The Process: Painting One Of Singapore's Most Iconic Landmarks
While every one of my paintings has a special meaning to me, the Marina Bay Sands piece sticks out as one of my favourites, and also a favourite with many of my clients. This iconic building has come to define the skyline of modern Singapore, so I knew from the beginning of starting my Singapore Landmark Collection that I had to include it in the collection. This is the story of how this piece came to be.
IN THE BEGINNING
When I first moved to Singapore with my family in 2007, Marina Bay Sands did not exist yet, but architect Moshe Safdie already had his vision planned and was no doubt working on the blueprints that would bring this unique building to life. When they finally broke ground, we watched as first the three towers went up and then the amazing boat-shaped structure on top. Rumour had it that it was going to be a casino and apartments, and then we heard that this new mega-structure would be a hotel, shopping mall, casino and more. I feel privileged to have watched its gestation as a building that would eventually become one of Singapore’s most famous landmarks.
MAKING A CONNECTION
Once Marina Bay Sands was open to the public, Singapore’s residents flocked to see what it was all about, and it became one of those places that we returned to time after time (and still do) for its fabulous shopping, great restaurants and amazing views from the chic bar and pool on the rooftop. The architecture is so dynamic and interesting that it quickly became one of the most photographed buildings in the city, even for those of us who had it right in our backyard so to speak.
Some fond memories for me include dining in the restaurant at the top with clients and exhibitors who were here for Art Stage and taking friends and family visiting from the UK to the rooftop bar to soak up the amazing views of the marina and the financial district. This is such a great experience for visitors because they can get a real sense of the scale of the skyline of this dynamic city.
The ArtScience museum is also one of my favourite structures in the city because I just love that white open shape that is said to be based on a water lily. Inside it’s a great space for displaying art, and I remember visiting the Andy Warhol exhibition of drawings and illustrations with my daughter Scarlett. I loved that exhibition and visited it no less than three times while it was on.
RESEARCH AND PREPARATION
Whenever I decide to create a landmark painting, I try to find a great vantage point of the place and then make a few quick sketches and notes and use my Canon camera to take some high definition shots of the building so I can refer to them later for detail. I also try to visit at different times of day so I can really get a feel for the mood of the place.
For this piece, I scouted out a spot on the edge of the marina in front of The Fullerton Hotel. This part of town is the epicentre of Singapore’s super-sized landmarks, so it’s a great spot to get inspired by just how vibrant the city’s modern skyline is. From the marina I had an amazing vista of not only Marina Bay Sands, but also the ArtScience Centre.
BEHIND THE SCENES
I loved painting this piece from the very beginning. At the time it was the second painting in my Singapore Landmark Collection and the largest painting on canvas that I had ever attempted. I also had a personal challenge to paint a piece using a blue palette because someone had noted that I hadn't done anything in blue yet. This became the perfect project to make that happen.
My paintings are built up in layers, so first the drawing and block colours and then the detail and glazes that build up the architectural shapes. I’m a mixed media artist, so I like to build up the details of a piece with areas of printmaking. I decided to go with a blue and neutral colour palette for this piece with the addition of silver leaf on the towers to build up the reflective quality and a little collage of printmaking and Chinese paper on the facade of the Louis Vuitton floating pavilion at the front.
At 244 x 122 cms in total it took a long time to bring all the elements together, but it was a long process that I loved. It was almost like meditation diligently preparing hundreds of evenly hand-cut squares of silver leaf and gently applying them to the painting. Also, I like to work on several paintings at once, maybe three at the same time, and I will interchange the ones I am working on each day, so it takes time to bring out the essence of each image.
This piece is actually two canvases—a diptych—which makes it a little easier to handle and transport when exhibiting or moving. I found that I love working on this scale. It suits me because I find that working larger is a more physical experience than sitting at a table working on a smaller piece. For a piece this size I will work with it on the floor or hang it on the studio wall, which allows me to take several paces back from it to work out where it’s going.
THE FINISHED WORK
Marina Bay Sands has really made its mark on the skyline of Singapore in the heart of the CBD, and I have to say that it has also made its mark on me. This piece holds a special place in my heart because of the memories it evokes of my time spent in Singapore and the way it has helped me evolve as an artist. I am so proud of the final work, and the fact that this piece has been the print of choice for two ambassadors in Singapore: the British High Commissioner and the French Ambassador.
The original Marina Bay Sands painting is still available, however, for those who are looking for something a bit more small-scale, it is also available here as a limited edition, signed fine art print.