Singapore Cultural Medallion Recipient Han Sai Por's Shimmering Pearls, celebrates the beauty and vibrancy of bubbling water
Singapore Cultural Medallion Recipient Han Sai Por's Shimmering Pearls, celebrates the beauty and vibrancy of bubbling water

Recently, CapitaLand’s Shimmering Pearls was featured in OKTO TV’s programme, The Art Bus, where a group of “art tourists” came to the plaza in front of Capital Tower to look at this work and ask questions. Many fell in love with it straightaway. Who won’t?

Certainly it was love at first sight for me when I encountered it around the time of Capital Tower’s completion more than ten years ago. It is colourful, cheerful and vibrant - where sculptures meet dancing water and create a magical effect. It had reminded me of the Stravinsky fountain near Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris I saw in my school days: sixteen whimsical moving and water-spraying sculptures by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle in a pool on an urban square.

Becoming One with Water

Of course the two works are vastly different. In the Stravinsky fountain we see kinetic sculptures – sculptures that move and water that moves along with them; in Shimmering Pearls, the sculptures are static, only water jets independent of them spray, gush or give forth screens of mist in different combinations according to three pre-set programmes. Both are engaging in their own ways.

Made mainly of glass and steel, Shimmering Pearls is not typical of the works of Singapore Cultural Medallion Recipient Han Sai Por (1943 -, Singapore). Han is prolific in and renowned for her stone sculptures which tend to be quiet and understated; this work of entirely different materials and mood is the only one of its kind by her in Singapore.

The artist departed from her usual expressions taking into account the context. Her work was meant to stand in the middle of a large pool, and she took the cue from that. At conceptualisation, she stretched the idea of water to the extreme: this is not just a work on water, it is about water, and it is about sculptures that interact with water so that the two become one. For her, there is no better way to represent water bubbles than having glass globes of different sizes supported by stainless steel poles of different heights.

Dancing with Water

The bigger globes are cast glass painted with colours, while the smaller globes are blown coloured glass. Surely if they are to represent water bubbles, they must not have colours? If we have such a notion it is only because we do not understand water. One afternoon, as I was walking past Shimmering Pearls, the sun was casting its golden rays on them at an angle. And lo and behold, a rainbow appeared amid the mist of dancing water. Yes, water does have colours!

It is the movement of water that brings about the total effect of this work. For that, the artist had to work very closely with the fountain designer. If we liken the glass globes to the main melody of a piece of music, then the moving water is its different voicing, with four stone drums - all executed in the signature style of the artist – sitting quietly on the water surface singing the part of the bass. What a magnificent piece of polyphony!

Singing with Water

And in this fountain, water is also music itself. As the ground that the pool sits on is not flat, the water forms small cascades along Robinson road. Take a walk along this stretch of the pool and you will hear a gentle splashing and trickling tune even if all the water sprouts are “taking a break”. This tune is especially refreshing on a hot day.

Nothing in the vicinity can be more mesmerising than Shimmering Pearls viewed at night, in the full glory of its lighting scheme - the result of the artist’s close collaboration with a lighting designer. When lit, the glass globes seem to glow, and their red, yellow, orange, green and blue hues take on an intensity that is most captivating. With that, “Shimmering” pearls seems like an understatement.

This article is contributed by CapitaLand Chief of Art Management, Francis Wong Hooe Wai