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Unique artwork celebrates Dominican anniversary


To commemorate the 800th anniversary of the death of St Dominic, Blackfriars Priory School and ATF Press is holding an exhibition of artwork by Korean-born Dominican friar Fr Kim En Joong.

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The 80-year-old artist lives in Paris and is well known throughout Europe and the United States for his stained glass and ceramic art.

Local publisher Hilary Regan encountered Fr Kim about 15 years ago through his association with the French Dominican publishing house, Cerf, and has worked with the artist on a number of projects.

Approximately 400 of his artworks are stored in a warehouse in Adelaide, including eight pieces of stained glass created by Fr Kim for an exhibition at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

To be hung over existing windows in the chapel at Blackfriars, they will be the first of the artist’s stained glass pieces to be on permanent display in the southern hemisphere.

Another 100 pieces of art, including delicate hand-painted fans completed in 1990, paintings and ceramics, will be displayed in the school’s drama centre over the weekend of August 21 and 22. Exhibitions are planned for Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra over the next five months.

Mr Regan, executive officer/publisher of ATF Press, has also negotiated for stained glass pieces by Fr Kim to be installed in the chapel at Cabra Dominican College.

Gabriel Siqueira, who is curating the exhibition, said Fr Kim did not describe himself as a religious artist but rather a Dominican Catholic priest who “happens to be an artist”.

“It’s a unique type of art, totally different,” he said.

Students from Blackfriars and Adelaide’s three other Dominican schools – St Mary’s, St Dominic’s and Cabra – will attend an educational session on the artist prior to the opening on the evening of August 21.

Mr Regan, who has travelled extensively with Fr Kim as his agent and published a number of books about him, said much of his work was located in churches in Europe and the US. He described the friar as “deeply spiritual” and a “great devotee of the Dominican tradition”.

“He will stand over a piece and let the spirit move him in terms of how he does it,” Mr Regan said.

“In Dominican tradition the arts, including music, has been very important; they always had very beautiful buildings…art is very much a reflection of colour, beauty as a way of understanding God.”

Fr Kim was born into a family of eight children in South Korea in 1940, during the Japanese occupation of Korea. His father was a calligrapher and the children were raised in the Taoist tradition.

Kim’s interest as a child in art and studies at the School of Fine Arts in Seoul were interrupted by military training and service in the early 60s.

After leaving the army he became an art teacher in a Catholic seminary and in 1967 was baptised a Catholic. While studying art in Switzerland he met the Dominicans and entered the order. Unbeknownst to his family he was ordained to the priesthood in 1974 and when he returned and informed his family of his new life, he baptised his parents.

Returning to Europe in 1975, he has lived in Paris ever since as a member of the Swiss Province of the Dominican Order.

In 2010 he received the Insignia of the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters for the work of 37 pieces of stained glass in the Basilica of Sain-Julien Brioude in southern France.

Mr Regan thanked Blackfriars Priory School and others associated with the exhibition including the Dominican Province of the Assumption, the North Adelaide-Prospect parish and the Institute Kim En Joong.


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