A tweetup to explore the mind of the genius that is Salvador Dalí

30 05 2011

If you have ever wondered how a mind of a artistic genius works, you would be able to take a walk through the mind of one, in the form of the Dalí: Mind of a Genius – The Exhibition, now running at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. The exhibition which opened on 14 May, will run up until 30 October 2011, and transports the visitor into the world of Salvador Dalí, the world as he saw it that is manifested in the somewhat bizarre surrealist expressions of his inner workings that he has made his mark on the world with.

Step right into the inner workings of the great surrealist artist Salvador Dalí's mind at the ArtScience Musuem in Marina Bay Sands.

I have long had my own fascination with the artist, drawn to his work after stumbling on a striking and haunting expression of a religious zeal he had at the point of the painting rediscovered when wandering around Glasgow’s west end almost a quarter of a century ago. That painting, Christ of St. John of the Cross, still captivates me to this day. It is however, the depictions of melting time, a reoccurring theme on many of his artworks that has been the greater source of fascination. Having had an opportunity to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the following summer, I was able to understand a little more of the background and interpretation of Dalí’s own fascination with the depiction of time in a fluid and non-linear state, not the hard deterministic version of time that most of us would have.

Dalí is known for his bizarre interpretation of the world around him which is expressed by depictions of everyday objects in a ways that seem beyond human comprehension.

I had the opportunity at a tweetup organised by the good people of the ArtScience Museum on Saturday to reacquaint myself with the works of Dalí, and to explore the inner workings of his mind. It is in the latter, that the curators of the exhibition have done an excellent job in bringing out the influences, inspirations and the perspective that Dalí had in giving us his wonderful works. In walking through the themed areas of the exhibition Femininity and Sensuality; Religion and Mythology; and Dreams and Fantasy, we are transported into what some would see as an insane mind that sees the world in the way he did. It is in this that we understand the artist’s mind further and see the genius of it. Dalí as with Oscar Levant who is attributed with the well used quote “there’s a fine line between genius and insanity”, is one who seems to have erased the line where genius starts and insanity ends.

The exhibition explores several themes in Dalí's work including Dreams and Fantasy.

Throughout the guided exploration of Dalí’s mind, we are constantly reminded of the background to the influences on his thoughts – a repressed sexuality stemming from an upbringing largely influenced by his strict widower father an atheist, who in stark contrast to Dalí’s staunchly Catholic mother – suppressed all form of expression in Dalí. It was through Gala, Dalí’s would be wife that freed him from the repressed sexuality and besides depicting her, his ideal of womanhood, in many works, he sought to express his view of femininity and sexuality in many ways. Amongst the influences Dalí had were some of the thinkers of the time, Einstein for one, the Theory of Relativity being a source of inspiration for the stretching of time and Sigmund Freud, who provided a basis for the understanding of symbols in dreams as symbols of a repressed sexuality that Dalí seemed to be obsessed with.

Dalí's exploration of sensuality and femininity includes Woman Aflame which includes plenty of the symbolism that is found in his work which includes drawers signifying secrets, revealed by them being opened, and the use of clutches to represent death and resurrection.

Space Venus - also contains much symbolism: a melted clock which tells us that beauty is finite, the body split at the midriff representing death and the egg, the symbol of life representing renewal in death.

Anthropomorphic Cabinet with drawers again ... this time on a female form that perhaps deceives us into seeing a masculine one who appears almost as if she is writhing in pain.

Dalí who returned to Catholicism later in life, becoming a staunch follower of the faith, also shows religious influences in his works and this can be explored in the Religion and Mythology themed area. Both mythical figures and religious symbols can be found in sculptures such as Adam and Eve, St. George and the Dragon, Unicorn and Vision of the Angel. The last of the three themed areas, Dreams and Fantasy, which features works such as furniture in the form of Mae West Lips Sofa, Glasswork, and Sculptures such as Alice in Wonderland, was perhaps my favourite. It is in some of the works here that the quirkiness of Dalí comes to the fore. This is perhaps summed up by at quote we see at the exit of the exhibition “I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster, I am never served a cooked telephone”.

St. George and the Dragon again explores sexuality in a depiction of the legendary slaying of the dragon by St. George. The stallion - a symbol of power and masculinity mounts a dragon whose wings as seen through the fore legs of the stallion resemble flames - the flames of passion.

Unicorn has some sexual connotations. Possibly influenced by Sigmund Freud's interpretation of images in dreams and their hidden sexual meanings.

Lady Godiva with Butterflies - butterflies symbolise the soul.

Vision of the Angel explores the role that religion plays in society.

Mae West Lips.

Alice in Wonderland.

I was enthralled enough to return once more to the ten galleries which feature in total over 250 of Dalí works which come from a collection of the Stratton Foundation, the most striking of which are the sculptures which, full of symbolism which the exhibition does attempt to explain in detail, providing a perspective on Dalí and the thoughts behind his lifetime of work that would be otherwise be hard to fully appreciate. It is for this that the exhibition is well worth a visit, giving us not just an opportunity to look at an amazing collection of Dalí works, but also a rare opportunity to appreciate the mind of one that was certainly a creative genius.

A nice touch added by the curators - a reflection of clocks distorted by their reflection on convex and concave mirrors at the exit from the exhibition.


The ride of my life on Battlestar Galactica

25 02 2011

I embarked on the ride of my life on Monday. It took place on an island that I had associated more with slow moving vehicles from the first experiences that I had on it. Of course these days, the island is a very different place from the one which for a time, I would visit on Wednesday afternoons, arriving by ferry from Jardine Steps before making my way on foot to what was the canoeing lagoon at the far end of the island. The island now hosts one of the two integrated resorts in Singapore, the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and has Singapore’s new Wonderland (Wonderland was the amusement park to be at when I was growing up in the 1970s), Universal Studios Singapore in which I managed to get an invite to for a preview of the relaunch of the world’s tallest dueling roller coasters, Battlestar Galactica. Having long outgrown my adrenaline craving days during which I even paid a visit to South East Asia’s first looping roller coaster at Siam Park in the outskirts of Bangkok, I would have normally hesitated if I was offered a ride on a roller coaster that takes you some 14 storeys up in the air and gives you a sense of a near miss with another at speeds of up to 90 km/h, but when the opportunity arose, I somehow grabbed at it.

A test run before the preview.

So with a bunch of fellow blog kakis, I found myself staring up at the 14 storey high mess of steel, pretty imposing from the bottom looking up and I started to have second thoughts about it …after all, I’ve had my share of thrills and spills in my youth and maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Somehow though, I got caught up with the excitement that was buzzing around me and I somehow lost that initial apprehension that I had and having left all my loose items behind (including my glasses – my glasses flew off during my first ever upside down roller coaster experience at Siam Park!), I soon found myself walking along with the group up to the first ride, on the Human Coaster, one that was supposedly the less intense of the two – one without any inversions. I had perhaps thought to myself that that wasn’t going to be too bad … after all, it was only going to last for a mere 90 seconds … Seated and locked into a centre seat (phew!) next to the barefoot prominent blogger Dawn Yang, it wasn’t long before we were blasted (the coaster unlike most sets off at high speed) up the rails and after that initial sense of trepidation, I actually found myself enjoying the rush of adrenaline that I got … there were moments when we were literally off our seats, held only by the restraints … and before we knew it … it was over in a flash!

The 14 storey high mess of steel that greeted us.

That did not deter me ....

Posing for the customary photograph before the ride.

On the Human Coaster - looks like most were enjoying it.

Stepping off and in spite of my legs being a little wobbly, I found myself actually wanting more. That certainly had to be the Cylon Coaster! The Cylon, we were informed would offer us the experience of several inversions: a zero-G roll, a cobra roll, vertical loop, cockscrews and as when we were on the Human Coaster, the Cylon wasn’t running, we would be experiencing one of the features of the rides, a near collision which is said to be mere inches apart. Seated in the Cylon, one is suspended under the rails – and also features a deep pit filled with mist which provides a sensation of a near miss with the ground. It did sound a little scary, but after that first experience, I was actually looking forward to it!

Riders on the Cylon are suspended below the rails.

The ride on the Cylon I must say was the ride of my life! I wasn’t at all disappointed – as we were twisted, inverted and thrown along the 975 metre track … an experience that I guess only can be described by the word “Awesome”! Maybe I was too caught up with being whisked around but the near miss sensation seemed more exciting than scary … and at the end of it as the coaster ground to a halt, the 90 seconds seemed a little too short …. and it an experience that I will certainly look forward to reliving on my next visit to Universal Studios Singapore.

One of the twists on the Cylon ...

The coasters appear to cross paths along the 975m track, giving the sensation of a near collision.

We survived!

Blogger Walter Lim speaking about his experience.

Dawn Yang was all smiles (and she wanted seconds)!

Riders on the Cylon ...

Singapore underwater

16 06 2010

Oopsie, I guess I may have been a little premature in celebrating the rain this morning – the rain does provide a welcome respite from the sweltering heat that has seemed to engulf us of late, but today, there was some serious flooding that occurred in parts of Singapore. Channel NewsAsia reported that the areas affected included Bukit Timah, Newton Circus and Scotts Road. It does seem that the junction of Scotts and Orchard Roads were hit pretty badly with stalled vehicles causing chaos at the junction which resulted in a friend of mine being stuck for 3 hours! There were some pretty amazing scenes looking at the pictures he took.

The thing about today’s flash floods was that it coincided with the low tide. What we may also recall were the floods which occurred in Bukit Timah last November which were said to be a once in 50 year event. It would be interesting to see what the authorities say over the next few days.

Flooding was quite a regular occurrence in Singapore at one time and I recall that the area where the primary school that I attended was, had been quite flood prone and we regularly had to wade through flood waters. The home of a classmate staying opposite the school in Lincoln Road was regularly affected. Keng Lee Road and Cambridge Road nearby, where I went to kindergarten was also prone to the Rochor Canal that ran along Kampong Java Road overflowing, and there were occasions when I had to be carried over the flood waters. Whatever it is, I am thankful that the drainage system has improved to the extent that flooding isn’t what one expects whenever there is a downpour.

Photos of the Scotts Road and Orchard Road junctions on 16 June 2010 (courtesy of James Tan):

1974, a year of football madness

12 02 2010

1974 was a year which I remember most for the feast of football that it provided. That was of course the year in which the World Cup was to be staged. That year it was to be hosted by West Germany, the half of western leaning half of a Germany split by the Cold War into East and West. The World Cup was something that I had looked forward to in anticipation being a little too young to appreciate the spectacle that the World Cup had provided four years earlier in Mexico City. It was also the year in which football fever reached a fever pitch in Singapore riding on the good run of the Singapore team in the Malaysia Cup competition, and with the year closing with the visit to Singapore of the world’s greatest footballer: Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, known to us all as Pelé.

Pelé in action: Pelé was considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time. He held a coaching session at the humble Toa Payoh Stadium in December 1974 (Photo source: BBC).

For me, what started with kicking a ball around the wide corridor that was the circular lift landing of the block of flats I lived in with a few neighbours (and having to scramble down 19 floors every time the ball flew over the parapet), developed into a passion for the game by the time 1974 had arrived. The neighbourhood boys had formed a team in which I somehow ended up playing as a goalkeeper for. In school, my classmates and I were kicking a ball every little scrap of time we found: before school, during recess and during P.E. lessons. I had also become an avid follower of the English game – of which we would get a glimpse of through highlights shown every Sunday of the previous weekend’s action. I became a big fan of the mopped haired Kevin Keegan and the team he played for, Liverpool, and remember 1974 well for their triumph in the F.A. Cup – beating Newcastle United 3-0 in the finals in May of that year. Unfortunately, the team didn’t win the Division 1 championship that year, losing out to Leeds United.

My football mad classmates and me in the Class football team.

The visit of Pelé would perhaps have been the highlight of the year of football to many Singaporeans. For my friends and me, the football crazed schoolboys that we were, the opportunity to see the world’s greatest player up close on the pitch of the Toa Payoh Stadium on 2 December of that year was certainly one not to be missed, even if that meant watching him demonstrating his sublime skills from a distance. He had been scheduled to conduct a coaching clinic for a select few, and my older neighbours had got wind of it and brought me along as a most willing accomplice.

The National Stadium provided the setting for a football match in 1974 that left a lasting impression on me.

What would, however, leave a greater impression on me that year was not seeing Pelé in person, or the World Cup, but, watching the first leg of the semi-final of the Malaysia Cup between Singapore and Penang at the National Stadium. That match played on 26 May, was the first that I ever watched live in a stadium and would be one that got me hooked on the Malaysia Cup. As a match, the semi-final was filled with much drama as the tide ebbed and flowed. Penang took the lead early on before Singapore equalised. At the interval Singapore was trailing 1-2 and the game looked beyond Singapore. However, a second half revival which saw wave after wave of Singapore attacks, and Singapore’s Jaafar Yacob hitting the bar from the penalty spot, saw Singapore first equalising through Quah Kim Lye, and scoring a winning goal through its captain Seak Poh Leong.

The National Stadium under construction in 1973.

What I remember most about the match was the raucous atmosphere in the stadium and how the stadium literally shook as the match went on. The stadium had been packed to the rafters, probably seeing the largest crowd ever seen in the stadium. 70,000 fans had crammed in spilling into the aisles. My parents and me had been seated right at the top of the East Stand of the stadium, as the stadium had already been packed when we arrived some two hours before the match. While not being the best place to observe the action on the field, it provided an ideal vantage point from which to observe and soak up the atmosphere  on the terraces. The thunderous noise that accompanied each wave of Singapore’s attacks was deafening! This was amplified by the stamping of feet by the boisterous crowd causing the whole stadium to tremble. This was definitely the Kallang Roar, which was in its infancy, at its loudest! The atmosphere was electric, as fans rose in excitement at each attack, corner, free-kick and unpopular refereeing decisions, which had me shaking in excitement even after the game had ended.  The team then featured the likes of Dollah Kassim, Mohammad Noh, Quah Kim Lye and Quah Kim Song, all household names in Singapore football in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the efforts of the team on the night came to nought as Singapore lost 1-4 to Penang in the return leg.

The newly constructed stadium was the most modern in South East Asia and provided an ideal setting for the birth of the Kallang Roar (Photo source: Singapore Sports Council).

I had watched the 1st leg of the semi-final seated near the cauldron as the stadium was packed with 70,000 spectators.

After following the exploits of the Singapore team and rejoicing at Liverpool’s triumph in the F.A. Cup, next on the menu was that summer’s World Cup, one in which we were very much mesmerised by the magic woven by the feet of the new Dutch masters led by the two Johans: Neeskens and Cruyff. We were treated to a show of “total football” by the Dutch, who met West Germany in the final. There was some controversy surrounding the German route to the finals in which it was suggested that they deliberately lost 0-1 to their eastern counterparts during the group stages to avoid meeting the defending champions Brazil in the next stage. Whatever it was, Germany eventually triumphed 2-1 in a pulsating final which saw two penalties awarded, the first to the Dutch in the very first minute before any German player had touched the ball, through a Gerd Muller goal.

Johan Cruyff in action during the final of the 1974 World Cup (Photo source: Wikipedia).

1974 saw the introduction of a new trophy after Brazil's third triumph in 1970 allowed Brazil to keep the original Jules Rimet trophy (Photo source: Wikipedia).

1974 was certainly for me, a year to be remembered for the football feast that it served up to me.

The Little White Boat, 小白船

4 12 2009

The Little White Boat and its White Rabbit

The full moon that accompanied me on the drive home last night brought back memories of a song we were taught to sing in primary school.  小白船, or little white boat describes the moon as a little white boat drifting in the Milky Way, on which a white rabbit is playing by an sweet osmanthus tree.



The moon has long been a subject of folklore. Chinese folklore has it that there is a rabbit that lives on the moon – the markings on the moon’s surface as seen by the naked eye does look like a rabbit with a little bit of imagination. The moon is also associated with much superstition. In the West, lunacy and Werewolves have long been associated with the full moon, the word “lunacy” itself derived from the Latin word for the moon.

A Moment of Madness in the Eerie Glow of the Full Moon - wandering around the ruins of Urquhart Castle and the banks of Loch Ness on a cold November's evening in 1989

In some parts of East Asia, children are warned by their parents not to point at the moon, lest they wake up with a painful cut behind their ears the following morning. Strangely, the first I heard of this was from a Sikh neighbour … it was only much later that my maternal grandmother did care to mention this to me … and for a while I believed it, not daring to direct my fingers towards the moon!

A Maniac November

22 11 2009

20 years has passed since the November of 1989. Then, my final year at university was underway, well underway, so much so that I was starting to feel the heat. Having spent a summer that had me wandering around the eastern seaboard of the US, some of Canada, and also Italy, settling back into a daily routine of lectures, coursework, and books was quite a tough ask. Already behind in my final year project, there was also coursework due before the mid-term, and a group project that was far behind – it being difficult to get the group members together outside the setting of the campus pub, to contend with.

Deadlines, Deadlines, November 1989

A lot happening around us as well, serving as a distraction from what we should have really been focused on. We had our eyes were fixed on the telly, not only for our Blind Dates with Cilla Black on Saturday evenings, but also due to the drama that was unfolding before our eyes in Europe, as presented by the correspondents with the BBC and ITV.

Growing up during the era in which the Cold War served as a backdrop to politics, we had been constantly reminded of the vice like grip exerted by the authorities behind the Iron Curtain on their so called Comrades. The secret police and organisations such as the KGB and the Stasi came to mind – responsible for maintaining the obedience of the masses. We had constant reminders of the brutal nature in which some of these organisations acted, as well as stories of daring escapes by dissenters from behind the Iron Curtain – more often than not ending tragically.

What we were witnessing in 1989 seemed at that time, surreal. It was the beginning of the end – the beginning of a very swift end to the wave that that engulfed much of eastern Europe that started with the Bolshevik revolution in the early part of the century, and hastened by the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. For close to half a century, Europe was divided into the communist East and the free West. The Berlin Wall, built to prevent East Germans from fleeing to West Berlin, stood for 28 years as a potent symbol of this divide, sticking out like a sore thumb over a Berlin rebuilt from the ashes of the Second World War.

With the Soviet Union in transition, distracted by Glasnost and Perestroika, the Soviets had stood by and watched, as Poland and then Hungary abandoned communism, unlike the brutal manner in which Soviet troops imposed their authority in the attempted revolutions of the 1960s. There was little then to stem the tide, as one by one, their communist allies fell around them. The opening of borders between Hungary and Austria rendered the control over the border between East and West Germany ineffective and against this backdrop, the border controls between East and West Gerrmany were relaxed on 9 November, leading to a frenzy of movement of East Germans to the West over the days that followed. Over the course of the next few days, history was about to be made, as television footage showed masses, armed with sledgehammers attempting to physically bring the much hated Berlin Wall down. With the Wall tumbling down, and inaction by the mighty Soviet army, the emboldened oppressed masses of the other eastern bloc states started to come out on the streets. We were also to witness the beginning of the end in Czechoslovakia that November, with riot police cracking down on peaceful demonstrations by students, leading to mass protests on the streets.

And the Wall came tumbling down - euphoria at the Wall, November 1989 (Source: Financial Times, 7 Nov 2009)

A trip to Ballachulish, near Glencoe, was also a welcome distraction in mid November. During the trip with several college mates from Singapore and Malaysia, some of us had somehow ended up taking a drive up what seemed to be an eerie moonlit Loch Ness and getting spooked, teeth chattering (it wasn’t that cold that November evening) in what we were certain was a haunted Urquhart Castle!

The Moonlit Loch Ness, November 1989

St. Mun's, Ballachulish, November 1989

Midsummer Madness

14 07 2009

As students, we usually found many ways to keep ourselves amused, and hang on to our sanity. The usual visits to the campus pub wasn’t always as interesting as other amusements such as the odd Ceilidh; our regular meet ups on Friday evenings when each of us, two Singaporeans, two Italians, two Malaysians, an Irishwoman, and a Cameroonian, would take turns at upsetting each other’s stomachs; joining the Labour movement’s rallies in Glasgow Green; and of course Wine Tasting sessions …. One particular one involved a few of us left behind in Glasgow during the start of the summer break…

Odd Bins Wine Tasting Card 21 June 1989

Odd Bins Wine Tasting Card 21 June 1989