J Park (1966–), born in Daegu, took significant inspiration from senior Korean artists Insik Quac (1919–1988), Kangso Lee (1943–), and Jeumsik Chung (1917–2009) — the first generation of Korean contemporary artists — and is considered the successor of their aesthetics. An alumnus of École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France, Park studied under Claude Viallat (1936–), the founder of the Supports/Surfaces, and Braco Dimitrijevic (1948–), a revolutionary figure in French modern art. Viallat emphasized the importance of innovation in painting and negated its deified aspects and the commercial attributes surrounding it. For instance, Viallat materialized the neutralness of the canvas by eliminating all elements that could potentially sanctify painting, such as signature, date, and title. Dimitrijevic, who famously said, “the Louvre is my studio and the street is my museum,” was revolution personified. Known for taking photographs of random pedestrians, printing them on large banners, and hanging them on downtown squares, Dimitrijevic attacked the idolization and commercialization of images and made scathing criticisms of institutional authority in the art world.
In terms of formal analysis, Park’s paintings can be identified as follows: the series presented in his past exhibition ~Kreuzen, the series presented in his 2021 exhibition Vertical Time, and the series unveiled in this exhibition, Noösphere. Through his previous series of works, Park conceded his existential regret of not being able to find the middle between right and wrong, good and evil, one and the other, and the beginning and the end.
In this exhibition, Park introduces us to the concept of “noösphere.” Noösphere, a portmanteau of two Greek words νόος (nous, meaning “mind”) and σφαῖρα (sphaira, meaning “sphere”), was coined by the French theologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) who claimed that humanity could reach a higher realm by merging the mind with scientific knowledge. In other words, he asserted that men would undergo a spiritual evolution during the era of pleroma and ultimately reach the Omega Point. Park’s current painting series presents an adaptation of Chardin’s evolutionary theory. First, there was art that reproduced or copied nature. Second, there emerges art that expresses the mind and emotions. Third, there emerges formalism, art movements that seek meaning in form. Fourth, there emerges institutional art, a stage during which institutions determine the value of works of art. Fifth, Park expects the emergence of the noösphere, a stage during which the products of ultimate reason — such as computers, technology, philosophy, and theology — meet art and create a new sphere, and believes that his works will be the prelude to the noösphere, at least, in the field of painting.
The Noösphere series features canvases that are no longer rectangular. However, the distorted and transfigured frames here are not the products of human imagination or illusion. Instead, the angles of these canvases reflect how the digital camera views the world. The digital camera is a product of the 0-1 binary code. No one would deny that this binary language and the computation made possible by it are the true heroes of the noösphere. Park’s latest painting series encompasses Viallat’s vision that transcended the overwhelming bias towards the rectangular canvas, Dimitrijevic’s spirit of resisting the system, and the collective belief shared by Quac, Chung, and Lee, who had armed themselves with an unwavering love for humanity and a spirit of positivity. Park’s unique ability to combine creativity with his love for humanity is also the source of his endless energy, and the Noösphere series demonstrates how invaluable his gifts are.
Jin Myung Lee, Critic