A glimpse of lifestyles in AustraliaThose who attended last year’s Australia Day celebration hosted by the Australian Embassy in Korea probably expected this year’s festivities to again be grand and extravagant, and they were not disappointed.
More than 1,200 guests, including members of the diplomatic community, Korean and Australian business leaders and senior Korean government officials, attended the event last night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in central Seoul to celebrate the country’s national day.
Surrounded by a series of wall-size photographs of Australia’s panoramic scenery were bikini-clad young Korean women frolicking in “beach” or “spa” scenes. Guests started with Foster’s beer at a mock pub in the foyer, visited booths set up by 103 Australian companies and milled about the ballroom all evening, tasting Australia’s multinational cuisine with wines served from a real wine cellar.
Colin Heseltine, Australia’s ambassador to Korea, believes that experiencing Australia can take place in the heart of Seoul through a mini theme park-scale showcase of Australian culture. He said the idea was to “to make it a celebration of the strong and growing partnership between Korea and Australia and an opportunity for our Korean guests to experience aspects of the Australian lifestyle.”
The ambassador also said that for the past three years, he had tried to present a distinctive national day celebration in Seoul. “People began calling us even before the event because they really enjoyed it last year. And the event got bigger this year!”
Australia Day 2005 had a cultural theme, “A Sense of Australia,” highlighting elements of lifestyles enjoyed by modern Koreans. In addition to a miniature aquarium and golf course, and a car exhibition, an area was set aside to showcase works by Australian artists.
To evoke the refreshing atmosphere of Australia’s Sunshine Coast, the embassy invited contemporary artist Kendall Perkins-Brakels to visit Korea to do a live art performance.
Popularly known as just “Kendall,” the artist has a long list of sold-out exhibitions and collectors, both private and corporate, around the world, to her credit.
Kendall has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Portia Geach Memorial Award in 1996. Her works are vibrant and dynamic; they exude her passion and energy for life and love for people she encounters and shares her life with.
Dressed in baggy overalls stained with colorful splotches of paint, she said, “As an artist, I need to stay in touch with people and what’s going on now. I make phone calls instead of sending e-mails, just so I can really feel people.”
For an artist, people are the inspiration
Kendall, who was invited to create a painting live at the Australia Day celebration, spoke to the IHT-JoongAng Daily about her life as an artist and her works before her performance:
Q. How did you come to be invited to the Australia Day event in Korea?
A. The State Department had contacted me to discuss the expansion of my artwork overseas, and so I got support from the government. I’m very lucky, actually. My works appear all over Australia, and are already in London. My art also will be shown in New Orleans and Las Vegas later this year. Before coming to Seoul, I was in Singapore to find a representative in Asia and I found one there. For the event at the Hyatt, three huge paintings were brought in. For the painting I’m going to donate to the Australian Embassy in Korea, I’m making a fusion of images from Queensland and some rice paper I’ve got. That’s how I work, just express how I feel about the place and people ― they are my inspiration.
What was your childhood like growing up in Australia?
If there was one thing I wanted to be, it was an artist. Upon graduating high school, I won an award for being a top student in art class. A teacher came up to me and said, “Artists cannot make a living; you will end up working as a cashier.” I was devastated for a while, but I decided to pursue what I wanted to do all my life anyway.
I got a job as a window dresser at Meyer Department Store in Brisbane. While working there, I created some sensations. Once I hung mannequins upside down with clothes all pinned up, so passers-by would stop and stare. For a perfume called Eden, I had the entire glass of the display window taken out and had two guards watching the display for one week. There I staged a gorgeous Garden of Eden with waterfalls and a green lawn that spread out to the pedestrian walkway. The work had a definite “wow” factor, so the next day people asked each other, “Did you see that window display?”
After six years, I started my own company with four other people and traveled around Australia for five years, making projects, displays and shows, and that’s how I gained my reputation as an artist who performs live as well. Now I own everything I ever wanted in life, and I think I’m on to the next phase now. My family and I live in a studio atop a hill near the beachfront where we [have a panoramic view of] the blue ocean. With the money I made, I invest in my own work so I can move on to create something new. I buy a lot of easels, artwork by other artists, especially those of up-and-coming artists, for investment or my own enjoyment.
Tell us about your work.
I use all kinds of media, from acrylics, gouache, enamel to paper, raffia, gold leaves, even sand from my hometown, and peillscent, or paint that comes with sparkles, so that the colors change when you look at the work from different angles. Most of the time, my works are like collages or even sculpture. When I’m done, I apply a fixative so that the work stays put even when people touch and feel it. I use a huge canvas and there’s a lot of action ― I pour whole cans of paint, spray or splash stuff, and people enjoy that kind of entertainment and remember me and my work.
I wear very comfortable, large jeans or overalls, which are about 15 years old and tattered and stained with paint all over, as people expect an artist to look like an artist. I’m inspired by the peaceful and tropical images of Queensland, where people are very casual. I’m a very casual person without any formality. All my works are happy and bright; nothing is unhappy, sad or angry. We deal with enough bad things in life, and I don’t want them in my work. My art is either loved or hated, never in between.
by Ines Cho