Emma Bell

Tales from Blue Truck Island

‘Tales from Blue Truck Island’ is a series of wearable art works, field research and collaborative documentation produced during a 3 month period working as artist in residence in South Korea with the ‘IAP: Baengyneong-do Peace Arts Residency 2013’, operated through Incheon Art Platform.

The core focus of the project was based on utilising South Korea’s remote and most North-Western island, Baengyneong-do, as the influence behind the works by observing and developing the themes of community interaction, aesthetics of the physical landscape, local industry/ economy and cultural identity. The project is an intentional contrast to the most common associations of the island, which are namely its geo-political location and military background, and aims to document the central and more literal aspects of the area that are rarely observed or highlighted.

The motivation behind ‘Tales from Blue Truck Island’ was to establish ideas and influences that are generated by living and experiencing daily life within small, rural communities in an isolated and unaccustomed environment. The central ethos was to produce works that are reflective of impressions, memories and perceptions encouraged by the people that call Baengnyeong-do home. The works aim to capture the community spirit, hometown pride, characteristics of the natural landscape and the institutions of family and friendship that were observed during a period of being based on-site.

The primary concept was to identify themes and methods of translation, focusing on elements deriving from the physical landscape and visual panorama of Baengnyeong-do, with attention on the transition of the seasons and its aesthetic effect on transforming the horizon. Land and rock formations are depicted using embroidery, appliqué and contrasting print and pattern, taken from the idea of layering textures between the rice fields, forestry, farmland and mountain silhouettes. Locations exclusive to the island, including Dumujin Rocks, Simcheonggak Pavilion, Kongdol Beach and the aerial views from Yonggiwonsan were influencing factors in the works, interpreted through surface design and textile experimentation. The colour palette was developed by inverting the muted tones of the natural landscape and combining them with the saturated hues observed in both the traditional Korean Hanbok and colours trending in Korea’s contemporary textile industry.

Preservation of traditional Korean craft methods including Min-su and Bojagi (domestic, folk embroidery and quilting) and developing their fusion with contemporary design was used in tandem with the concept of its similarities to maintaining the values and purpose of storytelling. Personal encounters and relationship elements collated during working on Baengnyeong-do, alongside it’s residents, provided the basis to progress the idea of creating wearable art works that are representative of a visual journal of these first hand interactions and experiences.

In addition to production of the works, supporting activities and documentation included a series of textile workshops with the local community whilst on the island and a range of collaborations with both creatives based in South Korea and the UK.
The collaborative aspects include an editorial photography project with Seoul based photographer, Jessica Berggrun, and an animation titled, ‘The Whistle-Stop Diaries’, developed in cooperation with British illustrator and animator, Will Adams.

Image Credits:

Designer: Emma Bell.
Photographer: Jessica Berggrun.
Make Up Artist: Natalia Che.
Models: Sera Haith & Correen Bo.
Assistant: Sarah Kim.