After reading the books Gulliver’s Travels, Utopia, and Erewhon and seeing the Japanese animated movie Castle in the Sky, Jihyun Park became inspired to develop a relationship between the concept of utopia and the materials that he uses in his work. His recent work, Incense Series, focuses on this relationship while searching for the promised harmonic balance that utopia brings. Ironically, the word “utopia” in Korean is “Yi Sang Hwang” and “Hwang” means “incense”. In Park’s current incense drawings, he uses lit incense sticks to burn holes in rice paper. He then mounts the final drawings onto varnished canvases. The burning of the incense sticks creates emptiness where there once was substance, both in the stick itself and the paper used. At the same time, the incense creates dark smoke and bright flames. The holes in the paper allow one’s eye to see shadows while at the same time light is reflected back from the varnished canvas. This balance of light and dark, substance and emptiness is the essence of ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ and through this balance utopia is achieved.
The subjects addressed in Park’s work range from the natural world to memories of the past, reflecting the constant physical and emotional changes in our environment. It is his hope that the “moments” he captures of his subjects are ones when they are at their most ideal– true utopias. While drawing them with the incense, he is “holding” a split moment of harmony in his hands.
Jihyun Park, born in South Korea in 1975, received his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2002. His work has been exhibited in solo shows at the Gana Art Center, Seoul, South Korea; Art in General, New York, NY; Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY; and the Duck Won Gallery, Seoul, South Korea. Park’s work has been shown in recent group shows at the Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY; Gallery Korea, New York, NY; Gallery The, Brooklyn, NY; and Asian art initiative, Philadelphia, PA. He has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Aljira Emerge 2003 Fellowship from the Professional Development Fellowship Program for Emerging Artists and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Park lives and works in New York City.