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10th January 1999
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Well deserved tribute to an artist of Buddhist themes 

Jayasiri Semage is an artist of no mean repute. He is to be felicitated shortly in recognition of his artistic talent and his contribution towards the upliftment of Sri Lankan painting a fitting tribute indeed.

Starting with a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery way back in 1956 as a schoolboy from Dharmasoka Vidyalaya, Ambalangoda, Semage has been exhibiting his works regularly both here and abroad. 

He excelled in Buddhist themes and was the first Sri Lankan painter to be invited to create murals for Buddhist temples abroad. His paintings adorn the walls of the Buddhist Viharas in Kuala Lumpur and Penang and the Mangala Vihara, Singapore.

His speciality has been creating thematic murals for pandals. We have seen these regularly at Temple Trees during Vesak in the early eighties and at all Gamudawas from 1982 to 1992. He also erected a jumbo Buddhist pandal at the entrance to the Asia Pacific Exhibition at Fukuoka, Japan. Sri Lankan pavilions at foreign exhibitions regularly displayed Makara Toranas and other traditional art objects designed by him. 

His Buddhist paintings have won awards starting with 'The Birth of the Buddha' displayed at the Dina Dina exhibition in the mid-sixties. The first ever exhibition of paintings on mats was held by him at the Samudra Gallery in 1972. 

He was honoured with the title 'Kalasuri' in 1990. 

His book titled 'Ridma Rekha' released two years ago depicts decorative motifs based on traditional motifs. 

An artist with his own style, Semage well deserves the honour of being felicitated for his creative efforts for over four decades.

In touch with our heritage
Many of us may not have heard of the talents of Andrew Nicholl, a successful English landscape painter who came to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1846 to accept an appointment as "teacher of landscape painting, scientific drawing and design" at the Colombo Academy which later became Royal College. Travelling extensively in the island, he made sketches of Sri Lanka's "ruined temples, colossal statues, tanks, dagobas etc:" 

A selection of his sketches appear in this year's Sri Lanka Telecom calendar conceptualised and designed by 'The Design Master' on the theme 'Keeping in touch with our heritage'. They have been picked from the Andrew Nicholl Collection of 28 paintings at the Colombo Museum which portray vividly the 19th century Sri Lanka. 

The tastefully done calendar is a collector's item presenting a slice of our history and heritage through a journey back in time. 

The 'missing' Krishna
That incomparable 'Ghattam' man, Krishna had been missing since his excellent performance in Triveni Night nearly three months ago. That night he vowed not to play again in Sri Lanka and we all wished it was just a threat since he was feeling so tired and fagged out having had to run up and down for days on end, spending sleepless nights trying to get the show through.

Looking for him we learnt that he is away in Kerala on a two-month study on drum traditions in that part of India. He has always been a student of music and this stint would help him to sharpen his skills a bit more. Before moving over there, Krishna had the distinction of being invited to play in a concert organised by Sony, in India.
Carried along on a flow of memory


Book review

Asamath vuvakuge charya satahan-by Asoka Colombage. Reviewed by Padmal de Silva

This new book by Asoka Colombage, an established writer whose first collection of short stories was published in 1965, consists of three pieces. The first two are short stories, and the third - the longest spanning over 50 pages - is described as the first part of a semi-autobiography. It is this work that has given the book its title which may be roughly translated as 'The Life Sketch of One Who Failed'.

The two short stories are different from each other. The first is the story of a young man whose life and attitudes undergo a drastic change, through religion, as seen through the eyes of a close friend. The second is an allegorical story on an age-old theme, the yearning for rejuvenation and its futility. Both stories bear the hallmark of Colombage's writing - soft yet lively prose, convincing dialogue, and perceptive observation.

These general comments also apply, naturally, to the main piece. This is the story of the narrator's - thus the author's - life, up to the end of his childhood and youth. It is not clear why the story is described as semi-autobiographical; perhaps the author wanted to have more freedom than an autobiography would allow; perhaps he wanted to allow for lapses and gaps in memory which would be inevitable in an endeavour such as this. 

The writer gives an account of the setting, the geographical place and the immediate environment - and of his life as a child, adolescent and young adult. The early years, including the relationship with his parents and the woman who looked after him, are described in a lively way. 

The 'failure' referred to in the title arises from the lack of success at a selection exam at the end of primary school years. The abilities of the author took him in the direction of creative writing, the arts, all of which obviously contributed to nullify the legacy of failure.

I was moved by the story. It is an effective, powerful piece, without any visible effort at being effective. The author lets the story flow, the sequences dictated by memory and association rather than chronological ordering, and the reader is carried along. Some of the portraits are wonderful. The author's father himself a wellknown public figure, emerges as a wise, caring, relaxed man, always wanting his son to be well and cared for, but never trying to impose his own will on him. Fittingly, the final sentence of the book describes, again effortlessly, the father's unostentatious but genuine happiness when the author gains success at the university entrance examination.

A brief review cannot do justice to a piece of writing like this. This is an unusually good autobiography - or semi-autobiography as the author calls it, excellent both for its prose and style, and for the way characters and events are allowed to emerge naturally. My only quibble is its publication as a piece in a book which also contains two other stories. Published on its own, despite its brevity, would in any view have been a better option. But then again, presenting this autobiography in this almost incidental manner is typical of the author - modest and unassuming, and never arrogant despite his enormous and well-proven talent.

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