Interview with Joon Park, Longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2013

The Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition is now open to the public, showcasing innovative works that push the boundaries of media and engage with key issues relevant today. From the extinction of bees to playing with form, and questioning what makes a painting or drawing, are just some of the topics explored by this year’s artists. Last year’s inaugural Art Prize show set the bar high for the international art it represented; Joon Park was longlisted with his work Ceramics Field Array that draws upon the history of the Korean bowl. We speak to Joon about the meaning behind this art form.

A: What is your inspiration behind Ceramics Field Array?
JP: While working with clay materials, I became interested in the story of a particular Korean bowl, which was a common rice bowl made during the Korean Joseon Dynasty. It was once a bowl used for food and maybe sometimes even used as a dog bowl, but when it was taken by Japanese warriors during the war, it immediately became one of the most precious war trophies among the Japanese Warlords.

For Japanese warriors, its exterior seemed similar to the texture of Samurai armour and its inside was a beautiful well that could be filled with green tea. One Korean bowl was traded for a castle in Japan during that time. I became interested in the idea of how the meaning of one object changes after moving out of its context, to another place or country, and vice versa.

A: How do you think cultural perceptions can shape visual language?
JP: Visual language in fine art is as ambiguous as how we perceive and process what we call “culture” in contemporary societies. I think such transformation of meanings is relevant to the way certain cultures are defined by our subjective interpretations and expectations. In response to such interest in my own cultural identity and my heritage, I attempted to create some sort of a visual environment where an array of different individual handmade ceramic objects and industrial pedestal components create a dynamic tension between Neo-Confucian aesthetics and a Western Duchampian ideology.

A: How do you hope that viewers will engage and interact with this work?
JP: I do not have any expectation of how the viewers should engage with this installation. One thing that I hope for is that the audience will feel free to physically interact with the objects. I would like to encourage my audience to walk around the installation, and to hold the objects and feel the weight and the texture of the objects. I hope my artwork can function as a meaningful learning tool for audiences to enter another realm. I also hope that the experience they have can be an interactive one, whether it is a time-based, experiential interaction, or a just visual one.

A: In using pedestals to support the ceramics, how does anticipate that this mode of presentation will impact upon the meaning of your work?
JP: Back in the old days, Korean vessels were never placed on top of a pedestal or a plinth because they were regarded as merely utilitarian or sometimes decorative objects. The Joseon Dynasty was founded by Neo-Confucian aristocrats who attempted to adhere to the austere codes of Confucian teachings, in which collectivism was more emphasised than the success of an individual. As a result, the Joseon design retains an overall sense of restraint and simplicity.

By using the Western notion of pedestals with ceramic objects, I attempt to blur the distinction between perceived higher and lower cultures. My goal is to confront the notion of hierarchy deeply embedded in the design of these particular ceramic objects.

A: If you could exhibit anywhere, where would it be and do you have any future projects planned?
JP: I would be happy to show my work anywhere in the world. Particularly, I would be interested in showing my work in North Korea. I recently moved to Berlin to work on a new series of art projects and I am progressing with the projects I already have in mind. Additionally, I am currently working on an industrial design project in Berlin.

The Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition runs until 22 June at York St Mary’s, Castlegate, York, YO1 9RN. For more information visit

For a chance to win a group exhibition and more, submit your artwork into the next Aesthetica Art Prize by 31 August 2014:

1. Joon Park, Ceramic Fields Array. Longlisted in the Three-Dimensional Design & Sculpture category.