Best yet to be seen | Daily News

Best yet to be seen

Dr Jayasiri Semage

There was a time that people expected the artist to paint nature and life the way the majority of people visualize it. It was justifiable at a time photography as yet to be invented. However, with the progress of photography artists could enjoy more freedom to differently visualize reality as the task of recording real events and life realistically was transferred elsewhere.

Today we have a superb variety of art forms in painting like cubism, surrealism, impressionism and many more styles not to mention purely abstract art. According to Oscar Wild “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist”.z_p25-Best-02.jpg

Imaginative and revolutionary artists developed various styles and forms of registering their creative perceptions on canvas exciting the ability of aesthetic sensitivity of art loves. The new freedom coupled with philosophical and aesthetic insights of great artists and art critics gave rise to enlightened concepts relating to art. In consequence, many schools like romanticism, cubism, surrealism, impressionism etc. came into existence. And some painters, not stagnating in one form or style, changed their ways of creating art several times in their career. Pablo Picasso, the world renowned artist, for instance, started painting rather realistically but gradually dissociated himself from it and developed his own unique style. His themes were, in fact, selected from common real life scenarios, yet, in his own fantasy world, he completely reinterpreted them making the viewers excited, shocked but absolutely thrilled. Yet this exercise of freedom in creating a different reality was enthusiastically accepted by enlightened art lovers.

Among the most senior artists in Sri Lanka, Jayasiri Semage has also evolved a few independent styles in his journey of oriental arts. Even though is heritage is Ajanta Sigiri style, he has had some influence from Chinese oriental art and even from some western schools. However, he had remained conformed to the universally accepted norms of proportions of human and animal figures. This was probably because he had a large cliental among the Buddhist public for whom he was creating highly educative pictorial narratives and meditationaly inspired line essays. His aesthetic communications were mostly non elliptical. However, now that he has acquired much experience and international feedbacks, a new turn in his style seem to emerge. This does not mean that he is divorcing from his traditional style that he has developed with utmost love and care, even to the extent of his admirers could identify his paintings not looking for his signature. Yet he says “As many artists also have changed their styles, I thought I would also do some experiments to change my style. Yet I have to be sure that it would be a step forward, not going back.”

How actually has this new style emerged? Perhaps a self analysis seem to have convinced Semage that creating decorative motifs by manipulating rhythmic creepers with stylized foliage and flowers is his special talent. He has shown an extra-ordinary mastery in rhythmic curves in liyawela and incorporating traditional ornamental symbols like galbindu etc into it. He was perhaps aware of the fact that ancient Sri Lankan artists incorporated living captures into liyawelas. With such inspiration he has experimented to see how could make his entire pictures get immersed in liyawela rhythm. In other words, he wanted liyawela rhythm to be his language. To make this real, he had to give up traditionally inherited rules of discipline in maintaining proportion in human and animal figures. It is true that Even Geroge Keyt went against rules of proportion and became highly revolutionary in his unique style, yet he moved more into the western inspiration. Semage seems not willing to move out from Sri Lankan traditional art tradition to that extent. Yet he wants to create something new within the confines of Sri Lankan art tradition. Semage has done it and one might even not recognised them as Semage's art since they do not conform to traditional proportions of human figures. He has moved out from the rules of proportion and projected his visualizations of rhythm of life into liyawela, making it his new frame and form. He has done it using water colour and oil on canvass. What is lacking in his new language of paintings is not only the proportion but also the balance.

Yet these ill proportioned and imblanced paintings do to betray the identity of Sri Lankan art as they are still line drawings displaying features of Sri Lankan tradition. However all his new human and animal figures have bent and reshaped against natural forms dictated by the dominant liyawela motif.

Semage is busy at his studio at No. Lillian Place, Mount Lavinia, putting the finishing touches to his new revolutionary creations preparing them for the solo exhibition which is being held at No. 03 Semage Art Gallery till September 25.