Park Kyung-ryul battles conventional way of viewing paintings

By Shim Woo-hyun
  • Published : Apr 11, 2019 - 16:03
  • Updated : Jul 15, 2019 - 13:41

You won’t find paintings where you expect them to be at Park Kyung-ryul’s latest solo exhibition “On Evenness.” Some are on the floor, leaning against the walls. You will find them in corners, too. The paintings are surrounded by brightly colored objects that get in the way of visitors.

“Visitors to art galleries or museums usually know where they will see the paintings, for instance, at the very center of a white wall. I intentionally placed my paintings at less expected spots, to betray such expectations,” up-and-coming painter Park said during a press conference on April 2 at Baik Art’s Seoul branch.

By experimenting with paintings and gallery settings, the 40-year-old suggests that viewers look at paintings differently. 

An installation view of painter Park Kyung-ryul’s solo exhibition “On Evenness” at Baik Art in Seoul (Baik Art)
An installation view of painter Park Kyung-ryul’s solo exhibition “On Evenness” at Baik Art in Seoul (Baik Art)

As a finalist for last year’s SongEun Art Award, her works were shown as part of a group exhibition at SongEun ArtSpace, where she filled the space allotted to her with stylistically similar paintings and sculptures. Park tried to make her paintings look like sculptures and sculptures appear like objects from the paintings, blurring the line between sculptures and paintings.

Her latest exhibition at Baik Art in Seoul lies on the continuum of such experiments but takes another step forward.

“Each work at SongEun ArtSpace had a title, though they were stylistically similar. My intention there was to have the viewers read similar visual information in different titles. I thought different titles would allow the viewer to imagine things differently,” Park said.

For her latest exhibition, however, she tried to minimize the role of titles. The works on the second floor of the exhibition do not have titles at all.

“The whole chunk of works on the second floor used to have a title that they shared, but I intentionally got rid of it. With or without, it does not matter,” Park said. “I think the title of the exhibition says all that needs to be said.”

Park intentionally removed any element that would create a dominant theme, narrative or meaning, in an effort to give equal importance to all works on show.

“If I have to pick the most important painting, it would be ‘For You Who Do Not Listen to Me,’ but I placed it on the third floor, instead of the main exhibition space on the second floor, to not give it any emphasis.” 

An installation view of painter Park Kyung-ryul’s "For You Who Do Not Listen to Me" at Baik Art in Seoul (Baik Art)

Park added that her works do not have a particular message or a master narrative.

“If anyone asks me about the meaning of my works, I can provide answers they would like. But I think that would be lies. I don’t attach any meaning to what I do in my daily life, and that applies to my paintings,” Park said.

In the same vein, she does not like to introduce references or discourse in her works.

“I don’t like using references either. I think it’s meaningless to add words to what has been already said (in visual language). The references are not my words. I don’t think other people’s words can come before me,” said the artist.

Park just paints in an unconscious or involuntary manner, as painting, to her, is more of a habitual activity than an occupation.

“I just continue to paint. I cannot help it. I just do it,” Park said. “When I was young, I had to move from one country to another quite often. But I was not equipped with the different languages I needed. Drawing was a way in which I could record and understand things.”

The experience greatly influenced her approach to paintings and that is what the artist wants viewers to experience, she said.

The exhibition runs through May 8.

By Shim Woo-hyun (