The work “signifies my root and identity as a Korean, reflecting all the experiences I’ve had and cultural insight I’ve gained growing up. Also, it is a part of my exploration of the triad relationship of men, nature, and artifacts,” Sisan says.

After his discovery of the branches in the forest, Sisan returns to his studio, where the original bricks and aged wood of the ceiling indicate the building’s history as a residential house built more than a century ago. Sisan renovated only the lower half of the studio to preserve its antique atmosphere, reflecting his creative ethos of layering and balancing tradition, nature, and manmade elements.

Here, Sisan examines and sketches the tree branches, beginning to reinterpret them using metal. “Until now I was dedicated to exploring the unique essence of stones, but this new work would solely focus on the unique shape and texture of tree branches. The curvatures and sprawls will be incorporated into the designs of various furniture,” he says. His next steps include 3D modeling and planning the production of the new project, utilizing sand molding and aluminum casting to replicate the texture of tree branches in furniture and mass-produce the design.

Photo by Sisan Lee

sisan lee stone pagoda 3 level

“Stone Pagoda_Level 3,” 2021. Photo by Sisan Lee

A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 08 with the headline “Sisan Lee.” Subscribe today.

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