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The Sanchaya Samba

I’m writing this at the Library of  The Sanchaya in Bintan, where I’ve spent a blissful three days enjoying the resort’s gracious hospitality so that I can report back to you, dear readers, on what this lovely resort has to offer to all you syabarites out there – art lovers, in particular. (Yes, it’s a tough job but hey, someone’s gotta do it!)

The resort’s founder and CEO, Natalya Pavchinskaya, has created a luxurious and elegant resort only a short 50-minute ferry ride from Singapore, that offers not just a tranquil respite from the frantic hubub of city life, but also an inspiring haven for artists and creatives. Since its opening in December 2014, the resort has played host to a number of luminaries – artists, film producers, musicians, fashion designers and photographers – as part of its artist-in-residence programme and its ongoing commitment to fostering creativity and promoting arts and culture.

The latest guest of the resort, LA-based visual artist Darel Carey, was in residence at The Sanchaya from 7 – 20 August. His brief? To create a unique site-specific art installation inspired by the colonial-style black-and-white architecture of the estate, its gentleman’s-club-meets-tropical-resort design aesthetic and its stunning natural environs (think fine white sand beach, palm trees gently waving in the breeze and jaw-droppingly gorgeous sunsets).

LA-based visual artist Darel Carey, with one of his immersive tape installations. Image courtesy of The Sanchaya.

Artistically, Carey’s influences include MC Escher, the Dutch graphic artist whose mathematically-inspired artworks explore impossible objects, infinity, reflection, symmetry and perspective and Bridget Riley, a key member of the Op Art movement of the 1960s, whose works play with viewers’ perceptions to induce simultaneously shifting patterns of forms that shape and articulate the environments they occupy. Like Escher and Riley, Carey is interested in exploring and experimenting with optical and spatial perception, using lines to shape and bend the perceived dimensions of a surface or a space. Carey creates immersive wall and room installations, using tape to create patterns of lines that transform a space into a mine-bending, perception-distorting visual experience.

“A line on its own is simple. When combined with many other lines in a consistent, precise manner, the lines become more than just the lines; as a whole they form something more complex than what they are individually.”

Darel Carey

For site-specific installations like the commission at The Sanchaya, Carey explained (at an artist talk which he gave at private members’ club 1880 in Singapore) that he doesn’t make a plan beforehand, nor does he arrive at a space with a preconceived idea or schematic. Instead, he conceptualises the artwork only when he is actually physically in the space and able to look at it, think about what he would like to see, what the main vantage point of the viewer would be and how light falls within the space at different times of the day. For The Sanchaya specifically, Carey mentioned that he was inspired by the resort’s beautiful natural surroundings, colonial-style architecture and its monochromatic, black-and-white colour scheme. While he wanted to create an eye-catching installation, he didn’t want it clash with, interrupt or invade the aesthetics of the space. Various spaces struck him as offering interesting possibilities but he eventually settled on the wall of a staircase leading up to the Suites in the Sanchaya’s main building.

Work in progress by Darel Carey at the stairwell of The Sanchaya

As the installation at The Sanchaya was to be a permanent work, Carey had decided to work with both tape and paint to create an installation that would last for a considerably longer period of time than if he were to use tape alone. However, you know what they say about best-laid plans … Due to various technical issues that arose with affixing the paint to the surface of the wall, the artist had to reconsider the original space and, eventually, decided to create a fresh work on a wall in The Sanchaya’s Library instead.

Carey at work in The Library at The Sanchaya.

It was fascinating to watch Carey at work and a privilege to be able chat with him about his process when he took the occasional short break. To an observer (especially someone who can’t draw to save her life!) the organic way in which the installation took shape and emerged as Carey worked with one strip of tape after another in a seemingly random fashion was nothing short of mysterious. He took no measurements and, when asked, said that he doesn’t draw or map out the installation beforehand, although he does have a general idea about how he thinks the finished work should look. Still, the original idea often morphs and changes as he works – “[the work] is controlling me as much as I am controlling it”.

And … the next day, as if by magic … voila!

The artist, his lovely wife Priscilla and me, in front of the almost completed wall installation at The Library of The Sanchaya.
The finished work is a stunning addition to The Library at The Sanchaya. Image courtesy of The Sanchaya.

Carey is not the first visual artist to be invited to spend time in residence at The Sanchaya. One of the first sights to greet visitors to the resort as they approach The Sanchaya’s front lobby is a 2.5-metre tall, pearlescent sculpture of a pineapple by Malaysian-born, Singapore-based artist Kumari Nahappan, dubbed The Guardian Angel. Why a pineapple, you might ask? In the 18th and 19th centuries, the pineapple’s exotic beauty, novelty, perishability and scarcity made it a symbol of luxury and opulence in Europe and America. Wealthy colonists would display the exotic fruit as a centrepiece at the dinner table as a symbol of their wealth and status, as well as to honour their guests. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, artists depicted pineapples in paintings to symbolise hospitality and generosity. Napkins, tablecloths, porcelain tableware, wallpaper and even bedposts were decorated with drawings and carvings of pineapples in order to make guests feel welcome.

Kumari Nahappan, Guardian Angel

Nahappan is, however, probably most closely associated with the red seeds of the Saga tree, Adenanthera pavonina, that she has presented in a number of different iterations throughout her artistic career. At The Sanchaya, Ode to Thirty,  30 giant red fiberglass saga seeds initially presented at the 2017 Venice Biennale’s ANIMA MUNDI International Arts Festival, are peppered around the estate, symbols of life, growth, strength and hope.

Kumari Nahappan, Ode to Thirty, 2018
Ode to Thirty and Guardian Angel (background) at night.

Great art aside, The Sanchaya ticks pretty much all the boxes in the discerning traveller’s wishlist for a luxury tropical resort getaway, right from the moment you step off the Bintan Resorts ferry at the Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal. No need to jostle with the hoi polloi through immigration and baggage claim – just hand your passport and baggage receipt to the friendly Sanchaya guest relations officer and relax in The Sanchaya’s private lounge with a drink while he or she sorts everything out. Then, it’s only a short car ride away to the welcoming smiles of The Sanchaya’s staff, including that of its charming and gracious General Manager, Magnus Olovson, and this stunning view (yes, it’s our feature pic but I think it’s worth a second look, don’t you?):

Image courtesy of The Sanchaya.

The Sanchaya kindly housed me in one of its seven Thai-inspired Lawan Thai Villas, with its own private verandah overlooking waterlilies in the resort’s lagoon – Monet in Bintan! My girlfriend and I chose a fun and frothy rom-com from a huge selection of movies, helped ourselves to snacks and drinks from the complimentary “maxi” bar, bathed in a claw-footed bathtub with Aesop bath products (we’re now totally hooked on their Rind Concentrate Body Balm) and slept soundly on 464 thread count Egyptian cotton linen sheets.

We were well fed – at the resort’s two restaurants, the Tasanee Grill (Thai food) and The Dining Room (which serves contemporary European as well as Indonesian cuisine) – and well watered at The Bar.

A Mbok Jamu, the traditional kain kebaya-wearing young woman with her bamboo basket filled with bottles of traditional herbal medicines or jamu, offers guests her tonics at breakfast at The Sanchaya.

Feeling the need for some exercise after all that delicious food, we swam in the resort’s gorgeous oceanfront salt-water pool, walked on the beach at sunset, cycled around the estate and a nearby lake, played croquet (a must-try – it’s super fun!) and did some morning yoga.

Of course, no weekend getaway is complete without a session at the spa. At The Sanchaya’s Balinese-inspired spa, we chose from an array of specially blended chakra oils and were skilfully tended to by massage therapists Ema and Made, emerging loose-limbed, blissed-out and serene.

So, there you go, Plural pals. If you’re looking for the perfect weekend getaway spot not too far away from Singapore, one that blends extreme pampering with some great art and culture, look no further than The Sanchaya in Bintan. We’re excited to see the other artistic and cultural offerings The Sanchaya has in store for visitors and guests in the months and years ahead.



[Note: Plural appreciates The Sanchaya’s kind invitation to visit the resort, meet the artist Darel Carey during his residency and learn more about the estate’s commitment to the arts.]

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