H. H. Lim, Paolo Laudisa

Forum Jean Claude Arnault

Camouflage and disguise are recurrent strategies in contemporary art. The work looks as if it were one thing, but it is something else; a gap exists between the work’s appearance and its being, between its Schein and Sein. A painting may look like a photograph or vice versa; what seems to be a massive body may be no more than a thin, hollow shell; and a form that represents one thing may signify something entirely different.

H. H. Lim—a young Chinese artist living in Rome—and the Italian painter Paolo Laudisa present a variation of this strategy of disguise and deception. In their paintings form is separated from meaning. The pictorial sign is allegorical in that it may resemble reality without always being reality, for instance, appearing as a cow does not guarantee that the sign means “cow.”

In Lim’s work disguise also exits on another level. From a distance his large paintings look as if they were painted in a lyrical, expressionist idiom. Three dominant hues—blue, red, yellow—are varied with great subtlety. For example, in one of his works a beautifully nuanced grayish white unfolds like a thin veil over the surface. Coming closer, however, one detects quite a different attitude. Underneath the seductive layers of semitransparent color a fragmented, incoherent drawn world of objects appears: weapons (swords, pistols, daggers), symbols (crosses, phalli), animals (cows, dogs, elephants), and even graffiti. Nothing is up or down, left or right. Everything flies around weightlessly, equivalently, as if gravity had been suspended. These objects display themselves as low, relieflike traces on the surface. They look like fossils, remnants of an extinct culture. Covered by semiopaque washes of color, by a veil of time, they no longer suggest meaning or function. Their form is still recognizable, but its significance seems eroded or torn to pieces.

Volano (They fly) occurs in all of Lim’s titles. His “aviations” are motivated neither by a folkloric or surrealist desire for storytelling, nor by a craving for decoration. The movement conveys the impression of an absurdly discontinuous reality, of a world dominated more by chance than by the intentions of an artistic subject. It is possible to read these paintings as images of our stream of consciousness, where the most banal, childish, and commonplace contents are mixed with the most threatening, and mysterious.

Laudisa’s paintings also have a palimpsestic, atmospheric character. But Laudisa is drawn more toward decoration. He works with only a few figurative elements at a time, which results in a more quiet, meditative expression. His light, airy textures sometimes appear bottomless. Lim’s and Laudisa’s works constitute modern allegories. They display a semantic vacuum, the result of a rupture between the figurative sign and any preconstituted meaning, which, if it can be filled at all, can only be filled by the viewer.

Lars O. Ericsson