A Conversation With Anna Park
A couple of weeks ago, KAWS used IG to share the work of Anna Park, a student from New York's Academy of Art, which got us intrigued. Knowing his dedication to art, collecting as well as to support young emerging talents, we were curious to see more of these puzzling, dynamic images.
We checked out Anna's charcoal and graphite drawings and immediately fell in love with them as her work balances a couple of elements we're fond off. On a technical level, she's cleverly mixing different styles, creating a unique visual language that puzzles the brain in an effort to decode the source of the image. Contextually, she is portraying familiar crowded scenes of parties and gatherings but adds an extra, comic element to her subjects. Humorous at first sight, Park's work is also sinister in a way, as they feel like a black-and-white vision of a bad trip. At the same time, they feel like a critique of our society and crowd behavior, since it's putting the focus on anomalies that tend to occur in such settings.
With that said, we got in touch with Anna Park in the hope that she'll explain the inspiration and goals of her intense creations as well as tell us a bit about her recent social media spotlight experience:
Sasha Bogojev- Are your images based on actual moments and what attracts you to portraying crowds and crowd behavior?
Anna Park: Rather than depicting any specific moments, I want to present instances of uncertain chaos. It's that fine line where every wild night out can come down to. I guess it's kind of how I feel with a lot of things that happen; where a level of anxiety goes hand-in-hand with the unpredictable nature of life. Creating these crowd scenes brings you right into the mess of it all, where it's out of your control but just immersed in the motion.
So, where do you get references for your work?
I actually get my references from really cheesy/awful stock imagery and memes from the internet. And from that point on, I pick and choose aspects of the photos that draw me in the most and integrate my imagination with them. I find it funny how searching up such benign statements on the internet provides an endless amount of unexpected (and at times disturbing) content.
Could you please describe your work process in terms of composing an image as well as a technical approach to drawing it on paper?
From the time I find an image that I like to the time I start drawing is not a very long time. I rarely do a lot of preliminary sketches; I think due to the fact that I'm just antsy to get started on a big sheet of paper.
I begin by laying things out in a very gestural way and then I'll add in elements from other references if they seem to fit the composition. How I want the viewer's eye to travel around the piece is something that is always in the back of my mind.
Do you see your work as humorous, provocative, a critique, or something else?
I would see my work like snapshots into things we are all pretty used to; just in a demonic (and hopefully funny) light.
What is the type of reaction or feedback you're hoping to get from the viewer?
I hope to elicit some sense of familiarity with the viewer. Whether this reminds them of a party they've been to, or just being able to recognize any of the characters as their own self or someone they know. Or if anything, I hope they get a bit of a laugh out of it.
When and where did the mix of different visual styles come from?
In the past, my work had been a lot more tightly rendered and it rarely deviated from the references I was working from. Gradually, I began to distort and abstract certain parts of the pieces that seemed to celebrate the mark making of charcoal more. It was only in the most recent body of work that I introduced a cartoon/caricature element, which reminded me of the characters I would draw as a little kid.
What do you like about the mix of realistic setting and expressive, cartoon-like face rendering?
Rendering the faces in a cartoon-like way allows me to have fun in exaggerating the emotion and gesture of the characters. Placing them in a realistic environment accentuates the craziness of them more, juxtaposing the two styles.
Do you ever work with other mediums/techniques or is charcoal and graphite on paper the only thing?
I dabble with paint here and there, but for now, charcoal and graphite are my primary mediums. I feel as though the immediacy of charcoal really allows me to see my ideas come to life as soon as I conceive it. Being such a simple, straight forward medium, it presents a challenge to myself in how many different possibilities I can create visually with it.
How did KAWS' post affect things for you?
I had the pleasure of meeting him at our school's event, Tribeca Ball, which he was the artist we were honoring this year. When he posted the drawing after, it was an influx of people that newly discovered my work and responded to it. I really appreciated the fact that he even took the time to do that; It speaks to how supportive he is of other artists.
Did the sudden interest at any point feel questionable, and how did you deal with that if so?
It was all so unexpected... I had never imagined the kind of response I would get from it. I just feel extremely lucky and grateful for the fact that people even showed interest and supported my work. I've also had the chance to meet some incredible people along the way that continue to inspire me every day to keep creating.
Having that experience, what do you think about the power of social media and influencing people through it?
I think social media has a massive influence on how we connect with each other now. It allows a level of accessibility that we would not have otherwise; I constantly find myself discovering artists I really admire. It's truly a place of inspiration and forging real connections with people.
Will you be showing your work somewhere any time soon? Any other plans for the foreseeable future?
I hope so! I'm going to a two-month residency this summer in Leipzig, Germany. And finishing up a year at the New York Academy of Art.