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Tuesday December 28, 2010

Malaysian artist’s TIME of fame

PETALING JAYA: The man behind WikiLeaks may not have been TIME magazine’s pick for Person of the Year, but he has indirectly helped “expose” the work of a Malaysian artist to millions worldwide.

New York-based deaf artist Leon Lim’s (pic) portrait artwork of Internet activist Julian Assange appears on TIME’s latest issue (Dec 27-Jan3) which recognises individuals or groups who made the news over the past year.

Lim, who has never met Assange, used the text of a leaked cable to create a “new” face for the Australian journalist who has turned the diplomatic world upside down by exposing government secrets through his whistleblowing website.

He spent three days making six different versions and sent a copy of his “transformative work” to the magazine early this month.

“I wanted to share my thoughts on why Assange should be the person of the year. I certainly didn’t expect to see my portrait of him in print as the magazine has its own design team for artwork,” Lim said in an e-mail interview from Manhattan.

The dramatic portrait apparently caught the eye of the magazine’s managing editor Richard Stengel, who recommended that it be used with an article on Assange.

Assange, who has become the world’s most talked about man in recent weeks, was third runner-up in the magazine’s list of newsmakers but emerged as Readers’ Choice in a poll conducted by TIME.

Lim was a bit disappointed that Assange was not the top pick of the magazine’s editors but was nonetheless happy that the award went to another big Internet name — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Modern art: Lim’s portrait of Assange.

While he admired Zuckerberg for helping to connect people around the world, he praised Assange for his courage in exposing government secrets to “set things right”.

Getting his work published in TIME is a dream realised for Lim, who has been reading the magazine since he was 11.

The artist has been deaf since birth.

“As a kid who never heard any sound or music, I was always attracted to the magazine’s bold colours, pictures and graphics,” he said.

Lim, who left his Alor Setar hometown for the Big Apple 11 years ago on an art scholarship, has made a name for himself, having held several exhibitions in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Last year, he was one of 17 artists featured in the calendar for the Mayor of New York City.

Lim’s public art installations, which explore socio-political and cultural themes, have been exhibited at the World Financial Center in New York, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul and CAFA Art Museum in Beijing.

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