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Aspiring athlete to artist : Malaysian Institute of Art graduate holds first solo exhibition at 22

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 — At just 22-years-old, Tong Xin Lim is all set to have her solo art exhibition.

The Kajang-born Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA) graduate however nearly did not make it as an artist as her first passion was sports when she was younger.

“I dreamt of becoming an athlete representing the country,” she said, naming badminton as one of her favourites.

Things however took a turn during secondary school when her interest in art grew.

“On and off, I would be doodling and sketching in school and the interest grew more intense in secondary school and I found myself drawing, painting and sketching with any available time.”

According to Tong, constantly sketching made her realise that she needed to dive deeper into art.

“As time went on, I found myself enjoying being an artist and from then, I told myself that I wanted to produce works of art.”

How it all started

Tong said she was one of the 13 finalists of the Malaysian Emerging Artist Award (MEA) organised by CIMB Foundation in October 2022.

“Although I did not win in the event, it opened doors for me and I was able to do a mini collection at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and subsequently was offered a solo exhibition with Zhan Art Space.”

To prepare for her exhibition at Zhan Art Space, Tong said it took her about six months from the conceptualisation and production of the 26 pieces on display.

“Some of the works on display were produced during my years as a MIA student.”

On her favourite pieces from the 26 on display, Tong said Boundless was one of them and she would use a similar style for her future works.

“I put in a lot of effort into the work, not only in the technique but also the message behind the work as it stems from something quite personal.”

According to Tong, the overall design of the work is inspired by poker cards with the center holding the memories of a couple’s experiences and placed among the hourglass.

Inspired as a homage to her parents, Tong said the art piece is also filled with feelings and emotions.

“My parents are my king and queen in the game of poker and in real life, they are strong and powerful, yet often confined within the boundaries of a card, with little space for personal freedom.”

She added that the work reminds her of their resilience in life and also an aspiration to take the courage to break free and explore beyond their comfort zones.

Having just graduated from MIA, Tong said she was still exploring the different materials present to an artist.

“Some materials require time to master and I am currently exploring a mixture of oil and acrylic on canvas as it gives me the effect I want from my artworks.”

She describes her art as multi-dimensional, imaginative and unlimited.

Tong, who is a full time artist but takes on side jobs to fund her artistic journey, however, hopes that her work transcends all audiences, allowing her ideas and thoughts to be expressed and appreciated on canvas.

Admission to Tong's exhibition - Tong in the House - from now to April 14 at 100-G.025, Block J, The School, Jaya One, No. 72A, Jalan Universiti, Petaling Jaya, is free.

The gallery is open daily 10am to 5pm except Mondays and public holidays.