In 2009, a few months before the completion of Citadines Mount Sophia, a modern and stylish serviced apartment property located near Orchard Road, some of my colleagues and I looked for suitable artworks for its public areas. We wanted something to tell international travelers about Singapore. The flora of this “City in the Gardens” was certainly to be considered.
Budding Young Talent
We approached artist Eric Chan for a possible commission of a centre-piece painting in the lobby. Eric, born in Kuala Lumpur in 1975, was trained in the LA SALLE – SIA College of Art Singapore, and later in the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He had by 2009 won several awards, held quite a number of solo exhibitions, and was known for painting flowers in a distinctive personal style. Typically, in his oil on linen paintings, he would present them many times larger than their actual sizes, and would give the images a special blurring effect, inspired by photography techniques.
We met Eric at his studio cum apartment in Singapore to discuss how this commissioned work might look. He suggested the ubiquitous bougainvillea as the subject matter. As the lobby is spacious we needed a large piece to make an impact. He suggested doing a work that is made up of small “mosaic” panels joining together. All these sounded good. He subsequently made a small mock-up of what he intended to produce. We liked it and after an internal approval process, we gave him the commission.
Flourished with details
When I look at Eric’s paintings of flowers, I cannot help but think of the artist Georgia O Keeffe (1887 – 1986), who can be considered as one of America’s pioneer modern painters. For about several decades in the 20 th century, she painted enlarged versions of flowers among other things, focusing often on the centres of the flowers and her style was influenced by photography.
The finished work of Eric’s bougainvillea, entitled Crimson Passion, measuring 1.5 x 5 metres, consists of 15 square panels of 0.5 x 0.5 metres joined together. One can feel the strong presence of this painting as soon as one steps into Citadines Mount Sophia’s lobby. We must have seen bougainvilleas on the roadside and at the overhead bridges of Singapore many many times, but may never have seen it presented in this enlarged format. These branches of bougainvilleas with green leaves and red bracts – a paper like modified leave of the plant which people often mistake as flower petals – now become very powerful. They dwarf the furniture in the room as if a window has suddenly opened to Brobdingag, the land of giants in Gulliver’s Travels.
Look at the painting closely and you will see the thorns on the stems, veins on the leaves, and odd white flowers amid some of the bracts. Everything though is slightly out of focus, and in certain parts, the colours leave a trail, so that it looks as though the plant is swayed by a gentle breeze. It is intriguing to see how this work can transform an ordinary roadside plant of Singapore into something extraordinary.
We acquired at the same time another oil painting of Eric’s, titled Paradise Reflection, measuring 1.5 x 1.5 metres, and placed it in close proximity to the centre piece. Here, the plants are much less enlarged, and the bird-like form of the Bird-of- Paradise flowers, of the Strelitzia family, complements well with the leafy form of the bougainvillea. Now, another type of plant very commonly found by the roadside of Singapore is Heliconia, known also as false bird-of-paradise, and this work, just as its much larger companion, will sure provide good talking points to the residents and visitors of Citadines Mount Sophia, besides enhancing the beauty of its interior.
This article is contributed by CapitaLand Chief of Art Management, Francis Wong Hooe Wai