Kim En Joong

Stained Glass of Saint Julien de Brioude
© Joël Damase
Atelier Loire

Siège de l'Institut
7 rue du Botzet, 1705 Fribourg – Suisse

Institut Kim En Joong : 29, boulevard la Tour Maubourg, 75007 Paris

Atelier Loire
16, rue d'Ouarville 28300 Lèves
Tél.: 33.(0)
Fax: 33.(0)

St Julien de Brioude Basilique lost its stained glass windows during the French Revolution. They were not to be replaced until the 19th century. In 2008, modern stained glass brought in surprising light and colors. Designed by the artist Kim En Joong a Dominican monk, and realized in les Ateliers de la Loire in Chartres, these new stained glass works feature among the most important European creations of the kind. The spirit is quite different from the traditional representations like the ones in the ambulatory. Kim En Joong has designed them bearing in mind architecture and light, encompassing the floor and the colors, aiming at total harmony evoking the continuity from the 19th to the 21st century.

“A church must be the celestial Jerusalem, the city of light and peace. All those who enter the basilica must be invited to elevation” whispers the Dominican artist Kim En Joong, one of today’s abstraction masters. The artist has participated to the restoration and embellishment of the major Romanesque church in Auvergne realizing 36 stained glass windows.

Each stained glass has been attributed the image of a prophet or a saint. So on the Western façade, the upper windows are dedicated to Moses and Elias. In the tall nave the four round windows are dedicated to the evangelists Mathew, Marc, Luke and John. On the four round windows Kim En Joong evokes the prophets Isaiah, Ezechiel, Jeremiah and Daniel. The Apostles are honored on the large windows of the side aisles, whereas Saint Julian is entitled a whole space in the nave next to the porch said “Northern”.

Yet, the visitor mustn’t expect a traditional representation of these significant characters of the Bible and Christian history. As usual, Kim En Joong reaches for the spirit beyond the form, he knocks off the boundaries to reach the mystery.” It’s in the vibration of the colors that what can never be represented must show through.” He explains.

For each subject, a prevailing color. First red, the symbol of Trinitarian love, of the burning bush, Elias chariot of fire, Redeeming Christ’s blood. Then blue, the color of the sky and of purity, an invitation to infinity and immateriality: although it remains Mary’s color, B.Kim will use it as the manifestation of enlightenment visiting man.

Yellow too, the Magnificat bliss, « the house of the light » to evoke Elisabeth, or the rising of the Resurrection. The uses of this color, long regarded as minor in the history of painting, do still surprise the visitor. Green of course, the expression of the life principle, of the Life Tree, nature and soothing. And eventually, in a puzzling face to face, here come black and white. “We can’t live on light and colors only. We need this black and this white as a fight between light and darkness. Like the punctuation of the flow between the word and silence” says friar artist.

Modern stained glass is a difficult job both technically, symbolically as well as conceptually speaking, imposing modern concept and expression within religious buildings sometimes quite ancient. It is one of the major meeting points between non religious contemporary opinion and the Christian tradition, modern art and heritage.

Unlike most designers who hand their model over to the master glass makers, Kim En Joong did the final work himself with the help of an assistant. In the Ateliers de Loire premises, in Chartres, he painted these large glass surfaces laid on to the floor, with large calligraphy brushes that lent a nervy spin to the strokes. Quite a daring job if ever, knowing that there would be no second thought, that the addition of a little extra pigments could provoke breakage during the burning , that some colors don’t mix and their matching (no more than four) during the successive burnings requires a real anticipation gift.

For symbolic and aesthetic reasons, the painter uses a palette based on the three primary colors that he associates to the Holy Trinity, and the attributions of which can vary. Blue evokes hope and Mary’s purity; Yellow, joy or doubt; red, blood, birth, the Passion or the holy Ghost. “ I want the millennial stones to sing…” he says.

Kim En Joong (Institut)