Far from wooden
By Kavindi Abeysekera
The wood murals reveal a story of skill and devotion. Unbelievably lively, their appeal goes beyond the sense of vision in its three-dimensional nature.
Rathnasena Kodikara, chief project officer of art at the Aesthetic Department of the National Institute of Education is the creator of these murals. Having received his elementary and secondary education at St. Mary’s College in Avissawella and Stafford College, Colombo, he entered the Heywood College of Fine Arts to further his artistic ambitions. After 15 years of government service as an art instructor he left the country to work as a senior art instructor in both Nigeria and Oman.

This is his first wood mural exhibition. He has had nine other one-man art exhibitions, exhibiting oil-paintings and has also won various awards at all-island art competitions. “As an artist I am not a realist, a modernist or an abstract painter. What I am aiming at is the semi-abstract, the kind of art that anyone can comprehend easily,” he says.

Rathnasena is inspired by the temple paintings of Sri Lanka and what he sees as the rhythm embedded in them. But he is unique in the way he transforms that rhythm to modern murals. Through these wood murals he tries to infuse beauty and a religious flavour into the life of modern man. His exhibition of wood murals will be held from August 25-29 at the Alliance Francaise Colombo from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. each day.

Canvas of young strokes
By Randima Attygalle
“The best of Kala Pola talent and that of young contemporaries will be showcased at Nawa Kalakaruwo,” says Sita de Silva, Secretary to the Board of Trustees of The George Keyt Foundation. According to Mrs. de Silva, “selected art” will be the key feature of Nawa Kalakaruwo which will display the creativity of the emerging young artists from all corners of Sri Lanka, in keeping with the vision of the Foundation– “giving opportunity” for art.

A joint artistic venture of the George Keyt Foundation and Ceylon Tobacco Company Limited, Nawa Kalakaruwo will be open to the public at the Harold Peiris Gallery of Lionel Wendt from August 23 to 28 from 10 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
Deviating from Kala Pola’s unrestricted and ‘unjudged’ mediums of art, all work displayed at Nawa Kalakaruwo will be selected pieces picked by a panel of judges. Commenting on this year’s Nawa Kalakaruwo, Mrs. de Silva further says, “Nawa Kalakaruwo will be a stepping stone to International Artists’ Camp which is to be held later this year.”

A fusion of abstract and realism is the medium of Priyantha Udagedera who views Nawa Kalakaruwo as a platform which ‘unearths new talent’, adhering to certain standards of art at the same time. ‘Lovers’ will sigh on the canvas of Basil Cooray who has employed masses of orange, blue and red acrylic.

“Although selected art is the predominant feature of Nawa Kalakaruwo, the base is that of a free and unrestricted mode,” says Basil who feels that selecting of talent for Nawa Kalakaruwo from Kala Pola is a positive gesture as it is a testing ground where a large number of professionals and amateurs display their work.

Odyssey of the Odissi dancers
By Smriti Daniel
Once upon a time, in the verdant land of Orissa in Southern India, there resided a number of women of exceptional talent. They were dancers of unsurpassed grace and were to be found performing in the dozens of beautiful temples that dotted the countryside. They would on occasion be found plying their art in the courts of kings but most often they were Devadasis – dancing girls dedicated to the temple and in the service of the gods.

Those were glorious times, when vitality, grace and sheer beauty were found embodied in these women. They lived honourable lives, keeping themselves chaste and pure as they considered themselves wedded to their gods. But inevitably hard times came and their patronage failed. The dancing girls and their art slowly sank into oblivion.

But all was not lost, for a new breed of dancers emerged. Little boys, so young and well made up that they could be mistaken for women, carried on the traditions of Odissi. This school of Odissi dancing came to be known as Gotipau – single boy. Odissi which as one of the oldest surviving forms of dance could trace its roots all the way back to the 1st century, was almost entirely eradicated in India by the British colonialists and their anti-nautch (dance) sentiments. Gotipau alone survived and then too only because it was danced by males.

Devadasis, once the brides of the gods were now considered no better than comman prostitutes. With no means of sustenance, the Gotipau dancers took to the road with theatre companies, dancing in the interludes between dramatic acts. Odissi had moved out of the temples and onto the stage, and in the process had lost most of its respectability.

The coming of independence to India was to dramatically alter this sorry state of affairs, especially as many considered such artistic traditions crucial to India’s new identity. By 1955, girls from respectable homes were learning Odissi and it was once more considered a ‘classical’ dance.

The characteristic triple bend pose or “tribhangi”, requiring three bends at the neck, waist and knee reflecting exquisite grace and flexibility was once more seen in dance halls across the nation. Today Odissi is an internationally well known school of dancing with many of its exponents winning international acclaim. One such artiste is Smt. Ranjana Gauhar - the winner of several awards including the prestigious Padmashree awarded by the President of India, the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini award as well as the Pali Bani award.

Apart from her intense training in Odissi, Smt. Gauhar is also an accomplished ‘Kathak’ and ‘Manipuri’ dancer and has also experimented extensively with ‘Chhau’. This fascinating artiste is a Philosophy graduate and a holder of a Masters in English Literature, in addition to being a film maker, teacher, choreographer, actress and painter. She has travelled the world, making numerous international audiences fans of her Odissi dance.

Smt. Gauhar, who was to perform along with her troupe, in Colombo and Kandy as a part of the festivities planned for India’s 59th independence day celebrations, cancelled both events on learning of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s assassination.

Reaping a harvest of tradition and imagination
By Kavindi Abeysekera
“It is paddy-farming or rather the culture associated with it that inspired me and provided the backdrop essential for my paintings. The signs and the colours I have basically utilized have their roots in that culture, which I am undeniably attached to,” said the young artist who is busy preparing for his forthcoming exhibition at the Paradise Road Galleries from August 24 to Sept. 14.

In a way this experimental exhibition is an expansion of his university thesis- agricultural life through the eyes of an artist. Lasantha Chandana Kumara held a solo art exhibition at Dehiattakandiya and a joint exhibition at the Havelock Bungalow Art Gallery, but this is his first solo show. After finishing his O’Ls at the Lihiniyagama Maha Vidyalaya Lasantha entered the Dehiattakandiya Central College, where a teacher Wijaya Hettiarachchi inspired him to enter the university to study art.

At the Heywood College of Fine Arts in Colombo he found sufficient nourishment for his artistic talent. At present Kumara is the art instructor at the Zonal Education Office in Dehiattakandiya.

The signs that he incorporates into his paintings-“Alusan” or “ash signs”-are a part of an almost moribund tradition attached to the farming community. According to this tradition the farmers draw signs on the threshing-floor to get protection. Kumara fuses these signs- sickle, bow, cow, drums etc- along with his own imagination. He even uses shapes and designs found at the paddy fields in his paintings. Thus it is not just novel in every way but both modern and experimental art that Kumara presents us.

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