Building a dwelling and creating an object with form were not always distinguished from one another in prehistoric times. The safety offered by permanent barriers to elements were not entirely without parallels to the security and auspiciousness delivered by formed images. As such, the purpose of art was tied to shamanic practices. This purposefulness of art is increasingly self-evident further into the past, but quite obscure in our present. However, re-establishing that shamanic connection through imagery is not a difficult task, even today. People generally do not vandalise Christian icons or Buddhist shrines, felicitous talismans or family photos. Comprehending the shamanic underpinnings of art first depends on the acceptance that we are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, and as a consequence have faith in a mystical force that will aid and sustain us through the fog of uncertainty.
In her latest solo exhibition, Juae Park presents ceramic works and paintings. Park began to work with earthenware in 2019 and introduced them into her oeuvre in 2020. It initially began when an in-vitro fertilisation effort with her partner failed and left her in great distress. She had taken up learning something new as a foil for her emotional state. Although not intended, she created shapes associated with pregnancy, similar to the rudimentary forms found in primitive sculpture. Park explains that it was all she could think of: pregnancy.
The earthenware takes various related forms: pregnant mother's body, uterus, fetus, lactating breasts, and an egg. To Park, a pregnant abdomen looked like an egg. Eggs have become a symbol of the life within, as well as a metaphor for gestation and being carried to term. The earthenware are supplément to pregnancy. Suppléments provide something necessary as substrates to our desire, but it is not subject of desire itself. That is, supplément means there is something wanting. And it is in wanting where imagery is born. As the artist struggled with the failure to conceive, she crafted one or two earthenware each week to shake off the looming anxiety and wish for auspiciousness. Her earthenware are objects that intricately combine play and earnestness, ambivalently blending hope and sorrow, esoteric ecstasy and anxiety, joy and sorrow.
Juae Park's paintings were drawn in the style of her earthenware. Usually when she makes her earthenware, she first draws it. In a sense, she has taken it from the plane (drawing) to the object (earthenware) and then back to the plane (painting). So without imagery, there would not have been objects. At first, she gave the forms an intuitive expression, but as she continued to work on the forms, her initial desire and anxiety surrounding pregnancy became more metaphorical and less intense. The gestation of the abstracted fetus, umbilical cord, ovaries, eggs, and female bodies all became parts floating in the frames of her painting.
The body seems natural. One might say there is nothing more mysterious to our own eyes than ourselves; our bodies. All our discourse on the evolution of the body, sex, race, birth and death, senescence, disability, and disease, are extremely social and simultaneously deeply personal. Nobody is free from these problems. Anybody who is free from these problems will need to be have the blessing of youth, a favourable appearance, and a perfectly unaging, unailing physiology. It is close enough to be imaginable, but far enough to be a story. Once we experience the limits of our body, we understand our body to be something that runs against the grains of nature. However, this utopian pursuit to delay aging, attain plastic perfection, and augment the body with medical technology was costly. It signified an awareness of one's own wanting.
Juae Park wanted to sincerely convey the desperation she was swimming against. In fact, the wanting lack and anxiety have always served as inspirations to her artistic practice, where her mode became the candid unveiling of her own dearth and anxieties through art. Her earthenware and paintings are loveable and humourous, blending humour with pity for herself. The anatomically correct depictions of her earthenware are not a play on form, but a genuine disclosure and expression of desire. What of her creations would not be a desperate plea when all of the images have been drawn from the bottom of her inner self? That image seeks emancipation from reality, no matter what the cost. As her works are fantastic and illusionary, they also embody her sorrow and desperate pleas.
Press release courtesy GALLERY2.