Kim Lim was born in Singapore and spent much of her early childhood in Penang and Malacca. After her schooling in Singapore, Lim knew that she wanted to become an artist, and at eighteen, she enrolled at St. Martin's in London, where she spent two years concentrating mainly on wood carving. She then transferred to the Slade, where taught by the etcher Anthony Gross and lithographer Stanley Jones, she developed a strong commitment to printmaking.
On journeys back to Singapore she stopped off in Europe and India, soaking up the art 'like a sponge'. These were the experiences that confirmed in her a lifelong predilection for things archaic, and for the flow and rhythm of Indian and South East Asian sculpture : "I found that I always responded to things that were done in earlier civilizations that seemed to have less elaboration and more strength." In Greece she was entranced by Cycladic sculpture. Of Chinese art she was moved most by early Shang bronzes, Han sculpture, Sung pottery: things characterized by formal and decorative simplicity.
Kim Lim exhibited widely after leaving the Slade in 1960. From 1980, she turned to stone-carving, whilst continuing to make prints and fill sketchbooks with drawings from nature. With her husband the sculptor and painter William Turnbull, she made journeys to China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Egypt , Malaysia and Turkey, always alert to art and nature alike, and with a sharp eye to human diversity.