Randomly Narrating the Earnest Stories in the World

 

Park Mi-rae “The Technique of Randomness”

 

Lee Yeon-ju

(Curator at Cheongju Daecheong Ho Museum of Art)

 

 

Here, there are seven paintings that begins with black waves and end with massive clouds.

Every creature in the world, gathered under the sun, are fighting between death and life. Small steam molecules, tiny like the sighs, gather to generate the power to overturn the world and consume the fishermen’s boat. Each species of life follow their instincts and habits of life, fish swimming upstream to lay eggs, creatures traveling thousands of kilometers for survival, and males fighting to secure their corner of the world, all fiercely and mercilessly. The predator at the top of the ecosystem may appear to have the physical conditions sufficient to overwhelm its enemies, but it is running toward extinction, while those thought to be extinct are discovered to be living in an unexpected place. Individual adaptations to environment, conducted to survive in the clutches of the natural cycle, continue today as well. A warlike day is completed again, and the forest without the sun is sucked into the darkness. The mountain keeps quiet in the darkness, with beasts hiding in that quietness, but humans do not tolerate this silence, filling the quiet night sky with the myths of stars and animals. More than strange stories about gods that fill the starry night sky, however there are moments that this primal and limited being of life on this earth seems strange.

 

I thought everything in the world were like “strange art.”

The sharp lines kept sticking into the painting:

With arrows flying into the body, the wound

festered and then healed again 

in the circle of life. 

 

Man and beast alike, if you stare into them

there are deep and pitiful stories. 

Everyone is carrying a thick history book

on their back. 

 

It is amazing that everyone is alive at all.

 

Park Mi-rae, “Strange Art”

 

“Technique of Randomness,” the newest art by Park Mi-rye, narrates strangely cold stories that are harbored by living things. With scathingly sharp brush strokes and layering drawing lines, the artist records on the canvas what she witness and experienced for six months. Park says when she begins to create work, she shuts herself away from the outside world to focus on the energy etched into each moment. Employing a unique painting style, she brings each story in the great natural system to motivate her art. Using the emotions she feels in each moment, she shuns artificial direction to immerse in experiences and express with spontaneity.

 

Stuffed beasts in the museum, a cat dead and drying on the rooftop

As mentioned before, what fixes the perspective of the artist is the strange irony of life and death, required for all life living under the absolute and great natural system. Her early drawing series titled “The Rule” (2013-2010) features animals that re painted as having evolved or deformed to survive in the incomplete life. In “Taxidermied Beast” (2014), she emphasizes paradoxical and incomplete situations such as ones involving taxidermied animals in natural museums made to look as if they are still alive. “From Grandfather by the Sea” (2016) that depicts the story of her maternal grandfather who spent all his life by the sea, as well as video works such as “Machines Break Down and People Grow Old” (2016), are akin to requiems that force the audience to experience the traces of fierce lives led by beings close to us, in addition to dressing their bodies for burial. As such, her requiems are designed to console and comfort all beings on earth that harbor life. Her perspectives on the outset may seem to describe the law of survival in which beings are tangled in the food chain, but her art also fundamentally penetrates the mutual relationship of humans that dominate the structure of survival of the fittest. Meanwhile, her art is also an expression of human sympathy for its subjects: That is, it is an observation of other beings from the perspective of a species at the top of the food chain.

 

Random drawing with a technique of silence

While her previous art featured many sequences such as urban night scenes filling the canvas, in “Technique of Randomness” the artist is more tacit than ever, her strokes grave. The seven vertical canvasses which seem too long to be stable display an omnibus of different stories. Other than the fact that the narrator of each painting is the artist herself, each canvas has a different and independent story, which has the potential to make the work as a whole distracting. However, one can discover the artist’s effort to maximally summarize, as if a narrator inhales a deep breath before telling a shortened but extensive story.

A conversation with the artist indicated to me that the situations surrounding her had changed significantly. She said that since she moved her studio far away from the bustling metropolis, she underwent a complete environmental change. I wondered the difference between the artist’s perspective on life and death from an artificially generated urban environment and that that experienced in the wild nature. I conjecture that Park, after having depicted sympathy for life while leading an urban lifestyle, walked into the middle of life to experience an unexpectedly black and deep darkness, unlike the ever-bright city without nights. The scenery flowing into her studio through the porch was no longer the glamorous lights she was used to. The mountains and valleys were ever transforming with the seasons, while the nights allowed the view of only stars and nothing else: Complete silence. In such a different environment, Park’s images became simpler, but the layers of stories stacked upon each other grew in depth.

Small matters congregate to form clouds and oceans, and the powerful existence of such beings are mysterious, but at the same time fearsome. The night watchman draws constellations of stars on the silent night sky; a lone mountain goat appears in the city to flaunt its pitiful existence on the cliff; antlered herbivores compete to protect their territory; blooming flowers competing in beauty. All of these images indicate that all beings are fighting for their survival in their own way. The artist, who used expend a sympathetic perspective down on the struggle for survival from the lofty human position, became a part of nature, now looking up into the world with the same perspective. Even without completely understanding the stories behind each painting, the audience will be able to paint over new stories or expend emotions while appreciating her art.

Despite the attempt to escape from the clutches, one only ran around in circles

Taking our focus from the seven paintings by Park Mi-rae, let us look at the drawing “Choco,” featuring the close-up face of a dog. This drawing displays the face of a black dog tied in front of her studio building. The dog was brought by the landlord, who tied it in front of the building without giving it enough food. For this black dog that was trapped under the sun without a sip of water to drink, the artist occasionally gave food and water and named it Choco.

 

The distance and time between the dog and the stake it is died to

has now solidified like a wire that does not extend anymore.

Today, the owner cut the rope tying the dog to the stake for the first time.

The dog’s spine, not tied to the stake anymore, does not know what to do.

The dog jumps in one spot and runs around.

The crooked spine, however, does not straighten.

Although there is nothing between the dog and the stake,

the spine is still crooked as the dog jumps and runs.

It ran pretty far away from the stake, but returned soon after.

The dog is now just walking around the stake.

The distance between the dog and the stake is still tightly fixed.

 

Kim Gi-taek, “Lines and Circles”

 

Taking care of this animal, the artist thought of the above poem, and began painting her sympathy for this being. Listening to the story behind this drawing, I thought of the puma that escaped from a zoo in Korea recently. A puma escape from a zoo in Daejeon, putting everyone in the city alert, with the city government sending out emergency text messages to the citizens. Despite the concerns, however, the puma was first discovered, crouched in the reservoir ditch in the zoo. Later the puma escaped to the hay warehouse in the zoo and was killed there. Defying the prediction that the predator would have escaped to a nearby mountain, the beast that spent its whole life in the zoo haunted its premises even up until it was killed. In this instance, the zoo—subject to criticism that it violates the rights of animals and objectifies them yet worked to protect endangered species—was ironically the place that beast believed to be the safest, even though it was the place that confined it its whole life. This is the same as humans, who criticize its own civilization and norms, confine themselves to the clutches of their convenience. It is difficult to define the killing of the puma simple “brutal,” as the system created by humans are full of contradictions. If the puma had jumped over the zoo fences to survive and ran a little farther, if Choco had cut its own constraints to bite its owner and run away into the mountain... Such conclusions may simply be stories dreamed up by human standards. With this, I examined her art again. She used vertically long canvasses because they were the most adequate screens for the environment of her studio. Even her art is becoming standardized—or evolving—to fit her environment. What is more frightening? Between the biological instincts and tensions of civilization, are we trapped in the prescribed conclusion of death, despite the struggles to which we subject ourselves? Maybe the dog with a crooked back in the clutches of life, hovering over the same place, is us, the humans.

PARK MIRAE

ARTIST

 

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