Entering Justin Tyler Tate’s studio at the Art Space IAa in Jeju’s old town, you are greeted with a room that almost looks more like a chemistry lab than an art studio.
Various bottles filled with mysterious liquid, bags of even more mysterious looking crystals, and a homemade contraption taking up a significant amount of space in the corner of an otherwise fairly bare room.
“It’s used for distilling makgeolli,” Justin explains.
This, of course, isn’t just a hobby. He describes how one part of his Jeju project “Primrose Promises: Jeju” involves fermenting extra strong makgeolli before distilling it even further. He then adds organic samples of plants found at spots throughout Jeju.
This makgeolli is part of an overall strategy that, he explains, aims to “deconstruct the landscape and represent it in a non-visual way.”
Described on his website in further detail, ‘Primrose Promises: Jeju’ is said to attempt to reformat Jeju’s environment “into consumable objects so that locals and tourists alike can observe the landscape by integrating its chemistry into their own.”
By doing this, his project will engage ‘conservation, landscape and art in unconventional ways so that viewers can gain a new sensory awareness of their local geography as well as their place in it.”
As well as the makgeolli, other ways that this is done is through making soap (that is where the bag of white crystals comes in), mounted drawings of Jeju’s plants, and interactive postcards.
He explains that the soap is made using the same organic samples as the makgeolli, resulting in a soap that is distinctly Jeju.
The mounted drawings that he has done follow this same theme. They are colored using color pigments from the very samples of plants that the drawings represent. Furthermore, he explains how the individual drawings are then arranged in a way that represents Jeju so viewers can see the organic samples almost as a map of the island.
A third part of the project is postcards that have QR codes and short links on them. People who get the postcards are able to go to a website to listen to an audio clip taken from the place shown in the postcard, giving them a fuller experience.
The result is a project that allows people to experience Jeju and the things that make up Jeju in a way that is different to simply looking at a picture of the things that his art is representing.
Of course, it would seem that due to this way of working from things found around the island that there might be an environmental theme to his work. However, Justin explains that while the sustainable element of his art is certainly appealing, it is more the inner workings of things that he finds appealing.
“I started as a kid, just taking things apart and putting things back together in weird ways or hardware hacking.”
This then influenced how he works now and has resulted in a career in art that has taken him from his home city of Halifax in Canada to countries as varied as Australia, and Estonia.
The residency on Jeju is an International Artists Residency Program. It was established this year by the Jeju Foundation for Art’s and Culture. Justin is the second artist to have come to Jeju after a video artist called Rob Santaguida earlier in the year.
The residency is a three-month program and the artists are given a spot to work in the Art Space IAa as well as a place to stay during the duration of their trip.
Another thing that Justin will be doing during his time on Jeju is putting on workshops to teach people about his techniques on Jeju.
In fact, his first workshop, held over on Aug. 26 was attended by over twenty people. He helped the group use plants from Jeju to color in their own drawings that will eventually be displayed alongside his own work at Jeju Biennale.
In order to see more of Justin’s work, you can go to his website at justintylertate.weebly.com, check out his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/JustinTylerTate, or, if you happen to be visiting Jeju, view his work at the Jeju Biennale from Sept. 2.