We are especially familiar with Monochrome art from avant-garde works in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but in the mid-seventeenth century monochrome paintings were also very popular. Besides for an economic reason, it was a method to coordinate the different elements of a composition. Objects seemed less isolated from each other and more unity was created. Jan van Goyen and Rembrandt are well-known seventeenth-century painters with a preference for monochrome painting.
Lim A Po’s new series ‘Monochromes’ is a conscious next step in her artistry. After her colourful series ‘Elements’, the artist experienced an increasing need to work with shades of black. Abandoning colour and a clearly defined outline were hereby guiding, besides a fascination for the interaction between light and dark. Where the artist was previously still in search of traditional forms of representation, the new series is an attempt to abandon this. In ‘Monochromes’ Lim A Po produces multiple canvasses, mostly on linen and in ink. There is no figuration; rather, she paints layer upon layer of different shades in an intuitive but self-confident interaction with the material. The ink is applied to the canvas wet on wet, and once it is dry, new layers follow. In some parts she applies the ink so transparently that the linen is still visible, on other parts so thickly that the craquelures and gnarled textures are shown. The result are compositions of organic forms and lines, which feel as if they have come to life without human intervention.
The next step is radical, with the scissors allowed free play. All the canvasses are cut up into hundreds of organic parts, a reoccurring form in the artist’s work. Lim A Po then really puts herself to work, as she says in her own words. With the pieces cut up, finished and organised by size, texture and shape she starts the job of arranging and composing. The separate elements are carefully put together, slowly giving rise to a new composition in which Lim A Po determines her own visual language. Once again, shapes and lines play a dominant role. Each element must be applied so precisely that it seems to perfectly flow into the adjacent part of the canvas, the object being the formation of a huge organic whole. An immensely labour-intensive project that would seem to be at odds with the intuitive way in which Lim A Po initially builds up her works.
But besides this almost compulsive working method the entire process of creating, destroying and building up gives Lim A Po an immense feeling of freedom; it is the starting point of something new, which the artist is in full control of. The result is an impressive, harmonious and aesthetic series of works in which each separate component is perfectly coordinated with the others. Exactly in the same way as Rembrandt’s 17th-century intimate portraits and Van Goyen’s atmospheric landscapes.
Alisa Lim A Po (Amsterdam, 1975) is an autonomous artist. Her work reflects on human behaviour and the feelings this generates, such as happiness, sadness or fear. Her investigation of different uses of material and new techniques is striking. She is successfully represented by galleries in the Netherlands and abroad.