H.H. Lim: A Storied Artistic Odyssey Through Time, Space, and Reflection

After a decade, Italy-based Malaysian artist, H.H. Lim returned to his homeland to present his second solo exhibition, ‘The Gaze of Sleepwalkers’.
HH Lim

Gold – Installation at Wei-Ling Gallery

Entering Wei-Ling Gallery, the contemporary art gallery nestled in Brickfields, wasn’t a new discovery for me. Upon entering, the space had transformed from its usual serene ambience, it now buzzed with lively discourse and murmurs of conversation, laughter, and the rhythmic tapping of footsteps on wooden floors. It appears that the gallery is engrossed in the preparations for an upcoming exhibition.

My train of thought seamlessly connects with the visual artworks adorning the walls as I made my way to the upper floor, affirming that I was in the right place. Just as I was still immersed in this symphony of sounds and visuals, a hearty greeting broke through my contemplation. It was none other than H.H. Lim, the Rome-based Malaysian artist who had returned to his homeland to present his second solo exhibition, The Gaze of Sleepwalkers.

HH Lim

L-R: Code 8363, Code 9384

Having resided in Rome since 1976, Lim shuttles between the city and Penang island. In 1990, he established Edicola Notte, a non-profit dynamic art space in Rome. Lim’s creative oeuvre mirrors his nomadic existence and harmonious fusion of Eastern and Western influences, expressed through diverse mediums.

His conceptual art leans into exploring the transient and mutable essence of meaning in a whimsical and audacious fashion, often intertwining elements of the subconscious, symbolism, memory, and language. For Lim, artworks that have taken shape in one form often undergo a transformative rebirth when placed alongside other pieces, imbuing them with fresh, supplementary, and often paradoxical meanings.

HH Lim

H.H. Lim – Enter the Parallel World

With his strong wit and verve, Lim reflects on his journey. “I consider myself fortunate. It’s a realm where every effort is crucial, demanding one to invest substantially to get a mere three percent gain. Working within the confines of a studio is not enough for those aspiring to be true artists. It necessitates a resounding voice, and that’s just a fraction of competing,” he says.

In the eagerly awaited The Gaze of Sleepwalkers exhibition, Lim unveils his second solo presentation in Malaysia, marking a decade since his initial showcase, The Beginning of Something, which took centre stage at Wei-Ling Contemporary in 2014.

Within this compelling series comprising thirteen paintings and installation pieces, Lim explores the interplay between human existence and the surrounding ecosystem. Solitary wild creatures in their habitats become thoughtful witnesses, observing the current state of humanity. The narrative unravels the contrast between those who observe and those being observed.

It’s a different perspective. I can wrap my head around lions preying on goats; it’s just the way the ecosystem works. The lion might lose in the end because they become extinct, while the goats adapt and thrive. It goes to show that the idea of violence and strength always winning isn’t foolproof; even the strong have their share of challenges. Nature teaches us that intelligence and adaptability are key players in the grand scheme of things,” says H.H. Lim in musing about the relationship between life and the ecosystem.

Regarding the potency of words over images, Lim asserts, “Words are much more powerful than images.” He emphasises the intentional complexity in his art. “To make the world not be so echo-channel, we have to mix in the way to make them difficult to read at first sight. It slows the immediate impact when you read it as a design. It’s kind of a beautiful image with the meaning that comes later. Code 97XZ is a great example.”

H.H Lim – Code 97XZ

Turning his attention to the numerical symbolism featured in the “Code” series of paintings, Lim delves into his creative process by grouping a set of different sums that total up to “6174”, explaining, “We use numbers as solutions, the main kind.”

According to Lim, this mirrors the essence of human existence; despite taking diverse routes to work or home daily, individuals ultimately find themselves at the same destination at the end of their journeys.

HH Lim

H.H.Lim – Wake me up

“Looking at the world, we are the sleepwalkers – we are blind but awake. The Gaze of Sleepwalkers recognises how delicate and fragile we are as human beings in a parallel world.”

The piece titled Wake Me Up holds a profound personal significance for Lim. Approaching the age of 70, the artist shares a deep sense of perplexity about life. “I still don’t understand anything. The reasons behind our actions, our destination – they remain elusive. A tiny fragment of the universe hints at our daily struggles. Who am I to witness all this? Perhaps, I see it as a calling.”

This story first published on The Peak Magazine April 2024 Issue.

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