Interview with Nara Park
VisArts Studio Fellow
September 13, 2019
By Iona Nave Griesmann
“My work investigates our relationship to the landscape we live in and the imprint we leave in it when we are gone.
Stone is often used to commemorate the dead: it is a symbol of strength, stability and permanence. After witnessing the death of a loved one and experiencing grief, I began to ponder mortality and the desire for permanence. What I realized was nothing is permanent. Even rocks get worn away by wind and water, and eventually disappear. My use of materials reflects the fact that what we perceive to be permanent is actually ephemeral. In my work, I explore how far I can push the boundaries of imitations in order to inspire reverence and respect for its visual effect. I do not aim to trick the viewer with the faux, but rather generate life from it.
Most of my sculptures are hollow inside in order to emphasize that there is a void under the surface of a monumental structure. Opposing states coexist: hollowness inside bulkiness, physical lightness inside visual heaviness, and immanence within emptiness. They are only surfaces, yet they may be more than that.”
Your artist statement says that your goal is “not to deceive, but rather generate life from faux.” Would you like to elaborate on what this statement means?
I often use deceiving materials, and try to emphasize the false aspect of them. For example, I have made a waterfall out of stone printed boxes, but the pixels of the prints were magnified. The viewer would know they are prints, not real stone. I don’t try to trick the viewer’s eye, rather, I try to generate life from what is not alive, or what is not real.
Why do you choose to use these fake materials instead of real ones?
I am interested in something that’s beyond our visual perception. Although my materials are not authentic, by using them for my art, my art has its own life.
So it’s an emphasis on what is impermanent?
Yes, and our desire for permanence. Our desire for life.
The second question is, when did you realize that you wanted to pursue art?
I don’t know if I wanted to be an artist, but I just naturally loved art, since I was young.
My mom noticed that, because I didn’t want to leave my classroom after my art class was over. I didn’t want to go home. I would just keep making things, even though the class was over.
I noticed that your work has an aesthetic of being very fragmented. I was wondering how this decision emphasizes the message of your work?
It’s about preserving vulnerability, and accepting the vulnerable side of the physical world. It goes back to impermanence.
By making them appear heavy, while they consist of light materials, it sends a message about actual fragility?
The fragility of life. Not in a negative way, but just being comfortable with it, or embracing the temporality of life. My work is not necessarily visually disturbing. I try to make it look aesthetically pleasing, but there is a destructive side of it as well. It has a duality.
My next question is, how has your work changed or evolved from where you started, to what you are making in the present? What things are different, and what things are similar?
I used to be very interested in the spectacle of installation art. I used to make a lot of kinetic sculptures, like a waterfall, or a gigantic moving tower, and I think now, I’m more interested in more basic forms of sculpture. Instead of adding a lot of elements, I’m more interested in simple forms. Not like minimalism, but I try to subtract unnecessary elements. Just to be more simple, while opening the door to more possibilities by being simple.
In your bio, you describe how after the event of your father’s passing you went through a dramatic alteration on your perception of life. Would you be willing to talk about that?
I’m curious about the relationship between the world we live in, and the world that we may not see. I don’t want my work to be religious, but I’m curious about where my father is right now.
Amidst all the emotions you felt during that period of struggle, how were you able to take the emotions you were feeling, and use them to evolve your artistic practices?
It took me a really long time to accept it. Normally, I don’t share my personal emotions or stories with other people, and I used to be a very introverted person. It’s been more than 10 years, so it took a really long time to open up, and share those stories when I talked about my work. Sharing my story really helped me overcome the grief. My emotional weight got lighter after I started to share it. Through making art, it really helped me heal, and explore my curiosity in a positive, meaningful way. I’m grateful that I can make art and share my story with other people.
Does that mean you began your process of accepting his passing, after you have made your first work?
Not even after the first work, but, maybe when I started to create works with fragments of materials such as for my Flux series, Shatter, and Disillusioned series. The process of breaking the materials helped me face and accept what I went through. Around the time I made those works, I was able to feel better about it, but before that, I was kind of at a loss. I still made art in the same theme, but I didn’t necessarily share what I was doing.
When I was looking back at your website, I noticed that some of the earlier ones posted on your website have thematic colors of brown, grey, black, etc.. As your work progresses to more recent pieces you’ve done, your work begins to employ more neon/bright colors. Can you tell me what thematic purpose this serves?