‘There’s more than just a picture in a work of art’

By Ishani Ranasinghe
"Art gives one the opportunity to think deeply. It is more than a picture being pleasing to the eye, it's about the intelligence it brings out," says Priyantha Udagedara, an undergraduate of the Institute of Aesthetics in the University of Kelaniya.

When he first started painting, his work was based on the lifestyles of the people of his hometown Kandy. The hill capital is a place where people's thinking is different, he says. After he began studying art, "there was a change in my paintings. I got ideas and inspiration from the study of artists and the history of art."

He feels that contemporary artists have more freedom these days to express what they feel. "They are more open to new ideas and use any medium they prefer." Influenced by the likes of Jagath Weerasinghe and Chandragupta Thenuwara, Priyantha also admires the works of German artist Clement. "His works were basically based on the everyday lifestyles of the people," he comments.

Having held his first solo exhibition in Kandy in 1998, Priyantha has also been in many group exhibitions.

An exhibition of Priyantha's paintings on the themes of landscape and figures will be held at the Paradise Road Galleries from June 4 to 24.

Intimate beauty and dark secrets

Afdhel Aziz releases his first book, China Bay Blues

Enter a world of heat lightning and jazz, old radios and secret songs, the conversations that lovers have in the moments before dawn.

'China Bay Blues' is the debut collection of poetry and short stories from former Sunday Times journalist Afdhel Aziz. Drawing on the rich imagery of Sri Lanka, Afdhel creates poems of simple intimacy.

The book is divided into two sections. 'Noon Shadows' features poems about Sri Lanka, exploring the lush intimacy of the country, as well as its darker side. There are meditations on nationality, patriotism, the ethnic conflict - as well as more sensuous pieces that dwell on the deep and abiding fascination that the writer has for his country.

'Secret Gardens' is a more intimate memoir that traces the arc of a fictional relationship through the use of lyrical love poetry. Inspired by the work of Pablo Neruda and William Carlos Williams, the poems speak of the birth of attraction, the flowering into passion, the difficulties that weigh down on lovers, and the serenity that comes with true companionship.

Finally, the collection ends with two short pieces; 'The House on the Corner', an experimental verse poem, and 'Happiness', a bleaker piece of prose that is in deliberate counterpart to the lyrical lightness that pervades the majority of the collection.

The poems are beautifully complemented by the work of Sri Lankan born photographer Shehani Fernando, who is based in London. Her black and white images act as a visual counterpart to the poetry, and eye for telling detail and her ability to capture that perfect moment is well documented in this series of her work. From the serenity of schoolboys meditating in front of a giant Buddha statue to the swing of a jazz saxophonist in full flow, Shehani has the gift for portraying the unusual and quotidian in strange and unexpected ways.

Afdhel Aziz was a journalist, radio DJ, TV producer and writer in Colombo for many years. After graduating from King's College, London with a degree in English Literature, he returned to Sri Lanka to work in the media industry. Writing as 'The Chunky Monkey' in The Sunday Times he reported on Colombo's cultural life, as well as writing weekly columns on film and music.

At TNL Radio, he did a stint as the voice of 'The Morning Zoo' and also co-hosted the groundbreaking Friday night ''The Completely Different Radio Show". At YATV, he was the writer and presenter on shows such as 'YA Café' and 'YA News'. He also contributed to 'Explore Sri Lanka' and 'Serendib'.

After leaving Sri Lanka to do a Masters in Media at the London School of Economics, he went on to a career at Procter and Gamble UK, working on Max Factor and Vidal Sassoon. After getting bored with flogging hair and make up products, he decided to return to his first love, media. He now works for leading UK media company EMAP, where he is the Brand Manager on Kiss 100, London's market leading station for young people, and Mixmag , the bible of dance music and club culture.
He is currently working on his second book, a novel.

Shehani Fernando now works for the BBC covering the arts in London.
She studied history at Cambridge University and freelanced for a number of independent TV documentary production companies.

'China Bay Blues' is the first offering from a new publishing imprint, Serendipity Unlimited which is dedicated to discovering and promoting new Sri Lankan writing talent.

For more information on China Bay Blues, or

Colours of the abstract

By Esther Williams
It was quite by chance that Thanuja Krishnaratna stumbled on her talent. When the market research firm that she worked in as an analyst moved into a new building, her colleagues there looked around desperately for something to cover an unwanted door.
An idea took shape in Thanuja's mind and she volunteered to do something prior to the inauguration. What turned out was a painting on raw fabric with an eye-catching combination of colours, giving brightness and colour to a room that was otherwise sober. It drew much appreciation from all who entered there.

Surprisingly, Thanuja who now works for Ceylinco Insurance has a special degree in Mathematics from the University of Colombo and is simultaneously studying actuarial science to be an 'Actuary' - one who models and predicts the future of financial businesses' like banks and insurance companies, based on past statistical information. Apparently, Sri Lanka has only 4-5 actuaries at the moment.

"I love maths," she laughs, proving wrong all those who thought that one couldn't have an artistic and a (mathematical) logically thinking mind. Looking at her vibrant collection of pictures that are semi-abstract, expertly shaded in rich colours with a hint of metallic, one cannot but admire the work of a beginner.

Thanuja shows a preference for large pieces in which she uses Kithul twigs and pieces of jute, the result - an attractive ethnic effect. With the fabric in front of her, she sets about her work by visualizing a picture, attempting a novel idea and expertly balances the colours. "I try to do something different," she smiles.

At her exhibition on June 8 and 9 at the Art Gallery, Thanuja will display over 30 paintings.

Charitha Hathak to entertain you once again

Charitha Hathak, Wilson Gunaratne's hilarious comedy goes on the boards on June 8 at the Bishop's College auditorium at 6.30 p.m.

The play is being staged by the Rotary Club of Colombo, Mid City to raise funds for renovations to the Maternity Hospital, in Colombo 2.

Charitha Hathak has been applauded by viewers across the country for its political satire.

Wilson Gunaratne portrays seven different roles in the play. The cast includes Ramanee Fonseka, Susil Perera and Premaratne Tennakoon.

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