The painting finally completed at 3 p.m.
I look back at the first time I saw this work. This single work, installation, and space shined more brightly and beautifully for me than the dozens, hundreds of objects that filled the exhibition space at the time. This is the story of a work that projects the 3 p.m. sunshine blazing through the exhibition space’s window onto an artificially mass-produced object based on standardized values, thereby rendering eerie coloration in the work, seemingly void of any aesthetic taste. Yet the colors are so uncanny that they bring the work a sense of completion and balance. This is the story of PARK Kyungryul’s paintings, which I believe I can now elaborate on a bit further.
Disinterest in the story; a non-narrative structure
Let’s begin by looking at the artist’s earliest works. Featuring meticulous details, her works from 2008 to 2012 hint at complex imaginations taking place in her mind, perhaps like an epic novel. The high-angle view of the countless icons floating about evokes an image of a dystopia pretending to be a utopia. Objects already codified into language cannot become free from meaning. Like the saying “objects do not harass people; it is the people’s thoughts about the objects that harass them,”1) the concepts already adhered to the icons in painting quickly become narratives that tirelessly haunt us like ghosts. However, how can a recorder, braided hair, cock, merry-go-round, mahjong, and Agrippa possibly weave a story together? While the scene is ostensibly filled with allegories, it remains impossible to decipher any particular code, leaving the audience at merely “sensing”the work and nothing more. Like a novel filled with characters without a real story to follow, the artist’ painting forces the viewer to flinch and pause.
PARK Kyungryul’s meticulous details noticeably become more abstract in her later works. Such visual change can be found starting with her works from 2017. She removed unnecessary lines and detailing, requiring greater focus of the senses when appreciating her work. In the spots that no longer sport the detailed forms which the artist would have placed in her earlier works, the artist fills the gap with color and brushwork. She merely addresses such mysterious painting as a result of intuitive gestures. The artist calls these gestures an attempt to grasp the thoughts that quickly cross the mind when engaging in the behavior known as “painting” or the senses that have yet to become codified in language. Thus on the material called “canvas” as the scaffold, the artist records the kinetic movements of the body-gripping the brush coated with the materiality of the “paint.” To be more precise, her painting can be better described as an act of “emplacement” than “recording.” The images that comprise various structures atop the stage of the canvas are more like a group of individuals rather than a collective whole that renders the bigger picture. These images are not placed to create a temporally linear narrative, but rather serve as independently placed “pieces of brushstrokes.” Therefore, while it may seem natural to expect that various images stacked atop a common surface would provoke the imagination of a story, it may also be natural that they do not, in fact, contain any story whatsoever. The artist canvases turn straight lines into curves, which are then chopped up to hop around playfully between coincidence and jest, mystery and fantasy, and certainty and uncertainty. The surface of this works thus remains faithful to creating a nonnarrative structure until it finally attempts to transcend into the space beyond the canvas.
The sensibility that sweeps the stage
During her studies in London, she held the exhibition New Paintings (2017) at the SIDE ROOM. It was at this point that the artist appears to begin freeing himself from the shackles of the “surface” when dealing with the medium of paintings. Later in Korea, her flight from the canvas began to become fully apparent in her exhibition at the SongEun ArtSpace in 2018. The many unnamed “pieces of objects” placed in the exhibition space could be more appropriately described as “free” than “new.” This is because such objects are in fact the physical manifestations of the “pieces of images” she previously sought to portray through her brushstrokes on canvas. Expanding into physical space beyond the flat surface, her subjects do not find their basis on specific relationships much like their counterparts on canvas. They are not found objects, but rather something that the artist just happened to select naturally. While these objects are seemingly placed in a disinterested way, each of their position feels like their own. Yet at the same time, a slight shift from their established position does not feel so wrong either, per her deliberate calculations. The way she deals with her materials and forms structure appears consistent with her previous methods.
As we imagine the order in which the artist stacks each independent object, our gaze is drawn to the stage conducted by the artist (whether that is on paper, canvas, or exhibition spaces), expanding our senses. The audience who enters the exhibition space inevitably weave through the paintings and objects, thereby creating their unique lines of movement at their own pace and rhythm. This “score” generated by each individual’s particular traits and simple coincidence is as natural and distinct from each other as her method of working. Such traces of senses and audience left behind by each viewer resemble a dance score. Her works thus grasp the most physical medium as they head towards the most immaterial moment.
Return to the senses: Recording sensations
The flat, small, and light things based on space, movement, time, and rhythm rely on each other, supporting each other to create a balance. If paintings serve as a medium that preserves the temporality of the very moment the brush was held in the painter’s hand, the artist strives to bring such temporality to the present and expand it into space, turning it into the present form. The elements sitting still within the canvas or in the actual physical space prompt the audience to move. As the audience weaves through the jagged gaps between the works, they are encouraged to imagine how the artist stacked the objects and yearn to take in the sight of the stage presented like a dispersed collection of fragments. the artist refers to her works as a process for removing the boundaries and limitations that define a painting, such as color, form, and composition. If she considers that the paintings of present become fully complete when they reach a certain point in physical space, where then, does that point of completion lie? Perhaps it is unique moment that can be found amidst the endless cycling between the material and immaterial, wherein the two-dimensional becomes three-dimensional only to retrograde to two-dimensionality again. Perhaps the decisive factor that determines the point of destination is unpredictability, a certain moment when coincidence intervenes, when the afternoon sunshine briefly reflects off the work at 3 pm, for example.
1)Sterne, Lurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Eulyoo Publishing, 2012), p. 6.
Jihyun Shin curated exhibitions -21 Century Paintings(2021, Hitecollection, co-curating), 10 Pictures(2020, WESS), Eunjoo Rho Solo Exhibition Walking―Aside(2019, Space Willing N Dealing), Eun Chun Solo Exhibition Floor(2019, SeMA Storage), We are star stuff(2018, Doosan Gallery, co-curating), 3×3: Paintings and Sculptures(2018, Audio Visual Pavilion), Post-Pictures(2015, Gallery175) among other projects and exhibitions she participated. Currently, Shin is an assistant curator at Hite Collection and a co-curator of WESS. She continues to write and curate a show with constant interests in seeking the sustainability of the traditional mediums, especially sculptures and paintings.