Monthly SPACE- Art Talk November 2011
September 30th 2011, Park Ki-Jin | Koh Won-Seok
Infinite imagination, holding onto reality
PARK Ki-Jin is an artist who is holding onto universal foundation of contemporary art. He contemplates nature and the world, which leads to present the result of his thoughts. He is differentiated in recognizing the subject through his pure vision by eliminating transcendental and cognitive elements of a subject. He has weaved his art world based on unique thoughts, refined sensation as sculptural art forms and worldly experiences. His artwork is neither transcending the existing subject nor visually representing the existing reality thoroughly. Having permutated into visual language with adding his imaginative nature based on reality is a classical and original aesthetic ‘Expression.’
You’ve been working with stories, composing a background context. What inspires you to create stories?
As you mentioned, I construct a story first, then build it and express it visually. This is the way I mainly work. When encountering a space, I pursue to create a unified installation space rather than reciting various individual forms of arts like sculpture, installation or drawings in a designated space. Implicative individual art works attract viewers to contemplate them and to stroll around the space. The process of unifying individual works as a whole is crucial to induce viewers to think in an emotional sense. It is similar to the structure of an Opera that is built by scenes and acts that contain short stories. Through this same process, the whole story’s structure is built. Then I adjust detailed elements.
Your stories are from imagination, yet it is based on the reality. Where do you get your inspiration from? Why do those stories have partial reality, rather than being completely fictional?
I map out the outline of a story from an inspired incident, and then I put pieces of thoughts, experiences and feelings together. Literacy qualities such as the usage of foreshadowing and clues are reflected as emotional senses in the process of visualization. The reason why the stories have a connection to reality is because my stories are from traveling. Traveling gives endless inspirations. What I saw, felt, thought stimulates my sense of creativity. These rare worldly experiences offer unique sensations which cannot be experienced in everyday life. The reality inspires imagination as much as fictional stories do. Unaccustomed environment is another interesting place that has distinctive climate and exotic geological location. Boundary created by politics and languages is not important to me. The process of making a big picture by gathering clues from fragmentary incidents is like creating a fictional world. Even solid facts could turn out to be an attractive fiction when they are newly combined. It is like one foot in reality and the other foot in the fictional creation.
Your work could be viewed as environmental issues. Does this come from your concern regarding the pollution of the earth? Or do you have your own concern for understanding the environment?
I am not an extreme environmentalist. More correctly, I believe in the earth’s natural purification process. For instance, although human causes harm to the environment, the earth maintains itself adequately through its ability to heal itself. This belief is from my worldly experiences rather than a theoretically proved scientific opinion. When I visited Kaikora in New Zealand, I was deeply touched by the inhabitant people who had a high respect and love for nature. I learned that they developed this respect through their experiences with nature, not through education. Do you think you can possibly theorize nature or the environment? To give you an example, when it comes to the wind, we can feel it without seeing it. My belief in natural purification substitutes my thoughts of recognizing nature. Nature cannot be understood, it must be experienced. To understand nature, physical senses stand higher ground than the intellectuality. I want my works to awaken observers’ senses instead of raising theoretical and aesthetic arguments.
Tell me how you came up with the exhibition <Discovery> at Gallery SPACE.
In 2010, I participated in the Artist Residence Program at ‘Instituto Sacatar’, Brazil. My accommodation was situated next to the seaside, which made me often think of ‘water’. I have created stories based on water before but I guess it was because I was brought up in the city called Busan in South Korea. One day, I was talking to a friend on the phone, glancing at the Atlantic Ocean near my accommodation, coincidently, he was talking to me on the seashore in New York. It occurred to me that the water I was glancing at is connected to the water, my friend was standing by. The water was coexisting in front of my friend and I although we were physically apart in different countries. This made me realize the water on the earth is connected and lakes are geographical features that are precisely isolated from this gigantic circulation. Later on, I had an opportunity to see two gigantic ‘Lake Malawi’ and ‘Lake Tanganyika’, in central Africa. These distant lakes which are 200km apart from each other were connected before earthquakes and volcanic actions took place. The exhibition ‘Discovery’ is a premise of fictional project to reconnect those two lakes.
Though this exhibition is based on fictional ideas, I see the possibility to realize the project.
To make the two lakes meet could be brought about by two solutions. First solution is on the concept of ‘gazing’, in other words, to make fish to see each other. Installing a buoy shaped observatory platform above the water surface could allow fish to swim up to observe separated habitat. The second method involves a ‘physical encounter’, installing an underground tunnel between two separated lakes. The sculptural structure, installed in “Space Sarang (Exhibition space)”, is designed to float on the water in theory. The interior of the structure is empty in order to be buoyant and the see-through glass on top of the structure could be filled with water so that fish could travel through the route. Installing an underground tunnel to reconnect separated water is also possible. I have been studying and researching meticulously how power drives both sides of water to flow. The possibility to make this project happen is driven from my imagination based on reality.
Recent and previous works involve the subject matter “Water”. Why?
The reason why I have been researching with the subject ‘water’ is because I was brought up in the city called ‘Busan’ (a city located in south end of Korea). Perhaps the familiar landscape brings me comfort whenever I get near water. I am attracted to water, hard to define precisely, that gives me emotional comfort. Brazil, the country I participated in an ‘International Artist Residency Program’ was also rich in water. That environment brought me endless inspirations. Also the previously mentioned telephone call with a friend was an unforgettable incident that has brought me unique feelings. I had this odd feeling as if I was with supernatural beings.
How did you feel about working in the unique environment ‘Gallery SPACE’?
Gallery ‘SPACE’, located in an office building has its own charm and special ambience. At first sight, I felt a sense of oppression by archeological structures such as red brick wall and its density. As time went by, I became accustomed to its environment and grew to love to the exhibition space. The mixture of linear beauty and the arch which organically flowed through the space brings comfort to those who visited. Soon, I fell in love with the space, hoping the installation objects would stay as they were there forever. This exhibition, ‘Discovery’ was intended to deliver the contents clearly to viewers with the concise presentation of associating the narrative structures between sculptural objects and drawings. I also provided essay styled short stories related to my installation works for visitors to have deeper understanding. My previous works were often appeared as occupying a space with its scale. However, in my recent works, I intended to have my sculptural work to be integrated into the exhibition space. Thus, my recent features are distinguished from the previous works.
Your career as an artist hasn’t been very long. How do you see yourself as an artist in the future? What direction will your work take?
I remember being shook up when I saw the masterpiece of Marc Rothko. It hit me like a hammer to my head. Without a need of reasons or knowledge, it aroused my emotions. I want to create artworks similar to how Rothko’s work affected me. To do so, I’m trying hard to keep keen senses all the time. I’d like to experience new atmospheres consistently. I want to grow a belief in myself with keen senses in creating art. The direction of my interests keeps changing. Yet, my endless methodological interests how to inspire people’s emotions never changes.
About the Artist PARK Ki-Jin
Park Ki-Jin was born 1975 and majored in ‘sculpting’ in a post-graduate course of Chung-Ang University. He creates stories based on his life experiences from traveling. He started his career by having a solo exhibition ‘Dive to the Kaikoura’ in 2006, visualizing landscapes as a form of installation. He also had an award-winning solo exhibition from Freeman Foundation- 'Asian Fellowship Award'. He participated in national and international ‘artist residency programs’ such as the Vermont Studio Center (USA), Instituto Sacatar (Brazil) and The National Art Studio, Goyang of National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (South Korea). Most recently, He presented his solo exhibition ‘Discovery’ in September, 2011, and also won the ‘Arts Vitalization Fund’ from Seoul Foundation Arts and Culture.