Thomas Park details the genesis and development of his “Dream Symbols” paintings and prints in this mini-documentary.
Thomas Park’s Dream Symbols
I wanted, for my whole life, to be a painter. Several years ago, my wife encouraged me to purchase the tools to start following my dream.
Immediately I was faced with a difficulty– what to do with a blank canvas?
I attempted several strategies. I made stripes– paintings that had long swaths of pigment, sometimes in alternating colors. These lost their appeal pretty quickly.
I created paintings using various “print” techniques– applying acrylic paint using bubble wrap, sponges, and other textured surfaces. This seemed more interesting, but ultimately my paintings ended up feeling disorganized and kitschy.
One day, I was in my bedroom studio. I laid down a fairly solid background. I decided to paint a mysterious symbol in front of the background, using black paint. Something clicked– it looked great. I applied more symbols to the canvas.
Over the next few years, I created a substantial number of what I called “Dream Symbols” paintings. I used spray paint behind or sometimes on top of the mysterious black symbols. Occasionally I applied watered down white paint as a final layer, mimicking the white “X”s used to cover over graffiti in urban areas.
I considered the Dream Symbols paintings to represent my struggle with the unknown. They came to signify this experience of observing various societal taboos, or other potential codes or meanings, and being unable to or refusing to completely interpret them.
I scanned and photographed many of these paintings, and used a freeware graphics program to layer them, so that the panels bled into one another visually. I applied additional effects to these digital prints, simplifying the colors and adjusting brightness and contrast.
I realized that, because of the paranoid schizophrenia that I struggle with, I had a history of turning away from the subjects of popular thought. In my solitary retreat, topics of modern discourse became dream-like, or hallucinatory. They occured to me as possibilities which I often rejected.
Modern life, to me, could be summarized using something like a series of hieroglyphics– a language from a different culture, a different era.
Through treatment, work and general efforts, I have tried to recover from my illness. The Dream Symbols remain to me visual portals into uneasy, unfocused uncertainty. They continue to resolve the dilemma of a blank canvas, or to fill vacant time– without supplying discrete cultural, political or similar references.