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Anna Park.

Anna Park Communicates the Complicated Scenes of Our Time in Charcoal

In her Brooklyn studio, the 26-year-old artist Anna Park creates large-scale charcoal drawings that communicate and evoke complicated emotions. To reflect the time we’re living in, filled with limitless information and a complex American culture, her pieces blend chaotic scenarios in blurs of faces, places, and things. Details in tight scenes range from decaying florals, smiles, and cake to nude bodies and money. To create these elusive works, Park merges an array of dynamic techniques and references—from history painting to abstraction and figuration—to show prodigious emotions of celebration and chaos, joy and greed, life and death.  

On the occasion of her first solo exhibition, “Last Call” (on view through January 2, 2023) at SCAD Museum of Art, and her show “Mirror Shy” (November 5–December 17, 2022) at Blum & Poe Los Angeles, Whitewall spoke with Park about honestly depicting humanity as we know it.

Anna Park.

Portrait by Luis Corzo, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo, artwork in background © Anna Park.

WHITEWALL: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

ANNA PARK: I think I was naturally an introverted kid and felt comfortable being on my own. Making art felt like a natural thing to do when left to my own devices. I guess most kids grow up drawing and painting to some degree, but I found it to be my form of escapism and therapy. I didn’t fully grasp that I could pursue it as a career, but I never had any other plans that didn’t involve art. I suppose art became some sort of tunnel vision or obsession, which I am grateful for.

WW: You’re from South Korea and lived in Utah before moving to New York to study at Pratt Institute and the New York Academy of Art. How did these experiences shape your artmaking, or view of the art world?

AP: Having moved around for most of my adolescence, I learned to constantly adapt in the role of an “outsider.” As a child, my sense of belonging meant to be a part of the world around me, so I naturally became hyper-aware of the environments I inhabited. At times, it felt as though the world was moving faster than what I could grasp fully. The drawings came as a way to capture my experiences as well as to offer myself a better understanding of what I was experiencing at the time.

Anna Park,

Anna Park, Last Call (detail), 2021, charcoal on paper on panel, 80 x 180 inches, phot by Genevieve Hanson, artwork © Anna Park, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

WW: Much of your work depicts tight crowd scenes that hover between abstraction and figuration. Why was this a style you gravitated toward? 

AP: I think my environments have always influenced my work a lot. Growing up in Utah, I was surrounded by expansive landscapes and suburban architecture. Moving to New York six years ago, it offered a complete shift in environment and an abundant of energy that I took inspiration from. The stylistic choice of both abstraction and figuration came as a natural evolution within my practice of drawing. Having come from an education of traditional figure drawing, my way to explore different avenues of drawing was to abstract forms.

WW: Why is charcoal the medium you solely work with today?

AP: Charcoal had always been so accessible to me, so I was very familiar with the material. My obsession with it only grew the more I was drawing with it—the limitations of the medium, color, and texture gave me boundaries that I could explore.

Anna Park,

Anna Park, Last Call (detail), 2021, charcoal on paper on panel, 80 x 180 inches, phot by Genevieve Hanson, artwork © Anna Park, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

WW: Was there a starting point for “Last Call”?

AP: “Last Call” felt as though I was revisiting a lot of old friends. I selected most of the work from prior bodies of works. The piece Last Call was created to bring them all together. It was interesting to see some ideas being shared within the works, given that they were created some time apart. The title of “Last Call” felt fitting, because I wanted it to be a scene to encapsulate the culmination of the different worlds that I created in the different works—celebration, debauchery, and chaos—to present humanity as it is.

Anna Park,

Anna Park, Last Call (detail), 2021, charcoal on paper on panel, 80 x 180 inches, phot by Genevieve Hanson, artwork © Anna Park, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

WW: How do you typically approach the theme of a piece?   

AP: The works come from various sources of inspiration—scouring the Internet, bits and pieces from conversations, or excerpts of interviews from podcasts that I usually play in the background in my studio. I guess I’m inspired by whatever piques my interest, but these sources of inspiration always reflect my current state of mind. I look at creating work as developing an understanding through a constant state of reacting. 

WW: Some of the scenes in your works depict chaotic scenarios, while more recent ones are happier. Where are these scenes derived from? 

AP: During the times that I’ve created works depicting chaotic scenarios, my life took on more of this intense nature. I felt as though I was in a constantly transient state; I was trying to find meaning through the noise. My new body of work reflects the sense of clarity that I have as of late. These recent scenes are a lot quieter and more reflective of the self.

Anna Park,

Anna Park, Last Call (detail), 2021, charcoal on paper on panel, 80 x 180 inches, phot by Genevieve Hanson, artwork © Anna Park, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

WW: While isolating amid the pandemic, you created works that depicted florals that had wilted and died, to reflect fleeting moments. How are you dealing with the passing of time today, such as in “Mirror Shy”?

AP: It’s in the current body of work. I think rather than reflecting on a reality under constant transition, however, my recent work has been a reflection of my psyche. The intention behind my most recent show at Blum & Poe was to look inward and present a level of vulnerability in the work.

WW: What are you looking forward to in 2023?

AP: I am really looking forward to taking some time to experiment in new mediums and explore different materials next year. I’m working toward making a book.

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Kelly Wearstler

THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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Whitewall spoke with José Noé Suro, the director of Cerámica Suro in Mexico, to hear how he's taking his family's ceramic studio globally.
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