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K.NOTe no.60

Yuna Park


K.NOTe no.60

Yuna Park

Publisher Total Museum Press Pyungchang 32gil 10, Jongno-gu, Seoul Korea (03004) Tel. 82-2-379-7037 total.museum.press@gmail.com Director Jooneui Noh Editor in Chief Nathalie Boseul Shin, Yoon Jeong Koh Coordinator Haeun Lee Intern Jihyun Yoon, Seyeon Kim Designer Flaneur Sponsor Arts Council Korea Date of  Publication April 2019 Š Author and artist The reproduction of the contents of this magazine in whole or in part without written permission if prohibited.


The Training of the Human Plant acrylic oil on canvas, 194×130,162×97,162×112,194×130cm, Quadriptych_2017


K.NOTe #60 The Inner Landscape, the Abstraction of Conception Shin Hyeyoung

I will begin my essay by referencing Jeremy Rifkin’s publication, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture. This book, which was written by Rifkin in 1993, points out the many acute problems that have arisen since humanity began consuming meat as part of it diet and emphasizes that the only way to put an end to all problems of modern civilization is to put an end to the meat-eating culture. Beginning with the cruel slaughtering process of cattle, the book explains how the human perceptions on cattle changed over the course of history and the extent of industrialization that such perception change led in beef production, with a focus on the case of the United States. He states that excessive industrialization of beef production is a cruel act against animals and moreover minutely describes what kind of threats that this may present to humanity. The threats are not simply the risk of illness that may be caused by a meat-based diet. He makes sharp criticisms regarding how much grains are consumed for raising cattle; how much land is necessary across the world to cultivate such grains; how much the ecosystem is destroyed and how the environment is threatened by this; and the extent of correlation between beef production and consumption in wealthy countries compared with the poverty of the Third World countries who have to meet their demands for beef production and consumption. Even 20 years since its publication, Beyond Beef — a direct demonstration of the harmful consequences of excessive industrialization carried under the name of neo-liberalism and the problem of the global polarization of wealth through the issue of “beef” — still remains valid and has become a pressing issue for us in the present-era. 6

Furry Nights (Raunacht) oil on linen, 162×130cm, 2019

I began my critique of Park Yuna with a brief synopsis

of Rifkin’s book because her painting with the same title, Beyond Beef (2010), relates to the content of the book — and moreover embodies an important characteristic that permeates her world of art. This painting — depicting a belly-revealing homeless person lying down in front of the signboard of a barbecue restaurant with illustrations of beef ribs, thin skirt, and skirt meat — depicts the “beyond beef" culture of Korea. With the liberalization of beef imports, it has now become possible to eat a single serving of beef at a cost of only 8,000 Korean won (equivalent to approximately US$8) as advertised on the signboard, but the painting directly shows that even this price is impossible for some people to afford. Not only that, but this painting most effectively reveals the “marbling” pattern — one of the artist’s most important characteristics in her paintings in general, in terms of form — as it coincides with the content of the work. The pattern that connects the beef marbling and the homeless person’s lump of flesh, at first glance, looks somewhat like saggy “fat” and somewhat like surging “blood.” The composition of the work characterized by the form of human flesh on the floor seemingly being gazed down upon by the more valuable beef further emphasizes the theme. Such characteristics in terms of content and form of Beyond Beef provide an important clue to understanding the artist, Park Yuna. Based on this, let us take a closer look at the painterly characteristics of the artist by content and form.

Firstly, in terms of the subject matter of her work, Park

begins with the places where people mostly spend time in the city including subways, studios, offices, cafés, and Internet cafés and the people using these places. She gradually delves deeper into subjects revealing her critical perspective of the capitalistic system, including Costco, the Newtown district, redevelopment sites, franchise stores, and the streets of China. Of course, it is unlike her early work depicting neutral subject matter that did not embody a critical perspective. The subject matters that she 8

mainly chooses are not simply urban spaces but spaces that feel fatigued due to the repetitive daily lives of people. For example, the human figures that appear in works such as Fatigue-Subway (2008) and Fatigue-Man (2008) are depicted as if they are going to melt down to the floor from fatigue. In the succeeding works, the theme of expressing the marginalization and isolation of the urban people continued into presenting the contradictions of society and presenting the tragic reality in a more powerfully than before. In Emergency Exit (2009), which has a similar theme to Beyond Beef, the homeless person has fallen on the floor of Costco rather than in front of the barbecue restaurant. Costco, a warehouse discount store in the United States, is as explicit in demonstrating American capitalism as beef. Costco boasts cheap prices and an unconditional return policy, but most of their merchandise is bulkpackaged and therefore wasteful, and it is only open to people with membership. Park closely observes Costco’s characteristic of such extreme capitalism, depicting shelves stacked with merchandise like a spire (Building Costco, 2009). She portrays the large-scale retailer seeking to develop and enter markets in various countries across the world in the image of a wildcat steam locomotive of the era of industrialization (Brand-New Colony_Train in Costco). In addition, the series Relics in Their Integrity (2012), which explicitly depicts the situation of present-day China at the lead of the production and consumption of the neo-liberalist era, features antique shops on the street selling fake relics against the backdrop of fancy skyscrapers that have been newly constructed (or those that are in the process of being newly constructed). The work, therefore, symbolically depicts China’s transformation in its system — characterized by the market economy system encroaching on the socialist system. In this way, Park’s interests have consistently revealed the power of the capitalist system that is dominating the entire world, the gap between social classes resulting within, and the consequent contradictory reality. 9

Such thematic interest of the artist has a synergistic effect together with her formal characteristics. Several formal characteristics endow the paintings of the artist with a certain uniqueness. The first characteristic is the pattern that is referred to as marbling or “planaria.” This particular pattern, which has appeared from the artist’s early works — filling up the surface in whole or in part — highlights particular subjects and landscapes. Depending on the work, the pattern sometimes melts down on parts of objects, partakes of liquid surging into the air, and at other times gives the impression of a sticky animality as mucilage connected parts of the human body like planaria feeding off dead animal tissue. Such pattern reminds one of the idea of “liquid modernity” introduced by Zygmunt Bauman to describe the state of unstable and fluid disorder since the modern era and simultaneously alludes to the human desire that constantly wells up and withers in the age of global capitalism. Moreover, it does not end up in being a simple pattern that fills up the picture plane for form’s sake but plays the role of expanding the overall concreteness into the potential of abstraction. The second characteristic is related to such expansion and abstraction of pattern. The pattern unique to the artist is not fixed in terms of form and extends across the canvas in organic form. Moreover, it broadens its scope, going beyond the canvas and onto the exhibition walls, like planaria that ceaselessly regenerate even when parts of their body have been cut off. Beginning from the end of the completed canvas, it climbs the walls and ceiling, expanding into a temporary drawing and therefore occupying the space. In addition, the artist has actively experimented with form, going beyond paintings completed through traditional methods, by varying her paintings in terms of arrangement by each exhibition and connecting them into wall paintings of different form or taking drawings on the wall and transforming them into new paintings on canvas. The third characteristic is the scale of the work and its overpowering effect. When in the form of a wall painting, the work encompasses the entire space. Not only that but most of the 10

artist’s work maintains a large-sized picture plane, usually 227.3 x 181.8 cm or greater, just by the size of the canvas. Park arranges the images that she routinely collects with her camera in a composition that fills the entire picture plane and depicts them in great detail. She makes not only specific subjects but the rest of the surface into patterns with mostly lines, rather than planes, and fills allover the work with minute detail. Therefore, most of the artist’s large-sized paintings with surfaces that are densely packed with detail overpower the viewers. The composition of the paintings — characterized by a perspective that looks up from the bottom to the top — doubles the overpowering feeling.

In this way, the paintings of Park Yuna, which have

expressed the encroachment of the massive capitalist system on unique large-scale canvases and wall paintings, continue to the present-day upon undergoing a state of transition. This transition was carried out both in the direction of “internalization” and “abstraction” in regard to content and form. However, this was not a transition into a totally different theme and form but is closer to change in perspective and method. In terms of content, it was a transition from the somewhat macroscopic perspective on the city and society to a more microscopic perspective based on her family and life. In terms of form, the transition marked a change from the original method of combining abstraction of partial pattern on to detailed conception to the method of generalization of certain patterns and revealing a particular conception overall. There are works that became a turning point both in terms of content and form — Unfamiliar Face (2012) and Broken Garden (2012-2013). Both series are grounded on the artist’s memories and complicated emotions about her mother, who had been absent during her youth. In her notes, Park writes that such memories and emotions “refer to the ‘unknowingness’ of the ostracism of the subject that she had never encountered for the physical time of seventeen years and the ‘unknowingness’ of this period and the situation of subject of the present and moreover the ultimate ‘unknowingness’ of the figure 11

of the mother herself, who induced all of this.” Park collectively referred to her mother’s face that she could not remember even she tried to recall it, her mother’s present state that is unknown because she is unable to get in touch with her, and her mother’s emotions and situation at the time when she left home altogether as the “unfamiliar face.” Meanwhile, “Broken Garden,” which is an expression that the artist’s mother is said to have used to allude to her family, is also the only part that Park remembers from her mother’s diary. The Broken Garden series is comprised of paintings that depict the complex psychological landscape depicted from the images that she collected by naturally recalling her youth and mother from the traces of someone’s impoverished life that she had encountered while visiting empty houses of redevelopment areas. In these paintings, the artist maximizes the organic form and color of existing wall paintings, filling up the entire plane with patterns and arranges the composition so that the form of her house or mother’s face could be conjured up, albeit dimly, from those abstract forms. The colors that she used — including red and neon-mixed purple and green — emphasize her mental state, demonstrating an unrealistic, monotone inner landscape.

There was a trigger that further objectified and intensified

such landscapes of the inner mind. The artist had visited Baengnyeongdo Island for a preliminary survey for an exhibition that was to be held on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. Against the artist’s expectations that Baengnyeongdo Island, the northernmost island of the West Sea, which is located closest to North Korea, would be subject to the threat of war due to the confrontational situation between the two Koreas, the island was extremely peaceful and the local residents were concerned more about their livelihood that was expected to suffer a blow from the activities of Chinese fishing boats than about war. Perhaps this led the artist to futile realization that life is more difficult than death. Following this experience, the artist completed Broken Sea (2013), featuring the images of Baengnyeongdo 12

Island including barbed-wire fences, ropes, fishing nets, forests, and roads connected as a single organic body between the sandy beach characterized by sedimentation. The landscape, which is entirely entangled in red, seems more like a volcano overflowing with lava following an explosion or flesh and blood clots showing through split skin, as opposed to a sea. It is an allusion to war and death and moreover a metaphor for more exhaustive life. In some of her subsequent works, the artist borrowed images taken on Baengnyeongdo Island including the sea, buoys, ropes, and fishing nets and created ambiguous landscapes. While specifically depicting detailed images such as the waves of the sea or ropes, she built layers of interpretation in a metaphorical way that it is difficult to grasp what exactly the completed form signifies.

In this way, the “abstraction of conception” —

transforming concrete form into the abstract — has been the primary production method of the artist up until the present. Can’t be Decided, Can’t be Thrown Away (2015), which is also one of the major works of the exhibition at the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, is a clear demonstration of this. Despite the precise depiction of objects across the entire surface of the painting, it is difficult to grasp the overall meaning of the forest landscape featuring rope piles, old tree stumps, stacked empty flower pots, trash bags, and sewage tunnels. However, the overall landscape conveys a heavy emotion without an identity that can be affirmed, yet cannot be ignored. Though a landscape that does not exist, the images, which mostly depict objects that are somehow familiar yet now occupy space having lost its use in minute detail, simultaneously present a sense of loss and that of existence. The Closing Circle (2015), Mellow Land (2015), and Water Flows into the Low Place (2015), presented in the exhibition, are also in the same context. The three works, which are so similar in terms of material and style that they could be called a tripartite painting, are all overcast with a strange neon-hued green — unknown whether as to it is depicting water or grass. On taking a closer look, it can be seen as a depiction of a 13

trash bag on the sea that has hardened like a fossil in the shape of waves, fabric or vinyl covering farmland so that it does not freeze over the winter, and heaps of earth covered with vinyl in the middle of a running valley. These unrealistic scenes — unimportant whether they are of water or land — fill the picture planes with numerous minutely depicted "wrinkles," revealing the form of the subjects and creating non-abstract abstraction arousing particular emotions. The consistent emotions coming from these landscapes with artifacts carelessly dumped across nature create a cold and desolate feeling. In fact, the personal hardship of the artist has been the ulterior motive behind this series of recent works — that is, the death of her father, which occurred less than two years ago. The rope piles lying on the floor, trash bags floating on the sea, and heaps of earth covered with vinyl all allude to a recumbent person, an imagery of her father's death. The cold, desolate feeling that was vaguely experienced before listening to the artist’s confession seems to have stemmed from the emotions that she had felt while staying by her father’s deathbed. When looking at the paintings, you will be able to observe this immediately, that is, whatever form that it may be — the figure curled up sideways on the cold floor, corpse cleaned and shrouded with hemp cloth, clothes carelessly discarded, and a figure lying down, covered with a white sheet to the very top of the face.

For the artist, the death of her father is both an unrealistic

incident and predominant emotion that she repeatedly ruminates over, and that inspires her work to the present. Her works created after the death of her father convey such consistent emotions. She confesses that “I realized there are different classes even within death” while witnessing her father’s insignificant death. Even inside the funeral hall of the same hospital, not only the size of the funeral parlor but also the number of wreaths differs greatly. What would one, feeling so small in the empty funeral parlor, think when seeing the wreaths lined to the end of the hallway? Following her father’s death, the artist recently created two video works raising 14

fundamental questions on death — Scene, a close-up of a dying insect. Scene 1 (2014), which is a three-minute video recording the death of a cockroach, features 1 to 30 second breathing sounds that were downloaded as free samples, edited, then added to the video. Scene 2, a nine-minute video of the death of a fly, combines video and sound in the same way, but combines water-related sounds. In the two works, the insects try desperately to survive until their last breath. Perhaps the movements of the insects are not acts of trying to survive but rather writhings of agony, wanting to die soon. The sounds of water and breathing, which are not clearly audible as they are mixed with static, make the moment of death evermore tense. Through these video works, the artist radically likens the numerous deaths that do not receive social attention to the death of insects. The artist conveys the ideas the life is desperate for everyone and death is a closure of the universe for everyone — and moreover the death of a person close to one presents a bigger loss and despair than the death of another person, however great he may be, and that there is no death that is trifling and petty. For the artist who has concentrated on paintings up until now, video is a means to supplement the limitations of painting and an experiment with a medium adhering to the need to attempt other methods of expression for the same, consistent theme. If the two above-mentioned videos are close to figurative paintings embedded with the artist’s multi-layered objective, then Abysm (2015) recently presented in the duo exhibition Space Resulting from the Gap held at the Incheon Art Platform is a video that is close to an abstract painting. This work features a variation of images that have been distorted in terms of color and form or differ in the size of the plane without a particular narrative through post-work and narrative of the videos taken on a boat on the way to and in Mokpo. From the image of a dragonfly perilously hanging against the strong wind, to the close-up of the boat cutting across the water which has been converted to demonstrate a stronger color contrast and turned perpendicularly so as to depict a surging pillar of blood, 15

overall the work displays a strong abstractness with a continuation of images the specific situation of which are unknown, besides a sense of “crisis.” In this way, the artist continues her formative experimentation between the conception and abstraction not only in painting but also in video. Moreover, just like arranging the entire picture plane by using various subject matter from daily life in her paintings, the artist attempts not only the compilation of images but also creation of sound of the overall video by collecting sounds from daily life in her video works. In this exhibition, Park will present videos and drawings that convey similar emotions to paintings. In the case of drawings, they are usually a preparatory stage for artists working on large-scale paintings before moving on to painting — but they are also utilized as a minimum unit to ease the artist and experiment with ideas. Park Yuna has continuously worked on drawings on walls together with paintings on canvas, but for this reason, she sometimes prefers small paper drawings. The “blood paintings” of the artist are a representative example. One day, when the artist had a paper cut and blood fell onto the paper, it came to her that she would like to attempt drawing with blood. Therefore, she took bloodstains that fell onto paper, dried them, and connected them with pen lines, creating unrealistic human body forms. It is interesting how the real blood that is utilized by the artist, who has often expressed images of blood and death in many of her works, does not seem like typical blood but are blackish red circular dots that connect lines and only act as a formative element.

In this way, Park Yuna began with a single brush and has

been persistently working and continues to work. Perhaps what drives her to work so fiercely is neither her longing for her mother nor the sudden death of her father but the oppressive weight of life that she has fought against and the inner voices that she must pay attention to. The numerous life experiences and the consequent scars that have added up and become calluses have led the artist to dwell over even a single passage of a novel and a slice of a landscape and therefore to unveil a great many thoughts from them. We are 16

continuously attracted to the complex topography of the world of art of Park Yuna, whether it may be planaria or wrinkles, because of its capacity and depth. Auguste Rodin once said, “A true artist is one who takes close observation of what all others have seen and dumped and brings out the hidden value within.” Perhaps it may be easy to beautifully express what is beautiful. However, deliberately confronting the truths of life that everyone else avoids — thinking that it is dirty, insignificant, or dreadful — and bringing out the hidden meaning and value is definitely not easy, and this is probably the reason why we need art.


Compensation Issues for the Dead Man 148Ă—148cm, oil on canvas, 2017


Outlook for the Blind oil on canvas, 137×183cm, 2017


Ecce Homo, canvas size: 291×182cm, oil on canvas & acrylic on fabric, 2010


HPARK Travel: 'Working towards the world!: Siola(India), Single channel video, 13:26 min, 2013


Undecidable and Nondiscardable canvas size: 183×137, 183×137cm, diptych, oil on canvas, acrylic on fabric



Protagonist of Collective Memory 183Ă—137cm, oil on canvas, 2014



Berlin RelicsClearance in Their Integrity Exchange, Installationview, 194Ă—130m each/2016 Triptychs, oil on canvas, 2012



Undecidable and Nondiscardable oil on canvas, 254×112cm, 2015



Broken Sea 138×187cm, oil on canvas, 2013



Undecidable and Nondiscardable 183×276cm, diptych, oil on canvas, 2015



View of Solo Exhibition <The Closed Circle>, 2017



Yuna Park Yuna Park holds a Bachelor of Fine Art in Art & Design at Korea University in 2007. In the same year, She made her first solo exhibition with her interest in the office space and the fluid pattern itself. She had exhibitions in Gana Contemporary (2010), Zaha Art Museum (2011), Taipei THAV (2014) and Mimesis Art Museum (2015) with the theme of the city's system and the people living in it. In the KONG gallery, there was a question asking about the individual's social role and historical location in 2017. In 2009, she was selected as a recipient of Song Eun Art Award, in 2008 she was selected as a recipeint of Joongang Art Award. Her works are collected in the Gyeonggi Museum of Art(2016), Gwangju Museum of Art(2012), Mimesis Art Museum(2015), Seoul Museum of Art(2011), Bek Gong Art Museum(2011), Government Art Bank, MMCA(2016), Francis J. Greenburger Collection(2016).

Hyeyoung Shin Art critic, Ph.D in Yonsei University Graduate School of Communication & Arts.

Yuna Park

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