'Inheritance' exhibition in KL gives voice to women's stories

An artwork titled 'Water Me, Can?' by Sarah Radzi, which is part of the 'Inheritance' exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Handout

Female artists often face the challenges of under-representation and undervaluation in the art world and beyond.

Seeking to challenge these norms and bridge the gap, multidisciplinary artist Shan Shan Lim of SSL Studios has curated a selection of works by Malaysian women artists in a group exhibition Inheritance, celebrating the creativity, diversity and empowerment of women in the arts.

Organised by beauty retail service EMAX Beaute, Inheritance is showing at The Bookmark, APW in Bangsar through March 17. A portion of the proceeds from artwork sales will go towards Women’s Aid Organisation Malaysia (WAO) in support of their work in promoting gender equality and ending violence against women.

Lim says that as an artist herself, she has always been passionate about giving back to the art community.

“The idea of collaborating on an exhibition featuring all-female artists immediately resonated with the organisers and I was invited to curate the exhibition,” says Lim.

A close-up of 'Seed Constellation', an intricate mixed media piece by Syarifah Nadhirah. Photo: HandoutA close-up of 'Seed Constellation', an intricate mixed media piece by Syarifah Nadhirah. Photo: Handout

Why did she choose Inheritance as the title?

“It symbolises the legacy of female artists throughout history and their invaluable contributions often overlooked or undervalued. It’s about reclaiming our place in the artistic narrative and passing down a more equitable art world to future generations. It’s about putting the ‘her’ back in ‘inheritance’,” says Lim.

Blurring the lines

Besides Lim’s own work, 15 other Malaysian female artists, based both locally and abroad, are featured in the exhibition, such as Ika Sharom, Dana Kaarina, Jacintha Philip, Syarifah Nadirah, Dual Space Studio, Sarah Radzi and ManChien.

“I chose female artists whose work I adored, with the aim to showcase a wide spectrum of stories and mediums. There are painters, photographers, interior designers and even artists who are juggling families and full-time jobs.

“My aim was to celebrate womanhood in its entirety – not just one perspective. For some of them, this will be their first time exhibiting in Malaysia, so it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to provide that platform,” says Lim.

When choosing the artworks for the exhibition, Lim didn’t have a specific theme in mind, but a common thread emerged organically anyway: the blurred boundaries between art and design.

An abstract painting titled 'A Love Letter' by Dana Kaarina. Photo: HandoutAn abstract painting titled 'A Love Letter' by Dana Kaarina. Photo: Handout

“Much of the work you’ll find on display may not be found in a ‘conventional’ art exhibition. As someone who loves to explore new mediums, I wanted to challenge the idea of what constitutes ‘fine art’,” says Lim, adding that this is her first time curating and organising an exhibition.

More than just art

For Lim, Inheritance isn’t just about art; it’s about impact.

“The collaboration with WAO emerged from a shared belief in advancing gender equality and empowering women. Their mission deeply resonates with the themes of Inheritance, which made them the obvious choice as a partner,” she says.

Lim also shares about her experience in feeling overlooked or underestimated as a female artist.

“The sad truth is that these systemic biases are so entrenched globally that we often forget they exist in the first place. Whether it’s just in my nature or a reaction to this imbalance (or both), I’ve always felt compelled to work extra hard to make my visions a reality. These biases do exist, and it’s frustrating to realise that as women, we sometimes have to put in double the effort to get the same opportunities as our male counterparts," she says.

An artwork titled 'She's There, She's Waiting For You' by Shan Shan Lim, who also curated the 'Inheritance' exhibition. Photo: HandoutAn artwork titled 'She's There, She's Waiting For You' by Shan Shan Lim, who also curated the 'Inheritance' exhibition. Photo: Handout

“Initiatives like this give me hope that my daughters and granddaughters won’t have to face the same uphill battle. It’s up to us to pave the way for a more equitable future where talent and determination, not gender, determine success.”

Lim hopes that the exhibition will, in some small part, inspire future generations of artists to pursue their passions with confidence, knowing that their voices matter and deserve to be heard.

“Through Inheritance, our overarching message is one of empowerment and inclusivity.

"We seek to redefine the narrative surrounding female artists, celebrating their diverse talents, while advocating for greater visibility and recognition within the art world,” she concludes.

Inheritance is showing at The Bookmark, APW in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur until March 17. Free admission.

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Women , artist , exhibition , Inheritance , Kuala Lumpur


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