Digital Dreamscape

When you see trees of epic proportions layered upon familiar landmarks with fluttering butterflies in mid air, you know you have entered a digital world of 21st century Surrealist art

Issue: Aug 2013

In this segment of Beautiful Singapore, lush foliage and butterflies underscore the island state's vision of being a city in the garden
In this segment of Beautiful Singapore, lush foliage and butterflies underscore the island state's vision of being a city in the garden

When you think of a city in visual terms, you think of many images: high-rise buildings – some of them landmarks, others not; cars; people; lights, etc. Juxtapose these images and what do you get? Chaos if you do it haphazardly, but a unique piece of art if you are skillful in orchestrating the images, and orchestrating them well.

21st Century Artist

One artist that can do this with finesse is Dutchman Joseph Klibansky. CapitaLand officers were so impressed by some of his works they saw in an art gallery that he was specially invited to come to Singapore to do a commissioned work.  He was to create a dreamscape of the Lion City for the lobby of CapitaLand’s headquarters office.

The buildings dominating this segment of the artwork include Capital Tower (centre-right) and the Art Deco styled Ascott Raffles Place (centre), once the tallest building on Singapore’s sea front
The buildings dominating this segment of the artwork include Capital Tower (centre-right) and the Art Deco styled Ascott Raffles Place (centre), once the tallest building on Singapore’s sea front

I had a chance to meet Joseph during his scheduled visit in 2012.  I was quite surprised to find out how rapidly this young artist, then only 28 years old, had established himself in the art world.  Everything seems to be smooth sailing – not your usual story of an artist who has to struggle to get recognised, or worse so, earn a living.   Born in 1984 in Cape Town, he was fascinated by the possibilities offered by computer art and digital imagery in his teens.  He started to merge hundreds of images into compositions, enhanced by computer artwork and often combined with a variety of painting techniques.  This unique style quickly captured the attention of many, and he soon found a place in the art world as a successful new media artist.

21st Century Dream Art

On his field trip in Singapore, Joseph, together with his father who is a photographer, spent almost a week walking different parts of the city, taking numerous pictures of its clouds, its expanses of water, its architecture, its people, its flora and fauna.  Back in the Netherlands, he would make a work that would be built up through hundreds of layers of photography on archival cotton paper.  He would then painstakingly apply acrylic paint on to some parts of the picture that he wished to highlight.  Finally, he would overlay the paper with a liquid resin so that eventually it would not feel like paper anymore, but a thin sheet of transparent material with layers of images that seemed to pile up from the inside of it.  Not a photograph or a painting, not on canvas and not exactly on paper - this is a new media work of the 21st century.

With close scrutiny, you will discover two types of hybridised orchid, Cattleya CapitaLand and Phalaenopsis CapitaLand, in a corner of the artwork – what a delightful surprise!
With close scrutiny, you will discover two types of hybridised orchid, Cattleya CapitaLand and Phalaenopsis CapitaLand, in a corner of the artwork – what a delightful surprise!

21st Century City

Beautiful Singapore, measuring 1.3 x 2.9 metres, is a work that immediately grasps your attention the moment you set eyes on it.  At first, you think it depicts the waterfront of Singapore at dusk, when the sky has many hues and the water reflects the city lights gradually coming on. But soon you realise that many aspects of it are surreal. You see both historic and modern landmark buildings, including the old Supreme Court, Raffles Hotel and CapitaLand properties Clarke Quay, Ascott Raffles Place, Raffles City, Capital Tower and ION Orchard, but they are not exactly where they should be. You see tall skyscrapers and low-rise shop houses of disquieting relative scales. You see trees – Angsana, Traveler’s Palms and Rain Trees - take on incredible proportions.  Against this tapestry of static buildings and plants, people, clouds, boats and, most surprisingly, a rabble of butterflies fluttering their wings in mid air – seem to have frozen in time.

If all these don’t make sense to you, it doesn’t matter, for a beautiful dream doesn’t have to make sense.

Joseph Klibansky’s <em>Beautiful Singapore</em> depicts a dreamscape of the Lion City using digital technology & hand painting
Joseph Klibansky’s Beautiful Singapore depicts a dreamscape of the Lion City using digital technology & hand painting

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

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