Sun-Woong Bang


by Roy Ananda


Though only recently graduated, Adelaide artist Sun-Woong Bang is generating remarkable momentum in both his studio practice and career. The emerging jeweller has exhibited Australia-wide and in his native Korea in group exhibitions and jewellery fairs, as well as being the recipient of numerous grants and awards. Following his graduation from Adelaide Centre for the Arts in 2005, Bang took up a year’s residency at Gray Street Workshop and is currently an Associate of the JamFactory Metal Studio, where he continues to hone his fine and delicate aesthetic.

Working primarily with sterling silver and gold (though occasionally augmented with timbers and precious stones), Bang produces both wearable jewellery, including brooches, bracelets and earrings, and sculptural, non-wearable pieces. His jewellery centres around a simple and profound idea, specifically the notion that the contemporary practice of today will, with the passage of time, be inevitably absorbed into tradition. Bang sees his role as an artist as being a kind of conduit between past and present, marrying the ancient techniques of filigree [1] and granulation with contemporary approaches to form and materiality. While his work is unmistakeably contemporary, the elemental forms he employs hint at a kind of timelessness or universality.

In the past couple of years, Bang has generated a prolific body of work using a highly restrained vocabulary of simple, repeated forms. Cellular in nature, Bang partially attributes inspiration for these works to his earlier studies in biochemistry where, under the microscope, he observed the common building blocks of all living things. The key elements of Bang’s visual vocabulary are clustered granules of metal and long, coiled strands of filigree. Delicately soldered, these individual units cluster densely together as if held by their own magnetic field or gravitational pull. The coils of filigree, in works like the Cloud series of brooches and neck pieces, seem charged with potential energy, like the springs of a clockwork mechanism.

The exquisite detail of the work is hard won. In conversation, Bang quips about his penchant for self-torture in the form of the laborious and painstaking processes that typify his work. Consequently, as an adjunct to what he calls his ‘serious’ work, Bang indulges his more playful side in works such as I am a fish (a series of whimsical brooches) and Check Mate, a cheeky hybrid of cheese boards and chess boards. Though light-hearted in their character, these pieces want for nothing in terms of their skilful construction. Indeed Check Mate consists not only of 32 silver filigree cheese skewers (one for each piece in the chess set), but also the beautifully constructed board, made of olive, oak, jarrah and stainless steel.

Currently Bang is pursuing his sculptural urge in non-wearable pieces like Broken Borders (wall piece), an arched web of silver filigree and Bubbles, a partially formed cylinder of coiled silver. In these works Bang is at liberty to increase scale and create ever more delicate and improbable forms that might not withstand being worn in day-to-day life. He is also currently collaborating with Michael Yuen on prototypes for ‘digital jewellery’, brooches inset with LCD screens of the iPod variety, into which the wearer can import their own images. Seemingly unsatisfied with linking only past and present jewellery practice, Sun-Woong Bang is extending his speculations to the future of his medium as well.


[Footnote] [1] Filigree and granulation, whilst relatively specialised fields of contemporary jewellery, were commonly practiced techniques amongst ancient Greek and Etruscan jewellers. Both techniques involve the laborious soldering of tiny individual units of metal to form surfaces and shapes; in the case of filigree, delicate twisted threads of metal and in the case of granulation, minute metal beads.

[writer bio] Roy Ananda is a South Australian artist and writer.

[credit] First published in the Craftsouth Bulletin, Issue 5, November-December 2008.