In David Gertein’s wall scuIpture, ice dancers of different sizes are juxtaposed together
In David Gertein’s wall scuIpture, ice dancers of different sizes are juxtaposed together

In music, a rhapsody is a composition in free form, full of broad, sweeping melodies and brilliant passage work. It has an improvisational quality, at times being like a medley of themes stitched together and decorated.

We can find the parallel of some of these ideas in David Gerstein’s wall sculpture “Rhapsody on Ice”, which was specially commissioned by CapitaMalls Asia for its JCube mall in Singapore. This work, installed on the wall at the top of a series of escalators that link the different levels of the mall, is most contextual as it is just a stone’s throw away from the mall’s ice rink – the first Olympic-size ice rink in Singapore.

Measuring 9 metres long and 0.75 metres high, Gerstein’s work depicts three types of activities on the ice rink: ice skating, ice dancing and ice hockey. These are the three themes of the Rhapsody, and Gerstein has skillfully stitched them into an integral whole.

Born in Jerusalem in 1944, David Gerstein studied art in Jerusalem, Paris, New York and London. He had his first exhibitions in 1970s not as a sculptor but as a painter of figurative works. He experimented with painted sculptures in aluminum and wood in the 1980s and his breakthrough came in 1987 in an exhibition of sculptures that were colourful, cheerful, amusing and reminiscent of paper cutout. From 1995 he embraced the laser-cut technology to create steel sculptures painted with shiny car paint. He created a unique type of sculpture.

Rhapsody on Ice, which consists of three hand painted laser-cut steel panels, is only 1cm thick. It is almost two-dimensional and yet looks three-dimensional as well – by illusion. First, there is fore-shortening in the human figures - foreshortening is the visual effect that causes an object to appear shorter than it actually is because it is angled toward the viewer. Second, human figures of different sizes are juxtaposed together - the ones that are smaller appear to recede in to the depth. Third, the metal panels are installed away from the wall plane. The shadows projected by the cut-outs give a layering effect.

Another thing common to all the panels is the colours. Gerstein uses only vibrant colours, giving the whole composition an overall cheerful feeling. The artist wants his work to be attractive to the people. That is also why he often chooses subject matters from everyday lives: people walking, cycling, dancing, playing sports.

Up to now Gerstein has not done any ice rink related artwork and this commission for CapitaMalls Asia is the first of its kind. See how he depicts the sense of movement through the dynamic postures of the human figures - be they rugged ice-hockey players, graceful ice dancers or energetic ice skaters. The many horizontal brush strokes also suggest the speed at which the sportsmen move. Splendid!

The grand device that ties all three panels and themes is the many free flowing multi-colour curved lines that run behind and in front of the figures, seemingly tracing the paths of all their movement. If one likens these lines to the stave of music scores, then the figures must surely be the notes; notes that form melodies in joyful major keys, with harmonies that are rich and majestic. When you admire this wall sculpture, you could almost hear the music playing – a rhapsody that you will not forget.

Article is contributed by Francis Wong Hooe Wai, Chief of Art Management, CapitaLand Limited