Spray-painting technique used by Brendan Neiland that makes his artworks look like photographs at first glance
Spray-painting technique used by Brendan Neiland that makes his artworks look like photographs at first glance

As the World Cup season is fast approaching, one thinks of football and naturally, teamwork. Here, in Art @ CapitaLand, we are going to talk about a set of commissioned work by British artist Brendan Neiland at Capital Tower – twelve paintings that work together “as a team” to make a complete statement.

I have had a chance recently to meet the artist himself in Singapore at his solo exhibition titled “City Portraits”, and we did talk about this work. It was commissioned towards the end of the 1990s, before Capital Tower was completed. Brendan recalls using the construction lift to go up the tower and it was rather nerve-racking. He also studied and soaked into the atmosphere of its surroundings and these gave him the inspiration of the work. It is about bringing Capital Tower’s exterior landscape into its interior.

We will not miss these acrylic paintings as we move around Capital Tower. At first they may seem to be photographs. It is only when we look very closely at them that we realize they are created by a spray-painting technique. No mean feat to be able to apply this technique - which has to do with master drawings, templates, layering of colour, use of compressors, and almost nothing to do with brushes - so skillfully, and kudos must be given to the artist.

Highly Skillful and Distinguished

Born in 1941 in Lichfield, Stafford, Brendan Neiland pursued his art education at Birmingham College of Art and then Royal College of Art, London. He has had a distinguished career in the art world. The appointments he held include Professor of Painting University of Brighton and Keeper of The Royal Academy Schools where he was in charge of the graduate school. His works are represented in The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Tate Gallery London, among other institutions in Britain and in other parts of the world.

Reflections of A City

Of the set of twelve drawings at Capital Tower, three having in common the square grids of curtain walls are arranged vertically at level 1 lobby. One featuring a stone wall of Capital Tower stands on its own at the level 2 lift lobby. Six other form a stunning backdrop to a sitting area at the 36 th storey transit floor – images of curtain walls of glass and stone and palm leaves. Two at the escalator well on the same floor – one highlighting the key stone of Capital Tower. Brendan had determined the exact number of pieces and how they should be grouped and displayed. All of them look real but at the same time unreal, for many of the images – whether they are clouds, building façade or palm leaves, are all reflections on glass panels, distorted and juxtaposed together. When stone walls bathed in gentle light are represented, soft shadows of palm leaves, often joining the reflections of palm leaves, add another intriguing dimension.

An Affinity for the City

It was a joy to walk with the scholarly Brendan at his recent show and hear him talk about his works of the past decade, consisting mainly of brush paintings and limited edition prints. The subject matters are still all about the city, which he has real affinity for, and reflection and juxtaposition, light and shadow are still the constants, but the range of expressions has widened. Vibrant, colourful and seductive are the words we can use to describe some of these works, and the portraits of Las Vegas, New York City, Havana, etc all reveal their individual souls, just like the Capital Tower ones underline the orderliness and somewhat clinical character of our city at that time.

Brendan shared that he had wanted to be a Catholic priest and had studied in a seminary before he discerned that art was his true calling. Once he made the switch there was no turning back. I can see that until today, he still approaches art with much zeal and passion.

Zeal and passion – surely these are very much part of the World Cup phenomenon too!

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