On a long road with a photographer

By Shalomi Daniel

A wide grey road stretches over many miles. Seeming to spring forth from the horizon, cars and lorries loom in the distance - diminutive compared to the lush green trees flanking the sides of the grey road – while much closer, traffic lights and cables hang overhead.

This is one among many photographs that award-winning Italian photographer Nicolo Sertorio displays in his exhibition titled ‘Passages’ being held at the Casa Serena gallery in Colombo from October 8 to 19.

“The Casa Serena gallery was established with the hope of not only highlighting the talents of Sri Lankan artists but also to introduce the art and culture of many other countries,” explains the owner of the gallery, a talented artist, designer and photographer herself, Nisansala Karunaratne.

The gallery which opened earlier this year began with an exhibition by a Puerto Rican artist. In addition, exhibitions of Nisansala’s own work and that of other artists too have been held and with the aim of nurturing many kinds of art, Nisansala also organises exhibitions and workshops in painting, sculpture, photography, pottery etc.

This current exhibition takes the viewer on a long road with the photographer, drinking in the many beautiful landscapes he has traversed.

Nicolo Sertorio seeks to point out how human interventions are made particularly evident due to the scarcity of the natural element. He offers the opinion that ‘nature’ is not the ideal postcard sans human presence, but more realistically the ‘outdoor’ views we experience when moving from one place to another.

Thus, the picturesque scenes of rugged brown mountains, green trees and vivid blue skies also include a liberal dose of freeways, overpasses, vehicles, billboards, poles and signs, which succeed in presenting to the viewer scenes that are truly experienced while travelling.

While in gallery one, ‘Passages’ lead the viewers to a voyage of discovering how nature and human interventions are closely knit, gallery two takes on a completely Italian air as Nicolo Sertorio gives Sri Lankans a glimpse of his romantic and vibrant country through ‘Bits of Italy’. “Nicolo and I are hoping to do a project related to Sri Lankan and Italian culture,” Nisansala enthuses adding with gratitude that the Italian Embassy has been very supportive of the exhibition.

Having been interested in painting since her childhood, Nisansala was fortunate to receive the support of her family and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in California. Not satisfied with simply enjoying art alone, she is passionate about promoting it. “An artist always needs a helping hand and I received that support from my family. Therefore, I want to show that support to other artists too,” she says. She travels to rural areas in an effort to introduce the value and importance of art to as many people as possible.

“It is a tough job, but I still enjoy it a lot,” she says smiling. A strong believer of the therapeutic nature of art, Nisansala observes if people took time off to indulge in any form of art, they would emerge refreshed and capable of being more productive in their work.

“Instead, people are involved in a rat race and enjoying art takes the last place on their list of priorities” she reflects. She had always wanted to run her own gallery, and now that dream is a reality in the form of Casa Serena.

As part of the requirement for her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Nisansala had to hold a solo exhibition. It was around this time that she stumbled upon a 280 acre forest monastery in North San Francisco. “The place inspired me to continue in my creative path -it was called Casa Serena” she explains. ‘Casa’ means ‘house’ in Italian and ‘Serena’ means Serenity. Her name – Nisansala – too means serenity and thus, “it all fitted perfectly” Nisansala concludes.

The Casa Serena gallery is situated at 122, Havelock Road, Colombo 5 and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday and from 1p.m. to 6 p.m on Mondays.

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