Time to Warm My Blood: On Juae Park and Her Paintings

Written by Seung Mi Lee  

Park Ju Ae, as I count with my fingers now, is a friend of thirteen years since we practiced lines for drawing and until today as she is working as an artist. (It seems like a short period but the years take part half of my life.) So it was a difficult choice to willingly interview her. After long consideration, I picked a date for the interview. But as I ate pizza and chicken with my friend whom I haven’t seen for a while(though a while is only about ten days), we parted after chatting without any material. The ambitiously planned first interview ended that way. I realized that it was quite difficult to have a sincere talk about work with a friend. I will slightly lay down my burden as a reporter and talk about a person that I have seen and experienced for a long time.  

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The Park Ju Ae that I know is really consistent in many ways. During high school, she would try out for an unexpected contest or suddenly appear on television. She was a student full of curiosity in all areas except studying. The teachers always warned her that she should put all that time and effort in her studies. During college in basic drawing class, there was an assignment on writing a review after reading Kandinsky's 'Jom, Son, Myun'('Point and Line to Plane' in Korean). However Park read a book on artist Jom Son Kim and wrote a review. Although she read a different book from the one that the professor assigned, she was rather confident not being shaken at all. And all through college she asked me her student number as if it was natural. She never memorized it, and I reminded her everytime. If I write more this interview would become an exposeˊ, so I will now stop going on about her character. Frankly the reason that her works are interesting to me is because it wholly reveals her personality and the environment that she lives in. There are people who expertly hide their feelings, and people who get caught even though they want to hide them. Park is the latter. When she is in love that feeling gushes out, and when arguing with someone the confusion shows in her canvas. In audition programs such as 'KPOP STAR', the judges often tell the contestants that ‘your normal voice and singing voice should be similar'. It can be said that both is similar with Park. Her works make you say ‘that is just like Park Ju Ae'. When looking at them which are strange but familiar, and arouses odd imaginations, even if you do not know her in person, you will automatically be curious about her.
 
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Parks early works are directly related to her personal experiences. She moved about once every two years. When almost completing filling up her new home after emptying the previous, she would move and repeat the process of emptying her house again. Her interest in her new home or the traces she left behind in her old house all naturally appeared in her works. From 2012 slate roofed houses easily found in Jeju and torn down houses and sites occupied a large part in her works. People do not appear in person on the canvas, but through the floating objects connected by thin strings to the house, or though the objects pouring out from the torn down houses, you can assume what kind of person used to stay there. From these series, the work which greatly shows the artist’s emotions is <심동헌-마음이 떠오르는 집>. It shows her grandmother’s house now only in her memories after it disappeared because of road expansion and the unfamiliar feelings following it. I too sympathize with Park's words ‘as if somebody threw away my memories down into a drain hole’ when I witnessed the construction site of my grandmother’s house being destroyed and newly built into a shopping arcade. However the most vain thing is that during the short time the arcade is now rebuilt into studio apartments and I am living in oblivion of the loss of my memories. There are still a lot of construction sites putting up buildings here and there in Jeju. The noise coming from the sites that seemed loud and annoying is not something new nor surprising now as I became not aware of it at all. The sites of life being destroyed seen in Park works and forklifts, steel structures, steel pipes and so on are the new landscapes of Jeju going through development, and also records of the traces of the person who dwelled there. 
 
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The works recently shown in her solo exhibition feature forms that are half man half beast, different from her previous structures. Also the keywords that describe her works such as 'egg', 'spawn', and 'breast milk' show that she is heading towards the theme of 'motherhood'. Park's mother is also an artist, and they both held a mother daughter exhibition in 2010. She mentions that she and her mother are still repeating the process of pulling towards each other a transparent connecting line which is uncuttable. Sometimes they are like friends telling each other unspeakable secrets, and other times they fight viciously due to ideological conflicts, and often they sacrifice themselves because of their role of being a mother or daughter. Sometimes they are housemates sharing the same studio or home, and conditionally business partners who work together. Park says that she goes to the public bath when she finishes her daily work with her mother, and when she is exhausted of pushing and pulling with her. When sitting in the warm bath Park feels all her complicated feelings go away and that is again expressed in her works. <피를 데우는 시간> shows scenes that resembles a turtle returning to the sea after laying eggs on the land. The figures shown are not embarrassed of their nudity, and are washing away their fatigue from their daily complicated feelings in the warm water. It is the time for warming up the blood gone cold due to exhaustion and stress, and it is also the time to prepare to jump back into work and into art. 
 
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Frankly since our teens, we always dreamt of ways to escape 'Jeju Island'. Quite cheesy thinking of it right now, we considered the saying 'people to Seoul, horses to Jeju' as the absolute truth. An island was definitely a place to leave due to its many limitations. The ocean easily seen from anywhere, volcanic cones full of silver grass, Hanla mountain known for its picturesque scenery each season, unfortunately these were all factors that lively young people wanted to escape. Although longing for a life in Seoul, there were many agonies for the artist making her unable to escape this place. The artist was in the position of taking care of her mother and younger brother. Leaving them would be irresponsible so she could not easily decide on many things. In the recently presented <도망을 갈망하는 여자 1> Park drew her own face in the figure placed in the middle of the canvas, strongly showing her suppressed agonies. Dreaming of running away to another place, but unable to do it, and gaining inspiration from her family but restricted from doing many things because of them, these contradictions enable her to express her emotions. In fact it took a long time for her to break away from prejudice that 'Jeju' has limitations in working and become optimistic. It is not because Jeju became known for being an island abundant of the three things; 'hipsters, cafes, and many Chinese tourists'. Although Park is exploring what is most like herself, through the naturally revealed motifs on Jeju she is  searching for new possibilities. It is unknown when these will become limitations or strong points to her again, but it is meaningless to distinguish them and there is actually no reason to do so. I now once again peer into the works of Park Ju Ae. 
 
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Park is expanding her radius after she successfully ended her solo exhibition held at Artspace·C last December. The artist will join the residency of NARS(New York Art Residency and Studios) Foundation, so she will be heading for New York this April. It is a great opportunity for the always hesitant artist. She will now take courage and encounter a new environment. The 29 year old artist who chose to 'expand' rather than 'escape'. What perceptions shall she take on her new environment and what changes will she bring. Only joyfulness awaits when she comes back full of new works and stories. 

 

 

Juae Park was born in Jeju in 1989. In between her painter parents and painting younger brother, she is also painting; surprise. She usually paints the scenery of Jeju with curiosities, but right now, she is wandering about in the streets of Manhattan while she is doing her residency in NYC. Even though she had to fight cravings for Jeju port meat noodle soup, she is getting used it all.  parkjuyea@gmail.com

SeunMi Lee was born in Jeju in 1989 and raised in the island as well. She went to an art school since she liked painting, and she went further to the grad school under the illusion that she was into studying. She is on her second job in Jeju, and she is transcending into a real “Administrative Seungmi” for her natural attraction to Excel and organizing documents. She is working as an art director and a critic, and she is doing everything she could to have with people.  tmdal2629@gmail.com

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