Horizon 2017

 

HORIZON photographs 2017

HORIZON acrylic, oil, gauze 2017

   

HORIZON oil on canvas 2017

 

  

Lou Lim treads the path between playful and solemn in her show entitled Horizon. At the onset, it’s quite simple: she shows three works all stemming from each other. Lim’s simplicity, however, gives us a sense of a deep intentionality and thought that there is more to this exhibition than to claim it as something simple.

Lim’s show begins with the canvas. She paints a rather large impressionist painting of the sea. It’s massive; it takes up most of the space on the wall, and is reminiscent of something like Claude Monet’s water lilies or any other painting of the time. However, unlike impressionism or romanticism, rather than adapting an organic or gestural method of painting, Lim adapts a technique far more mechanical. Prior to painting this work, Lim had premixed all of the oil paints in reference to a photograph. And like a printer, she painted the canvas line by line until it was finally finished.

What’s more peculiar, however, is that upon further inspection, something is missing from the painting. A slim line from the middle of the painting is neatly removed and suspends from the ceiling. On a separate pedestal, photographs of Lim lay haphazardly, showing her interact with this strip, wrapping it around her hand in various permutations.

From afar, one sees a painting of a seascape. But we come to realize that Lim had extracted the horizon line from her painting. Is it still a seascape if the sky never touches the sea? Is it right to call something by its name even if it lacks a part of its essence? Can things only be defined by what delineates them?

In the 70s, American artist Fred Sandback used elastic cord and acrylic yarn in his artistic practice to create planes of space. Sandback stretched his materials taut, drawing lines and shapes jutting out of the ceilings and floors of galleries. These simple and quiet lines divided and created large spaces through the most minimal of means. Although these rooms had, for the most part, been maintained as hollow, Sandback was able to enact space and distance through his work by using string to draw boundaries. In many ways, Lim’s Horizon echoes Sandback’s work. With the same hushed intentionality, Lim’s work shares a similar quality of magnitude in simplicity, of being maximalist while also wholeheartedly embracing minimalism.

A horizon’s main purpose is to separate that which touches the earth from what doesn’t. Thus, the horizon is meant to separate, to distinguish, and to delineate. On paper, it sounds like something that Sandback might do. He might have thought of dividing a space into sections or creating separations. However, Lim does the opposite. Instead of drawing clear separations between land and sea, Lim enacts a certain ambiguity within her work. Is her painting really a seascape or is it just an exposition of gradients?

At the same time, Lim’s work is not necessarily about ambiguity, either. Sandback’s planes and shapes allow the viewer to approach its architecture with ambivalence. The viewer is unsure if they can pass through the work or must work around it. Sandback creates illusions of space and walls, while Lim, is quite deliberate. By physically extracting the horizon line from her painting, she makes tangible something purely visual. Lim literally removes the horizon from her painting to make it tactile, releasing it from the image of a painting. Horizon acts sort of like a conquest. Lim was able to successfully collect the horizon and displays it for us suspended from the ceiling. Later on, you discover she plays with it, wrapping it around her hands with some sense of curious victory.

Perhaps it is common to see Horizon and imagine that Lim has departed from sculpture and moved onto painting as her new practice. For most of her artistic career, Lim has been working with sculpture, often using industrial material such as silicon, latex, and house paints in evoking human-like qualities of skin. However, Horizon feels less like a painting show than it is sculptural. Maybe Horizon can be understood by considering it as a sculptor trying to comprehend painting—that although Lim painted a seascape, her work does not function as a painting. In drawing out the horizon of the seascape, Lim was able to make material something inextricably immaterial and unattainable.

Lim’s work has often been concerned with reflecting on boundaries and extents, whether of labels or of materials and compositions. It’s rather apt that she decides to examine the horizon as it signifies boundlessness, while also imposing barriers in landscapes. As viewers, we are encouraged to assess not just the visual qualities of her work, but the limits of our own vision. Lim’s Horizon attempts to make sense of the tensions between boundaries and breadth and those that can be seen, but not held. It always will be physically impossible to grab and take hold of the horizon, but if I could, I would wrap it around my hands, too.

-Arianna Mercado

© photos by Silverlens

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