an essay by Shinyoung Chung


An essay by Shinyoung Chung (Art Critic)
from Jina Park's Solo Exhibition 'one and one' leaflet, ONE AND J. Gallery, Seoul, 2012

Jina Park – on schizophrenic proliferation in ‘one and one’


 The development from “Packing and Checking 01”(2012) to “Packing and Checking 02”(2012) marks a turning point in the group of works shown at Jina Park’s solo show, ‘one and one’. Set inside an art storage, a succinct triangle composition in “PC(Packing and Checking) 01” – with a standing woman in the center as an apex and two crouching men working on either side of a large canvas - expands in a curious way in “PC02”. Men have doubled in their numbers in “PC02”, resulting in the back-to-back images of the two identical men, each on both sides of the canvas. Juxtaposition of the two identical figures on a pictorial planar is extremely rare in the history of modern painting, especially in the contemporary figurative scene except perhaps as mirrored images. The reason may well be that for many figurative works based on photographic images, it is unnatural to have a double image of the same figure on a single painting unless intended for a specific purpose. Pre-Renaissance artists have used multiple images of a person on manuscripts or scrolls to express continuous narratives, but the repetitive images of two men in “PC02” do not seem to stand in for a narrative. It is also relatively clear that the artist has not prepared for a confrontational structure between the multiplied figures, nor wishes to illustrate the world of occult through ghostly apparitions. The fact that the doppelgangers do not interfere with the events within the given scene makes the uncanny painting startling and refreshing.


Park’s previous works have anticipated the double images. Park has painted since 2004 the photographs taken with a four-lens lomo camera, which takes four consecutive shots of a scene with a shutter and gives as many images on a single print. Transferring almost identical images of a scene with slight differences in time and position, the artist was justified to copy the images of same figures up to four times on a single canvas. Yet there is a fundamental difference to this from “PC02” as the entire scene as well as the figure is recopied in lomo paintings, whereas in “PC02” only the figures are doubled in the same pictorial setting. Following the lomo series the artist uses photographs from a normal camera, taking several shots of the same scene and painting them separately on different canvases. In the series ‘Waiting for Screening’(2010) based on the photographs taken in the screening hall in Centre Pompidou, identical viewers appear on three different canvases with slightly different poses; previously in ‘Moontan’(2007) series, the same picnic goers are repetitively traced against the night scene on different canvases.


Park’s reiteration of the everyday scene categorically differs from Monet’s endeavor to capture the subtleties of the Rouen façade in thirty different shades, or Gerhard Richter’s intimate and loving gestures in copying Moritz’s image on several canvases; her drives are far from the paranoiac obsession of the painterly objects but closer to the schizophrenic will to expansion and multiplication. Through the disinterested process of illustrating the same scene and figures repetitively, the artist may become detached from the events within the pictorial space and confronts the frame of the painting, the delimiting border between the canvas and the outer world. How is one to set a border between this painting and others, and who would be the subject in such process. There is not a definitive vision in the process of painting which consists of looking at a given scene, taking photographs, painting them and editing the painted canvases. Grouping of multiple canvases, into diptych and triptych, in this period suggests the artist’s questioning of the pictorial frames. Although diptych “Storage 01, 02”(2010) or triptych “Persistent Boy 01, 02, 03”(2008) take the traditional form of polyptych, each canvas is almost identical to the other pair or trios and do not present a continuous vision or extend narrative. If the typical polyptych allows for an expansive vision through panoramic structure, grouped frames with altered versions of a scene recognize the possibility of fragmentation in the subjective vision, taking the elements of uncertainty and instability into the painterly institution.


This inclination to the dynamic vision is also applied in the depiction of the figures as apparent in the recent show themed around figurative studies. In “Inventory”(2011) a set of two women appears twice, once in front of stored canvases on a rack and then behind the rack, visible only through the opening in the canvas rows. The canvas rack separates the space between two sets of women, acting as temporal and spatial axis; as an internalized frame, a part of representational reality, the rack has replaced the previous framing devices such as the four-split frames of the lomo photographs or the canvas frames that stand between the identical scenes. It is poignant how the image of rack full of canvases (frames for painting) act as a visual pun and function as structural frames, separating two sets women. The reason “Inventory” seems to have been executed prior to “PC01” or “PC02” is due to the visible hesitation in the straightforward juxtaposition of the double images, which is avoided through the insertion of mediating frames and paring of the coworkers together and not the doppelgangers; both factors contribute to relieving the artist the pressure in challenging the taboo of representing identical figures side by side. “Two Stories”(2011) precedes these attempts; there is a double image of a woman with glasses on the second floor. Here the shocking presence of these two identical women is somewhat distracted by different levels of visual triggers; the frames belonging to the architectural setting – two floors, glass handrail, white wall - as well as equally dispersed figures. If it weren’t for the surprised looking man on the second floor covering his mouth with a hand, duplicated image of his coworker may have been smoothly camouflaged by the busy scenes of exhibition making, a rather recent interest for Park.


After such trials, Park’s double figures gain confidence in their appearance. It is worth examining the application of a “typical triangle composition” in painting “PC01” and “PC02”, where the transition in the status of the double figure takes place. The Renaissance cannon of the Madonna and Child such as “Madonna of the Meadow” by Raphael had been based on a triangle composition where Madonna, baby Baptist and baby Christ take each corner of the triangle. The triangular configuration resonates in “PC01”, as the backlit woman on the top, a kneeling man on the left and the second man facing him overlap with the holy counterparts. In “PC02”, the doppelgangers of the working men on sides of the canvas are positioned right next to the originals without disturbing the balancing act of the triangle; in presenting the conspicuous images of the doppelgangers, Park takes advantage of the stability of the familial triangle as it may expand to the Holy Family as necessary, reconfiguring and adopting the excess. As in “Carnigiani Holy Family” or “Madonna of Foligno”, the formation of Madonna and Child expands incorporating other saints and patrons, aligning them on either sides of Madonna as entourage. They are classic examples of the opening up of the enclosed family triangle to face the outer world as well as the logical display of access to capital through the portrayal of the patron. Just as Deleuze & Guattari have diagnosed the schizophrenia of the contemporary society through the critique on the Freudian Oedipus triangle, Park’s multiplied men symbolize the schizophrenic fragmentation as the contemporary symptom as well as the challenge to the authority of the history of figurative painting.


In coming up with the idea of multiplied men, Park was inspired by a pair of assistants from Kafka’s <The Castle>, who act together in following the protagonist, K; this explains the disinterest, silent tension and the strange camaraderie between the doppelgangers, such as in “PC02”, “A Blue Sofa“ “A Man with a Six-channel Video”, or “Photographing”(all 2012). Deleluze & Guattari write in <Kafka – Toward a Minor Literature> how Kafka’s characters undergo “unlimited schizophrenic proliferation” within their own series (such as two assistants, four women and six lawyers), and that this process is crucial in extending the storyline; the proliferating characters in Kafka act as a context and device for Park who had searched for the support in representing the multiplication of images through lomo paintings to multiple canvases to polyptychs. Now through the multiplication of subjects in a given scene, the artist questions against the illusive nature of the singular reality and space as well as a unified situation and context. For Park who had opted for the multiplied visions and expressions in representing her reality, the split subject may be an alternative vehicle to uncertainty of the self. In that sense the pairs of doppelgangers successfully deterritorize where they stand as if to overcome the delimited nature of the self-referential subject of art; the art-related settings in “PC02”(art storage), “A Blue Sofa”(dealing room) or “A Man with a Six-channel Video”(gallery) no longer serve for their original purposes. Albeit the use of conventional paintelry language, with the existence of doppelgangers, these grounds of art industry become a new critical arena for deconstructing the traditional belief in ‘what is painted’ and let the viewers reconsider the border between the real and the illusion. On these spaces, the storage, dealing or exhibition no longer take place as they become the realm of reevaluation, critique and distrust of reality.


The figures in “Two Women Drinking”, “Two Men Drinking”, and “Football Players”(all 2012) face directly out towards the viewers unlike the shy and timid doppelgangers in previous works. Although the images are of different individuals, how we tend to see the double image in them is a good indication of our vision that is imperfect, superficial and temporary. Like the Rorschach test, the double portraits diagnose the observing subjects; the schizophrenic double image is now internalized, disclosing the inner uncertainties within us.