SILENT NOTES

(from left: Tam Dao from Diptyque, Royal Out from Creed and Ambrette 9 from Le Labo)

There are screechy, loud, overpowering fragrances. Then there are subtle masterpieces that have a quiet elegance, coy yet effortless. Silence, like the realm of scents, is ephemeral and hard to grasp. It can be characterised by its stillness, its absence, yet at times, it can also evoke much grandeur like an old abandoned house. Musing on its multi-faceted nature, we explored the many notes ascribed to silence by the world’s leading Noses. It appears that there is more musicality to the notions of silence than we had expected.

 

Creed Royal Oud: The Grandeur of Silence

Creed’s Royal Oud differs from all the other oud-based scents flooding the mainstream market in that the oud note stays prominent without overpowering the other notes. Offering an ode to oud, the resin of agarwood, it brings to mind the royal palace and the stateliness of the royal lifestyle. It conjures images of a light-flooded palace with marble, gold, wood, and the faint smell of leather: regal but not pretentious.

 

Diptyque Tam Dao: The Stillness of Silence

Diptyque’s Tam Dao is woody. But unlike Creed’s Royal Oud, it is restrained and serene. Influenced by freshness of the mountains of Tam Dao in Vietnam, it references the mystical Goa sandalwood and the tranquil quality of a misty forest in the early dawn. It is an oriental, spicy, and emanates nobility. Tam Dao opens dry and woody with the cedar top note, but fades into creamy sandalwood with a resinous edge. It evokes the interior of a rough, hand crafted wooden box an intricate piece of precious wood with a distinctively human touch and effortful time. The Zen-like quality of it captures the stillness of silence.

 

The Different Company Oriental Lounge: The Ambiguity of Silence

As the name suggests, Oriental Lounge takes references from the traditional heavy oriental fragrances, but with a twist. Creator Celine Ellena has almost inverted the typical Oriental structure in this fragrance, placing the theme in the overture as opposed to the third act. Ellena described it as a piece of clothing that suggests, but doesn’t reveal anything[an] amber for women and men searching for gentleness, sensuality, and a lot of character. Oriental Lounge has flesh and texture, like jacquard and silk. It is modern, but not minimalist nor excessive. Caloupil gives it a slight green and metallic vibe that clearly separates it from most traditional orientals. Imagine a Shanghai Tang burlesque lounge circa 1930s with hazy lights and exquisite costumes, complete with a slight suspense hovering in the air. The sensuality of skin mixes with the sharpness of spices. Time and space seem to blend together into a viscous texture, leaving the amber somewhat diffident, halfway between fluid and form. This dark, uncertain, brooding character gives this scent a film noir persona that is quiet but burning with latent eroticism.

 

Le Labo Bergamote 22 & Ambrette 9: The Simplicity of Silence

Le Labo’s philosophy is based on the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi, the art of imperfection. Each of their unisex fragrances is titled with a single note and a number, representing the centrepiece note and the number of notes in it respectively. Bergamote 22 is decidedly dry, but also sweet. It has an unapologetic linear presence, like a simple cup of Earl Grey in the crisp morning air. Floral, bitter, sweet, and virile, it is a blend that manages to be strong and simple in a sea of shrilly fruity-florals. Ambrette 9 has fewer notes, but is special nonetheless; it is a fragrance designed for babies. Centred on the ambrette seed, it is not overpowering like typical oriental amber fragrances, but rather very tender. The musky accord is tender like a mother’s love for her child. There is no need to announce this kind of delicate and warm affection from the rooftops; instead, we seek comfort in its ever-lasting presence.

Words by Qianwen Z. | Photography by Brian Buchard | Art Direction by Mandy Rep

 

TWO IN ONE: Sarah Moon for Nars

Together with Nars Cosmetics, Vulture hosted an intimate exhibition preview to celebrate the launch of our December 2016 Edition. True to the publication’s DNA of showcasing great photography, Vulture undertook the curation of the exhibition to display selected archival works of French photographer Sarah Moon who collaborated with the beauty brand on a special Holiday Collection. Comprised of pastels combined with muted red and burgundies which were tinged with a mysterious glimmer of glittery blacks and bronzes, and rounded off by a selection of quintessential, classic reds—reminiscent of that jolt of colour that unexpectedly comes across in some of Moon’s photos—the collection is as timeless as her photography work. DECK, Singapore’s alternative space for independent art and photography was our venue of choice.

 The Sarah Moon for Nars collection is now available on narscosmetics.com and beauty retailers. We suggest you start shopping stat—these limited edition collectibles might not last forever but the new Kohliners just might.

Photography by Wei Long H. 

THINGS FALL APART; THE CENTRE CANNOT HOLD;

In Vulture’s previous issue, we spoke at length to two curators from the Singapore Art Museum about this year’s Singapore Biennale and its theme An Atlas of Mirrors. Keywords such as navigation, borders, and migration took center place, at once suggesting an outward stroke but retaining a reflexive arc through the imagery of the mirror. As new tech disrupts the world daily and the human race pushes boundaries in exploration of other forms of life, perhaps the discovery is inward too—who are we, really? And what sort of world are we creating for ourselves?

William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” speaks of a ‘widening gyre’, a suggestion of a world that spins out of control and is unable to remember its origin. As news of disasters natural and man-made mounts, it comes as no surprise that this apocalyptic poem has been quoted more times this year than in the past three decades. With today’s context in mind, what revelations do the artists make? We investigate their material—both literal and metaphorical—by rounding up five young and emerging artists featured in the Singapore Biennale 2016.

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(from left: Panaphan Yodmanee, Fyerool Darma, Melissa Tan, Chou Shih Hsiung, Martha Atienza)

FYEROOL DARMA (B. 1987, Singapore)

For Darma, absence speaks louder than words. His commissioned work The Most Mild Mannered Men (2016) critiques historical amnesia by presenting two characters pivotal to the founding of modern Singapore, but in distinctive ways. While the appropriated bust of Sir Stamford Raffles commands the viewer immediately, the opposing pedestal stands empty; save for the inscribed name, birth, and death dates of Sultan Hussein Mua’zzam Shah. “During my research for this work, I encountered the Malay word ghaib. In the theology of Islam, ghaib refers to the unknown, of things you cannot see and cannot explain, though not in the ghostly sense. It resonates with what I’ve been reading up on minor narratives, and of the structures between the major and the minor. In music, you hear the major chords, and the minor chords act as an accessory, but it is there. What we know about art is always shaped by the western perspective. So I asked myself this question—if we didn’t have knowledge from the West, would we be able to start something fresh? But I am not a historian, I am an artist. I am not creating a new narrative, I am merely echoing an existing one.”

 

CHOU SHIH HSIUNG (B. 1989, Taipei, Taiwan)

Good Boy, Bad Boy (2016) houses two million years of history in its frame. The two Plexiglas containers display 250kg of dark petroleum each, forever frozen in time and space. For Chou, the work is personal—it reflects the relationships and expectations from his family who run an oil supply business—and at the same time academic; it questions the very notion of what we understand as a painting.  “The two questions usually asked are: what to paint, and how to paint. I started to think about how one can make a painting, rather than what to paint. In the past, artists blended their own ingredients and materials to form colorful pigments. People now understand a painting as something that hangs on a wall, and are rectangular and flat. Good Boy, Bad Boy is about the dilemma of trying to be what society wants of us while staying true to ourselves. People interpret my work differently, bringing in ideas about the environment and of history—I am open to all of these. I’m not trying to change the way people see art. Actually, it’s more of testing to see if they can accept my works as paintings. If I could summarize my work in one sentence, it would be: this is a painting made with oil.”

 

MELISSA TAN (B. 1989, Singapore)

Far from bemoaning the impact of urbanization, Tan welcomes, if not celebrates change. Her work “If you can dream a better world you can make a better world or perhaps travel between them” (2016) makes visible the nuanced transformations of Singapore’s landscape into metal sculptures that depict the varied layers of terrain under development—each layer made of paper or metal, and painstakingly cut and etched. Accompanying her main work are three ‘music boxes’, where the rough pavements of Singapore are transcribed into a scoresheet that plays the city’s cacophony; circumambulating pebbles, granite or cement pieces taken from the original sites. “The three pieces were found at different locations—the trading industry at Keppel district park, the city’s business district, and the residential area. The quietest piece is the granite, and it has an interesting link to Singapore’s history. There used to be granite mining in Singapore, but all the quarries are used up now. But if you go to the business district, you see many granite buildings—all made up of granite taken from elsewhere. Singapore is changing so quickly, I wanted to use all these materials that we find in our landscape and put them together. Even for the static sculpture, I cast the rocks and pasted the textures on top of one another, because they have a relationship to each other. I like change, though sometimes it’s too fast. I think what motivates me as an artist is not to let myself get comfortable.”

 

 PANNAPHAN YODMANEE (B. 1988, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand)

Aftermath (2016) recalls murals often found on the walls of temples and places of worship, but Pannaphan’s mythical figures dance and writhe alongside materials new and mass-produced, a composite of the traditional and contemporary. Using the Buddhist cosmos as a landing point, Pannaphan presents and questions the understanding of faith amidst our quest for science and progress. “My work speaks of how people use religion in different ways other than the main thoughts from it. People use it for their own purposes, for wars, colonization… Good and bad are brought together. I want to present a comparison of the past, future, and present, a comparison of beliefs and what happens in the real world, to allow visitors to use their imagination. What do you think will happen to religion in the future? The answer is up to anybody.”

 

 MARTHA ATIENZA (B. 1981, Manila, The Philippines)

A first glance at Atienza’s work might bring forth the notion of travel and voyage; the sea, after all, is very much aligned with this year’s theme. But Endless Hours at Sea (2014, 2016) has other ideas. Atienza is enraptured by the liminal space the sea offers—to be somewhere and nowhere all at once. This contradiction carries through in our identity. As more heritages and cultures converge, we are but global citizens all at sea. “As someone who is half-Dutch and half-Filipino, I’m always in the middle of nowhere. I’ve always had discussions about what identity means. And that’s what’s refreshing about being at sea—you don’t have to belong to or identify with something. Ships are like countries on their own. You could get on a ship, be on international water, and no one can really touch you. My previous projects were about the families and communities at sea, artworks that touched social issues. This time, I wanted to create something just in response to the sea, to go back to basics—sound, water, and light.”

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Endless Hours at Sea (2016) by Martha Atienza | Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum

Words by Grace H.

A TRAVELLER’S GUIDE TO PARADISE

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Down Jamaica Road at mid-afternoon, round ‘Sam’s Gents’ on the corner, the approach to Paradise is sheltered by a rank of maples. Here, by the docks, you’ll find a suburb on a raft of buried rivers: the largest, the Neckinger, empties into the Thames nearby. This neighbourhood, hemmed by Bermondsey Wall and St Saviour’s Dock, was once a needle’s eye through which the world arrived in England. It was here that the Mayflower’s passengers gathered before crossing the Atlantic, and where the first tunnel under the Thames was dug.

Over time, alluvial silt made these wharfs unsuitable for modern craft. Shipping moved towards the sea, while trade vanished into the stock markets. The river and its bankside lights were used by German bombers on their way to Westminster, and after the war wrecked mansions made way for public housing. If you look hard enough, you’ll see prams full of grocery-bags by the stairs, gaps sawn in the fence, St George’s crosses tied to TV aerials.

I wish you could see him too, here in snug, post-Brexit London. After months at sea, Prince Lee Boo came to Paradise Row in July 1784 with Captain Henry Wilson of the East India Company. Wilson’s ship, the Antelope, was wrecked near Palau a year before, and his crew, stranded on the island, befriended the king and his family. As they left for England, a young prince travelled with them to see their strange country. His father hoped he would become an Englishman. He tied knots in a rope to remind him of home. When they arrived, he went to school with the neighbours and saw an early hydrogen balloon flight.

It was an era of new things. History records that the prince wished he could tell his father ‘the number of fine things the English had got’. But in December, Lee Boo contracted smallpox; no treatments worked, and the prince died two days after Christmas. You wonder, what would the prince say if he were here today? Tarred and straightened, Paradise Row has become Paradise Street. Doors are closed to the August heat, and dust gathers on battered cars. Boys smoke in the shade of a ruined palace across the block.

But he is here. He’s never left. In every era princes have passed through this city, arriving from every continent – on the M3 and M20, on the tarmac at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton. They’ve brought their tastes and tongues, and their fathers’ ideas of Englishness. Like you and I, they’ve come and found Paradise on this side-street, this very nondescript estate. Look at the stranger walking his dog, empty-handed. Doesn’t he look familiar? Wouldn’t you like to say hello?

This story was originally published in the September 2016 issue of Vulture Magazine entitled “An Anthology” in partnership with MontBlanc

Words by Theophillius Kwek

IMPRESSIONS FROM “THE VIEW FROM HER(MES)” IN BEIJING

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If Paris is a delicate, emotional young man, then Beijing is his refined, cultured relative. Forward-looking but not forgetful, gregarious but not pretentious. It is in this cosmopolitan city where French luxury brand Hermès held its annual Womens’ Universe: a presentation that showcases the vast array of product offerings, alongside artistic interpretations of its ready-to-wear collection. Reimagining the spaces of Beijing’s prestigious Minsheng Art Museum, the exhibition, entitled “The View from Her”, is a modern expression of femininity and emancipation, carried through with the sophistication and elegance that one would expect of the French maison.

Typical of a Hermès Universe event is the immersive interspersal of dreamed fantasy and reality. For the main ready-to-wear segment, American dancer and director Lucinda Childs choreographed a performance that encapsulated both her postmodernist tendencies and the house’s keen appreciation of the avant-garde. Set against a backdrop of screens with different recordings simultaneously playing, the viewer traverses moments of reality that seem abstract on first glance. It is only when one realises the use of repetition in the human body, that one truly comes to appreciate the intricacies of Childs’s choreographic masterpiece.

In a time where artist collaborations have become almost commonplace within the fields of fashion and luxury, much can be said about the creative integrity of artistic products, and the power players behind the industry’s top brands. When art is employed in a token way and there is no link with the brand, it becomes more of a gimmick or stunt. Yet, there exists a delicate balance of commerce and craft within the French maison, as creative director Bali Barrett espouses: “I’m interested in a wider spectrum beyond fashion, and Hermès is really responding to that need for me. Fashion is about clothes and about luxury, but it is also about the spirit, which I think is very important. In that sense, it is very nurturing. You meet different kinds of artists. It is not about the product, but about an entire universe and artistic collaborations. I get to express things through the eyes of other creative individuals. It is not a marketing trick, but one that is in the genes of the house for a while. An appreciation towards working with a community of people, and of aesthetics.”

The French art critic and poet Charles Baudelaire coined the term ‘modernity’ to make meaning of the fleeting and ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis. In it, he related the responsibility that art has to capture this phenomena. While Baudelaire was more concerned about society and art than style, the same theory could be applied to what was presented to us at “The View from Her”, where an eternal, universal truth can be found in ordinary experiences of modern city life, and a simple movement of repetition alludes to the timeless beauty amid constant flux. What Childs and Barrett did was not to re-imagine the ‘eternal’ but to seize upon the salient details that capture the mood of the moment. And perhaps, it is this added layer of cultural sensitivity and innate respect for craft that makes the brand of Hermès so strangely alluring.

This story was originally published in the Dec 2016 issue of Vulture Magazine

Words & Photography by Clifford L.