Magazine article The Spectator

Meditative Calm

Magazine article The Spectator

Meditative Calm

Article excerpt

For so long has stone sculpture been seen as a memorial or celebration of a dead individual that it is sometimes difficult to view it as being a sensitive and living art form. Whatever Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth did (and did massively, in more than one sense) to change things earlier this century, stone sculpture still has something of a funerary connotation. And even when the sculpture is abstract, and not obviously commemorative or figurative, the same applies. Yet beyond the sad fact that the stone carvings currently on view at Camden remind us that their maker, Kim Lim (1936-1997), is no longer with us, they have no trace of overt human aspiration or failing to mar them. They exert instead a profound meditative calm and rare beauty.

The exhibition is not intended as a fullscale retrospective, for this significant artist only began to carve in stone in 1979, before that favouring wood, metal and plastics as a means of expression. To accompany the 28 floor-standing sculptures and wall-reliefs is a selection of Lim's prints, for print-making was an activity of equal artistic importance in her creative life. None of the sculptures is huge, Lim preferring to work with stone which she herself could move about. In addition, there is in the foyer at Camden a case of tiny maquettes, all hand-holdable and intimate, like tablets of carved soap, or small screens, or steps or stoppers, or images of gods.

Born in Singapore, Kim Lim studied in London at St Martin's and the Slade, but returned home frequently. Travel was an important source of inspiration, and brought her into close and fruitful contact not only with the arts of India, China and South-East Asia, but also with the resounding purity of Cycladic sculpture. Here is a key to her work: the masterly way in which she moves into the space and structure of the stone to release its latent energy and thus create these surprisingly immaterial objects of contemplation. As she herself said, 'I have always been more concerned with space, rhythm and light than with volume and weight.'

Her subject, if to talk of a subject is the right way to approach this intensely selfcontained work, is concerned with natural forms and the movement and reflection of light on water. Many of her blocks of stone (Portland, limestone or marble) resemble the pediments or capitals of classical architecture, eroded by the elements. …

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