Visual feast of religiosity | Daily News

Visual feast of religiosity

It is  interesting to study the murals at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara with those of Gotami Vihara. at Kelaniya, Solias Mendis adapted the modes of the popular Shanti Niketan School of painting particularly that of  Nandalal Bose. with an  element of romanticism in the treatment of the subject at the hands of Solias Mendis
It is interesting to study the murals at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara with those of Gotami Vihara. at Kelaniya, Solias Mendis adapted the modes of the popular Shanti Niketan School of painting particularly that of Nandalal Bose. with an element of romanti

George Keyt began to paint his murals at the Gotami Vihara, Borella in the late 193Os, in between his trips to India and finally completed them in 1940. In the vestibule of the temple, he painted on the dry plaster wall. depicting the significant episodes in the life of the Buddha.

Keyt evolved a distinct personal style of painting, these murals using Hindu and Buddhist art forms. He incorporated costumes and jewellery of the period of the Sakkyas which shocked the devotees who saw them for the first time, with his unorthodox way of depicting the Buddha Charithaya.

He was the first Sri Lankan painter to break with the past with his reliance on the fresco idea and lines of calligraphic drawing can be seen. in the murals. The life of the Buddha was drawn with figures on a heroic scale and this was a complete departure from the traditional form of Sittara paintings of the Kandyan period.

ln the figures, Keyt gave poignancy to each incident relevant to his theme, capturing the mood with lines and colours. The paintings are not merely representational but symbolic of characters and conduct. The figures are round and robust. the male figures being energetic and virile and the female ones voluptuous. However, the Buddha has been depicted throughout as the great compassionate one and he dominated the murals.

ln painting his murals, Keyt did not make any preliminary studies as such before working on the walls and he created imagery straight away on the walls and when he started to paint the style evolved quite naturally And it was a spontaneous creativity to get the maximum effect with his brush and Paint.

It is interesting to study the murals at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara with those of Gotami Vihara. at Kelaniya, Solias Mendis adapted the modes of the popular Shanti Niketan School of painting particularly that of Nandalal Bose. with an element of romanticism in the treatment of the subject at the hands of Solias Mendis.

Keyt’s approach is quite different. In depicting Mahamaya Devi’s dream sequence he used symbols such as white elephant and lotus flower to depict the conception as described in our classical Sinhala text Pujavaliya.

In the scene of the Renunciation, Keyt shows Prince Siddhartha’s contempt tor luxury and worldly pleasures and went in search of the truth. He has successfully conveyed the feelings of the Prince and creating the same sentiments in the minds of the viewers.

The most striking episode is Mara Yuddaya (Conquest of Mara) before reaching The Enlightenment. In order to heighten the effect, Keyt fused the traditional art with Picasso’s cubism to create the weird scene. Showing all the evil forces risen together to disturb the mental state of the Buddha.

Hitherto Sittara painters narrated incidents in detail in a pictorial manner using a limited range of colours. Their style remained essentially folk in outlook.

The border designs of Manjusri added a new dimension to the murals by using the floral designs of the tapestry and symbols such as the lotus and liyavela seen in the paintings of Tibet. The colours he used do not disturb in the eye yet they appeal to the beholder.

Keyt had a perfect understanding of art and sculpture of the past and he assimilated the influences which he depicted in the murals. This was an integrated idiom to convey a religious thought in an impressive way. Martin Russell in his monograph (1950) commenting on the Gothami Vihara murals said, “Their popularity has grown steadily for they convey the full flavours of the Buddha’s life with unexampled directness and conjure up a world of vigorous and beautiful civilization”.


 

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