Self-taught artist restarts art journey after 30-year break

Former media man Lim Siang Jin bridges digital-analog gap prevalent in art by integrating painting, computer work and writing in his works 

by HAZATUL SYIMA HARON / pics source

AS LONG as I’ve known the artist, Lim Siang Jin, 69, I never knew he had the gift to create “derivative” works that somehow speak to the journo in me. 

When I first knew him, he was this calm, thoughtful, quiet, learned man who measured his words when speaking. At the time, he was the MD of The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd, and I remembered thinking I wish I had his zen and at least half the knowledge in his head. 

Years down the line, after he and I both left The Edge, our paths would cross occasionally at events or at Bangsar Shopping Centre and we’d quickly catch up before going our separate ways. I occasionally saw on his social media that he had taken up art again and now, he’s holding his first solo exhibition at A Place Where by APW in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. 

Titled “Restart 2020: Continuation & Change, Biographical Expressions by Lim Siang Jin”, the self-taught artist will be exhibiting nine series of artworks on Oct 21-30. 

It showcases the continuation of his journey in art after a 30-year break. It also embodies a series of changes that have come along since his restart. 

“In early 2020, a rather serendipitous act of picking up some old sketches and unfinished works reignited my enthusiasm. I kept going since and have produced about 200 paintings and digital-analog creations, including (the) nine series showcased at this exhibition,” said Lim. 

‘The Restart 2020’ series, acrylic and drawing ink on paper, represent continuation and some changes

‘Derivatives’ Prints 

The first three series – “Restart 2020: Continuation and Change”, the title which this exhibition takes after, “Excerpts from a Doodle” and “Schticks” — are the “continuation” arising from old doodles and sketches that have been refreshed and brought to new life. 

The subsequent six series — “Unconnected”, “Adventures with Acrylics”, “Exaggerated Stills”, “Fear and Hope in Covid Times”, “Back to Black” and “Evocative Durian, Mystifying Durian” represent the “change” where new ideas were formed, resulting in newer creations, especially the digital-analog pieces. 

For these, he resorts to combining painting, working on the computer and writing in a manner that enhances the integrated wholes. In this way, he also bridges the digital-analogue gap that is now prevalent in art. 

This can be clearly be seen in his “Evocative Durian, Mystifying Durian” series, which comprises acrylic-and-ink original paintings with “derivative” prints. The latter are the result of work with, among others, Adobe Photoshop and photography. 

In creating the “derivatives”, Lim uses props such as glass, translucent plastic and chicken wire netting. These are the “analog” aids to help him distort the various segments of the paintings, to render the artworks subdued yet powerful, intense and mystifying — emotive elements that represent Lim’s thoughts and feelings surrounding the durian. 

With titles such as “Bickering Over Durian”, “The Gaze Among Thorny Distractions” and “Above The Fray”, one would be drawn to decipher the illustrations that evoke and mystify the heart and mind. 

Besides the “Durian” series, another noteworthy digital-analogue experiment can be found in “Back to Black”. It involves rectangles that are the amalgam of three elements: Black-and-white small rectangular doodles; photos of rain tree canopies; and colours from a masterpiece, eg by Picasso. The resultant forms are then put together to form a Warhol-like piece. 

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to appreciate these finer details when viewing the pairings of original paintings with their digital-analogue prints. 

All the other series at the exhibition will equally attract the young and old with their interesting doodles, vibrant colours, gimmicky lines and abstract shapes of ordinary day-today items and scenes. Several artworks in the “Unconnected” series, for example, would entice a visitor to figure out what the pot-bellied man featured is doing. 

A watercolour on paper, ‘Pot-Bellied Man with His Cat at the Races’ (Dec 2020)

A Printing Man 

For Lim, holding his inaugural exhibition at A Place Where by APW, formerly a printing factory, also holds significance for him as 

a former production person and writer in the media and publishing industry using the services of the then Art Printing Works (APW). 

A Place Where by APW CEO Ee Soon Wei said he is glad to be given an opportunity to present Lim’s first solo exhibition as an artist. 

“There are many layered connections — from space, people and work itself — to see how APW as a space continues to push boundaries creatively and collectively. Lim’s work integrates this likely persona very well — deep in curiosity with his thoughtfulness in narrative. 

“I’m grateful to be doing this together after coming out from the long extended pandemic. This exhibition brings meaning and importance of ‘purposeful togetherness’ — where both space and art intersects.” 

Visit for more on Lim’s art and other biographical expressions.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition