I first came across the works of local sculptor Lim Leong Seng (1950 -, Singapore) some years back at Telok Ayer Green. They depict a Chinese festive procession and Indian peddlers in 19 th Century Singapore. I was struck by the realism of his work and the artist’s attention to detail - street scenes of yester years came alive!
But realism is not the only expression this versatile artist adopts. He can use discarded metal to create abstract sculptures, or fine bronze to sculpt semi-abstract works where the subject matter is highly stylised but still identifiable. Recently, he has produced two works using the latter approach for CapitaLand’s premium residential projects Urban Resort and Urban Suites near Orchard Road.
The two compositions are distinctly different and yet they share the same style theme- family; and the same style – human figures distorted and expressed as geometric shapes, with some parts of their anatomy missing, requiring the viewers to complete them with their own imagination. “Pool of Love” in Urban Suites depicts a family of four frolicking together in a pool suggested by a ring of swirling water - a lively work that celebrates joy and love, while “Together” at Urban Resort depicts a family of five, with a pregnant mother suggesting that the family is still expanding – a playful work that underscores family growth and togetherness.
Joy and Love: Sculptor dedicated whole-heartedly to his Art
Some of my colleagues in CapitaLand Singapore and I had the unique opportunity to participate in the creative processes of these two sculptures, and in doing so we got to know Leong Seng beyond his artistic achievements. Now, a sculpture starts with a concept in the artist’s mind. He puts it down in the form of a sketch for us to see. We like the sketch and he makes a small model – this is known as maquette . We like the maquette and the full production process commences – for these two sculptures in Thailand.
It was during a trip to Thailand to see the full scale wax models of the sculptures - “enlarged “ from the maquettes - that I had the chance to talk at length to Leong Seng about himself. On a long journey from Bangkok airport to the city’s Nonkheam district where the “enlargement” workshop is located, we talked about his very own long, arduous yet fulfilling artistic journey. After graduating from the now defunct Baharuddin Vocation Institute in 1971, Leong Seng took up various jobs before learning the art of sculpting from the masters in Thailand which has a long tradition of Buddhist sculptures. He went on to become a full-time sculptor in 1990. His perseverance pays as over the years the local market for large commissioning work and small collector pieces developed. He is in demand.
Growth: from Concept to Reality
At the enlargement workshop we saw the wax models alongside the maquettes . Leong Seng explained the processes. Enlargement is nowadays digitally masterminded: the maquette is scanned into a computer which is linked to a cutter; the computer then directs the cutter to cut blocks of polystyrene to the desired scale to become parts of a sculpture. By joining the parts, applying wax on them and sculpting the wax, the artist builds the full-size model.
Togetherness: the work of a Team
We examined the two models in detail, comparing them with the maquettes and discussed areas of refinement. Humble Leong Seng took our suggestions kindly. After refinement, each model would be split into parts and silicone and plaster of paris moulds would be made out of them. The moulds would later be transferred to a foundry in Ayutthaya for casting – using the age-old lost wax method of joining, patination and polishing, before packing and shipping to Singapore. Leong Seng would stay behind in Thailand to see through the entire process which would involve many co-workers.
We beheld with great delight at the unveiling of the two sculptures by the sculptor when they were finally installed on site, for they truly enhance the character of the grounds. No doubt they will continue to delight their viewers, but few will be able to guess the process of their making. A process, just like the end result, that speaks of joy and love and growth and togetherness: joy and love of a sculptor dedicated whole-heartedly to his art; growth of the works from concept to reality; and togetherness of the entire production crew in creating these wonderful works.
This article is contributed by CapitaLand Chief of Art Management, Francis Wong Hooe Wai