Military might in clay and wire
By Lakmali Gunawardene
Tissa de Alwis is a leading Sri Lankan sculptor in clay and wire. An activity in modelling plasticene into forms, in a child's fantasy world in nursery school, developed into an occupation with modelling clay, recreating forms inspired by cartoon characters and figures of the wild west that a boy grows up with in an urbanized milieu. Encouraged by his parents and mostly by his mother, a dance teacher, he showed a prodigious talent at a young age. In recognition of his gift, the Ceylon Society of Arts chose his work for exhibition in 1963, when Tissa was only 7 years old.

Moving onto the more sophisticated media of potter's and ceramic clay in the early seventies, Tissa retained his fascination for plasticene, "Probably because of the ability to mix colours here and now, like with painting, rather than doing it in stages, and the fact that you can juxtapose two or more objects to make a new picture."

Working with the Ceylon Ceramic Corporation as a modeller and studio potter, he widened the sculptor's scope in mastering his art when he exhibited in ceramic art in the late seventies. His involvement in creating models of soldiers on horseback for a film set, brought the sculptors' fascination of horses as 'beasts of war" into focus. His resulting group of these armed men on horseback was exhibited in the mid eighties, at the American Centre in Kandy and Colombo. These figures were the early beginnings of Tissa de Alwis's 'sets' as were the exquisitely sculptured miniature horses interspersed in his display of military sets.

Sharminie Perera, the curator of the exhibition "New Approaches in Contemporary Sri Lankan Art" commenting on Tissas's art said, "He places a greater emphasis on the human component of war". His sets, or assemblages, are colour coded according to time frames and context, displaying the human form in various stances of military action (occupation). A set of military figures in green depict modern military prototypes, and one in blue represents 17th to the 19th Century European and Napoleonic. A red set in the same time frame creates the Middle Eastern grouping, and a yellow set the Sri Lankan. These miniature human figures are given an added sense of fantasized reality in their ominous groupings.

The sculptor moves his exhibiting space in Calderesque style to the air above these earthbound figures, to a set of flying military machines, including terracotta helicopters and fighter jets, set into light relief by a "Sky Rider" - a flying machine moulded in wire carrying a colourful rider.

The wire sculptures, like the wonderfully ethereal dragon which the artist calls his "doodles in wire" remind us that there is more to this artist's imagination than the preoccupation with the military, which he himself points out is a reflection of the times and place he lives in. The wire sculptures, and the miniature wild horses juxtaposed and interspersed in his sets, draw heightened interest because of the military quality of the sets.

Tissa de Alwis's work was included in the exhibition, "Objects that Enhance Architecture", organized by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust. He also exhibited at the first Fukuoka Art Triennial in Japan, and the Third Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.

In 2002 Tissa exhibited his work at the "Art South Asia" exhibition at the Liverpool University Art Gallery in Liverpool, England. He was also the Sri Lankan participant at 'Upstream', the international art event held to commemorate 400 years of the V.O.C. held in Amsterdam and Hoorn, the Netherlands.

He has taught in workshops organized by Sarungalei Walakulai and Hope for Children working with displaced children and teachers of disabled children, and has also run a workshop in clay art at the British Council Young Learners Centre. Teaching has also taken Tissa to Australia, where he taught at the Queensland University of Technology for a semester. As the sculptor himself states, teaching complements and energises his work.

Colours of North-East tell their own stories
By N. Dilshath Banu
Kamala Vasuki and Rushandan Kiko from Jaffna and Batticaloa exhibited their paintings at the Harold Peiris Art Gallery of the Lionel Wendt from July 16 -18. Hailing from Vembadi Girls' High School in Jaffna, Vasuki studied science in the University of Jaffna. But her love for art, made her curtail her studies and go back to her desired field. Her paintings mainly portray women. "I am a feminist. Sometimes, I paint a woman's struggle to climb the ladder of success. I try to portray the anger, frustration and discrimination a woman faces," she says.

Apart from working as a Child Protection Assistant for UNICEF in Jaffna, she has participated in many projects on women’s activities. Since 1999, she has been the coordinator of Suriya Women's Development Centre in Batticaloa.

Kiko's works contain paintings of Lord Ganesh, the Hindu god of knowledge. "I like to paint Lord Ganesh, because his body can be used to reflect different characteristics."

He has used traditional dark colours with Western structures, which is new to the audience. "Many Sinhala artists use light colours so I think I have brought out a different view to the Colombo audience,” he says.

Fitting into a creative kitchen
By Anuradha Samarajiva
Everywhere I turned, I saw bowls, cups, vases, forks, saltshakers, and more. The Everything But.. exhibition of contemporary British kitchenware lived up to its name: it had pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.

The exhibition, organized by the British Council, was small. It just filled one room of the Barefoot Gallery with room to spare. But what it lacked in size it made up in variety. The pieces ranged from quirky snooker ball-salt and peppershakers to aloof and elegant oriental ceramics. Along with all the different types of kitchenware, there were countless moods and styles on display.

Many of the pieces in white ceramic were functional and included cups and plates with simple clean lines. Bodo Sperlein's Oval Lip Tray sounded much more exotic than it looked, but the opposite was true with Dai Rees' Feather Quill and Silver Bowl. A large elegant bowl with a centre made of silver and long white quills radiating out from it to form the sides, was the most striking piece I saw.

Bert Marsh also turned to nature with his Large Burr Ash Bowl, which made use of the knots and imperfections of wood to create a uniquely patterned bowl. Hanne Rysgaard's Stacking Boxes and Bowls were more traditionally English with floral patterns. Walter Keeler's Polychrome Stoneware Teapot had a more imaginative flower theme; his dark green teapot with orange thorns jutting out looked like a sombre rose.

William Warren's Fold Cutlery Set put a completely different spin on traditional cutlery. The whimsical forks and spoons looked like they'd been creatively twisted, but the knives just looked impractical. Sue Pryke didn't reinvent the lemon squeezer, but her Earthenware Lemon Squeezers in bright sunny colours added a refreshing Mediterranean splash to the exhibit.

Fittingly, the pieces were arranged on cupboards and tables that could have come straight from the kitchen. Unfortunately, some of them were arranged near the ground or in the back of a cupboard where they couldn't be seen easily. The constant "Do Not Touch" signs weren't very pleasing to the eye, but the delicate ceramics called for it. They're not allowed to venture too close, but visitors can get the particulars of each piece and its creator from the descriptions on the walls.

Even without the details, a glimpse from the entrance is enough to realize what a range of ideas this exhibit carries. Even with a limited selection of pieces, it inspires visitors with the idea that a utilitarian kitchen can still be a beautiful place. Everything But... is on display at the Barefoot Gallery until August 1.

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