Hannah Lim sparks excitement from Edinburgh Printmakers’ main exhibition space throughout the autumn, with enchanting illustrations, playful objects and elaborate installations. The artist’s first UK institutional solo show is one of vibrant colour and elegant finish and comes shortly after her graduation from Edinburgh College of Art in 2020.
Ornamental Mythologies brings together tradition and modernism in a display of work that combines the past and present, East and West, both of which are customary of Lim’s mixed cultural heritage. The London-based, Singaporean-British artist explores tendencies of appropriation of South-East Asian culture and attempts to re-present these trends with a more socially-engaged re-imagination of Chinoiserie. Her sculptural structures, objects, hypnotic drawings and prints come together in the converted industrial space, and fuse design, fine art, and architectural awareness.
Hand-drawn and printed illustrations encompass a central, double installation. Shards of Fire is positioned in the middle of the floor, with flatpack-style screens arranged in a four-point formation. From curved edges hang laser cut decorative additions, connected by ringed chains. Blue and red, like the flames and waves of fire and water which both feature largely in traditional Chinese literature, Lim interprets the text Classics of Mountains and Seas. The Hanging Spider is suspended above, armed, and with teardrop charms, which nod to the traditional features of a chandelier. Yet this hanging structure, with no light fixture, is non-functional, making it an object that sways the line of design and art.
Surrounded by a variety of prints, drawings, and small ornamental sculptures, there are three copperplate etchings made by the artist in the adjacent Castle Mills studios. The other, and most elaborate of all the printed works is Eight Eyed Fish In Flames, finished with golden line.
Painted blue, the back wall features three drawings boldly set within frames that curve in uniform with the central installation. Symmetrically composed, often with winged motifs, arched lines bend to form delicate extensions that connect a variety of fish, bird, and animal imagery. Much of the paper is left visible and has clear Orientalist influence.
Most fascinating are the artist’s Snuff Bottles, that stand upon painted shelves. Short, cylindrical bodies are adorned with petalled embellishments. Four-legged, with arm-like handles, they hold strong anthropomorphic character. Perfectly-coated toenails add a playful quirk.
Enchanting and hypnotic, with branching curves that flourish outwards, Lim’s spiritual works bloom and extend. Miniature eyes feature throughout and their direct gaze commands attention. Every line is drawn to an elegant tip. Hurled with colour, she frames her two-dimensional works and maintains a close relationship between pictorial representations of cultural imagery and sculptural ornamental design.
The tradition of drawing and image-making, together with the technology-driven laser cut processes, combine separation, bringing together globally-distant aesthetic traits within a single interior space, made distinctive by this inspiring artist.
With thanks to Danele Evans for this review.