An award-winning picture of little people at the back of the bench in Kurt Laurenz Metzler’s sculpture: Man on the Bench
An award-winning picture of little people at the back of the bench in Kurt Laurenz Metzler’s sculpture: Man on the Bench

Art @ CapitaLand

This is one of a series of monthly articles that focuses on artwork in CapitaLand’s properties, for the enjoyment of the community. The intentions and stories of art told in simple language.

When you think of a bench, you can think of it romantically. Picture one placed by the tropical sea. In front of it the waves are singing an eternal song. The setting sun is painting the sky in splendid hues. The breeze is blowing softly. What is lacking? A loving couple sitting on the bench. Mushy! You’d say, but aren’t things romantic often regarded as so?

R for Romantic

Well it all depends on what romantic means. It is not always about love. Spelt with a capital R, “Romantic” describes a 18th and 19th century artistic movement which was concerned with expressing feeling and emotion. The works of my favorite painter, Caspar David Friedrich, come to mind. Spelt with a small r, it can describe something beautiful in a way that strongly affects your thoughts or feelings, and that is not mushy.

The sculpture titled “Man on the Bench” in CapitaLand’s art collection can be described as romantic as it openly invites viewers to respond with thoughts, feelings and action. The man is not to be left alone on the bench. One is most welcome to sit beside him, take a closer look at him, figure out who he is and observe what he is doing. This sculpture by Kurt Laurenz Metzler (b. 1941) is only complete when you are thus engaged with it. Just like in any romance – and here the usage of the word is about love – you need two parties.

Searching for Miss or Mr Right

And just like in any romance where finding Miss Right or Mr Right may not be easy, CapitaLand’s search for Metzler was not straightforward either. When the ION Orchard project team was looking to commission an artist to do an engaging piece of sculpture for the pavement in front of the mall, former President & CEO of CapitaLand, Mr Liew Mun Leong remembered some colourful human-figure pieces he saw at the Milan Railway Station. However he could not recall the name of the artist. Efforts of enquiring from many quarters failed. By chance he met gallery owner Mrs Jaya Mohideen on the plane during one business trip and asked if she could help. She subsequently found the artist.

Today we have in our collection three works of Metzler, the Swiss sculptor who had studied the art of sculpture in Zurich, relocated to New York, moved back to Switzerland, taken up an apprenticeship at a car body tinsmith’s to learn the art of blacksmithing and worked for various sculptors , before forging his own identity and reputation. The three masterpieces are: “Urban People” at ION Orchard; “Building People” at Capital Tower Lobby and “Man on the Bench” in front of Capital Tower’s main entrance. They look very different from one another but they all share something of Metzler’s personal style: distortion, contrast and humour.

The Mystery Man

Let’s examine our hero on the bench. He has a small head, big body and exceptionally big feet. The ideal human proportion is distorted to create a caricature effect. And he seems much overdressed in contrast to his very mundane suitcase and umbrella, exuding some kind of humour. When you sit down next to the Man, he takes no notice of you for he is too engrossed in his reading. Now just what kind of text is he reading? Peep over his shoulder and you will see that the pages are blank. Mystery text, mystery person, just like what we sometimes encounter in life.

Romance on the Bench

So where is the romance on this bench? As one is likely not to fall in love with a mystery person (or perhaps some do, ever more intensely), the answer has to be with the bench itself. Look carefully and you will see that this is no ordinary bench, for Metzler has embellished it with fine details. There are cut-outs of tiny figures on the back rails, and of towering buildings by the arm rests. Who can resist the charm of such details?

Certainly not Mr Eric Kwan, End User Computing Manager at CapitaLand Limited, who took a close-up photo of the bench details and found himself a winner of the 2012 CapitaLand – National Geographic Channel photography contest. “One of the core values of CapitaLand, people, is incorporated into our everyday life through interesting details. I have captured these little “people” to share with all my colleagues who may not have noticed their existence,” Eric explained. And to me this is also a romantic photo – the soft lighting at dusk, the background deliberately thrown out of focus; what is lacking is a loving couple sitting on the bench. Mushy!