Zin Lim’s Six Degrees of Francis Bacon

Zin Lim identifies his own style of painting as “hybrid soul.”


More of the artist’s work can be seen at Facebook.com/ZinLim.

Courtesy of Zin Lim


After a decade of teaching drawing and painting at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, Zin Lim can paint the human form photorealistically from memory. But when he completes such a painting of someone he knows well—a friend or family member—he finds that something is askew.

“It is different from what I know,” he said. “I try to find a way to describe my experience and memory, rather than just copy from the visual. Some trace of time and a little haze.” Lim called this the “hybrid soul,” and it is central to his ID series, exploring ever-changing identity in oil paint. Without hesitation, he named 20th century figurative painter Francis Bacon as his influence for their shared focus on “sense, rather than perceptions” and semiabstracted styles.

Originally hailing from South Korea, Lim moved to the U.S. in 2000, and has lived in Alameda for four years. Working in his studio at Autobody Fine Art on Park Street, Lim moves from canvas to canvas, adding touches to four or five pieces at a time, letting the paint dry, and approaching them again the next day with a different set of emotions.

In his figurative and portrait work, he begins with the feature that first captured his attention, such as his subject’s eyes. He lets the rest disappear in hazy strokes of his palette knife. For his more abstract work, Lim reverses the process. “I start with no idea,” he said. “My mind goes. I create a mark. I start interacting based on that. And now I add something on top. I play with surface, as if I play some musical instrument, or dance, and find something to make it work visually later.”

To Lim, this art practice mirrors life. “Life is an accident, right?” Lim mused. “We cannot control all of life’s events.”

Add your comment: