ZONE CONTEMPORARY ART is proud to present “Communion/Constellation,” a solo exhibition by gallery artist Yooah Park, on the occasion of the 53rd Venice Biennale. ZONE’s mission of global artistic interchange reflects the main theme of the Biennale, “ Making Worlds.”
“Communion/Constellation” establishes an intimate gathering space, exploring the circle form in various mediums. Portraits of family and friends cluster around a communal rice bowl. A universal symbol of plenty, of physical and spiritual nourishment, of vitality and renewal, the ceramic bowel has historically been an integral part of Korean culture. While majestic in scale, Yooah’s vessel seems almost weightless because of the delicacy of its celadon glaze. The gentle irregularities of the bowl are an eloquent reminder of the casting process, in which dynamic forces are guarded by the artist’s shaping hand and eye. The large and small tondo paintings are executed in red on a translucent, skin-like fabric of liquid vinyl. The refined draftsmanship of the portraits is reminiscent of old master drawings, while the luminosity of the materials suggests grisaille stained glass.
Trained as a traditional brush painter Yooah extends the gestural language of calligraphy onto these evocations of people vital to her personal constellation. The red ink, or Gyong-myon-ju-sa, is a mineral pigment of cinnabar, mercury and sulfur (HgS). In alchemy, sulfur is considered to be a condensation of positiveness, and mercury is thought to be a condensation of negativeness. Combined, they create a mysterious power that wards off evil. The minerals are mixed with cinnabar and perilla-oil. Unlike many other pigments, Gyong-myon-ju-sa is highly stable: the ink will be permanent until the support disintegrates. Because Yooah used the high-tech liquid vinyl, instead of the traditional paper, her images will last even longer. Like an alchemist, the painter is adept in the art of mixing delicate and dangerous elements. Gyong-myon-ju-sa, also called Inju, is used to create Bujeok, small talismans, carried for protection or posted at certain plays in and around the house: over a door or gate or on the ceiling. The blood-red color and viscosity of Inju also allude to sealing wax and colophon signatures. In both paintings and ceramics, the artist manipulates raw materials to liberate the spirit within.
On Saturday, June 6th at 10:00AM, New York based Zone Artists Jack Sal and Yooah Park will present a Dual Performance entitled “East/West” at Caffé Quadri on the historical Piazza San Marco.* Sal, who has participated in numerous exhibitions, projects, and events for past Biennales, will continue his performances with coffee and other elements and will be joined for the first time by another artist. In this first occasion, a collaboration has been established with Yooah Park, whose work with tea and other traditional Asian foods creates a contrast/mirror to Sal’s ongoing activities in Venice.
* Ristorante Gran Caffé Quadri
Piazza San Marco 121
June 5 – June 19, 2009
Opening reception: 6-8pm, June 5
D.D.S. Vio 728 Venezia, Italy
The frame of needlework, the surface of vinyl, the subtle trace of ink. Drawn from a feminine world, Yooah Park opens an external world, the private. The intimate fabric of relationships based on affection, estimate, and respect that the artist, who has lived in New York these past years, links to her family and close friends.
There are her children, Candy e Davis Koh; her father T. J. Park, her mother O. J. Jang and her sister Jinah; her teacher Jong Sang Lee, the celebrated author Jung Rae Cho as well as her dog City represented along with her owner.
A flow of reciprocal exchanges with which Yooah Park renders homage by offering of herself, using the metaphor of food (rice), represented indirectly by the large hand-thrown bowl that is then placed in the kiln for its double firing. Always experimenting with techniques and materials, the artist emphasizes here again in her first one-person exhibition in Italy, Communion/Constellation – the matrix of her artistic language: the calligraphic tradition.
Black ink –dominated her previous works, including the series Untitled (Small Pulp) from 2000 and, in particular, transposed into metal in Writing in the Void (2006). Here it is “illuminated” (using a term borrowed from the ancient miniaturists) with the substitution of the brilliant tonality of cinnabar, mixed with other natural elements including cooking oil: creating a dense non-toxic liquid (Inju), used for seals. With a fine-point brush, like the needles used in needlework, the artist traces with confidence the outline of the precise identity of her subjects. Memory is represented via the photographs always taken by the artist – an intermediary vehicle important to suspend real time, and to avoid the “staged.” There is not a gaze, amongst the many subjects even though intense, that directly engages the viewer. It does not make for good manners, based on modesty and reserve as used in the East, to look someone directly in the eyes. Nevertheless, the rules of the traditional portrait require that the focal point be the face, rendering as secondary importance all other information.
In reference to this stylistic cannon, Park concentrates on the face, leaving clothing and objects that are normally used to describe the subject as sketchy traces. If, in the past, she has created handmade paper on which she paints freely interpreted ideograms, in Communion/Constellation she chooses as a support a light and flexible material – Liquid Vinyl – used as well in the textile industry. Among its fundamental characteristics is its transparency: through its interaction with light, whose source could be from either the front or the back and is revealed in the details (the eyes, the hair, half smiles).
Thirteen – a known symbolic number, within both Eastern and Western cultures – is an apparent reference to “The Last Supper.” Thirteen is in fact the number of large circular portraits from this type of a family album, surrounded by a “constellation” of smaller circles as well as some ovals. Using the cinnabar, which is also used in traditional medicine as well as in the creation of amulets against the evil eye, the artist takes on the role of the shaman. Painting the faces of her family and important friends becomes a way of caring for them as well as to protect them. As in her use of the food/nutrition, which is alluded to by the presence of the bowl, and is associated psychologically to giving (or withholding) affection. A dialogue that opens new and more complex thoughts.
Manuela de Leonardis is a Rome, Italy based curator, critic, and journalist whose articles and exhibitions feature contemporary art and photography.