Step back, look up - at the big picture, literally
It’s been a busy 2017 – we opened a record of 1 million sq m of retail space across 8 developments! The largest mall in our network, Suzhou Center Mall is part of integrated development Suzhou Center – an architectural masterpiece that recently opened its doors to the world.
Designed by award-winning architectural firm Benoy, the 7-storey Suzhou Center Mall is a new landmark crowned with an undulating roof – the world’s largest free-form monocoque roof spanning over 36,000 sq m. Resembling a pair of phoenix’s wings, the magnificent multi-coloured roof is made up of 6,947 pieces of uniquely-shaped curved glass, which meaningfully symbolise Suzhou’s growth taking flight.
On its opening day in November, Suzhou Center Mall welcomed over 400,000 shoppers. Yes, you read that right.
And of course, the grandeur of an architectural marvel like Suzhou Center must be matched by the artworks displayed in it. In one of the office towers resides a majestic painting by Ian Woo, a Singapore artist, titled "Illuminations in the Key of Bloom".
Inspired by the seasonal bloom and cycle of nature, opposites co-exist in the painting – dark and light; structured and organic; warmth and cool; horizontal and vertical; translucent and solid. The intervening of these elements suggests the idea of metamorphosis within the passage of time, signifying growth and adaptation.
A Big Painting
A commissioned piece, this work responds to Suzhou Center’s architectural theme: Flight and Forest. Besides the theme of growth, there is yet another similarity: just as Suzhou Center Mall takes the crown as the largest mall in our portfolio, "Illuminations in the Key of Bloom" is the largest painting that Woo has completed.
Exactly how big, you may ask? The painting measures 3m by 8m – large enough to pose a logistical nightmare. When we approached Woo, we anticipated the challenges and suggested the painting be split into 2 panels. However, he was up for a challenge and did it all on one canvas.
And what a challenge it proved to be, as the canvas took up almost all the space in Woo’s usually spacious studio. But Woo simply unrolled the canvas, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.
A Big Artist
Already a familiar name in the Singapore art scene, Ian Woo holds a Bachelors degree in Fine Art from University of Kent, a Masters in European Fine Art from University of Southampton, and received his Doctorate in Fine Arts from RMIT, Australia. Woo has also built an impressive list of exhibitions around the world.
Woo’s painting was to be installed not far from a sculpture titled "Cloud Tree" by renowned Chinese sculptor Sui Jianguo. As a company headquartered in Singapore with iconic developments across China, it was fitting to have a painting by a Singaporean artist paired with a sculpture by a Chinese sculptor!
A Big Final Challenge
Of course, all would be for naught if the finished work could not be delivered. Here comes the challenging logistics phase.
To deliver the painting preassembled would be far too risky and costly, so Woo worked with a Singaporean framing company confident of getting the artwork to China. The painting was rolled up and then sent to Suzhou Center for the actual assembly.
With the complexity and scale of the artwork, the team had to relook the process of ‘stretching’ the canvas. It required multiple wooden supporting strips in addition to a metal backing over which the canvas was stretched.
Woo did not disappoint. Once the painting was fully assembled, it was a sight to behold. This painting done in 2 panels would have diminished its impressiveness.
A painting this size really requires the viewer to be present in person to be awed by it. There is nothing quite like having to step back just to regard a painting in its entirety.
“I wanted to make a painting that could be taken in from afar. I wanted the work to suggest the change of weather and light from one end to another. The inspiration of foliage, light and time were the key ingredients in its making.
I appreciate CapitaLand for their trust in my instincts. My first solution was to use the floor of my entire studio to make the work in a horizontal manner. The canvas covered my studio from wall to wall. I then made a colour test to get a sense of the colours I'd use. All my paintings are done without prior planning. I simply map my brush marks from centre to corners back to centre, till something engaging appears. The act of painting itself informs me what to do next.
It is strategy, solution and inspiration.”
- Ian Woo
We're inspired indeed. Don’t forget to look up when you visit Suzhou Center. Take a few moments to appreciate the artwork and feast your eyes on the grand architecture and paintings!
This article was contributed by Richard Lim of CapitaLand’s Art Management Unit.