The Moment When Everyday Reality Reveals Itself_Daebum Lee

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An essay by Daebum Lee(Art Critic)
from Jina Park's Solo Exhibition catalogue, ONE AND J. Gallery, Seoul, 2008
(translated from Korean)

The Moment When Everyday Reality Reveals Itself

  

It goes without saying that when one appreciates a work of art, one simultaneously perceives both the subject in a work of art and how the artist represents this subject.  Of the two, it is much easier to talk about the former as the viewer can recognize and appreciate the subject matter within conventionally recognized systems of perception.  In this regard, the viewer is confident that he or she is on the same page as the artist as to what the subject is.  It is a completely different story when it comes to discussing the latter, that is, how the artist represents the subject.  Here, all the elements within the conventional based system of perception dream of escape.  This happens both on a conscious and subconscious level since the artists intention works on both a conscious and subconscious plane.  The artists subliminal intention can be found in the artists technique, i.e. the way they paint, thereby allowing the viewer to sense the artists attitudes in ways that go beyond simply viewing the subject matter of the work.  It is in this space that the disconnect with the viewer and the artist occurs.  When the artist evokes something that lies beyond the cognitive grasp of the viewer, the viewer begins to feel uneasy for being pressured or obliged to see beyond the habitual confines of his or her traditional bounds of perception.  That being said, the viewer should pay attention to this place, for no more reason than the intrinsic meaning of a work inhabits this very place.  So, let us now turn our attention to the works of the artist Jina Park.

 

1. What Is Represented: What can you see in the works? For starters, there are people in particular places (e.g. the open air, a party, a park at night, an exhibition). They do not seem to be engaged in any special activities. Maybe they are taking a rest, eating something, standing around or sitting idly. Whether alone or with other people, the people in the works are situated as such, like nobodies. The artist seems to indicate her acquaintances but this fact seems not to be so important as each are merely someone who engages in an activity.

 

2: How Are the Subjects Represented: What can you see about the subjects? The tracks of brush strokes passing across swiftly on the canvas do not depict every detail of the subjects but represent them only suggestively.  The subjects are settled on the canvas somewhat awkwardly. The viewers’ eyes that could be directed to the represented subjects themselves are instead captured by the traces of the brushes.  Nevertheless, the subjects are not reduced to meaningless things.  While it is true that the subjects are not described in detail, the rapidly running brush strokes act to catch momentary memories and feelings.  The colors and tones created by the multiple layers of paint and the composition of the paintings represent the subjects in a simple and more distinct manner.  What are most important are the eyes of the artist. The painter keeps an objective and psychological distance from the subjects. She occupies the standpoint of a sheer observer almost as a voyeur even though she paints her acquaintances.  Those who are in the picture planes do not make eye contact amongst themselves. They, as individuals, are just devoted to doing their own things which are in no way special. While lively and clamorous spaces are packed with people, the figures in the space, the people she spends time with, are separated from one another like lonely islands. Thus, the artist does not focus on each of the subjects or the relations between them but rather the emotional and psychological sentimentality created by them. [This is most obviously shown by the Moontan series. A group of people are doing the same thing in the same place, but their activities are not unified as one. The word ‘same’ becomes different or individual.’ At the same time, what the artist depicts is not the subjects she paints (i.e. she is not trying to describe them) but what is outside of them and what she creates is then diffused back to include the subjects that are depicted.]

 

EAT, SLEEP, HAVE VISIONS.

The notions of both ‘what to represent’ and ‘how to represent’ have been constant throughout Park’s earlier work, If there appears a change in this show it is that the divided picture plane moves to a unified one but there is more significance than the fact that two or four pictures planes are merged into one. As is implied by the titles of her past solo shows, Leisure and Excursion, the artist has worked on those trivial actions found in a social system that lauds productivity. These behaviors are particularly exemplified by the figures delicate motions on the canvases. The similar but different four picture planes are suited for expressing not only the temporal difference but also the pictorial one through simple composition and brush work.  They are one, but simultaneously, they are not for the subtle differences in both time and the pictures themselves.
        The divided picture plane is fused into one in the Moontan series. As is suggested by a mat spread in the center, the figures are gathered here for one purpose. However, Park presents them lacking unity: they are scattered and respectively immersed in their own trivial activities. The minute differences found in the divided picture plane are combined in the same picture through different figures. Accordingly, they cannot gather on the mat in the center but hang around it irrespective of their intent to be there. [The dark background occupying the large part of the series has another meaning. It makes the viewer focus on the situation by cutting off the periphery of the canvas. As the figures exist individually and off-center, the space is presented as isolated, floating, and disconnected from the whole].
        In this exhibition, Park chooses only some particular activities and more crowded places. People should meet, talk, smile, and make connections in these spaces but the subjects in Parks paintings deviate from time and space while engaged in their activities.  In the work Everybodys Leaving, when the viewers’ eyes travel along the big table in the center they meet the moment when the figure in the middle is on the brink of eating something. Considering the situation, the room that had previously been filled with many people seems to have just been emptied: there are no people but only the traces of them. All situational aspects are missing and only the figure’s act of eating is emphasized. The space of deviation from the everyday life intersects this most visceral activity. In the work Sleeping at the Corner, a figure who has fallen asleep is leaning back in the chair and also seems isolated from the party. Though placed in the center, the figure is sleeping in a space where the party is undoubtedly being held.  This type of figure who is out of place is also found in the work Man eating Pizza Under a Persimmon Tree. The subject is eating pizza in great haste and the combination of the persimmon tree and pizza is unfamiliar. In a way, the man is out of place where people eat pizza. Unlike the figures in other paintings, the subjects who inhabit the works Projector Test and Grand Piano are together engaged in an activity and even their eyes meet or go in the same direction. However, they are overwhelmed by the space. Previously, Park has given weight more to figures than to space and to the behaviors than to the figures. In these two works, space overpowers figures and their acts. The blue light of the projector and the grand piano lying in the center like a coffin create the atmosphere of the whole space.

Jina Park paints moments of everyday life. Thus, they can be easily found by us who live in the same age. However, those moments do not stop as personal ones, but have lingering effects on the viewers. The reason for this is that the artist does not focus on what to represent but on how to represent. Park presents the most routine moments yet the viewer is unsettled by the provocation caused by the deviation from the common norms of perception to which he is accustomed.  Might these moments be the only moments when the everyday reality of man reveals itself?

 


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