Nara Park

Washington, D.C. | by January 7, 2018

Nara Park investigates simulations of nature and memorials as expressions of our desire for immortality.

I first encountered the work of Nara Park three years ago at Edgewood Studios in Brookland. I was struck by it immediately because it seemed to fit into an empty gap of the lexicon I use to describe my own artistic practice and worldview. Park practices a unique form of tactical media that goes beyond the materials that she uses and reaches in to the depths of our beliefs and values concerning permanence vs impermanence.

In her light-filled studio/home in Washington DC, I recognized her work as more complex than I had seen previously, a kind of geological wonderland. What one might refer to as ‘new stone’. Prismatic pointed shapes emerge from the wall, fractured slices of concrete hang from the ceiling in Disillusioned III, carved grave markers and memorials line the walls of her studio. All of which collectively announce the vision of Nara Park.

Park’s use of industrial monofilament, textured house paint, plastic laminate and wall paper that resembles the surface of a rock dominate in her fantastic display of talent. It is important to understand and appreciate the actual materiality of her work in order to fully embrace the transformation of hardware store industrial materials to meaningful, conceptual installations and sculpture. This aesthetic shift from man-made to the natural world happens seamlessly throughout all of her work without any suspect. Her formulas for construction are hidden just as the refinement of nature exists in reality. It is this perfection of mathematical order that Park looks to for inspiration.

In Flow IV, a large framed construction, the size, shape and angle of her rock formations are meticulously created digitally, printed and cut electrically from textured wallpaper and are folded into brilliant three dimensional hollow stone shapes. Nara describes how she likes to use opposing qualities: most of the components in her work are hollow; yet appear to be physically heavy and dense allowing the viewer to also feel the emotional weight as part of the experience.

With rigorous patterns and distinct gradient hues, the elements of Flow IV are arranged as a rocky landscape with views that evoke a feeling of being inside a semi-abstract, pixilated painting of a mountain range. These pieces in particular pose an exercise in contradictions. Physically, these works are self contained and feel like a calm, soothing, seemingly limitless atmospheric experience, yet the sharp points of the industrial material have a distinctly menacing appearance and leave the viewer to question their own perception of reality.

This illusory reality also presents emphatic connections. These are addressed as she investigates and synthesizes our relationship to the landscape we live in, and the imprint we leave when we are gone. This concept is largely explored through the use of man-made materials that simulate stone and imply memorialization and our innate desire for immortality. Her use of false materials connects the transient nature of life to our disposable, short lived, throwaway society that is strongly influenced by consumerism.

As a child growing up in the industrial city of Seoul, South Korea, Park witnessed the use of technology and manufacturing as a way to compensate for a shortage of natural resources. She also found a similar cycle of industrial and technological development in the Western culture. Synthetic materials are easily accessible in the West as a cause and result of the decline of our nature resources. With considerable ramifications to our planet, this process is used globally to produce man-made materials to replace its natural components. This ‘plasticene’ material speaks to our culture’s obsession with the most immediate, convenient solution.

Park’s mission is to use this form of imitation to inspire a particular visual effect by generating beauty, intrigue and most importantly life from a vast assortment of industrial materials.

This process is apparent in her sculptural work that mimics graves and shrines and commemorate the deceased. These memorials appear to be made of stone that might symbolize strength and longevity.

This notion came into question early on when Park witnessed the death of a loved one and experienced grief leading her to question the concept of permanence. This important milestone and realization catapulted her work into an intense dialect of perception and articulation of immortality.

 “…Even rocks get worn away by wind and water, and eventually disappear. My use of materials reflects the fact that we what we perceive to be permanent is actually ephemeral.”

Nara Park’s work will be featured as part of Cultural DC’s mobile container series. This solo exhibition will be located in Ward 4 and will include an interactive installation. (November 2018).


Park holds a Bachelor of Fine Art in General Fine Arts followed by a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she received the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award by the International Sculpture Center and Henry Walters Traveling Fellowship in 2013. She also has received the Young Artist Award from the Trawick foundation and the Hamiltonian Artists Fellowship in 2015. Her work has been on exhibit at numerous venues including Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans; Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ; Baltimore/Washington International Airport; and Rush Arts Gallery, New York, NY. Her work has been featured in the Sculpture magazine, The Washington Post and Artnet News.

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