Between Moments of Leisure _Lee Eunjoo

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Text by Lee Eunjoo(curator and art historian)
from Jina Park's catalog, solo exhibition 2005
(translated from Korean)

Between moments of Leisure

  

The recent works of Jina Park show paintings in which the canvases are divided horizontally and vertically into four roughly-equal-sized rectangles. Each rectangle has an image, which is repeated in the other three rectangles with a slight time difference in the motion of the subject depicted. These four sequential images are paintings of real-life scenes the artist has captured with a Lomo toy camera. As can be inferred from the title “Leisure,” what we see in these scenes are people who are spending their time in a leisurely manner, with no particular event in progress. For example, in one scene a man stretches out his arm. In another, a man is peeling an orange or is bending his knees. Such very ordinary movements and scenes that constitute the major subject matter of the artist’s works in the current show carry no sense of intense urgency, conflict, or drama. These utterly ordinary acts are captured in sequence, slowly with a Lomo  camera. The slight difference in focus and movement in each frame heightens the sense of leisureliness of these scenes, because the small time gaps between individual frames feel elongated in the painting. These scenes of leisurely afternoons, and the sense of time passing slowly, have been portrayed not to drive home the “meaning of living slowly,” or the preciousness of the quotidian in life. Instead, these works express a particular attitude that the artist wants to maintain.

 

What we can discover from Park’s grammar is that while her works deal with scenes of real-life situations, they exclude an intention to imprint any particular traces of life. The quotidian in her work, casually passing through in the scenes portrayed, are at a point where the weight of a documentary and its epic narrative have been all but completely stripped. To be exact, the non-extraordinary motions and situations depicted by the artist reveal the non-extraordinariness itself. The scenes in her works do not refer to events that require a particular interpretation, and they consistently maintain a sense of existence that one could let pass but not let pass as insignificant or trivial. In this context, the title “Leisure” says much about the point of origin of Park’s recent works. The sense of looseness and leisureliness that Park’s works emanate comes not only from the sequential time frame created by a Lomo camera but also from the subject matter of the work itself. In other words, the subjects in Park’s works are on the sideline of the tight structure of production and labor, and she is depicting those actions that cannot be transferred to social production values. Her images are filled with ordinary activities that give one the feeling of talking with friends and family at a picnic. These scenes take as their collateral a deviation from, or even a resistance against, the weight of work. This is not to say that Park’s works advocate entertainment as a compensation for productive work. Her works depict that space which belongs to neither work nor entertainment, the two poles of the structure of social production and consumption. The leisureliness one feels in Park’s works is derived from this socially blank space.

 

This feeling of leisure one gets from Park’s works, which is akin to looking at the passing clouds, presumes that the scenes could begin to move along at any time. In this sense the frames in the paintings do not “seize” the scenes as in still life paintings. In doing so, the artist is perhaps resisting against all that is established and accomplished. On the one hand, it is a resistance against the moral of the traditional plane of painting, where everything has to be compressed and expressed in a frame of a single moment. In Park’s recent works, there is an exclusion of “condensation,” which requires decisiveness and tenacity. Instead, one finds a gentle “flow” created by four sequential frames. Not one focus but four focuses, not one scene but a sequence of four images quietly sideline the mandate of the two dimensional plane of painting, where all elements of the painting have to be condensed into a single theme and conveyed in a single core content. In terms of the method, too, there is a feeling that the artist’s brush strokes were not belabored, they were made in a steady pace. Again, it shows that Park’s works sideline the goal of a “painterly accomplishment” where an enormous amount of energy has to be concentrated and fiercely condensed. Her works are far removed from the world of the traditional masterpiece paintings whose hallmarks are a high degree of structure and density, in front of which the viewer feels a certain tension, a catharsis, or a visual shock.

 

Park said that when she painted from photographs taken by a Lomo toy camera, she faced an opportunity to solve a problem of expression in painting. Due to the nature of the camera, pictures usually had to be taken outdoors where there was plenty of light, and they had to be mostly snap shots. When painting such photographs, the artist faced the task of not only expressing the light and movement, but also the task of having to effectively render the situation of the moment. Also, because the camera had four lenses each lens took the same scene at a slightly different angle and time, creating subtle differences in the composition, the subject motion, and the light source. This drew more attention than it would otherwise, and the slight differences between the frames came to be perceived as more important than the actions taking place inside the frames. Park does not duplicate with her painting the pictures she has taken with a Lomo camera. Instead she plays with the differences between the frames, giving more weight to some, or changing some others. In some cases, she depicts the differences very carefully, in other cases she moves on swiftly. In this way, she has created a rhythm, and through the repetition and differences of a scene an image is completed. Because there are four sequential frames, the images are not concentrated in a single focus; still the artist has the task of painting it as a single scene. Through such a self-imposed task, Park raises the question of “What is indeed a ‘complete painting?’” She has said that she wants to create “horizontal paintings, or paintings without hierarchy.” Her recent works are an experiment on the degree of completion in painting away from the sphere where a strong single system and power control the frame. Through such an inquiry, Park turns upside down the burden of the myth of the traditional masterpieces, and from the sideline of such tradition she raises an important question about painting.    

 

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