A Brush with Colombo Artists | Daily News


A Brush with Colombo Artists

A brush with Colombo


Colombo has been the inspiration of artists for centuries and now it has never been hotter to explore the city of arts and meet the artist first hand or buy an amazing piece from one of the leading galleries. The best day to see the incredible range of art would be on a Sunday morning when you can check out the weekly Green Path Street railing art market, which is on display along the Vihara Mahadevi Park next to the National Art Gallery.

Juliet Coombe

To peruse the work of established and up-and-coming artists, head to Barefoot Gallery to see their exciting monthly exhibition at 706, Galle Road, Colombo 03, open from 10am to 7pm. The gallery has pieces from various Sri Lankan artists and regularly showcases a wide range of exhibits including vintage movie posters of Tarzan and King Kong, cerebrally-challenging mood pieces, wooden sculptures, media installations, photographs and paintings. After this you can wander through the backstreets to the Saskia Fernando Gallery, the largest contemporary art gallery in the country, opposite the Institute of Aesthetic Studies- 41, Horton Place, Colombo 07. The easiest way to spot the gallery from the road is from the wonderful statues she exhibits over the entrance. You can view amazing artwork by Jagath Weerasinghe, an academic and thought provoking Sri Lankan artist whose each and every piece channels a deep often dark and emotional experience.

Once you're finished there, come out through the entrance on Colombo Road, turn left and continue till you reach Alfred House Avenue, which will be across the road on the right-hand side. Proceed down that and turn onto Alfred House Road and walk along to The Gallery Cafe - 2, Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 03, which will be on the left. Here, you can enjoy the high profile exhibitions adorning the corridors of the past office of renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, whose space was transformed by Shanth Fernando into a stylish gallery.

Beauty defined

Step out of the gallery, head along Horton Place and turn onto Maitland Crescent just after the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf coffee shop. Proceed along that, turn left onto Gregory's Road and proceed along to the Hempel Galleries - 30/3, Barnes Place, Colombo 07. Please note that Hempel Galleries is by appointment only, so a day or two before you go there, call Annoushka Hempel on +94 777 907 321. She is the brainchild behind Colombo's Art Biennale and her gallery represents Sri Lanka's emerging and mid-career artists like Pradeep Thalawatta, Koralegedara and Pushpakumara.

Sapumal Foundation Gallery is kept in what was the home of Harry Peiris and here you can view the largest collection of work by the 43rd Group who were instrumental in breaking away from Western style colonial art. Here beauty is defined as a mix of the indigene with dashes of brute ugliness in the style of Courbet's brilliance. The Foundation Gallery was set up in 1974 and is distinctive for its narrow winding corridors and pocket rooms contrasted with wide berths of the spacious living room. Here, painting remains as vital as the air itself.

Expect the Unexpected

For those who are aficionados of Justin Deraniyagala and the clan, you can visit one of his pieces in context, but walking off the beaten path to George Keyt's Mural at the Gothami Vihara, Borella. The mural developed between 1938 and 1941, remains a testament to the 43 Group's modern artist Keyt's interpretations of Buddhism. The defining feature of this now historically-listed painting is Buddha's defeat of Mara, a pivotal moment in attaining enlightenment. The faces of the warriors have a touch of Picasso and yet the fiery reds and oranges reveal the tropical modernist in the passionate chaos of his work that propelled him into a master of his trade, the result of which was this masterpiece of its time.

Look out for art wherever you are going, and expect the unexpected, as alternative art is becoming part of the cityscape. Whether it's the unconventional graffiti mural of Park Street Mews posing the question 'What is Sri Lanka Becoming?' or Professor Sarath Chandrajeewa's evocative monument at Central Banka 'Man Rising From the Fire' by representing the country overcoming the tragic Central Bank bombing, the city is lending itself to the expressions of a generation's reflections on the past and hopes for a better future. All adding to the nouvelle vogue of the defacement of the old with the effacement of the here and the now, embedded in the subversive idea of a future in creation as embodied by Sri Lanka's anarchic artists. 


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