At a glance: Colomboscope 2019 

1 February 2019 - 162   - 0

From a distance the Rio Complex appears to be an abandoned, derelict building. The windows no longer have glass, weeds and creepers have found their way into the walls and have permanently settled, there is no sign of life or activity. No one would guess that it holds a large collection of art from international and local artists as part of one of the largest art festivals in Colombo. It may seem unusual, but the Rio Complex is the main venue for Colomboscope 2019.

Colomboscope is an interdisciplinary arts festival with free public access,  held at the Rio Complex, Barefoot Gallery and B52 - Grand Oriental Hotel. It began on January  25 and ended yesterday (Jan 31).  The works focus on the sea but every piece is made personal and unique through the artist’s  personal experience and inspirations. 

Colomboscope 2019 explores the changing nature of the sea and the adverse effect human behaviour has had on its ecosystem through visual art, performance art, sculpture, olfactory art  and tapestry. The festival hosts artworks from well known international artists such as The Many Headed Hydra which is a shape-shifting collective interested in mythology and Henry Tan & Partners which is an art collective based in Bangkok. Prominent local artists such as Dominic Sansoni who is a professional photographer and Fabienne Francotte who creates anonymous portraits of people she meets, are also featured. 

Most of the artwork can be seen at the Rio Complex, a seven storey building that used to house a cinema indaysa gone by. There is no lift available and it may be difficult for people of limited mobility to access the higher floors. The abandoned cinema provides a unique atmosphere that you would not find at art galleries and contributes to the uniqueness of Colomboscope. There is a large amount of artwork on each floor to be viewed, each one providing a different perspective on the theme. Occasionally, it is possible to meet the artists and learn about the inspiration for the artwork as well as how they created it. This could be a valuable experience for art enthusiasts and budding artists. 

At Colomboscope you will encounter drawings such as Unveiled Barriers by Nilani Joseph which has been influenced by her displacement from her village Vasavilan in Jaffna to Vavuniya during the war. Nilani uses fences to convey ideas of displacement, resettlement and danger. She says with regard to the sea ‘ invisible lines are the barriers’  that can lead to conflict as it has with the sea cucumber fisherman from Jaffna and India. Similarly, it is possible to see dynamic analog animations from artist Firi Rahman whose art is inspired by the changes he has seen in Galle Face over the years or performance art in the form of a video from artist Amaara Raheem who is also a choreographer. 

Colomboscope offers the opportunity to see and experience art from many talented artists in many different mediums. There are not many art festivals of this quality and on this scale in Sri Lanka. 


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