A Heartwork


“Hello Merlyna, I was overcome with emotion when I see the “A Broken Heart” […]. I had been through an incredibly dark journey. In my life, and I wouldn’t have made it without the incredible love and support from my wife and daughters. This picture captures my struggle, and the needle and thread is clearly my wife and children. I would be so incredibly grateful if you allowed me to purchase this from you, I don’t know if you sell signed copies. […] I can’t adequately express in words alone what this means to me, I was so incredibly moved….“

Someone emailed me a month ago.

I didn’t plan to sell signed copies during the exhibition, but this email caught me off guard. His message touched me so deeply; I couldn’t say no. It truly humbles me to know how meaningful the artwork is to this person — someone who just survived an open heart surgery weeks earlier.

The “Hands” project was personal. Each artwork was either based on deep personal observation or experiences. I can’t share much here, but suffice to say that this one was born out of a personal journey diving into (and overcoming) my own darkness.

So, here is a photo of a signed copy of my artwork (or, specially for him I called it “a heartwork”) taken at his office.

February is Heart Awareness Month. So it’s only appropriate to post this before the month of February ends.

#handsbook #februaryheartmonth

Mending (A Broken Heart)
Merlyna Lim, 2019
Graphite and digital pencils on paper
24 in x 18 in

Hands — opening of the exhibition

It was a lovely evening. I owe it to wonderful friends and colleagues who were in attendance. The reality is the whole exhibit and the opening would not happen without the help of people who are so dear to me — my partner and close friends.

Thanks to Kit Chokly and Sarah EK Smith who beautifully captured some scenes from the venue, I have a visual snippet of the evening. Beyond the photos in the link below, I savour the precious moment in its entirety in my mind and every bit of emotion associated with it in my heart.

I was humbled and touched by everybody’s appreciation, kindness, and love. It was absolutely a lovely evening. I can’t ask for more.


—- Private opening reception at Atrium Art Gallery in Ottawa, 15 January 2020.

Hands: Medium & Massage

You’re invited!

Hands: Medium & Massage”, an art exhibit featuring the works of Merlyna Lim will be held from JANUARY 10 to FEBRUARY 12, 2019 | 10 JANVIER AU 12 FÉVRIER 2020


Atrium Art GalleryGalerie d’art Atrium
Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Dr., Nepean ON K2G 5K7Place-Ben-Franklin, 101 prom. Centrepointe, Nepean ON K2G 5K7
Hours of Operation :Heures d’ouverture :
Monday to Thursday 8:30 am – 9pm
Friday 8:30 am – 6pm
Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm
Lundi au jeudi, de 8 h 30 à 21h
Vendredi, de 8 h 30 à 18 h 
Samedi, de 10 h à 17 h 
Dimanche, de 13 h à 17 h
Information : 3-1-1
TTY 613-580-2401
Renseignements : 3-1-1 
TTY 613-580-2401

For more information see: Handsbook.ca

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas. Selamat Natal. Wilujeng Natal. Maligayang Pasko.

Also Wonderful Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanzaa, Great Yuletide, and ultimately Happy Festivus to the rest of us.

I wish you all happy holidays, but if yours aren’t that happy, please don’t blame yourself as statistically the chance to be truly happy during the holidays is near zero 😉 Having said that, please just spend time with your loved ones and try to enjoy, OK? 😀

Sending you all my best from the coldest capital in the world.

m, ottawa, dec 2019

image: Lansdowne xmas market in Ottawa – my last sketch of 2019.

MoonWake, a Healing HeART

Half teasing, half serious, a dear friend sent me a call for artist for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s “Healing HeART” ceiling tiles project. She wrote, “Found you a new purpose in life!“—suggesting what I could possibly do while being immobile for 2-3 months. She sent it on June 3rd. And, guess what? The deadline was also June 3rd! I composed an application in minutes and sent it off. Two weeks later, an email arrived in my mailbox saying, “CongratulationsFélicitations!” I felt very honoured and excited to be among around 30 Ottawa artists for the project, selected from over a hundred of applicants.

I spent most days of June and July in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to imagine what kind of image a person who lays on a hospital bed would enjoy seeing. I thought of starting to paint on August 1st. But for the first 13 days of that month I was just staring at the blank tile. I was too scared to start. In my life, I never painted with acrylic (a mandatory medium) or on ceiling tiles! Also, the rule said the art needs to be “calm, open, nature-based scenes”— definitely not my forte. I didn’t know what to paint; additionally, my fingers —due to a recent injury—couldn’t hold painting brushes well (yet). In the end, I just dipped my fingers into a mix of acrylic paint and started painting.

At the end of August, as I stroked my acrylic-stained fingers over the reflection of the moon, the painting was finished. Yes, my first acrylic (finger) painting — on a ceiling tile!

The painting is exhibited on Sept 12th. It will then be displayed permanently on the ceiling of the heart hospital, above one of the patients’ beds. Luckily I didn’t have to hang myself like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel 😀

Every time I think of this painting, I smile. It warms my heart to know that the “Moonwake” may brighten some people’s days a little. It was quite a rewarding journey.

Below is a 35-second video of the process, displaying snapshots of the painting-in-the-making, accompanied by my piano impromptu .

The Academic Medley

It started with an impulsive email I sent to three of several graduate students I advised. I wrote:

Hey all of you,

I have a silly and (not-so-crazy) idea. I just found out that the most musical grad students are all related to me. i think the universe tries to tell me something 😉
what do you think of doing a little fun music project for the #InsidiousCGC conference? (we can perform it after my closing talk).

(Un)Surprisingly, all responded enthusiastically! We met once to bounce ideas, wrote lyrics, and then rehearsed 4 times (+ 1 general rehearsal). Voila, we performed the “Insidious Medley” at the Carleton Graduate Caucus Conference!

So, yes, from #BigData to #GraduateLife to #McLuhan to #Foucault to #Feminist theory to #boring Profs … we spared nobody! The best part of doing this performance was to have colleagues and students laughed and, in the end, sung with us and gave us a standing ovation! It was a lot of fun and, sure, yes, we take humour very seriously!

Words. Pictures. Voice.

April is the National Poetry Month in Canada as well as in the US (and probably other places, too). This month, some 18 American contemporary writers chose to compose words that give voice to pictures . They have composed poems inspired by different artworks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.* Fascinating!!!
Echoing them, here is one from me. Mine is anaclitic. One cannot exist without the other. Words that give voice to a picture and a picture that visualizes words.
These two are one. A portrait-poetry. A poetrait, perhaps ? 😉

Continue reading “Words. Pictures. Voice.”

Artist Interview

Back in October, I was interviewed by Lisa Takahashi from the Jackson’s Art. Not as a scholar, researcher, or professor, but as an artist. Below is an opening paragraph from the interview.

Merlyna Lim won the People’s Choice Award in our Urban Sketching Competition back in July. Her sketch of Cadiz was an ambitious composition – the city viewed from the Tavira Tower showing a multitude of different buildings, leading the eye off into the distance, using a dramatic sense of perspective to communicate the scale and energy of the city. The lines drawn in ink possess a fragile yet considered quality; a crispness that offers the perfect contrast to the washy splashes of delicate, luminous watercolour.

For a complete interview, click this link.

Sketching Cadiz, Costa de la Luz

A couple weeks ago, I submitted one of my sketches to a sketching competition. I don’t know why I did that. Probably because it was very easy to participate. No complicated criteria, no fee, and the submission was done in just a couple minutes. Also, I thought, nothing to lose, it’d be just fun. This was only my 2nd participation in such event. The 1st was long time ago, when I was a high-schooler — hey that’s like a hundred years ago! At that moment, encouraged by friends I participated in the national sketching competition held by the the Institute of Technology Bandung’s architecture students association. I was a second winner and received a set of (expensive!) Staetdler rapidograph pens that I’d use for the next 6-7 years. Yeah, at that moment, I still thought I was really good. Now, oh well, I know better. So probably I participated in the competition in my unconscious search for a post-retirement career — that’s me in my dreamy mode. Once awake, I am satisfied just by being a doodler, a travel sketcher.
Continue reading “Sketching Cadiz, Costa de la Luz”

#Scholartivism: Traveling professor-scholar-doodler

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My scholarship brings me places. In the last fifteen years, since I published my first international journal article, I’ve been blessed with hundreds of invitations from many great and generous individuals all over the world that enable me to experience new places and cultures and, moreover, engage with diverse people. Traveling has become my middle name. As soon as I started traveling around the globe, I have found my way back to my childhood habit, doodling. I used to doodle a lot when I was a kid. Thanks to my scholarly trips, I have been back to my true self, a doodler, a travel sketcher. When I travel, I sketch. Continue reading “#Scholartivism: Traveling professor-scholar-doodler”