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Artist sees irony, potential in well-kept garden

All News 17:26 June 10, 2016

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- For artist Park Sang-mi, plants are herself, others and everyone.

Having grown up watching her grandmother growing plants, she has felt a deep sense of connection to all things botanical since childhood.

One day, she found it unbearable to watch well-kept plants in a beautiful garden. A sudden realization hit her that those trees, plants and flowers in a man-made environment might not be happy to be there. She started sympathizing with them.

"Plants in a garden are arranged for the pure joy of people. They probably wouldn't want to be where they are planted," she said in a meeting with reporters on Friday.

In her new exhibition "Coexistence Space," she extended the question further on a canvas filled with contrasting colors of red, yellow, green and gray. In her paintings, ordinary scenes are juxtaposed with uncanny disposition of objects and colors, exuding an unrealistic and fanciful atmosphere.

Her paintings arrest immediate attention for their intense colors. Surprisingly bright colors of pots and grass stand in sharp contrast to grayish, dull trees and plants.

Contrary to one's assumption, she said she sees infinite potential in the drab color because the color looks "undefined" to her. She intentionally chose to use Indian ink, a paint used in oriental paintings, to express nature's limitless possibilities despite constraints and restrictions littered in reality.

Like the kept plants in her art, human beings lead their lives in a confined, limited area, oblivious of the fact that there is a much bigger world out there, she believed. But they take root and lead a life however small the land a plant or human being stands on. Through her art, she wants to throw a positive light on the ironic, distorted, yet beautiful world.

"I sometimes see myself and others in my art, standing dangerously and believing where we live is all there is," she said. "That is how we all live in this world."

Majoring in oriental painting at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Park received wide attention from the Korean art world in 2006 when she won the Grand Prize in the Oriental Painting category at the Korea Grand Arts Festival.

A closer look at her paintings reveals deep, sparkling colors and rich texture, achieved through applying multiple layers of paint made from a powered stone on athick mulberry paper.

"The artist paradoxically emphasizes plants' strong, tenacious hold on life in a totally controlled environment, by describing them using two very different colors -- Indian ink and bright color paints," wrote art critic Park Young-taek for her exhibit.

The exhibit runs from June 15-30 at Lee Hwaik Gallery in Seoul.


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