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Bongsu Park: A quest for the source of it all

bongsupark171111iiBongsu Park gave some inkling of her quest, her ambitious journey, when she participated in a London exhibition, intriguingly titled Grotesque Genome, in November 2011, writes SAJID RIZVI.

Nothing grotesque about her art though.

Through works that are often mysterious, sensual and visually attractive, Bongsu Park engages the viewer in a discussion on life’s bigger questions. While the sculptural forms, photographs, staged photography and installations captivate the viewer, provoke fundamental questions and myriad sensory reactions, they are all means to an end: exploring and hopefully one day finding the source of it all.

How can one make light of an artist who asks: why are we here? Why are we on this planet? Are we from here, or from somewhere else? If the latter, then where from? Why do we exist as we do while science still waits to report any signs of life anywhere else in the universe? Why indeed?

This is not pretentious posturing. We probably ask these questions ourselves all the time in our muted ways, not articulating them as art tends to do, and then moving on with our lives. For Bongsu Park, the artist, exploration of those questions is the vocabulary that becomes her art.

Bongsu Park trained in native (South) Korea, France and England, where she currently resides. In the November group exhibition, shared with three other Korean female artists and a male artist (see note below), Bongsu Park presented ideas in staged photographs and ‘chandeliers’ of egg forms hung from the gallery space ceiling.

In the photographs, Bongsu Park invites the viewer to contemplate the moment of birth and the arrival of a new life — human heads emerging from rupturing surfaces evocative of an egg or the vulva. Birth and life comes with costs, she appears to remind us, the cost to ourselves being the never ending challenge of existence and inquiry, a search in which we tend to magnify our small discoveries, turn them into victories,  claim or earn glory for our achievements and then we die. All very sobering indeed.

Openings, orifices and holes play a part in Bongsu Park’s creations. But while holes bear erotic and sensual connotations in other artists’ works, and probably in her work as well, Bongsu Park’s reach is beyond that discourse, toward consideration of holes undoing surfaces and undermining spaces in order to facilitate new happenings — birth — and new beginnings.

The white ovoid shapes bursting with seeds, and potentially new lives, are another take on the idea of birth and death. Styrofoam pellets suggest eggs and in some installations carefully crafted colour schemes that adorn the shapes evoke East Asian notions of how the moment of birth, for the most part, tends to determine our nature.

Among her immediate concerns Bongsu Park mentions anxiety about existence as well as life’s persistent ambiguity. She knows that through her work she will keep looking and will find some answers that, as an artist and a mortal, will do the job for now, for her life and posterity. Those won’t be the final or complete answers, nor will they be unique, but they will give her quest the energy and vitality that will infuse her art. As we all know too well, it’s an unending journey, but’s worth every bit staying on course

Grotesque Genome, at Mokspace gallery 11-17 November 2011, featured Bongsu Park with Jin Kim, Ilsu Hwang (the only male artist in the group), Ilsun Maeng and Min Yoo. Mokspace: 33, Museum Street, London WC1A 1LH.

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