Although the thematic connection feels strained, the pairing of works by Kheng Lim and Colour Maisch creates a visually rich and compelling exhibition that invites us to relish process and material.
Kheng Lim and Colour Maisch: Inexorable Truth
July 28-September 9, 2023
Bountiful Davis Art Center, Bountiful, Utah
An artist’s chosen medium reveals much about their artistic philosophy and provides tantalizing clues about the labor and dedication to their chosen craft. While painting carries a storied and culturally rich history, mixed media has in the last century or so challenged preconceived notions of art—namely the cultural preoccupation with beauty and narrative realism.
In an exhibition entitled Inexorable Truth, artists Kheng Lim and Colour Maisch utilize drastically distinct mediums to defy expectations of painting and sculpture respectively. Lim’s paintings pair with Maisch’s multimedia sculptures to demonstrate the visual power of artistic labor, and how the materiality of a given medium betrays the aesthetic decisions the artist took to arrive at the finished work.
Lim, an artist and framer represented by Modern West Fine Art, proffers paintings that are dimensional and textured. They serve as a reminder that there’s really no substitute for seeing art in person. Works such as Mort I (2023), reveal the outlines used to delineate geometric sections of the painting, with rough brushstrokes remaining, while Reflections (2023) contains paint of rough application that compels us to lean in close.
Maisch, a visible figure in the Salt Lake City contemporary art scene and co-founder of the new art space Material, contributes large-scale multimedia sculptural works. Her included works share with Lim a textural quality, combining industrial and commonplace materials like metal, rubber, and paper to form novel visual arrangements. These present a departure from the delicate porcelain works I’ve seen from her in other exhibitions in the past year.
By pairing their work together, the artists aim to “address the beauty and weight of this process [transformation] and the very real human emotions that are attached to loss, loss of life, loss of utility, loss of purpose, loss of meaning,” according to an exhibition statement. This narrative, however, feels difficult to discern from the selected works.
And while I understand the necessity of imposing a curatorial thematic, the works are compelling enough to exist as mere demonstrations of the “art for art’s sake” adage—the formalist tradition championed by Clement Greenberg that posits material medium as the pinnacle of artistic meaning.
Indeed, a few of the works feel like an homage to the titans of Abstract Expressionism. Maisch’s series of large-scale works in the Hand Maker Machine (2023) read like Robert Motherwell making work in a mechanic’s shop, while Lim’s Cathedral (2023) is a nod to Barnett Newman.
Ultimately, the works pair well together visually, even if a bit dissident thematically. The titles of Maisch’s works reveal a fascination with the corporeal—Storied Body (2023) and Baby Skin and Granny Skin (2021) as examples—while Lim’s work feels much more anchored in space and geometry. Still, the works are absorbing enough to invite contemplation from both novices and art history junkies alike.