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2018 Jeju artist case study - Megan Walch

Visual artists, Dr Penny Burnett and Dr Megan Walch were the recipients of the inaugural Arts Tasmania Jeju International Residency on Jeju Island, Korea.

The Arts Tasmania Jeju International Residency program is a reciprocal exchange between Arts Tasmania and the Jeju Foundation for the Arts.

Penny and Megan both spent around six weeks in residence at the Artspace IAa on Jeju Island in Korea in late 2018.

Dr Megan Walch is a mid-career visual artist and educator who exploits the extreme plastic conditions of painting and drawing media to cross cultural and aesthetic boundaries of form.

The Arts Tasmania Jeju International Residency is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australian Government & Australia-Korea Foundation logo

Why did you apply for the Jeju Residency?

Jeju lies near the plate edges of the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, I wanted to observe the surreal volcanic geology of the island as an extension of my doctoral research into the fluid, plastic and viscous properties of painting and drawing mediums.

Was this your first international residency experience?

Workshop at Art Space IAa. Photo: Megan WalchI have undertaken residencies in the United States of America and subsequently in Taipei, Taiwan and Tokyo in Australia Council for the Arts studios and Khon Kaen University, Thailand, with Asialink.

What did you do on your residency?

After a concentrated period of exploration with a focus on visiting rock formations, I produced a series of paintings that responded to visceral lava forms in reference to violent cultural and tectonic forces on Jeju. I collected fishing-net floats from the detritus along Jeju’s coastline to make a sculptural work titled: Continental Drift.

Were there any surprises or challenges?

To make some sort of sense of a new and complex culture - then to make art - in a six-week period with a language barrier was challenging. The excellent facilities and proximity of the residency ameliorated these difficulties. Jeju’s dark social history related to the 1948, 4.3 massacre (silenced until seven years ago) was alarming. I was surprised by what I perceived to be the environmental degradation as a result of dense population. The food and coffee culture were a highlight. I found the youth and beauty-obsessed aspect of their culture to be confronting, but the matriarchal culture of the older women was a delight.

Do you have any insights from your trip?

FoodHow do we tackle silence as a dimension of trauma in relation to Tasmania’s violent colonial legacy? Environmental collapse is an urgent crisis that transcends the politics of national isolationism.

Where to next?

I’m back in the studio working on a series of paintings: “The Sixth Mass Extinction Series” in response to a tension between the destruction of our natural environment alongside technological transformation. I’m wondering what it means to be human?

Any tips for other artists applying for the Jeju International Residency?

Jeju is complex and layered. Balance the need to be prepared with the need to be open and explore. Formulate a strategy to take the pressure off the need for immediate artistic production. Consider bringing some art work/materials from Tasmania along with your favourite breakfast cereal and shampoo.

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Continental Drift: painted fishing-net floats (dimensions variable)

Image 1: Continental Drift: painted fishing-net floats (dimensions variable)

Continental Drift 3: Oil on wood panel 25cm x 25cm

Image 2: Continental Drift 3: Oil on wood panel 25cm x 25cm

Detail of Lava form, Jeju Stone Park

Image 3: Detail of Lava form, Jeju Stone Park