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Hannah Lim Creates Enchanting Sculptural Objects That Reflect Her Cultural Heritage

Inviting viewers to re-examine on how designers have culturally appropriated Eastern motifs.

Hannah Lim is a British artist of Chinese-Singaporean descent. Her intricate furniture-like sculptures will take the viewer on a cultural journey through East and West.

Having studied at the Edinburgh College of Art, Lim was one of the few students of color — sparking an interest for her to connect with her heritage. The South London-native would develop her work along a rigorous process of research to create each sculpture. For example, in the past she has cited historical texts such as Edward Said’s Orientalism and Chinoserie, a form of Chinese design that was redone to fit the aesthetic taste of the European market. She creates these works to “re-imagine and reclaim ideas and designs associated with the Chinoiserie, which have in the past had problematic colonial undertones. Cultural designs are shared as opposed to appropriated, it is no longer about one culture being moulded to the demands of another,” states the artist.

As the pandemic changed the way in which many of us work, Lim started a new series centered around Chinese snuff bottles. Lim tells Hypebeast:

Unable to work on my larger sculptures during the lockdown last year I started creating a series of smaller sculptures inspired by Chinese snuff bottles. Visiting museums in the UK, I was often struck by the intricate yet functional designs of the snuff bottles but also by their history, questioning: where they’d come from? who they’d belong to? and how they’d ended up in the UK? Traditionally snuff bottles were intended to be personal, uniquely decorated, the symbols on their exterior an emblem of good fortune for its owner.

My own snuff bottles, created by hand in polymer clay, capture elements of my identity. Sometimes stamped with my namesake chop, decorated with clay copies of my grandmother’s jade pendants and topped with Singapore’s national flower – an orchid. These little objects capture and combine symbols of my heritage in a playful, colourful and imaginative way. Often they are also quite anthropomorphic, adorning legs, arms and tentacle-like features. I’m interested in them not just being ornaments that reflect parts of my identity but also objects that appear to have a life of their own.

Although research and cultural commentary form the the foundation of her practice, her work fluctuates into playful motifs as well, as she invites the viewer to interpret them on their own accord, allowing the work to have a life of its own. A selection of Hannah Lim’s Snuff Bottle Series is on display at ‘Part of Self,’ a show in conjunction with Cob Gallery and HOME. The artist will also be exhibiting in Bloomberg New Contemporaries in September, along with the ‘ZAO TANG’ exhibition hosted by Local Collective and STIGMA in October.

Elsewhere in art, the US looks to return a priceless Cambodian sculpture stolen in 1997.

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