Art enthusiast Lim Siang Jin ends a decades-long creative hiatus

ONCE an art hobbyist – for a lack of a better word – from 1981 to 1989, Lim Siang Jin’s passion for art merely simmered, before he eventually put it on ice due to work and family commitments.

Thirty years later, as the world descended into uncertainty due to the sweeping pandemic, Lim would find himself thrust back into that old, familiar world.

“I tried to get back into it, but the inertia after 30 years is great. (Due to) Covid and the pandemic, I realised there was still time left to do something about my art,” he told theSun.

The difference in 2020 as opposed to the 1980s was, this time around, Lim would take his art and the pursuit of refining the craft much more seriously.

$!The Gaze among Thorny Distractions, part of the “Evocative Durian, Mystifying Durian” series. – PIX BY LIM SIANG JIN

The spark that reignited Lim’s artistic flames was a piece called Trial Painting Twelve, 1981 that he came across while sorting through old works. This would form the “blueprint” that he expanded on in his first series of paintings called Restart 2020: Continuation and Change.

“I had done a few paintings before, and one of them appeared in a book on Mahathir,” Lim said, referring to Beyond Mahathir: Malaysian Politics and Its Discontents by Khoo Boo Teik.

Wanting to develop both the initial painting and the piece that served as the cover of Khoo’s book, Lim started painting again.

In the past two years, the self-taught artist has produced around 200 art pieces that blend both analog and digital disciplines, and contain the stories and perspectives he captured in recent years.

Around half of that number will be displayed at Lim’s exhibition, Restart 2020: Continuation and Change, named after the first of nine series completed in the post-pandemic era.

$!Lim Siang Jin uses both digital and analog means as an artist. – PIX BY LIM SIANG JIN

A multitude of art pieces

Other than that, the other series that were completed and will be at the exhibition are Excerpts from a Doodle, Schticks, Unconnected, Adventures with Acrylics, Exaggerated Stills, Fear and Hope in Covid Times, Back to Black and Evocative Durian, Mystifying Durian.

Each series’ artistry is distinctly unique, even to the untrained eye.

For instance, Back to Black has Lim expunging the vibrant pastel colours from the previous series, leaving only black and a secondary colour. The series comes after Fear and Hope in Covid Times, a period when Lim says he was sieged by feelings of negativity.

For this writer, it appeared as though it was a conscious decision, a way for Lim to leave colours behind until the negativity was gone, before he returned to it.

$!Fear and Hope in Covid Times. – PIX BY LIM SIANG JIN

Lim explained that was not his intention. In that sense, I was wrong, but it proved Lim’s art and the stories tethered to them is up to personal interpretation.

Despite it, he further noted that this series gave him respite, and the period allowed Lim to explore new things.

“A couple of decisions I made at the time. One was to go back to colour, but then employ the production experience that I had gathered over time,” he said.

Lim was formerly a production person and writer in the media and publishing industry.

“I also wanted to deploy my experience as a hobbyist photographer, as well as a bit of writing together in some form”.

$!Still Life with Black Lamp and Painting, part of the “Exaggerated Stills” series – PIX BY LIM SIANG JIN

Using every tool

Lim’s work and life experience would overlap and crash against his technical and creative skills, with each series growing more than the last, as the amalgamation of two years would cascade into the final series that would be on display at the exhibition, the grand Evocative Durian, Mystifying Durian.

The series that revolve around the durian is comprised of acrylic-and-ink original paintings with “derivative” prints. For the latter, Adobe Photoshop and photography were used, while for the “derivatives”, Lim used props such as glass, translucent plastic, and chicken wire netting.

This particular series is the artist’s digital-analog experiment.

“I hope to develop the art that uses both analogue and digital, because I’m in a situation where I have 40 to 50 years of production experience. I thought it would be a waste to do straightforward painting,” Lim explained.

Though he admits there are skilled artists who prefer sticking with either physical or digital art, Lim wants to continue working within both spheres of digital and analog.

Restart 2020: Continuation and Change will be held at A Place Where by APW, from Oct 21 to 30, from 10am to 6pm.