Jina Park

Jina Park paints scenes from gallery openings, after-parties, and simple outings with her friends and colleagues; these casual images derive from personal engagements and social contacts and are wholly devoid of allegorical references or symbolism. Meyer Schapiro said of the early Impressionists that their subjects reflect “the conception of art as solely a field of individual enjoyment, without reference to ideas and motives”; Park’s vision resuscitates that spirit of art’s identification with leisure after a century of ideological qualms about what to paint or what could be painted.

Although Park is keenly aware of the recent history of figurative painting and its formalist prohibition in the past, as a student she also witnessed the phenomenal rise of new painting in the 1990s. Unlike the preceding generation of artists, who had been forced to be skeptical of the very possibility of painting and especially of figurative subjects, Park enjoys the newly regained prospects for painting and indulges in the nonchalant portrayal of banal subjects found in her own private life.

Among the ten works exhibited in her recent exhibition in Seoul, The Long Evening, 2007, and Canapé, 2007, reflect her favorite subject: her friends eating and lounging at art venues. The Long Evening introduces some fellow artists and former school friends, figures who may be recognized by the larger art community, though probably not by the general public. Canapé, in which an artist friend is about to munch on an hors d’œuvre, is also a scene from an unusually luxurious opening, as the artist recalls it, with hired waiters in attendance. A politically-minded critic might find it irresistible to point out class issues or images of capitalist excess in Park’s works, yet the artist’s interest remains focused on the neutral depiction of a series of personal events.

Park’s fluent strokes of watery paint reveal her trained facility; her marks seem airy and haphazard yet structural and controlled. The luscious glamour of the works’ oil-based medium is exploited in the thinly glazed layers of paint and blurring effects. Projector Test, 2008, portrays an artist with curators and technicians preparing for a screening in a gallery space. The blue projection light reflected on the glossy floor and ceiling and the subtle sense of foggy darkness surrounding the room are superbly interpreted with effortless touches.

The triptych Persistent Boy, 2008, features a man (as usual, an artist) and a boy; the boy clings eagerly to the artist, an acquaintance of his father. The treatment of night scenes is Park’s forte; here the ochre of a sidewalk dissolves into the umber of the distant darkness, making contact with the Prussian blue sky on the top. The darkness and the brightly lit figures make a rich contrast, simultaneously drawing attention to the worn texture of the man’s denim and the details of his pale yellow jacket.

The visual sophistication Park displays may recall that of contemporary masters like Richter and Tuymans; as in some of their work, her imagery derives mostly from snapshots, and often the treatment of the light or the angle reveals this photographic origin. Yet her casual and mundane relationship with painting shows that she represents a new generation with a distinctive attitude.

Shinyoung Chung