Artist Park Meena’s Playful Paintings Stem from Her Interest in Color

June 6, 2022

A Team

Artist Park Meena takes a keen interest in colors, but her focus gradually broadens to encompass a wider scope. Park collects and analyzes colors and images and then uses a playful approach to turn her research into paintings. Her studies of color, language, and symbols are also a way of looking into the visual systems of our world.

Park Meena. MMCA Artist Talk with Park Meena
at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) ©MMCA/ artist

Park’s earliest works are some good examples of how she began her artistic practices.

Autumn Sky (1995) is a painting in which she attempted to capture the color of the sky at the same location and time over the course of a month.

Park’s interest in colors stretched to collecting and studying children’s coloring books in 1998 as a way to go back to the fundamentals of painting.

She discovered that certain iconographies, such as the sun, stars, and animals, were represented differently by various artists, and began to create the Colors Drawings series by painting the background except for these shapes.

Park Meena, '14 Shades of Monochrome and Green, Blue, Red and Black Light,' 2020, lights, wall painting.
"Diving into the Color," at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA), Gwacheon.

In Orange Painting (2002–2003), Park delved deeper into color analysis. She gathered all the orange paints readily available on the Korean market and used each to draw lines on a canvas. Park did not mix the pigments and only used the products’ original colors to create this piece. In a way, the work is a record of how the modern commercial marketplace defines the color “orange.”

Park Meena, '5'PIU;UVYQ,' 2010, Acrylic on canvas, 62 x 62 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Park not only investigated the scope of a certain color in her work but also reflected the trend of the color industry by utilizing recently produced colors. For instance, in the mid-2000s, her Dingbat paintings used glow-in-the-dark, fluorescent, glittering paints, which were the most popular colors produced at the time.

Dingbat painting is a series that depicts the image of dingbat fonts, which are computer glyphs that use simple images or symbols as opposed to letters and numbers.

In this collection of works, the artist explores the relationship between language and image in greater depth. Park translates profanity into English and converts the words into dingbat characters. She enlarges and colors them according to the artist’s standards and then creates a new narrative for the icons.

Park Meena, 'Green Scream,' 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 180 x 180 cm.
"Nostaliga Through Noise" at Prompt Project, Seoul. Photo by Aproject Company.

In 2001, Park began one of her best-known Scream series, a collection of paintings depicting a Charlie Brown-like character exposing his heart-shaped uvula as if screaming.

She creates multiple variations of this series while adhering to several rules, such as painting the screaming figure and the heart shape using 12 equal grids or square circles to minimize errors in its forms.

As Park successively repeats and interweaves visual elements in the paintings to add meanings and narratives to the works, she compares this series with fugues, a musical form consisting of themes that repeat high or low notes.

Exhibition view of "Nostalgia Through Noise" at Prompt Project. Seoul.
April 21 - June 9, 2022. Photo by Aproject Company.

Park Meena‘s (b. 1973) artworks reflect her considerations for color and technical skill, and they capture the stories of people in contemporary society.

Park has participated in numerous shows both at home and abroad since her first solo exhibition in 1996 at the Benson Hall Gallery in Providence, USA. In 2010, she won the first Doosan Yeongang Art Award.

Her works can be found in the collections of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul, Korea), the Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul, Korea), the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art (Seoul, Korea), the Ilmin Museum of Art (Seoul, Korea), and the Bank of Germany (Hong Kong).

Contemporary art gallery Prompt Project, which opened in April, is exhibiting MeeNa Park’s works through June 9. The three-person show Nostalgia Through Noise features Park Meena, Heemin Chung, and Eunu Lee.