By Shu-Ju Wang

Life is Good
Recent Paintings by William Park

Mark Woolley Gallery
817 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, Oregon
April 29 – May 31, 2008

4 + 3, 2008

You know how sometimes there’s a word that’s just right for something, and you know you know the word, yet the word does not come to you? In the days since I interviewed William Park for this article, that was the situation I found myself in.

Then the other day, out of nowhere, it came to me. Baryshnikov. That was the word.

I’m not comparing William Park (a painter and printmaker) to Baryshnikov (the dancer and choreographer). I am not in the position to do so. But there are so many qualities about William Park’s work, the person, and even his studio space, that conjure up the image of a dancer and choreographer for me.

For starters, the movements and gracefulness of his lines. In his current exhibit at Mark Woolley Gallery, you see that in the long curves of the geese’s necks, their egg shaped bodies, the trees the Goldfinches inhabit, the pools of water. These qualities are also ever present in his abstracts, his land and water paintings, his images of agile athletes at play.

Although you see these finished paintings in their final state as two dimensional objects, the creation of them involves the creation of a three dimensional space, a world that he describes as surreal, with multiple images on multiple walls, surrounding him as he works. Within this environment, pieces in progress engage each other in a conversation, with the painter as the conductor and choreographer.

Park physically creates this space within a space by using movable walls in his otherwise cavernous studio—a space possibly large enough to stage Swan Lake! In this space, he paints, prints, teaches, photographs and stores his finished work. And created a movie—an animation of an evolving painting (the animation is the artwork, the painting is the medium). He quite literally, in my mind, danced his way through it.

With canvas and camera set up, and a decision made about his next move, he would take the next couple of hours to execute his plan by alternating between painting and photographing each quarter inch stroke. He moved rhythmically and unwavering from his initial take until the plan was completed. Only then would he stop to take another reading, and whatever his gut reaction was at that moment, he followed through with another few hours of this dance. The result is a spectacular 7 minute movie set to original cello music by Gabe Leavitt.

Between his painting, printmaking, his figurative work, and abstracts, he struggled for a while with the need to find a direction. Or in his own words, ‘to grow up.’ Happily, he has since come to his senses and has decided that he will simply do what he wants to do, go wherever the work takes him.

There are just a few more days to see his exhibit this month at Mark Woolley’s. In the fall, during Portland Open Studios, you will have the opportunity to see the full spectrum of his work, to see the printing presses in action, and best of all, to hear him talk about his own work.

Below, several pieces in progress in a corner in William Park’s studio.

Work in Progress

And the printing presses that Park shares with experienced printmakers.

To see more of Park’s work, go to his web site at http://www.williampark.net/.

To read more about his exhibit at Mark Woolley’s, go to http://www.markwoolley.com/.