What made you stop here? – review

<span>Photograph: Nick Singleton/Estate of Kim Lim/Hepworth Wakefield</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/0NRewcKSu5bSb.ofSvQGJQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/7dde0f9be7970328bd8cb293bba 1f3bf” data- src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/0NRewcKSu5bSb.ofSvQGJQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/7dde0f9be7970328bd8cb293bba1 f3bf”/></div>
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There is a vision of wind over water in this captivating spectacle achieved entirely through incisions on a sheet of white paper. The page is square, the scissor cuts are not much more than a bundle of extremely thin parallel lines. But they run in exactly the right diagonal across the surface to suggest that transient breeze and change, redoubled in the shadows cast through each incision in the wall behind the page: movement captured through the paper’s meticulous calculation, empty line and at an angle.

The art of Kim Lim (1936-97) oscillates between drawing and sculpture. Born in Singapore to Chinese parents, Lim lived in Malaysia under Japanese occupation, she trained as a ballet dancer from early childhood and moved to Britain at the age of 17. It seems like there was never a time when she wasn’t on the move.

At 18, she was studying sculpture with Elisabeth Frink and Anthony Caro at Saint Martin’s, but soon moved to the Slade to pursue bolder abstraction. She had her first exhibition at the ICA at age 25 (the same year she married and started a family) and never seems to have stopped exhibiting. Lim was the only woman given a space in the annual Hayward exhibition of 1977, and her works are held in public collections throughout Britain. But a 15-year hiatus followed her premature death from cancer at age 61.

Space, rhythm and light is the ideal show for anyone unfamiliar with Lim’s art. Beautifully curated in five spacious galleries by Abi Shapiro, it features works in painted steel and reclaimed wood, aluminum, perspex and glass, marble, paper and Portland stone. And what it demonstrates, from start to finish, is an exceptional combination of toughness and grace, encapsulated in a 1966 photograph of the former dancer reaching out to polish a heavy brass sculpture.

Twice is the title of the work, and it is here in Hepworth Wakefield: the same brilliant shape resting twice at right angles, somewhere between a limb and a letter, reaching up to a point (or toe) that rises in the air. A jubilant view, a drawing blossoming into three-dimensional forms, this is fundamental work. The above forms sometimes appear to be pieces of period British sculpture in charred remains and enameled metal. But Lim becomes completely unique. ronin It is a stack of wooden shapes that resembles a Japanese calligraphic symbol and at the same time embodies a fierce samurai.

Lim and her husband, fellow sculptor William Turnbull, seem to have traveled incessantly, through India to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, constantly seeking what she cared so much about: the vision of art in situ. Back at her home in Camden, north London, she made abstract sculptures in her garden that evoke water in acrylic or marble, or enclose it in overlapping bronze rings that double as bird ponds.

One of his most beautiful works, Day, stands like a brilliant white fountain or rainbow in Hepworth’s own gardens: a radiant steel arch and a measure of time. You could accomplish a lot with the inflection of a simple line. Especially beautiful are its very simple silver V shapes, made of cast aluminum, configured in couples that marry, separate, open or take off like birds in ascending flight.

Lim, in his 50s, undertook the immensely arduous carving of heavy stone blocks. Solid, abruptly truncated like a ruined pillar, each pale monument is etched with pencil-thin lines that sometimes appear to sway, however slightly. The most subtle undulation gives movement to these monoliths. But better still are Lim’s monochromatic prints, where he makes the seasons pass in rolled folds or grids of dark lines, and his minimalist works on cut paper.

Stand at a distance from these white squares, suspended in glass boxes against the wall, and they work their music entirely through the interplay of light and shadow, paper and slits. Rain, fog, vortex, a whisper of wind: everything is evoked with the most poetic interventions of his meticulous sword.

Lim’s art is as pristine and austere in its semi-abstraction as Andrew CranstonThe paintings in the neighboring galleries are open, expansive, figurative and loquacious. Born in Hawick in 1969, the mind and work of this Scottish artist are filled with resonant memories of people in rooms, scenes, atmospheres and landscapes (most often camping trips among mosquitoes on mystical Arran). He paints on all scales, from intimate living rooms in his Glasgow flat, with the day falling and tea on the table, to huge twilights shining over luminous yachts in wine-dark waters. And he also works in the most unexpected support.

Many of the 38 images in What made you stop here? They are painted on the covers of old hardcover books. After all, what is such a covering if not another piece of linen, like a canvas? Sometimes there is a very direct relationship between substrate and subject. A bright painting shows James Joyce, blind behind his bottle-cap glasses, standing a little with his cane, in a 1920s volume (ironically titled Chart) moving through thick spots of golden light.

The debt to Bonnard and Vuillard is frankly evident: the same sense of time frozen and the outside world excluded from rooms in which figures often seem one with the walls, cushions, rugs and objects. Cranston throws a red-hued birthday party, with guests moving through a cinematic dream of chocolate cakes, embroidery and mangoes. In another room, the curtains are closed against the sun and light is filtered through the fabric with the most ingenious use of household bleach, so that the only thing you can make out is the occasional cat among the sleepy sofas.

Cranston uses collage, distemper, wax encaustic and varnish, particularly in a wonderful sequence of paintings commemorating the pond at Edinburgh’s Chambers Street Museum, so loved by those of us who grew up there. Colorful fish float in sparkling waters on equally radiant mosaics.

Mystery stirs through these paintings. Who is the boy in the store, examining his reflection in the mirror in the dark, while another looks at the hazy blue ghost of an island on the horizon? Dark heads bob in the sea, but are they people or seals (or mythical selkies)? The words appear on the gallery walls, as if spilling from books (Cranston is an excellent communicator about life, painting, color, art history, creating his own images) and often form funny titles .

I especially liked the sardonic pun of poor poet, which shows a figure wrapped in a blanket smoking heavily (and expensively). And in the center of a Sickert-esque room, all gloomy fog and thickening brush strokes, stands a formidably bright lamp, epigrammatic like Patrick Caulfield. The photo is called The only light we keep on.

This art is as pleasant as its appeal is direct. The color is glorious, the brushstroke always aimed at capturing a memory or sensation in the most truthful way possible, even at the expense of gentle deliberation. Most unusual of all is Cranston’s abundant humor. One of the smaller works here is the funniest: a man (the artist?) wrapped as thickly as a polar explorer, standing beneath the icy dome of a high-ceilinged Scottish dwelling, casting its icy blue light on everything below. This is inner arctic.

Star Ratings (out of five)
Kim Lim
Andrew Cranston

• Kim Lim: Space, Rhythm & Light and Andrew Cranston: What made you stop here? Both will be at the Hepworth Wakefield until June 2.

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