Behind The Canvas: The Art At The St Regis KL
The minds behind The St Regis Kuala Lumpur want to make it more than just any hotel; so they commissioned some of the most stunning art pieces, sure to take your breath away.
In almost any hotel, decorative art is always an afterthought; present just to fill up space and make everything look pretty. The minds behind The St Regis Kuala Lumpur however, brought the afterthought into the design. Before there were even floors, walls and escalators St. Regis KL commissioned some of the most unforgettable art-pieces to ensure that it won’t be just ‘any hotel.’
Grace Thunders by Mark Evans
Towering over the lobby are two 16x15 feet art pieces that put you right in the middle of a game of polo. Five horses and riders burst to life as they charge towards you from either side, mallets raised, ready to hit the ball. Even as photographs, these white-on-black images are impressive, but more so when you learn that they aren’t photographs at all; they are etchings on leather.
The St. Regis brand has a long history with the sport of polo, dating all the way back to the early 1900s.
Mark Evans on the other hand, got his first knife from his grandfather when he was seven years-old and spent much of his childhood carving into trees. Many years later, by sheer stroke of luck (or fate) Mark discovered his art form while attempting to remove a stubborn stain from a leather jacket. Resorting to a knife, he accidentally carved out the leather and had his 'Eureka' moment.
Having had to work on three panels at a time due to space constraints, Mark expressed his elation at seeing the 18 panels of Grace Thunders complete and installed for the first time after 5-years of planning and work.
Mark admits however, that he wasn't always excited about polo and that initially, his “heart sank a little bit,” because of how he had perceived polo through photographs. But he endeavoured to watch a few games and began to see the sport in a way he had never before.
“Polo is actually a really dangerous game but it’s very rarely captured because the photographers are always [photographing] from the safety of the sidelines,” he shares.
Mark realised that the only way to capture the raw energy of the game was to place himself at the focus-point of all that energy – the ball.
So, Mark buried himself in the ground with his camera as riders and their horses rode around him, hitting the ball near inches past the camera lens. It took a whole day and hundreds of shots, but in the end Mark was satisfied that he had captured enough emotion from the game to drive him.
The process of etching itself is one that few (if any) besides Mark can pull off. Having trained his eyes to see a photograph like a topographical map, he uses nearly a hundred different knives to etch out the leather, applying differing amounts of strength to create visual depth. With no room for error, Mark meticulously transferred each image onto 9 panels of leather with near photographic accuracy. The end result is nothing short extraordinary.
Birds and Butterflies by Barnaby Hosking
While the pieces in the lobby strike you with powerful emotion, the instalment by acclaimed British artist, Barnaby Hosking is a lot more subtle but no less impressive. Located on six storeys of wall by the escalators leading up to the ballroom, over 300 birds and butterflies created by a stunning play of light and shadows take flight from the ground up into the sky.
Inspired by the birds and butterflies found in our very own Lake Gardens, each individual piece is in fact only half of a gold-plated metal wing, inserted into the wall so that they stick out before spotlights are shined on them. The resulting reflection and shadow give the impression of a complete bird and butterfly.
His largest instalment of this kind thus far, Barnaby admitted to feeling exhausted but relieved at the end of it. After several years of planning and designing, the actual installation took just a few days of continuous work to bring it together. With the help of a specialised team from Singapore, Barnaby had to mark the spots, carve out the wall, stick in the pieces, set the spotlights and then make finer adjustments for the 200 birds and 100 butterflies. Taking inspiration from the ballroom where the art-piece ends, he designed the whole piece almost musically, starting loosely at the bottom, tightening up towards the middle and ending on a powerful crescendo at the top.
The installation is reflective of Barnaby’s philosophy where the visual impact is balanced with conceptual thought, “I give equal importance to both but I like it when people just like the work on a formal level; just say it’s pretty or makes them feel a certain emotion.”
A visually arresting piece up a 20 metre wall, Birds and Butterflies uses its blank canvas brilliantly to create an instalment that automatically brings a sense of joy and peace to every person who follows the metallic creatures up the escalators.