Unsettling Times | Daily News


 

Unsettling Times

Who are we?
Who are we?

Have you ever wondered who you really are, where your ideas really come from and what the real meaning to life is? Artists Sanjeewa Kumara, Sujeewa Kumari, Susil Senanayake, Chamila Gamage, Pramith Geekiyanage, Sanjaya Senewirathna, Vajira Gunawardena and J C Rathnayake have come together to take a serious look at where the world is right now and whether we should be slaves to the machine or break out into new healthier directions. They all feel the world is going through deeply unsettling times and we need to think what our part in this is, why is this happening and what can be done about it? Reading this feature one might well think this would be a very depressing exhibition of paintings, when in fact the opposite is true, they are all very different styles provoking us to think in different ways on where we are with life. The paintings jointly and separately challenge the viewer in their very different genres to create powerful energy balls that bounce across The Galle Fort Art Gallery at No 60, Leyn Baan creating much discussion, debate and hope.

This remarkable body of work lends itself to this wonderful contemporary gallery in the Southern province, which celebrates both new names in art and established household names. Its charming location in UNESCO World Heritage Site Galle Fort highlights the crossroads of change in this ancient trading thoroughfare, where lavish merchant homes are now a mix of shops, restaurants and places to stay. The gallery with its Jaffna lion entrance door and bird of paradise flower arrangement is impossible to miss as you walk along this fascinating street. At the entrance you can read the biographies of the eight different artists and then walk at leisure through interconnecting open areas to look at the different artists work, leading from one courtyard to another, which are made from coral and shells, the ballast of old trading ships, which can be seen in the external courtyard at the back of the building. The gallery is curated by Janaka De Silva who has organized numerous exhibitions with distinguished artists from around the island and in 2020 will be inviting international artists to exhibit.

The latest body of work really suits the high ceilings, large open spaces with courtyards, where specialist art talks take place, master classes in ancient mask making and currently until February 2020 “Unsettling Times(s)” is on show. Curator and artist Janaka De Silva believes the emotions of the island have played a heavy role in the contemporary art scene and the scars of the civil war, tsunami and this year’s horrific bomb attacks run deep into the soul of the canvasses that have seen the country go from being in pieces to a fragile peace. He is thrilled to be hosting eight dynamic and highly accomplished Colombo artists Pramith Geekiyanage, who talked to me at the opening on Friday 20 of December is fascinated by the void at the centre of our being. An artist since grade six when he started to draw human figures in Chilaw and eventually went on to further studies in the Visual Art Scene in Colombo. He explains as I go from one framed piece to the next “I feel we need to question everything, because we can’t find the real answers to life unless we do so, as we do not know what we know, we just follow what we are taught. I need to focus on the basic and fundamental thinking of the human being everywhere. I need to also question why I do figures not elephants or the stars, finding the real meanings of my life by going inside myself”. Pramith like his fellow artists always feels some kind of void inside himself. He feels we need to all question our different cultural truths, which is taught to all of us in our childhood and is based on a belief system handed down often without clear considered thought. Pramith with his love of figurative work says “I need to find my own path to the eternal truth by investigating myself.” As an artist his biggest fault is always seeking perfection and worrying all the time that the work is not perfect. Like the other artists on show he is positive about his quest saying “I believe every opportunity gives me the strength to go to the next point.”

The only female artist in the Colombo group is Sujeewa Kumari Weerasinghe who explains her portraiture based on historical photographers is the inspirations for her paintings. They are like a memory of what went before us. She works in oils and mixed media from old 19th century b/w photographs with Kandyan costumes. “We only see the figure and not the other details of their lives during this period and so I fill these details in.” The gramophone record and other cultural attire like fashion, cultural rules define our look in different periods of history. As an artist she tries to show the different layers of the history, so we can connect as the viewer to the objects to create new meaning in the pieces effectively transferring photographic language to the painting language.

Sanajya Senavirathna born in Kandy is a larger than life artist with his passionate outlook he reframes the way we see the world with his brash new series ‘The convergence of fantasy and love’. He recalls how he played everywhere and hated formal education and could not read. Gradually I start to learn something. My art is happy and yet unsalted. I do not believe in material things only believe in thinking. The painting is not complete it unsettling piece to shake the viewer out of their normal controlled thinking. I believe we interconnect and the unsettling times as we are not connecting physically together only through machines not through natural ways as before, which is not a good thing. I do not have a religion. I believe in nature and not following the family Buddhist path. Lots of energy from the art and the space and the thinking of artists making people think so energy is coming and that is a good thing. I love abstract art. Something I feel inside me I love working with the bright colours and paint with emotion in my studio in Malabe. My dream is to live with paintings. I have no idea what will happen next, this is the unpredictable life of the artist.

J C Rathnayake’s artwork work continues to be a sell-out success with paintings selling even before the gallery exhibition opened. His stunning images in keeping with the Buddhist philosophy repeat themselves - A philosophy that in his emotionally connected pieces follows the natural world of recurring patterns, which relax the mind from stress taking you to a higher much clearer level. The multiple copies of Buddha-like and people images ensure that the mind does not focus on any specific image in favour of using peripheral vision to see the whole, which leads to an uncluttered mind by giving it a much needed break from focused processing in favour of it getting an overall relaxing feeling from the paintings. In this way Rathnayake’s art combats the increasingly cluttered world we live in where our minds are being constantly bombarded by imagery and information at faster and faster speeds with less and less processing time. The exposition of work is focused on more and more individual objects of attraction and slowly being ground down and diverted from the more global vision that comes about from more relaxed observation.

His pieces, therefore give us hope, they expose the soul to spiritual enlightenment, and on closer inspection, show pieces of newspaper with Sinhala writing, the latter of which uses concentric patterns to convey messages about an island that is deeply impenetrable and complex and yet simple and divine when taken at it’s purest. J C Rathnayake says “Man, who is a powerless might when alone, rises, as a destructive force together in a group against nature, as well as against himself. Thereby he destroys himself. He should go back to nature for refuge and meditate on life. Nature should be his focus for meditation.”


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