Curation Essay for Joon Hee Kim

My Eyes are on You
Dan Laurie Family Courtyard
June 1 - September 23

Curation Essay for Joon Hee Kim
Jonathan Smith, Curator of Collection - Art Gallery of Burlington



Since 1989, a unique feature of the summer exhibition schedule at the Art Gallery of Burlington has been the large scale ceramic installation in the Dan Laurie Family Courtyard. This exhibition is extended to a mid to late career artist as an opportunity, and as a challenge to create a themed program of work in a generous space, working with the existing elements to produce a unified work that reflects both the artist’s interest and the space. This year we are very happy to introduce Joon Hee Kim, a recent graduate of Sheridan College and one of the youngest artists to explore this space.


Born in Seoul Korea, Joon Hee Kim brings both the appreciation of her national ceramic history and a grasp of the historical nature of Western garden traditions to her installation. When looking at her installation ‘My Eyes are on You’, two contrasting ideas present themselves – one the symmetry of 18th century formal French court gardens and then the unnerving group of large ceramic heads. But the clash of these two elements is not as random as it might seem at first. The heads echo the famous Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo Italy. This mysterious garden was the produce of Duke Pier Francesco ‘Vicino’ Orsini, the Duke of Bronzino, who in the mid- 1550’s set out to create a pleasure garden in a style known as Mannerism, that strayed from the formal restraints of the time. The Mannerist style was later replaced with the formal classical style of the gardens of Versailles, which were eventually then replaced by the naturalism of the English landscape gardens of Capability Brown.

Joon has zeroed in on a little noticed design factor of the Dan Laurie Courtyard, where the once formal planting of the garden, tight rows of shrubs and large beds of singular plantings have started to give way to a more natural assortment of shrubberies. This like the park of the Monsters is a transition point between two styles, such as from the Renaissance to the Baroque or from the Classical to the Romantic. She has taken this idea of transition and applied it to her exhibition. Two pairs of urns, matched and on pedestals are very much in the style of a formal garden, symmetrical and covered with a profusion of decorative scroll work (the one set is covered with small clay rosettes that had their origins in the Baroque garden grottos decorated with floral forms constructed from sea shells). These two sets are both glazed with veils of transparent, flowing, washes that mimic the patina of moss and lichen that cover ancient stonework. In contrast the large heads have a much crisper look, as if to indicate that they are newer. While the urns on pedestals are in keeping with the overall scale of the courtyard the heads are oversized so that they dominate the space. It is their scale that connects these pieces to the Park of the Monsters.

Transition points, where change is happening, are often a source of discomfort, not being rooted in the past and not sure of the future. But they are just as lucky to lead to greater things. If one examines the large heads carefully, while there is a resemblance to Buddhist sculpture, these faces have a feminine cast. The longer one looks at them the less threatening they seem. This gives them a look of reassurance so that the future that at first looked intimidating now looks brighter.

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