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Bitter sweet

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Joon-Hee Park says her paintings are like baking cakes. ‘Layers of childhood memories and dreams, filled with fluffy cream of imagination with drops of love, loss and pain.’

Joon-Hee Park, 'Off We Go', 2018. Courtesy of Orexart

Last year she was part of a group of Korean New Zealand artists (including Jae Hoon Lee and Hanna Shim) who presented an exhibition called Nori 놀이 for Auckland Art Week. Translated from Korean ‘Nori’ means play, playtime, and recreation. The artists have explored the various connotations of Nori, from entertainment to mental exercises and sensory engagement, with videos, digital prints, paintings, and participatory projects.

Joon-Hee’s contribution was four paintings displayed in light boxes. She describes her works as having elements of childlike play sprinkled with bittersweet nostalgia.

One, A New Hope, features a flying turtle with a gingerbread house on its back. ‘I used to have a pet turtle when I was little back in Seoul,’ she explains, ‘I didn’t know how to properly take care of him back then, I was very young, he didn’t live for very long. It breaks my heart when I think about him.’ In A New Hope Joon-Hee is going on a journey with her beloved turtle and her cat Peter, who died in 2012. ‘He is the white cat, he features in a lot of my paintings.’ A New Hope is Joon-Hee’s ‘dreamland’, filled with all her favourite things.

Joon-Hee Park, 'A New Hope', Courtesy of Orexart

Surrealism is a strong influence in Joon-Hee’s work, unsurprising given she spent many hours watching her father Hyun-Kyu Park, a renowned surrealist painter, working in his studio. Born in Korea, Joon-Hee emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager. Her paintings draw on memories of a childhood split between two cultures; favourite toys, traditional festivals and Korean sweets; revisited dreams, memories and events.

Joon Hee now lives in Auckland. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts from Elam, is an Art Teacher at Westlake Boys High School, and is represented by Orexart.


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