Kuala Lumpur: Justin Lim

Click to enlarge
The artist in front of <em>Uranus</em>, painted from an old school photo.

The artist in front of Uranus, painted from an old school photo. Image: David Yeow

1 of 4
<em>A Sea of Mystery</em> was painted following the disappearance of Air Malaysia flight 370 in 2014.

A Sea of Mystery was painted following the disappearance of Air Malaysia flight 370 in 2014. Image: David Yeow

2 of 4
Artist Justin Lim at Richard Koh Fine Art Gallery in Bangsar Village with <em>Lux</em> (2015), a painting of dogs falling down a staircase – a commentary about wealth and status.

Artist Justin Lim at Richard Koh Fine Art Gallery in Bangsar Village with Lux (2015), a painting of dogs falling down a staircase – a commentary about wealth and status. Image: David Yeow

3 of 4
<em>SOS</em> is an assemblage of paintings.

SOS is an assemblage of paintings. Image: David Yeow

4 of 4

Artist Justin Lim is primarily a painter who uses his art to explore local traditions and issues affecting Malaysian culture. Social commentary or “what is happening around us” is the role of art, he suggests. “The work doesn’t dictate how audiences should perceive the work but it should raise more questions than it answers.”

Artist Justin Lim at Richard Koh Fine Art Gallery in Bangsar Village with Lux (2015), a painting of dogs falling down a staircase – a commentary about wealth and status. Image:  David Yeow

While the subject matter of Lim’s paintings is often politically linked, he doesn’t see himself as an activist. The works comment on everything from Malaysian censorship and religious laws related to the country’s Muslim status to exploring Malaysian ghost myths. These are stories that a grandmother in a rural kampung or village would tell, including the Orang Minyak, a ghost that is human but wants supernatural powers, or the Toyol, a child ghost that steals things.  

His paintings can be colourful and tongue-in-cheek, but his latest work is dark and elusive, using a great deal of black to play with the notion of illusion. “I wanted to purge all colour,” he explains. These works were created during the middle of the country’s elections, when KL’s mass political protests were widely shown in the international media. “It is a commentary about propaganda, transparency and the free and fair electoral process,” Lim explains. “At the moment we are in a state of questioning our racial diversity. We are asking: ‘how racially integrated are we really?’”

Another hauntingly dark interior scape shows dogs climbing a staircase: “The dogs are almost climbing the stairs but falling down again,” he explains, which relates to the political lifestyles of politicians. “It’s about class and wealth and, also, the world of art collecting.”

 Lim’s early influences were comic books and graphic art, which led to studies at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. He graduated in 2006, then moved back to KL and started a residency with Hijjas Kasturi, considered the “father of Malaysian architecture”, followed by residencies in different countries. 

This year, Lim will exhibit his paintings at contemporary art fairs in Singapore and Hong Kong, and he hopes to do a residency in Hobart, Tasmania.


More people

Designer interview: Warren Twisleton

Designer interview: Warren Twisleton

Striking a balance between work and play has led the owner of furniture brand Lujo, Warren Twisleton, to design a range of contemporary furniture that creates a sense of holiday at home.
Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Camille Khouri talked to renowned interior and furniture designer Francis Sultana about his life as a designer and his beautifully furnished apartment (featured in the current issue of Urbis).
In Focus: Michael Webb

In Focus: Michael Webb

Building Community: New Apartment Architecture is a visually arresting book with a poignant and timely theme. Vanessa Coxhead spoke to its author Michael Webb about what makes a great apartment building.
Art in all the right places

Art in all the right places

Curator Sophie Wallace returned home from her time at Pace Gallery in New York to open Hastings’ newest gallery, Parlour Projects.

Most read

Paris without a map

Paris without a map

From Mondrian to Margiela: a very personal blending of influences – design and otherwise – make this French apartment a veritable tour de force.
The skyline shifter

The skyline shifter

Ground is soon to be broken for The Pacifica, a soaring new apartment complex that has the ability to reinvigorate an enclave of Auckland’s downtown.
Casa Perfection

Casa Perfection

A house in the hills of Los Angeles has recently become a showroom for The Future Perfect, a design store with additional locations in Manhattan and San Francisco.
Made to measure

Made to measure

This sophisticated Moscow home shows how custom-designed spaces, furniture and fittings can take the uniformity out of apartment living.
Well connected

Well connected

Like a well kept secret, a renovated 1930s bungalow hides a black steel and glass addition from the street.
Homes for barter

Homes for barter

Urbis chats to the co-founders of a home exchange website aimed solely at creatives about trading their highly curated abodes with perfect strangers.