Mira Park knows what we dream of


SEOUL, South Korea — After spending a few minutes with the artwork in the exhibition Mira Park: interlude at Art Space Boan 2 (August 27 to September 18, 2022), I felt like Alice in Wonderland. After wandering through a non-commercial gallery space, which I later learned was part of Boan1942 – a guest house, art gallery, cafe and bookstore rolled into one – I am became engrossed in the various liminal spaces that Park conjured up in black and white paintings like 6 feet by 8 feet, ink drawings about 12 by 12 inches, sculptures of animal and human anatomy, such as tentacles partially buried in the sand, and black and white animations, including one projected onto a wall. Later, when I looked at Park’s resume, I saw that she titled a 2015 show The rabbit hole (at Booknomad a. space), which both confirmed my first impressions and sparked my curiosity about alternative spaces in Korea.

During a conversation with the curator of the exhibition, Jeonguk Choi, I learned that Art Space Boan 2 hosts exhibitions, but does not represent artists. This and a conversation with young artist Eun Sol Kim, who is Minouk Lim’s studio assistant, suggested that there is a thriving alternative, non-commercial art scene in Korea that is very different from the MFA pipeline at the mall situation that exists in parts of the United States. Park and Kim, who are not represented by commercial galleries, exhibit regularly in alternative spaces, which is almost unheard of in the United States.

Mira Park, “Escapeing Light” (2022), acrylic on canvas, 31.5 x 46.1 inches
Mira Park, “A Breathing Tomb” (2022), ink on paper, 11.81 x 11.81 inches

Park’s paintings are essentially large drawings done in black acrylic on a white background. Precise lines and dark areas created by a dry brush convey nuance, volume and different types of rough surfaces. Park depicts a scenic setting populated by body parts (hearts, hands, legs), covered with sheets or masked, as well as oddly dressed individuals of different ages, creatures such as deer and swans, observers gazing at through telescopes or taking pictures, and many participants, many of whom are engaged in unexplainable activities: a barefoot young woman dragging a rock; a uniformed figure sweeping away what appear to be paper stars. The architectural setting of each scene is different, as if to say that you cannot enter the same dream twice.

I considered the observers in the paintings as surrogate spectators and the individuals whose faces are invisible as the limits of our curiosity. How much do we want to see, in a visionary sense, and how much of the mundane reality of the world can we actually look at without turning away? Tropes from fairy tales and disturbing everyday images mingle. We have fallen down a rabbit hole into a world we witness but cannot explain. The various activities that take place throughout a tableau do not coalesce into an overall narrative. Instead, Park uses its settings to seamlessly connect scenes, creatures, and characters inspired by fairy tales and writers such as Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy (who invented the term “fairy tales”) and many others. unknown in the West, as well as surrealist artists (e.g. René Magritte), early Renaissance painters like Pisanello and his masterpiece “The Vision of Saint Eustache” (1438-1442), cinema and television – works of art and mediums that transport the viewer to another realm. The presence of modern cameras in Park’s work helps situate his scenes in our contemporary world.

Mira Park, “Interlude” (2022), cartoon, 4 minutes 20 seconds
Mira Park, “Cut Off Senses” (2022), ceramic, sand, variable dimensions

The sinister and the miraculous occur simultaneously in Park’s fully realized and imagined worlds. In the drawing animation “Interlude” (2022), a 4 minute, 20 second video is projected onto a gallery wall above “Cut Off Senses”, a sculptural installation composed of identifiable ceramic body parts and unidentifiable partially buried in a bed of sand. . Are these body parts the remains of an unknown catastrophe? How does this work relate to the video shown above? At the start of “Interlude,” which has an immersive soundtrack by composer/sound artist Hyemin Seo, a curtain rises on a field of black lines, which is followed by an arid landscape littered with broken television sets, large blinking eyes embedded in the ground and candles with flickering flames. The scene focuses on the television in the center of this landscape, its screen projecting moving black lines, signaling that it is out of order. Soon his screen fills the whole view and turns into an aquatic world in which the faces of two women float, their eyes closed. Ducks and water lilies surround the faces. Eventually, everything drifts out of frame, leaving only the water, which slowly fills with rocks of varying sizes. The snakes enter from the edges, linger briefly, then leave again. These and the episodes that follow seem related, but not necessarily logical or decipherable.

The curtain raiser and the television we enter suggest thresholds we have crossed. Have we left reality or are we entering an augmented version of it? What is this other world that welcomes us? Park’s work raises questions that the viewer is unable to answer. Is the aquatic world supposed to be the unconscious, the place of dreams? Or is it evidence of a flood that flooded the world? Do the two women who dream signify a desire to break the patriarchal constraints governing the different societies of the world? Asking these and other questions takes us deeper and deeper into the world of the artist without offering an answer or a key. That’s what I found so powerful and compelling about the work. Park grapples with our collective anxieties about a future that seems to be darkening day by day.

Mira Park, “Change of Mind” (2022), acrylic on canvas, 28.74 x 20.87 inches
Mira Park, “Index Without Names” (2022), acrylic on canvas, 31.5 x 46.1 inches

Mira Park: interlude continues at Art Space Boan 2 (33 Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea), through September 18. The exhibition was curated by Jeonguk Choi.


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