Nature can be an infinite source of inspiration, says Malaysian printmaking artist


Artist and designer Shan Shan Lim says creating limited edition prints gives newcomer collectors and art enthusiasts equal access to art at affordable prices. Photo: Shan Shan Lim

British-trained artist Shan Shan Lim sees the important role of social media in furthering her printmaking art. It's a way to attract a new generation of art collectors, while the affordability factor of the print medium also helps.

One glance at her I Am Jungle limited edition print series, promoted on the Outlet KL online platform, is enough to tell you that these are the kind of contemporary works that young collectors would have adorning their rooms and homes.

Shan Shan, a textile design graduate from London’s Central Saint Martins, specialises in weaving and printing.

“When you promote artworks of the artist through social media, you need to not only highlight the artwork but the artist’s story as well,” says Shan Shan, describing how Outlet KL has ensured that each artist on its virtual “shop window” has a backstory.

These anecdotal snippets make for good social media posts, keeping media-savvy followers tuned in. More than that, limited edition prints from Shan Shan can be seen as an affordable investment or a first-time purchase from a newcomer collector.

Prints are designed by an artist and often signed by the artist, but they are, by definition, reproductions.

In Malaysia, there has been a boom in printmaking art. The pandemic restrictions and ensuing lockdowns have given print art renewed popularity in the marketplace. Prints are also often small in size and flexible enough to be mailed through the post or sent to customers using normal delivery services. There is no need for a frame shop or art delivery truck in this equation.

Shan Shan’s 'I Am Jungle' print art series, which is inspired by flora and fauna. Photo: Outlet KLShan Shan’s 'I Am Jungle' print art series, which is inspired by flora and fauna. Photo: Outlet KL

“My limited edition prints were created as an extension of my original paintings that people can collect at a more affordable price to display in their homes,” says Shan Shan, referring to her art prints that come in two sizes (A4 & A3).

These works sell between RM70 and RM90, and they give new collectors a gateway to Shan Shan's paintings later on.

In terms of material, paintings on canvas are more expensive and artists need more time to produce. As a matter of survival, some artists are looking at printmaking art to keep their careers going while art galleries themselves are in recovery mode.

In a gallery space, Shan Shan’s large scale artworks would attract attention. But empty galleries and cancelled art shows are the harsh realities of a pandemic-hit art scene. Things might improve in the coming months when art galleries get back on track, with so many reopening shows and exhibitions in the pipeline.

However, selling art on social media is the new normal for many artists these days. Shan Shan agrees that a new platform such as Outlet KL is helpful in reaching a target market of print art collectors.

Before she was featured in Outlet KL, Shan Shan mentions that she was handling sales of her artwork through her own website.

As the pandemic months dragged on, she decided to take a hiatus from creating art and took on a full-time job as a designer for financial stability.

A close-up detail of Shan Shan Lim's 'I Am Jungle Print 1'. Photo: Shan Shan LimA close-up detail of Shan Shan Lim's 'I Am Jungle Print 1'. Photo: Shan Shan Lim

With Outlet KL representing her, Shan Shan now does not have to juggle between her day job and selling her art.

“They handle all the printing of the artworks as well as packaging and shipping, which makes it so much easier for me.

“I used to have to print, wrap, pack and ship out my artwork orders all on my own and it can be very time-consuming,” says Shan Shan, who founded her own consulting agency Shan Shan Lim Studios in 2017.

In her new botanical collection, Shan Shan has designed a series of three prints, exploring the theme of self-discovery.

“As one ventures into (the) uncharted jungle, these sketches portray the exploration of our dense innermost selves through a playful interplay of spontaneous strokes, textures and a collage of shapes,” she explains.

Her choice of pastel colours with pops of orange add a calming effect. Flora and fauna themes have also been a big part of the artist's works.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from my environment when travelling and photographing various landscapes and flora in nature. Memories of the mountains in India, my grandfather’s home in Melaka and the flower gardens of London all find their way into my art.

“Obviously, during the lockdown, we haven’t been allowed to travel. I was forced to draw inspiration from the immediate surroundings.

“In a way, the lockdown made me so appreciative of my home and the little mundane objects that we usually overlook,” says Shan Shan.

Short walks outdoors and watching birds and plants through a pair of binoculars from her home-based studio have been helpful.

Shan Shan is also exploring creating her own natural paint series by pounding rocks she collects during her walks.

"The stone pigments produce beautifully rich and earthy colours,” she says.

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