Article | Jan 2015
Park Gwang Soo – Investigating the In-Between
By Ayelet Danielle Aldouby
1 Man on a pillow, drawing installation view, Insa Art Space, 2012
A vulnerable and ephemeral sense of existence weaves through the works of Park Gwang Soo as he uses a world of fantasy in his investigation of subjects and imagined events. By doing so he allows a unique observation into the artistic process and an exploration of the in-between: Reality and imagination, space and matter.
In his early work from 2001 Park focuses on an imaginary world generated in physical reality. The inherently surreal world becomes the point of departure for an existential quest In Space Odyssey, depicting destruction, decomposition and chaos.
Park uses literary and cinematic lexicon to create a tightly controlled narrative and creates a framework against which the narrative plays out. His subjects and objects are in a constant state of flux .The everyday images of holding a hot mug, cutting meat and fish become ruins of a symbolic idyll when juxtaposed with the image of the abyss. They generate their own atmospheres, ecosystems and visual noise, echoing and contradicting the destruction.
In the body of work from 2012, Man on a Pillow, Park constructs another reverie developing a familiar environment: fauna and flora, insects, birds etc . The Surrealistic symbolism becomes evident in the floating Island, the Castle with its flying building bricks and in the head of Ice Man composed of hollow ice cubes. The holes between the cubes fragment the structure and allow one to peek inside. These holes can serve to represent Park’s exploration of the in-between. The holes expose the illusion of the cubes as a structure and leaves the viewer puzzling over the empty spaces in the work– Do they lead to another dimension? Does it reveal or conceal, does it illuminate or obliterate? The challenge is not to lose oneself in these depths. Man on a Pillow leaves these questions open yet embodies possible insights into reality and dreams. For Park they are the same.
In later work, Walking in the Dark, many of the images are drawn from nature and serve not only as subject matter but to create the atmosphere: darkness, quivering wind, the form of the branches. These elements serve well in Disappeared in Forest, a theme which preoccupies Park. For him, drawing is like getting lost in the forest. The thin black lines become the line; of the forest, of the dark and of the trees. The planes are fragmented and reconstituted in phantom form while the lines themselves expand from the existing world.
The deconstruction of the planes of the work may emphasize Park’s methodology as he interrogates the disappearance of objects and subjects and even time. The images in Walking in the Dark demonstrate the multiple meanings that can be packed into a single landscape. At first glance they seem familiar to the viewer; birds, woods, forests, fire, wind. Upon a second glance these simultaneous perspectives, such as distance and close up views, supplemented by duplications and repetitions of the lines create a staggering uncertainty. Branches in the wood create an orderly yet turmoil landscape while a generational depiction of a human eating meat reveals itself as a near-apocalyptic scene. It is hard to establish if these images are created from Park’s imaginary narrative or whether some primordial memory mechanism is in place. These images have no time reference and Park describes it as if he paused for 30 years.
Linked with surreal dream-like elements, subjects such as the birds in the animation Circling or the Three moons from 2014 seem to assist Park in his investigation of the transformation of objects into images. In Stare, ten studies of a bird ( or interrogations as Park calls them) offer various anthropomorphic stand-ins for the human viewer. A Flock of Birds in the Dark epitomizes the invisible: emotional states and hidden forces.
There is always an expectation for something to occur, for the narrative to present itself , for the phenomena to develop, and as such Park creates suspense and confusion at the same time. The seemingly familiar take on a different meaning; eerie and mysterious. The simple line of a pen takes on a new form.
The line/drawings function as a script in creating Park’s narrative. His vocabulary resembles the automatic writing process of the surrealist tradition with purely rhetorical processes. He alternates between the use of an ink pen to generate minimal drawing expressions, and his invented handmade sponge brush in order to remove any limits on the thickness of the lines .
Park calls “the force of a brush stroke” – the power of a line, as he scrutinizes the way the line converges, splits and fades. He treats the line as a live organism that not only creates the subject but also touches the subject as if breathing life into it.
These lines turn into a three dimensional sculptures made of found plastic fragments in his series Star Sign and Fragments. Each structure holds its own resonance, its own mythological presence, its own spiritual purpose and vitality. A plastic representation of the line is the dialectical push and pull of a figure that moves in and out of space simultaneously.
Nothing is secure in Park’s work. Everything is temporary and just like his animations, the perceived conscious appears and disappears. The use of familiar elements in the form of nature and everyday objects is deceiving as they are not meant to ground, only to lead us to his world. In doing so, the idea of becoming conscious of the subjectivity of our perceptions becomes clear: Park’s works cannot be fully grasped. Everything about them appears to be hybrid and full of contradictions: The black and white, the dark and faded, the delicate and heavy, idyllic-utopian and eerily threatening, all at the same time.
Park uses narrative to create the subject and the situation. As he presents the images and his investigation of the gap in-between he lets the viewers replicate his own process to create their own narrative. As such the “in-between” holds its own unseen energies not just as the subject of Park’s artworks, but also as the essence of his current artistic practice.
By Ayelet Danielle Aldouby, Special Projects Curator , Residency Unlimited, NYC.