Sungwoo Choi's life began with a job, as a mechanical engineer, and an industry, car manufacturing, in a country, Korea, and a city, Seoul. And one day, while on a trip in Paris and a visit at the Centre Pompidou, he came across a painting: the Black Square by the painter Kazimir Malevitch. A dazzling work which, when it was created in 1915, opened the door to a new language and a new creative world based on forms, that of abstraction and minimalism.

And that was the day Sungwoo decided to "embrace art", initially alongside his work: he took up drawing and woodworking again, and devoted his free time to this demanding apprenticeship at weekends and during the week, working several hours a day, mainly in the morning before going to work. For 5 years he continued at this pace, half engineer, half craftsman, before becoming a full-time 'craftsman-artist' 4-5 years ago.

And in turn he invents a language that blends the Cartesian rigour of form and 3D conceptualisation with the poetry of imagination and the organic nature of things, things that you find when you go for a walk in the mountains and that become miniature works of art when the tools and hands come into play.


Because the material with which Sungwoo Choi works is wood: the kind he buys or the kind he finds on the ground, walking in the mountains around his home, in that other Seoul, far from the urban frenzy, because in this city the mountains are never far away.

He uses only Korean woods: birch, persimonn, hackberry, with which he creates small objects, contemplative or utilitarian, notably his fabulous series of leaves which is presented today.

This series of ginkgo leaves is particularly striking, evoking the yellow carpet that these spectacularly shaped leaves, a perfection of nature, form as they fall in autumn all over Korea.

In his impeccable studio, rigour and imagination coexist: a joyful mix of woodworking tools, including machines that look as if they came straight from his old trade, a few sculpting utensils, and inspirational moodboards, assemblages of elements found in the forest: dried leaves, small branches, inspiring organic shapes.

For his series of leaf spoons, the artisanal work involved is incredibly long and intense: he first conceptualises the shape in 3D (a legacy of his former profession as an engineer) before using precise, delicate gestures to carve blocks of wood, which are transformed into ginkgo, oak, apricot and chestnut leaves... Water, walnut oil and fire then enable them to be adapted for food use. They come in a range of sizes, from incredibly fine micro-spatulas to serving utensils, but they always exude infinite poetry and perfect harmony and balance.

In today's fast-paced world, these little works of art fill us with wonder, touching something deep within us, a graceful object that doesn't even have to have a use if you want it to, just infinite contemplation that does the soul good. Because yes, objects can do good!

Sungwoo Choi's series of leaves, particularly ginkgo, is available in very limited quantities on the eshop to be found here.

Photographs Sungwoo and atelier ©️ Shin Namu - Photographs products and ginkgo leaf ©️ Atelier Ikiwa

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