JASON LIM
(b. 1966, SINGAPORE)

Regarded as Singapore’s next master ceramist, Jason Lim’s artistic growth over the past decade has been remarkable. Also a performance artist, Jason combines skilled craftsmanship in sculpting with influences from performance art. The result is ceramic pieces that go beyond being merely objects of beauty, to subjects that provoke thought and interaction with the viewer.

Jason’s ceramics transcend the tradition of functionality. Almost sculptural instead, his works take on strikingly organic forms – an asymmetrical plate, a sealed vessel or a perforated bottle. Deliciously earthy yet fragile, the duality in his works prompts one to ponder over the creation process, while their asymmetry provokes a rethinking of balance and symmetry. Unpretentious in nature, Jason’s ceramics exude a beautiful stark rawness that reflects the artist’s skill and energy. 

Jason’s first show was in Canterbury, England in 1992.  He has since exhibited across the globe in Australia, Germany, India, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Thailand and the Netherlands. Jason Lim was also part of the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007

For this exhibition, Jason has created a new series of digital prints. The artist shared:

“These works entitled, Arranging Breaths, are created with a performative process of arranging ceramics elements (spikes) with mindful breathing. With each breath, a spike is picked at random and placed next or on top of the another. Rhythmic breathing brings order out of chaos. The aim was to use the process of breathing as a starting point and optimise my engagement in this creative process. Each arrangement is composed of 385 ceramic spikes—in other words, it takes 385 breaths to complete each arrangement. The finished works were documented and dismantled. Photographic prints remind us of the works’ existence. 

Arranging Breaths is a practice on mindfulness and I find that there is a lot of value in this simple activity. It is an important tool for distress tolerance and overcoming anxiety. It enables me to focus on the present moment and to embark on making these works.”

WORKS BY THIS ARTIST

Arranging Breaths (Triangular Stack)
2020
Digital Print on Aluminium, 32 x 24 cm, Edition of 1 + 1 Artist Proof

In “Triangular Stack”, a conventional triangle is nowhere to be found. The shape at the foreground is an alien, irregular one, as piles of varied-sized ceramic spikes are stacked, such that their thick ends meet evenly at the top, and their sharp tips are faced downwards—vaguely resembling a set of thick, layered hair. The shape alludes to a sense of the infinite, rendering it impossible to count the number of strands lying beneath the surface layers. Yet one recalls that Jason had patiently piled each ceramic strip one by one, breath after breath. He entered this process likely not knowing the appearance of this finished shape—guided merely, perhaps, by an intuitive structure. Pondering this sculpture deeper, we then realize that when viewed from the side of the top end, the sculpture is formed, from the largest pieces at the bottom to the smallest on top, through a triangle. We are then moved to ponder how the shapes we name are not merely abstract concepts—but they emerge concretely from the natural world, forming the foundations of the intricate and complex phenomena around us.

Arranging Breaths (Herring)
2020
Digital Print on Aluminium, 24 x 23 cm, Edition of 1 + 1 Artist Proof

At first glance, this photograph captures a geometric, abstract arrangement of hundreds of pale and frail ceramic spikes. They are spread out evenly in two columns, where their pointed tips meet at the middle to form one long, delicate line. The uniformity and precision of Jason’s breath radiates in this piece, instantly evoking a sense of calm. We are called to meditate the form of each thin spike, spread apart such that the subtleties and unique qualities of each one are revealed—long, crooked, sharp, short, smooth, dented. Beyond this abstract contemplation, the title of the piece, “Herring”, then frames our seeing. Suddenly, an image of a school of herring comes to mind: thousands of fish in different sizes swimming together to form one majestic blur of silver. When we step back even further, we will see how these individual spikes roughly resemble the shape of one fish—inviting us to contemplate how distinct creatures naturally come together and become one, harmonious body.

Arranging Breaths (Star)
2020
Digital Print on Aluminium, 24 x 24 cm, Edition of 1 + 1 Artist Proof

Made of hundreds of thin ceramic strips, this ‘star’ is no great or celestial one, but delicate and fragile, vulnerable to breaking apart with one strong shake of the table. It is arranged such that the long spikes lie at the bottom, while the smallest fall on top and saturate at the center—forming one vigorous, circular mass, appearing as if it were about to burst. Despite its breakable quality, the work’s beauty lies in how its frail parts were placed together to appear strong. This juxtaposition is similarly reflected in Jason’s meditative process: just as every breath reminds us of our fragility as humans, kept alive through every breath, mastering our breath also lends us the strength to be stable and grounded. The star symbol here is thus a poignant reminder that one can be both powerful and mortal—as stars too, mighty as they are, eventually die out.

Arranging Breaths (Split)
2020
Digital Print on Aluminium, 24 x 24 cm, Edition of 1 + 1 Artist Proof

 “Split” depicts a more compact version of “Herring”, in which the two columns of thin spikes are no longer spread apart, but stacked and pressed together. Rather than seeing many multiple spikes in their uniqueness, one intricately textured, grotesque creature emerges before us. This creature is made to look sliced or ‘split’ in the middle, yet there is no mess or chaos—the organism is still whole. The serene tension that Jason captures here points to his mastery of the process of arranging these spikes. Painstakingly placing each spike atop the other such that the other spikes do not fall apart, such that they still form this one body, is a feat in itself. It’s an act that makes you feel like holding your breath, hoping this delicate structure does not collapse. But Jason resists this anxiety—consciously breathing through every moment. Breath here thus serves as the glue that holds the parts together.