Kim Lim: Carvings
22 March - 25 May 2014
Kim Lim (1936-97) grew up in Singapore and at the age of 18 moved to London to study at Saint Martin's School of Art (1954-6) where she pursued an interest in wood-carving; she then moved to the Slade School of Art, where she concentrated on printmaking, graduating in 1960. She married the sculptor and painter William Turnbull, also in 1960, and settled in London permanently. She travelled widely through the East - India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia - Egypt and Europe, often on her way to or from Singapore. During her travels, she was able to explore her fascination for archaism; as she later described, she 'always responded to things that were done in earlier civilizations that seemed to have less elaboration and more strength.' It was this line of enquiry which informed her later stone sculptures, which are remarkable for their formal beauty, their grace and their stylistic simplicity. Indeed, by the 1980s Kim Lim had begun to concentrate almost entirely on stone carving, and these works are the focus of the new exhibition in the gallery at Roche Court.
Kim Lim's carvings gave great clarity to her very particular preoccupation with nature. Shallow incised lines often ripple across the surface of the Portland stone or marble she used, creating a gentle texture from the repetition of their rhythm and interval. Her intervention is relatively minimal, so that the stone looks as if its surface has actually been worn away by the elements over the passage of time. As Clare Lilley has written, within Kim Lim's work is a 'quest for simplicity, to reveal and distil something of the fleeting moments in the world around us... The catalyst may be the rays of light across a room, the shadows cast by rustling leaves, ripples on water or the music she listens to every day' (YSP, 1986). Likewise Kim Lim's prints, also in the current exhibition, explore these subtle modulations and incisions. Rather than observed reality however, it is the fundamental essence of things which Kim Lim was aiming to convey, a quality Mel Gooding has called 'the very breath and vitality of nature' (1990). Looking at her work today, one still feels these intrinsic, almost spiritual properties, which means her work continues to enthral.
Kim Lim exhibited at Roche Court in 1993, one of the first artists to do so when the New Art Centre moved from London. We are delighted to be showing her prints and sculpture again and to be working with her Estate on this occasion. Kim Lim has also had solo exhibitions at Tate; the National Museum of Art, Singapore; Modern Art, Oxford; the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield and Camden Arts Centre, London, and her work has been included in group shows around the world. Public collections include: National Museum of Art, Singapore; Museum of Modern Art, Nagaoka, Japan; Fukuyama City Museum, Hiroshima, Japan; Middelheim Open Air Museum, Antwerp; Tate; Arts Council Collection; Contemporary Art Society; Government Art Collection and The Hepworth Wakefield.