Swedish painter Leo Park is playing with dichotomies. He paints in the north and paints scenes of beaches to the south. He paints classical compositions with contemporary traits. He titled his newest show at GR gallery in NYC The Speed of Ice Cream which describes both something in motion and sitting still. On the occasion of his solo show, we sat down with Park to discuss ideas of movement, food in art and how the reopening of the world is allowing for him to spread his wings far and wide.  

Evan Pricco: I want to talk about movement with you. How do you see movement influencing your paintings? You bend and bend your characters and they just have this incredible sense of movement that I know you have something to say here. You even have Speed in your title for the show! 
Leo Park: I like dynamic compositions. I like dance and choreography, and the thrill of a body playing around with its own limitations. I guess that's a question of temperament. Sometimes my figures are contemplative, but more often not. My figures are not naturalistic in a conventional sense. But they still have their own internal logic. They are still in relation to the conventions of a human body. There is a tension there between the hunger for freedom, and the chains of conventions. That is what sets my figures in motion.


When you start a show, like The Speed of Ice Cream, do you give yourself a private prompt? Like a little text or singular thought you are going to theme it around?
This exhibition is a continuation of a theme or universe that I have been working with for a few years. It started with the theme of the bather. That worked for me because I wanted to explore the painted nude. For me that motif is a junction of so many things that intrigues me, like form, anatomy and desire. It also let me combine the two realms of the nude figure and the flat space of the tattoos. So the bather was the natural choice. Along with it also came these other themes and attributes like for example the ice cream cone. It has become this loaded symbol for me. The title The Speed of Ice Cream allures me because it could be both fast and slow. I mean the quality of ice cream is stale or sluggish. But at the same time it makes you think of something evasive that is soon to be gone. My last show was called Summer is Swift, so in a way they are related.

I love this play on fast and slow going on in your show. It's basically the world right now. Just this insane speed while most of us are still waiting the wings and moving slowly. How have the last few years realigned your focus? I think I mean your show is about the balance of pace, and maybe how the last few years have taught you to think about pace and speed and urgency?
If you are thinking about the pandemic, it is true that the last few years have been a weird mix of fast and slow. And life and death. I never thought about it before, but my motifs of summer and bathers became central for me at the same time as the pandemic evolved. Maybe it is an urge to honor the volatility of lust. When death is present in some way, my strategy is usually to go all in for life.

Do you have a favorite painting in art history that features food? 
I don't know if it's a favorite, but the food-related painting that made the strongest impression on me is Butcher's Stall with the Flight into Egypt by Pieter Aertsen. Probably because it hangs in the castle of the town I grew up in close to Stockholm, so I've seen it since I was a kid. It has this bizarre scenery of exposed meat in the foreground, with chops, sausages, pettitoes and stuff. The humans in the painting are very small and you only glimpse them in the background between the dangling flesh. I have always felt that it is a painting cut open; that it is the painting's own intestines you see in the front. In the middle of the scene, there is a flayed cow's head with one big black eye staring at the viewer.

LeoPark portrait

I know you are based in Stockholm, but are you going to make it out to NYC for the opening?
Yeah, sure!

You have a busy year ahead, so how are you managing your time? What are you looking forward to? 
I guess I just take one thing at a time and focus on what is in front of me. I really love painting so that helps. I am obviously looking forward to visiting my show right now at Gr Gallery. It's very exciting. Then I have another solo show in April at DUVE at the Berlin Gallery Weekend. In April I will also participate at Market Art Fair in Stockholm, with Gallery Steinsland Berliner. A lot of fun things are coming up later on in 2022. For example a two person show in London in November organized by Berntson Bhattacharjee Gallery. It will be with Anton Alvarez and myself.

The Speed of Ice Cream will be on view at GR Gallery in NYC from March 16—April 9, 2022.