GaHee Park's first solo show with Perrotin on view in Seoul
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GaHee Park's first solo show with Perrotin on view in Seoul
View of the exhibition “We Used to be Fish” at Perrotin Seoul © Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin.

SEOUL.- Perrotin is presenting We Used to Be Fish, an exhibition by Seoul born New York based-artist, GaHee Park. This is her first solo show with the gallery.

In an era where technology has enabled vast new networks of connection, these means of communication are—more-often-thannot—unreliant on physical presence and touch. Our own time could easily be described as a paradoxical heightening of connection and isolation in equal measure. In this exhibition, Park’s work is notable for her celebration of a slower and more personal sense of bonding. Comprised of paintings and drawings depicting intimacy within domestic scenes, Park’s sensual visions are profoundly personal ones.

Born and raised in Korea, Park’s early life was influenced by her strict and religious upbringing as well as the socially restrictive and conformist atmosphere of Korea at the time—factors she actively attributes to her interest in exploring intimate realms not affected by a sense of indoctrinated shame and guilt. Within her paintings, modest pleasures come to the fore—disrobed couples lounge freely within the confines of their living quarters, caught mid embrace and fulfilling multiple desires at once. There exists a feeling of the quotidian—casual dinners, errant cats, and disorganized surfaces— where her idealized eroticism unfolds. It’s this combination of fantasy and normalcy that sets her scenes apart.

Park’s palette pulsates with pastel swathes, as exaggerated figures use their bulbous appendages to reach for objects of desire placed throughout the frame. The characters’ hands appear genetically modified so as to pluck away at all their hearts desires. But curiously, Park’s work is not as explicitly sexual as one might expect from such descriptions. These desires, while sometimes of the flesh, also include impulses to cuddle, eat morsels of delight, and modestly enjoy a cocktail from a room with a view. In one notable painting, a couple embrace, eat steak, fondle each other, and feed the dog all at once. She CAN have it all, Park seems to say. But this stance of self-affirmation contains more than a little stubborn rebelliousness as well. For such modest, “civilized” pleasures to be meaningful and liberating, Park suggests, the willful subversion of social norms and taboos is often necessary. This can lead to strange primitive behavior and unnatural contortions of the body.

These idealized scenes of private lives are a rebuttal to technological intrusions (not a cellphone is seen) and perhaps a form of personal catharsis in answer to an upbringing constricted by ideological frameworks. Her safe spaces, bounded by the canvas edges, offer a place to play without shame and recrimination. They are sensual in the true definition of the word: involving gratification of the senses and the physical. Our subjects touch, taste, see, and (we assume) hear and smell the things that deliver pleasure.

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