For her first solo exhibition at Perrotin Paris, and in France, GaHee Park explores the magical potentials within reality and interpersonal relationships, subverting contemporary conservatism and societal fright.
Born in 1985 in South Korea, where she was raised and spent most of her adolescence, Park eventually decided to study in the United States. By leaving her native country, she released herself from a certain hold it had on her—both familial and religious—of oppressive silences and constraints.
GaHee Park’s paintings embody the sentimental, the delicate, the affectionate. Full of desires, the artist—liberated, emancipated, like her work—showcases a love of uninhibited painting, between conflict and harmony. In constant tension between an almost palpable sense of intimacy and of dark humour, her work often shifts towards absurdity and illusion. At times funny, disturbing, fluid and organic, her painting is as fulfilling as her drawing. The latter is a faster technique, as some of her paintings can take several months or years to be finalized. Populated by strong bodies, simultaneously large and graceful, her work is constantly situated in relation to spaces, venues and landscapes, often sunning or sleeping. The profusion of characters featured in her work immerses the viewer in a vaguely familiar cosmology.
Her paintings are permeated by hands with manicured nails and many pairs of eyes, which have crucial connotations for the artist. Gazes multiply, everywhere: we look at each other, we eat, we taste, we drink, at the end of a meal or in a moment of relaxation. We kiss, we caress. In these intertwining moments—both visual and physical—the link, the connection, the relationship to oneself and to the other situate such painting between love and friendship, desire and comfort. As though in a dream, or a reenacted film scene, GaHee Park zooms in, takes sequence shots and multiplies temporalities using reflection, duplication, shadow or repetition.
Park’s style might appear naive at first glance but the psychological, social and political aspects of her paintings heighten the stakes. She frees herself from authoritarian and dominant dogmas by considering affects and feelings as a means to gaining knowledge of the world. To do this, she disarms the weight of conventions, turns away from them to assert a different force and power. Then, by reappropriating a part of art history through the nude and the still life, she displaces these elements in order to deconstruct the mental shackles that prevent us from letting love have free rein: a force for action that transcends influence and control.
Human experience is composed of these political and social transformations. Similarly to the artist Gertrude Abercrombie—queen of bohemian artists in the 1930s, under-recognized for her mysterious paintings filled with nocturnal, mercurial, magnetic and mystical energies—we find the love of “painting simple things that are a little strange.” Behind these sentimental landscapes and emotional spaces is, ultimately, an unceasing way of painting other ways of existing.
Born in 1985 in Seoul, South Korea
Lives and works in Montreal, Canada
Park’s paintings may be realized in the “naive” style that recalls painters like Henri Rousseau, but her subject matter is far from it. Often depicting romantic scenes where the idyll has turned sour, the sexual acts that seem to be transpiring in her paintings are at odds with their quaint settings, where art history’s favorite still life subjects—rotund fruit, cheeses, and bottles, appear on the verge of rolling off the surface of the table: so pitched is the surface, so hyper-stylized is her take on forced perspective. And yet, space doesn’t seem to recede in Park’s paintings. It’s cancelled out by the kind of flatness only a laboring love of texture and pattern can produce. Space comes to a halt as Park revels in woodgrain and brocade. Any indication of space comes courtesy of some framed element that seems to replicate the scene, albeit with some slight modification like a game of “Spot the Difference.” A window? A mirror? Another painting? Park revels in these ambiguities as well.