Hyun Jung Jun
Hyun Jung Jun’s work exists in the pause we take when making a wish on a homemade birthday cake and the mixture of release, grief and celebration we feel at the moment the candle is blown out. She uses familiar objects as entrances into emotional landscapes and the passage of time. She hones in on the routine practices of everyday life, examining daydreams and watching the clock.
Originally from South Korea, Jun received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she focused on painting, communications, print media and photography. She pursued her MFA at Northwestern, graduating in 2019. Before and during graduate school, Jun focused on time-based installation and performance. In the past year, her access to space shifted and she started sharing a studio with her husband, 2020 Breakout Artist Cody Tumblin. She’s made time to focus on object-oriented work using common materials and objects like candles, wood, linen and most recently, food.
When Jun started making candles, she was enthralled with the process of dipping and forming the candles to explore shape, mass and form over time. Some candles turn out vibrant, colored with saturated pinks and multiple wings, both bug-like and seraphic in form, while others burst with layers of natural tones, their shapes kindred to crystal or sedimentary formations. Their associative and playful figures intimate how time flies, encouraging us to value the ephemeral. Jun says, “The candle disappears when you burn it. Even a memory or a dream is a fleeting thing. But it leaves behind a resonance that we hold onto.”
With her ongoing experimental baking project, Dream Cake Test Kitchen, Jun’s studio has expanded to the kitchen. “Baking is a lot like sketching or doodling,” she says. “It’s sort of like focusing on a memory or a thought and letting your hand drift into shapes and forms.” Her maximalist cakes, which were recently featured in the New York Times, range in shape and size, and through her use of fresh flowers, whole herbs and vibrant natural dyes, they evoke forests, gardens and rivers. On a coconut-lemon-blueberry cake, “?*?*?Purple Garden Cake?*?*?,” a scene folds into fantasy, two magenta butterflies flit around lilac cauliflowers, their forms alike to clouds, trees or maybe bushes, sprigs of rosemary and dill surrounding them. Globs and specks of syrup and berry preserves are spread about the cake, mirroring an aerial view of bodies of water. It’s easy to imagine oneself amidst the rosemary trees and cauliflower clouds. Meant to be shared, the cakes reflect the longing we all have to share space these days.
Jun’s recent duo show with Tumblin, “A Long Sleep Before Spring,” is an invitation to a shared domestic space, one that instills a sense of comfort as we collectively wait for sunnier weather. Dots of color in Tumblin’s sun-focused paintings are transposed as chromatic protruding clusters on Jun’s candles. The candles are displayed atop pedestals, inside bread bowls, in and alongside ceramic pieces by Tumblin, wooden blocks and stacked plates from their kitchen. “Long Sleep” reflects how topical Jun’s work is, inspiring viewers to cherish the time we spend with ourselves and others in our homes as we wait out a metaphorical post-pandemic spring.
Over the past year, Jun has shown her work with LVL3 gallery, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation with Chicago Artists Coalition, Onground Gallery, Arts Club of Chicago and Freshbread Gallery. Whether it’s sharing time, memories, or food, Jun’s practice revolves around acts of care and community. With its emphasis on commensality her work feels anthropological, this most recent phase an investigation into the material culture of domesticity and dreams. As spring rouses, Jun plans to explore the Dream Cake Test Kitchen project as an expanding platform, to publish zines and collaborate with other artists on printed media. (Amanda Roach)