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Jason Lim, one of Singapore's most versatile contemporary practitioners, recently showed new ceramics at the city-state's Gajah Gallery. With 'Hybrid-Recent Ceramics', the artist, a veteran of ARX (Artists' Regional Exchange), Nokia Singapore and Fukuoka's 'Asian Art Festival', amongst other regional forums, is returning to his roots as a schooled cera mist, training he is currently resuming as he pursues graduate studies in ceramics at Singapore's Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts.
For those who know Lim as an artist who has initiated or been involved with a number of performance and conceptual projects, his working with a more conventional medium may seem something of a novelty. He explains, 'In fact, I have always been attracted to the physicality of working with my hands and the particular immediacy of contact provided by clay. Shaping inert materials into objects that as signifiers, prompt response, goes back to the basic function of art'.
'Hybrid' includes some forty vessels and abstracted forms produced in glazed stoneware and terra cotta. A large cream-glazed installation dominates the display: titled Thousand Series, it is a group of a thousand individually made objects, arranged into rows of uniquely formed mushroom shapes that the artist explains as evolving from mark-making tools used for manufacturing other works. Says the artist, linking performance to ceramic art 'The obsessive process of repetition is similar to a word said over and over again until it becomes a pure sound'. Explaining his emphasis on visible production processes, Lim says that with this latest series he is especially keen to reveal how his pieces are constructed and their marks made. 'Rather than hide joins and the variation of imprints, I show the object's seams so that viewers are able to re-construct the pieces visually themselves'.
Vessels are often scored, imprinted or painted, emphasising their artistic rather than utilitarian function. Shallow stoneware plates from the 'Drawing Series' have an abstracted organic inspiration, with crustaceans, coral formations, fossil imprints and leaf patterns delicately incised and sometimes highlighted with craquelure or a milky slip, seemingly randomly applied. Some pieces from the series quote parallel artistic sources: DS2, an oval blue-on white vessel with a printed lattice motif reminiscent of indigenous Southeast Asian ceramic tiles, acts as a material cultural cue, activating memory of place, time and ethnic allegiance.
Non-utilitarian sculptural forms are also investigated. Lim's 'Hard Life Series' comprises seven stoneware striated and punch-decorated Gaudi-esque mounds, some with stylised uplifted arms. Though the artist is once again referencing organic decorative devices, fossil, paramecium, cactus, the arm-like tentacles and peaks rising from the mounds bring a human element to the fore, the group suggesting movement, emotion, anguish, dignity.