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Simulacrum of the World of Vitality

- The Current Paintings of Park Mari in 2010 -

Kim Yeong Sun (Art Critic)


1. The block of sensation in the ever-changing world of material

is what makes Park Mari's paintings alive.

          The dots in primary colors that bounce and wave one after another. The naked gesture of the paints that mix with or push one another. Her compositions minimize the clue of specific motifs of reality or social events and remind you of the nuclear division of cells or an explosion in the solar system. Literally, it is non-specific painting or abstract painting. She pursues artificial expressions from her artistically trained hands and the events of fine paintings that are isolated from worldly stories. What is her root? “While I was working on conceptual work, I happened to stop by a bookstore to open up a medical book, and the various illustrations of cells I saw in that book became my motifs today,” says the artist. That does not mean she reproduces the structures or images of cells. The artist focuses on the spatial layout, the vitality of flow of life, and the living sensation of the structures and organs of cells. This was the discovery of aesthetic principle that she used to search within herself - instead of being simple formations in a living organism or containers of biological information. If Ancient Greek philosophers found the aesthetic principles of nature in mathematical proportions, the cell networks founded on the structural principles of flow of life and vitality provided Park Mari with the methodological principle of painting. The prominent effects of complementary colors, the liberal mixture and flow of paints revealing their mushy materiality, the fun doodling of pencil drawings, the brush strokes leaving the prints of meaningless enjoyment, the arrows and dotted lines that go across space indicating directions, and honeycomb networks representing the cell membranes... All of these in her compositions appeal to your sense of vision and texture before logical ideologies and allow you to feel the flow of life. According to Deleuze who reasons what represents the process of life “cannot be intuitively taken by itself, but only in the living forms that it creates,” her work is the simulacrum of a world of life. The creation of life and its dynamic flow are symbolized as a reality of sensation, not as a fantasy. Such simulacrum of a world of life has been presented as the <Conversation with Cells> series since 2007 through seven solo shows within only three years.

          Greeting its eighth session, this exhibition attempts to reflect on all previous processes and methodologies and to reconstruct self-betrayal.


2. In Between Vitality of Painting and Vitality of Life


          Paintings have pursued to be alive as living things. Such pursuit of vitality, regardless of reproductive art based on reality or abstract art creating a new world on canvas, is the point where the paintings of East and West meet, which were thought to have opposite worldviews with two extremely different backgrounds. The myths that "When Apelles draw a bundle of grapes, birds came to peck on it," or "Solgeo drew a pine tree on the wall of Hwangryongsa Temple, and birds would fly at it to kill themselves," are not just about praising the techniques of reproduction. They are talking about the visual ‘vitality.’ Not only that, doesn't abstract painting, which makes you to intuitively see the agitation of life or the state of despair, i.e., death, using dots, lines, planes, touch, colors, or paintings, regardless of reality, desire to deliver the vitality of paintings directly without the medium of visual deception? Here, vitality is realized in the composition by harmonizing the artist's emotions, sense of space, melody, and sensitivity. It also corresponds to the condition of vital energy which is considered the No. 1 value in oriental painting.

Park Mari's vitality of world of life has changed in three stages.

          In the early years, it became an all-over painting with the materiality of formative mediums, maximization of colors, and automatic techniques to express the flow of living things. It enjoyed the autonomy of colors and the activity of touches liberated from the boundaries of hand-eye coordination or colors or materiality that existed for forms.


          Coincidental effects, such as subconscious dripping and sliding of paints, dominated the screens. Latex is used to create semi-relief stains that accentuate materiality and the mixture of paints is captured and removed. She employed the technique of décollage to preserve the effect of instant coincidence. The wriggling forms of stains in the frame of two or three layers of complementary colors float about the screen liberally. They roam without the sense of direction or hierarchy. The doodling appears naive. If you were to classify this period based on the context of modern art history, it could be compared to ‘the flow of primitive life in nature’ pursued by Franz Marc of Der Blaue Reiter that read the flow of blood penetrating through nature, trees, animals, and the atmosphere.

          More directly, however, the splashes of color dots happening to make dotted lines, the décollage to capture dynamic moments, and the elements of all-over paintings that deny the center or hierarchy of screen bring it closer to the context of surrealism. Psychological automation free from the control of reason and compositions projecting irrational and primitive worlds or schizophrenic compositions meet with surrealism that opened up the world of subconsciousness to express the flow of life instead of the perspective of ‘stare’ or the rational worldview after the Renaissance. They interact with the images of biological forms of Andre Masson or Archile Gorky.

          However, what is more eye-catching is the effect of complementary colors that maximize the vitality. Despite their extreme contrast of primary colors, they create harmony rather than unfamiliar collision to accentuate the aesthetic effect. This shows Park Mari's instinctive color senses. As colors are likely to convey adornment, they were avoided by modern art history of Korea that was dominated by Confucian traditions and ideologies. Therefore, it became the weakest link of Korea's modern art. This is why her color senses is considered a promising possibility.

          In the second stage, she began adding indirect languages of communication based on her artistic success of the previous period. She inserted liberal doodling to various parts of her paintings as well as various symbols or alphabetical characters that seem to be from a biochemistry lab. Liberally flowing compositions in denial of direction or hierarchy were partially covered with honeycomb networks for structural stability. Excess materiality and color senses were toned down with gray or brown and paints were wiped or scratched out before drying out to replace the mushy materiality with the transparency of watercolor painting.

          This period can be related with the paintings of Robert Rauschenberg who suggested the kaleidoscope of information from the age of mass media as the metaphor of image while observing the chronology of abstract expressionist painting.

          The third period is the presence of Park Mari's paintings that will be presented at her 8th solo show. She has deeper insights to manage her paintings and the compositions have become more sophisticated with pure autonomy and artificial expressions.

          The infinite feast of intensive primary colors has become moderated and sophisticated. The passionate emotions of unrefined contrast of primary colors have been replaced with chic urban senses with the translucency of silvery or golden pink, sap green, or brown. The vitality of primary colors has been substituted with sparkling metal pearls. The compositions have become more multilayered and complicated.

          However, her world has begun to crack in the current stage. Her purely abstract expression of vitality without any intrusion of outside world has begun to adopt social issues, life experiences or memories. Her careful communication with the real world through symbols in the second stage has become serious. She is still introducing metaphorical forms, but everything is based on the theory of life behind the conceiving of life that is rising around the globe. Moreover, she is not employing the discourses or knowledge of contemporary art, but projecting her own life experiences. She talks about her respect toward life and pleasure of delivery from her own experience of pregnancy and even criticizes the social issue of abortion and instrumental use of female body. However, she avoids self-confessing narrations that are popular among female artists. She tries hard not to be categorized into feminist art. Her current work is leaned toward expressing <the vitality of world of life>. The mystery and pleasure of life, the utopia of fertility, and the ecological dystopia that threats life through abortion or murder are the symbolic worlds that Park Mari talks about in this exhibition.


3. The Vitality of Life Agitated in between Material and Non-material

          The development of traffic means operated by motor energy marked the beginning of the age of geographical discoveries to popularize fairs that bring the products and information of the world together, while the advancement of photography and movable-type printing made publications of art criticism the major channel of artistic communication for the general public. Unlike Danto forecasted the death of art, “the new art sector was born for their own value creations.” That was when materials and colors were liberated from forms and touches earned independent citizenship. Autonomy and modernity of painting were achieved. A 21st-Century art critic defined Monet of "Impression, Soleil Levant", the frontier of that modernity and the creator of the term impressionism, “a flower agitating in between material and life.”

          Today, your life is still a part of material world, but non-material world is dominantly expanding. The information world in the Web takes a large part of your life. You can travel the world without physically going there. You can go beyond the boundaries of reality, unreality, past, and future. The world of life is evolving to clarify the information of life in the mutual collaboration of nature and artificial life and even to substitute or replicate biological organs. Art is already being created by artificial biotechnologies.

          The paintings of Park Mari that have emitted vitality from the dynamics of moving materials and the colorful touches with strong material properties are also adopting the images of life from the simulation of information technology for her works of 2010. The past three years of Park Mari's constructive footsteps on <Conversation with Cells> have begun to shake in between material and non-material. This is what forecasts that her simulacrum of life is getting ready to leap and fly in a different direction. 

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