A diverse and inclusive art world in the making
by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Apr 23, 2023
Standing under the vast expanse of a canopy made of colourful reflective material is an encounter with a series of multifocal selves. To find oneself amongst the shards of a reflective two-dimensional surface is not a simple imitation of reality rather opens the possibility to absorb and observe the passage of change. The phenomenon of light has peppered the annals of history and philosophy to talk about the nuanced impression of representations, available to be savoured in a variety of forms and shapes. The mirroring effect defies being another replica of what stands in front of it but is a sum part of the whole. Irrevocably, the kaleidoscopic vision, facilitated by the in-situ installations, transforms the built-environment space in order to have a rendezvous with hitherto unknown. To put these conceptual ideas - lending a moment to pause and reflect - into a tangible reality is encapsulated by the sculpture art practice of Korean American artist Soo Sunny Park. The “liminal space” both literally and metaphorically, as Sunny Park likes to term it, comes into being when the light makes us see what has remained undisclosed until now.
Sunny Park engages in a conversation with STIR to talk about the notion of light and materials as a site of its exploration, “Light caught my interest because it is a liminal being. It allows us to see, but we usually do not focus on light. We care more about the things light lets us see. I wanted to explore making light itself a material in sculpture, alongside things like fencing and glass.” Besides, the light is an enabler of the liminal space, the spectrum of colours absorbs the viewers to probe them about assumptions in terms of identification and representations. To an artist, if the advent of digital technology has helped to ease the exercise of design and construction, Sunny Park informs, “I make colour combinations by considering the materials available to me, and I need to see the samples and make the design choices off-screen.” For the Expanded Present at the Smithsonian displayed last year, these choices depended on the colour of the brickwork behind the Arts and Industries Building. “The way the piece would catch the light at different times of day, and the way the piece would handle all kinds of weather while it was outside for about a year,” says Sunny Park.
The immersive experiential journey extended by Sunny Park helps her alter spaces. For the artist, if you are occupying the space, you are participating in the work. But participation changes depending on the work in question. In an older work of 2007, 2008 & 2012, for instance, SSVT Vapor Slide, the goal was to give you the sense of walking within a space you could never occupy: the space between the gravel ground and the snow that covers it in winter. In later works such as Photokinetic Grid the viewers are reflected in the tiles, and cameras that project that image, enlarged, back onto the tiles, capture your image. That feedback loop makes the piece an ever-changing creation, which requires the participation of the viewer.
The latest work Veil of Vision is an amalgamation of these two phenomena. The play on early modern thinking about perception, in the vein of English Enlightenment thinkers John Locke, the immersive installation realigns the human sensorial potential with the surroundings. The viewers shed the dexterity of informed vision since it was placed in a dark room with equally dark and intricate webbing. The work initiates the viewers to use a flashlight to fully explore the space. The immersive art installation was prompted by the artist’s desire to work on retroreflective material. It allowed the viewers to explore a physical form in a manner, which was not possible if it was made of the original material. Such paint or fabric is dependent on viewers illuminating it with their lights. “So you occupy a space you could not otherwise occupy, while your lights and others’ lights show only parts of the form you explore”, confides Sunny Park.
The installation allows the audience to explore a form that fills a space like they were inside it. “I built an interesting form out of aluminium honeycomb and encased it in clear resin. Once the resin was set, I then cut the solid block into cross sections so I could see how the complex shape occupied space. I then decided to use black nylon netting as a medium for enlarging and painting those cross sections,” mention Sunny Park. Towards this end, “You hang the netting in the right order, you get a reproduction of this sculptural form that people can explore by walking between different pieces of netting. Also, they see the sculptural form only when they are shining a light on it. Otherwise, it disappears. Going forward, I am excited about the potential of retroreflective materials in my work,” confides the artist.
This year Sunny Park will show her works in the group as well as solo exhibitions Contemporary Art Where Architecture and Art Meet at the Cheongju Museum of Art, in Korea, and Ogden Contemporary Arts in Utah, respectively. Her works aim to transform the spaces in the hope that one recognizes new kinds of potential in everyday spaces and everyday life. “One way we reshape the world is by rethinking basic categories like inside and outside, boundary and passage, subject and object. Where can I go? That depends on the spaces we make,” concludes the American artist.
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