Sun Kim at work in her South East London studio
A number year’s ago while chatting to Loewe Craft Prize finalist, Annie Turner at her studio (which was in London at the time), we mentioned having seen some beautifully executed work by an artist called Sun Kim at the studios. Annie agreed and went on to describe Sun as one of the most accomplished ceramicists she had ever come across and, as a long-standing teacher at City Lit as well as being an award-winning artist in her own right, Annie has seen a lot of ceramicists in her time. It was high praise indeed. Since then we have followed Sun’s developments closely and in 2019 Cavaliero Finn became the first gallery to show Sun’s work at the Craft’s Council’s prestigious art fair, Collect adding her work to our collection a second time at Collect, earlier this year.
Installation of two neutral coloured stoneware geometric vessels made using a series of different techniques such as wheel throwing, hand-building and assembling, 2020
Sun’s sensitively formed vessels are smooth to touch with only very subtle signs that the vessels originate from the potter’s wheel, before being cut and reassembled to create their final form. What makes her work exceptional is her intuitive, responsiveness to the clay, her technical skill and sense of playfulness. While much of Sun’s work is functional, each piece works as an aesthetic sculptural form in its own right. Juliana and I have always been drawn to her geometric vessels forms that perhaps allow Sun to have more freedom to play, her design not being restricted by the practicality of function. Yet, be they cups and saucers, lidded pots or sculptural installations, the sense of beauty in all of Sun’s work has made it very collectable.
Installation of neutral coloured stoneware vessels made using a series of different techniques such as wheel throwing, hand-building and assembling.
Remaining three vessels, far right, are available.
Installation of three neutral coloured stoneware geometric vessels, made using a series of different techniques such as wheel throwing, hand-building and assembling, 2020
So, what has made Sun such an accomplished ceramicist? Her path to ceramics has been rich and varied. Korean by birth, Sun was brought up in Saudi Arabia and then in Brazil, where she had her first encounter with clay studying art in Sao Paulo. Here, under the tutelage of Lucia Ramenzoni, one of Brazil’s leading ceramicists, and Carina Ciscato, Sun began to develop a real passion for clay. She went on to further develop her throwing and hand-building techniques at Alfred University in New York before coming to London in 2004, working as an assistant to the much-lauded potter and author, Edmund de Waal (for whom she still works today). She set up her own studio in South East London three years later.
Edmund de Waal – Snow Mass, II, 2018
6 porcelain vessels, 1 marble block, 1 tin box holding 2 gilded porcelain tiles and marble and alabaster fragments, and 1 aluminium and plexiglass vitrine on a marble plinth, 25 × 82 × 22 cm – image courtesy of New Art Centre
Writing about Sun’s work in Ceramic Review, shortly after her arrival to the UK Edmund de Waal said:
“[her work is] poised and confident, hovering on the edge of post-modern quotation without being over self-conscious. When I handled her work it became clear that this was a potter who was preternaturally skilful in both throwing and assembling, and also someone with a passionate determination to make vessels.”
Edmund de Waal, Ceramic Review 2007
It’s interesting to note that Sun did not set out to become a ceramicist. As a small child, she played around the house, doing origami, cutting and folding papers, gluing them together and building houses and had plans to become an architect. So it’s not surprising then that she lists site-specific/environmental artists such as Richard Serra, Robert Irwin and James Turrell amongst those who inspire her and there are distinct echoes of their work in her ceramics.
Richard Serra: Between the Torus and the Sphere. Weathering steel, four torus and four spherical sections, each section: 14′ x 50′ (4.27 x 15.24 m); overall: 14′ x 50′ x 53′ 11 3/8″ (4.27 x 15.24 x 16.44 m); plate thickness: 2″ (5 cm), 2003-2005 – image courtesy of Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.
Installation of five geometric vessels featured at Collect 2020. SOLD
Since Sun moved to London she has been exhibiting throughout the UK and internationally. Exhibitions include Cheongju International Crafts Biennale (Korea), Officine Saffi (Italy), British Ceramics Bienniale, Ceramic Ireland International, European Ceramic Context (Denmark), and The Clay Art Centre (USA). She has work in permanent collections including the Museum of Northern Ireland and Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art, Japan.
Robert Irwin – untitled (dawn to dusk), 2016 – In July 2016, the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum located in Marfa, US, opened a new large-scale artwork by Robert Irwin. It is the only permanent, freestanding structure conceived and designed by Irwin as a total work of art.
Photos by Alex Marks. © 2020 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.