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2018 Jeju artist case study - Penny Burnett

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.

Penny Burnett is a visual artist based in Hobart and sessional tutor at the University of Tasmania College of the Arts. Penny recently completed her PhD at the University of Tasmania where she interrogated the experience of negotiating nature and culture through the garden construct.

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?

Lanterns. Photo: Penny BurnettThe Jeju Residency came at a perfect time for me, after being so focused on my studies I wanted to immerse myself into another environment where I could become more experimental, curious, responsive and playful in my practice.

Was this your first international residency experience?

This was my first international artist residency, and simultaneously my first experience of travelling solo. I never did the backpack trip around the world as a young person so I have a newfound respect for all those adventure travellers.

What did you do on your residency?

Being limited to only six weeks on Jeju most of my time was spent exploring, learning, meeting the locals as well as some tourists, and then using this new insight to come to a greater understanding of the island’s history and significance.  I was struck by the similarities between the islands of Jeju and Tasmania. For example, both are renowned for their pristine beauty, both are culturally and historically unique from their associated mainlands, and both are marketed as a desirable holiday experience. So, I used the opportunity to interrogate the island experience as a cultural outsider, essentially from a tourist perspective.  I divided my time basically to be to one day in the studio and the next exploring, visiting as many sites as possible through the local bus system which was an adventure in itself.

Chicken and ginseng soup. Photo: Penny BurnettI kept an extensive journal documenting my daily observations, not just of the sites I had seen, but the things I had learnt and experienced. I also used photography, video, iPad drawing and sketching to document and capture moments. Some of these drawings were developed into paintings and some became works in and of themselves.

Were there any surprises or challenges?

Every day, but that was half of the fun of it. Nothing was predictable and what made the experience so rich.

Do you have any insights from your trip?

So many, it was such a fantastic opportunity to experience life in a different culture. The experience of being an outsider where it was so difficult to communicate really gave me new found respect and compassion for the outsiders in our own communities, such as the refugees, foreign visa workers, and our international students. The courage they must muster each day simply to walk out the front door in another culture that they don’t understand is something I find incredible.

Creatively I have been challenged to think about multiple and overlaying perspectives, how it can add depth and complexity as well as unify the experience.

Where to next?

This year looks like it is going to be a continuation and further development of the research I started on Jeju. Specifically looking at when do we shift from being spectator to being emotionally engaged and connected with a place.  Mt. Hallasan, the ever-present guardian of Jeju island left a real impression on me. The way its story was entwined in the geological, cultural, natural and mythological and became part of the people’s identity. I am curious to see if this entwining is true for other significant mountains. I will be doing a residency at Cradle Mountain later this year, and I’ve also go an opportunity to visit the Scottish highlands so I’m sure there will be rich fodder for a multi-faceted new body of work.

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

Learn as much simple Korean as you can before you go!

Take you own art supplies with you as the island has only one art supply shop.

Be flexible with your own agenda, it tends to be the serendipitous encounters that are the most rewarding and creatively inspiring.

Views from Yeongsil Trail. Photo: Penny Burnett

Credit: Views from Yeongsil Trail. Photo: Penny Burnett

View from apartment laundry window. Photo: Penny Burnett

Credit: View from apartment laundry window. Photo: Penny Burnett.