The House of Wonder 2024

Curated by Domenico de Chirico







Proposing itself as a commendation of wonder, this new exhibition chapter by Jina Park titled “The House of Wonder,” driven by the fascination of the unusual, the fantastic, and the chimerical concomitantly traversing both the sensory and the intelligible hemispheres sets out along that peremptory yet labyrinthine crossroads that gradually leads us to an understanding of ourselves and all things in the world. Taking on the guise of an extraordinarily phantasmagorical house, adorned with ancient imagery, Alexandrian impressions, and bucolic moments, this exhibition aims to satisfactorily paraphrase tangible and authentic human reality. It juxtaposes past, present, and future, without ever departing from what is usually referred to as naturalistic that is, that tendency to try and faithfully represent the visible world thus eschewing visible stylizations and intrepid abstractions. Starting with the beginnings of Hellenistic philosophy and more properly with reference to Aristotelian philosophy, according to which “all men by nature tend to knowledge” this extraordinary human impulse was conceived, ab illo tempore, as the foundation of a thought that tends toward the exhaustive attainment of the purest stage of knowledge. And so it is that the much-stirred wonder, the “first of all passions,” as the French philosopher Descartes put it even lacking an opposite in an attempt to open itself to the great hegemony of truth, aims to explain every phenomenon by resorting to natural laws alone. Hovering between utopia and disenchantment, Park chooses to indulge in that purely Leopardian worldview, in which creativity often triumphs over reason; attempting to emphasize that wonder is a gift generously offered to us by Nature and which, therefore, must be continually preserved from the threatening advance of increasingly tractable anthropization and the onslaught of disillusioned adulthood that stage of life that forces us to confront the overriding need for self-fulfillment. Consequently, through her paintings meticulous, composite, and equally detailed, characterized by harmonious and sophisticated color combinations she decides to eternalize all the joys of this, albeit particularly entangled, reality of ours, skillfully ranging from sculptural elements, solid architecture typical of the classical age, armor, and peplums to clear skies, full moons, luminescent sunsets, sinewy hovering birds, and impudent and sassy snakes that seem to have risen from the most epic of faunal settings.


This extraordinary imaginative world, foreshadowing itself as a faithful mirror of nature in all its cyclical progression, evokes, through all the aforementioned elements, a trilogy that corresponds to the concept of treasures, guardians, and invaders; a range of complex ideas generated by power dynamics, inequalities, and domination/subjugation relations, deeply linked to universal history, culture, and politics. These, in turn, propagate in various contexts, including cultural heritage management, protection of the environment, human and animal rights, international politics, and the inescapable quest for social equity. In practical terms, one could take the snake as a reference, considering that, with its long history in human iconography, it has been represented in different cultures and historical periods with a plethora of often conflicting symbolic meanings.


Tangibly, in many traditions it has often been associated with duality, transformation, the cycle of life and death, earth, water, and fertility as well as taken as a symbol of healing, regeneration, and transformation, where its innate ability to change its skin has been seen as a metaphor for renewal and rebirth. In light of such knowledge, and with reference to what Polish philosopher and sociologist Zygmunt Bauman stated in an interview with Corriere della Sera in 2016 - following a particularly heartfelt analysis of social stratifications and inequalities as well as collateral losses “the roots of insecurity” are very deep. They sink into our way of life, they are marked by the weakening of interpersonal ties, the crumbling of communities, the replacement of human solidarity with limitless competition, the tendency to entrust in the hands of individuals the resolution of problems of broader, social relevance. The fear generated by this situation of insecurity, in a world subject to the whims of deregulated economic powers without political controls, is increasing, spreading to all aspects of our lives. And that fear seeks a target to focus on. A target that is concrete, visible, and within reach,” the question arises.


Should we perhaps take the snake as our role model so that we face with adaptability, persistence, discretion, and regenerative capacity all that is tirelessly ready to wear us down or even dislocate us? Is this, ultimately, what Jina Park is suggesting? In the light of all these cogitations, we can finally say that Jina Park’s exceptional art speaks of a place that has no equal on earth. It is a place full of wonders, mysteries, oddities, and dangers, the same place about which even the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, rambling, enunciated the following antinomian yet decisive reflection:


“If I had a world as I like it, there everything would be absurd. Nothing would be as it is, because everything would be as it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”


And so, as a result of this particularly dense anthropological inquiry between the realm of power and the intellectual, between the empirical and the theoretical act and fluctuating from culture to culture we soon realize that, arguably, the answer to this great dilemma lies somewhere in “The House of Wonder” there where, in the words of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, “a social world is a universe of presuppositions, taken for granted by those who belong to it and invested with value by those who want to be part of it.”


Ultimately, with “The House of Wonder,” Jina Park does not force us to choose which path to take, nor to decide where to stop. Indeed, the starting point is determined solely and exclusively by personal interests, which are followed by countless paths, which, in turn, can be as varied as the intellectual and cultural framework that most belongs to us. Here, what matters most is the irrefutable will to discover the world, since, as Italo Calvino wrote in his book Six Memos for Next Millennium: “Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combination of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.”





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