Review of Cheongju Art Studio Artist Park Mirae’s Work
Image of consciousness caught in daily life,
contemplative attitude and languages of metaphor
Hong Gyeong-han(Art Critic)
In an artist Park Mirae’s work <Passed down from grandfather >(2016), a variety of marine objects appear. There are a huge aircraft carrier, a small ship, a trumpet shell, a paper boat, stars and fishing boats, and they are surrounded by choppy waves. The wild canvas showing the artist’s unique style is relying on dynamic flow together with the objects in this painting, with explosively strong energy. This painting gives a strong yet ponderous impression.
The artist wrote in an artist statement “My thoughts about the sea where my maternal grandfather stayed for a long time were vehemently completed as many images were overlapping and the branches of icons were freely spreading outward.” In other words, a series work <Passed down from grandfather > is to memorize her maternal grandfather who lived and died as a fisherman.
So, the artist might call it ‘Jinhonwha-painting for the repose of the deceased’ which is to comfort the spirit of the dead. Indeed, <Passed down from grandfather > shows the phases of his life who relied his living and survival on the sea that was his life-long vocation and the bottom of the life. Starts serving as a lighthouse in the night sky were quite romantic but the appearance of different ships can be interpreted as the sea of fierce coexistence, the expulsion from a base to live, or the struggle not to be pushed out of it. Just looking at the choppiness and movement of pitching formative elements on the canvas amply tells how her maternal grandfather life was.
But, it is too fragmentary to regard this painting as recall or return of memories. Rather, the artist’s eyes are added to ‘Recollection’, thereby widening thought, which is the very characteristic of this work. In other words, it is marked with a side dot in that it complexly reflects the artist’s thought of various layers based on her emotions and reminiscence she felt through her maternal grandfather. The artist points this as uncharted sea and sea of sacrifice, romance, challenge, struggle, and livelihood. It is a division intertwined with many images that support a word, sea. But, what <Passed down from grandfather > is distinctive is that it is possible to substitute with the same age. In other words, this work is meaningful in that it can be expanded to the portraits of contemporaries who live in modern times, going beyond an individual’s speculative story. Think, we live days impassively or violently in a social structure almost same as the ocean that is too big and deep to figure out. We are struggling to keep or achieve a position in our lives while being stepped and pressed by living a fast-paced life.
Then, the ultimate message Imagine the artist wants to tell us through <Passed down from grandfather > might be still far away. In this regard, <Between heaven and hell(2014)> is also one of her distinctive works. This work interestingly draws the heads of animals, not the whole bodies. Deer, sheep, bear, and lion that appear often in her paintings are harmonized on the canvas without showing their bodies. In addition, icons stop like a snapshot, so they even seem to be peaceful at first sight. The traces of natural ecosystem are calm and quiet, like a scene in the universal sense that a noun, flower in full bloom and animal delivers. \
But, on a closer view, animals’ eyes are pupilless and air flow is dry. Pupilless eyes mean no soul. Due to that reason, the overall painting is filled with unknown anxiety as dull as it is. Of course, the fact that the apex predators and herbivores gather altogether makes it uneasy. Therefore, <Between heaven and hell> is also equivalent to modern people’s lives. I eventually ask again what consuming people, who live losing their subjective and identity like a machine, and animals with pupilless eyes are different.
I could recognize <Between heaven and hell> expresses today when we come and go between heaven and hell, with a sunken look that has no space that can foresee the future as we are busy losing and winning under the control of power, as seen in the characteristics of <From a grandfather on the sea>(2016). I realize that the animals in the painting and humans are all same. Eventually, <Between heaven and hell> vividly shows the world of animals and the world of humans are equally anxious no matter what the artist’s intention is.
But, this anxiety is clearly maximized in her another work <Between heaven and hell>(2012) of the same title. Unknown plants are positioned, whereas there is a deer on one side of the canvas. But, the canvas is strongly sweeping and brush strokes are not mild. Especially, the deer lifting its head and crying dismantles visual identity itself and serves as psychological anxiety representing man.
This setting displays a more dramatic scene in contrast with a flock of swans at the bottom of the canvas. That’s seriously crossing contemporaries whose framework of existence is infinitely heavy inevitably. In this regard, Park Mirae’s paintings are cold and scary. This is particularly true with the chanting of the substance that leads a life in false peace as if something that must not get caught is caught.
Now, let’s move onto her video work. As part of artist relay exhibition at Cheongju Art Studio in Chungbuk, <Machine becomes junk and humans become useless>(23min and 5sec, 2016) of the same title as the exhibition held in December 2016 is a video that variously expresses the lives of daily objects, natural objects and artifacts, and animals. According to the artist, she made it look poetic. But unfortunately, this work is not that poetic. The boundary between free verse and lyric poetry is ambiguous, the ultimate character about what is compared is also uncertain. Various narratives are contained so that it is even difficult to understand the characteristics. From this perspective, this work is more like omnibus mini documentary, rather than a poem or poetic.
The artist said about the content and composition of this work “The overall context starts from the creation and extinction of all things in the world, but it is constructed to expose the absurd of the structure entangled inside.” This writer thinks this statement is true. And, it really coincides with the history that unfolded the disharmony between pure nature and artificial environment, survivability, and existence shown in her previous paintings such as <Stuffed animal>(2012-2014) series, <Knight>(2014), and <Hollyhock>(2014) series, through the ways of the world. As it is not an organized video, it is not technically sophisticated but the weight of sympathy is valid. Because everyone lives a life while feeling, experiencing, and sympathizing with the absurd of structure and the creation and extinction of all things in the world stated by Park Mirae.
Then, I wonder what narrative is contained in <Machine becomes junk and humans become useless>. The first scene starts with the heave of the cool sea reminiscent of the artist’s hometown Sokcho. And, people gather toward the sea, and a fish tank containing squids, crabs and fish appears, thereby exploring the maze of the artist’s personal memories. The next scene shows a certain space in a close-packed city. There are many street cats, including cats rolling, napping and staring at. Their usual lives are slowly spreading at the bottom in comparison with a crow and a magpie on a telephone pole.
Next, a house which is their(cats) resting place and basic home to people are demolished for redevelopment, and a camera unintentionally flashes at a street of downtown Seoul. Meanwhile, a scene of the past club overlaps and at the same time zoo animals spending hot summer appear. Following a continuity of scenes of building, sky, flower and tunnel, there is a scene of the demonstration of sexual minorities. Then, a scene of rock festival and a scene of the candlelight rally cross each other, eventually showing the ending scene of fireworks.
The style shown in <Machine becomes junk and humans become useless> is based on dailiness. It is a trivial usual record and is exactly about the narration about time. As the artist said, that is near to a bourgeois observer towards the world as an observer. “I am familiar to the way of metaphorically reproducing things I realize and feel in my life. Painting and drawing unfolds the fast-gestures led by instinct and intuition on the canvas, and it is a work to film current social spaces through undirected shooting.
But, an image that is available by a pictorial language is transformed into a flexible language, and this kind of language is somewhat different because it is transformed into an image that has a message as the artist’s own logic, rhetoric and philosophy are added. Of course, the image is not just a certain symbol but an experiential prototype that controls the artist’s consciousness and these of a universal life that lies in a very near distance.
In particular, the artist’s own emotion viewing the world is contained inside, which makes it different from other video works. To put it plainly, life layers that are not great but obviously hovering around us are piled in her video, and they infiltrate linearly. It is against the backdrop of placidly captured reality, contradiction and sophistry encroaching on a life, and self that disguises insistence and rationality. The society that excludes altruism and cold system, and all sorts of human emotions that are alienated and neglected and even estrange themselves are reflected. And, the artist settles it in an disorderly order.
Indeed, her painting and video share the invisible context. It is true in the consistent viewpoint, and both are similar in terms of a formative pattern that develops strongly yet crudely. As Maurice Merleau Ponty said, the point ‘Topics in the world’ appoints similarity of painting and video. Therefore, the world is the source of all relationships including, of course, aesthetic and social and political relationships to Park Mirae and Ponty, and art is not broken away from the world but is part of it. In other words, art(painting or video) is thought to have played a role in determining small clues to open the world and time.
1)“Imagine no possessions”, “Imagine all the people Living life in peace”, “Imagine all the people Sharing all the world” “And the world will be as one”, “Nothing to kill or die for ”You may know what it means when appreciating the lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine “Imagine no possessions”, “Imagine all the people Living life in peace”, “Imagine all the people Sharing all the world” Then “And the world will be as one”, “Nothing to kill or die for”
2)Regarding this, the artist also said “The operation principle of life system, irony between life and death. Lives appearing on the canvas, including a flicker of evanescent pain and sadness of ‘live today’ and the present of a strange life boast a beautiful and splendid autonomous figure but contains a kaleidoscope of the ways of the world in a peaceful but violently fierce rearing structure.”
3)The expression ‘Image is consciousness’ here is actually borrowed from the reproach “an image is not an object but a spirit” in <Imagination> a great existentialism philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s maiden work at his age of 31. He made this definition after critically reviewing imagination or the status of image throughout the Epirus school of Greek Macedonia in the 5th Century B.C, the metaphysicians of the 17th and 18th centuries, the modern psychologists, and the western philosophy including Husserl.
4)A French philosopher Maurice Merleau Ponty said in his book <Phenomenology of Perception(Phenomenologie de la Perception)> that viewing an object is phenomenology of perception, every knowledge is obtained from the world surrounding us, art is the result of exploration of the world, and viewing is not a mere visual perception but points how to react to what we see and what we can know through an act of viewing.