By Smriti Daniel
They say that war is an ugly thing; they say it brings to the fore
all that is cruel, inhuman and ruthless in us and yet, war has been
(and can still be) the event that offers us the opportunity to discover
the compassion, courage and understanding that can unite us.
juxtaposition of such seeming opposites is presented in the vivid
and somewhat disturbing artistic visions of T. Shanaathanan. His
works have that intriguing ability to take the good, the bad and
the ugly and lay them out for his viewers so that they may inspect
and reflect and somehow in the process find their own answers.
Shanaathanan himself, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be
had in the very process of creating, which he says helps him to
“figurate his ideas”. This is one of the reasons, he
says, that he almost invariably makes use of mixed media as that
results in a more dynamic whole with all the various elements interacting
and enhancing each other. “In a way, it helps me to re-invent
my childhood games,” he says smiling.
in Jaffna in 1969, Shanaathanan went on to study painting at Delhi
University in India, where after completing his Bachelor’s
degree in Fine Arts (BFA), he went onto to receive his Masters (MFA)
in the same field.
Interestingly, while his paintings are quite aesthetically pleasing,
that is not the impression one takes away after a viewing.
is instead the feeling of having had a vision, one in which gaping
rents in the land are held together by stitches and where a man
does not know where he belongs and so is in many different places
at the same time. The paintings that are to be on display at The
Shanaathanan Exhibition at the Gallery Café – open
to the public from January 6 to 28– are mostly in this vein,
giving the viewer a three dimensional experience.
work in this showing is brutal in some ways, not allowing one to
hide from the apparitions it offers up. Its impact is further heightened
by the fact that though his work is replete with turmoil and emotion,
it is disciplined and contained within the lines on his canvas.
“It has been about locating myself,” says Shanaathanan,
further explaining that “maps have become a centre of my creativity”.
This can be seen clearly in works such as “Dislocation”,
“Legends” and “Grandpa’s Story”.
the war, carrying a map was prohibited,” explains the artist,
adding that after the ceasefire was signed the maps became a “symbol”
of change. The security situation having changed, the official geography
of the country somewhat resulted in there being “places that
exist only in maps,” he says, “maps have become like
museum pieces”. For Shanaathanan, the challenge has been in
“rethinking maps”, “extending this reading in
terms of society” – examining relationships, maps, and
how the two have layers and collages of overlapping meanings.
paintings deal with issues of identity,” says Shanaathanan.
Take for instance, he explains, those who have been forced to leave
certain areas due to the conflict are now in the position where
their “dislocation has become a location”. “People
live in their memories,” he adds. “It is not a black
and white issue.” Shanaathanan struggles to convey these ideas
which he describes as “metaphorical” and “symbolic”.
efforts obviously strike a chord with many. “Since his first
exhibition his work has developed…it has become more sensitive,”
says Shanth Fernando, the name behind the Paradise Road group, who
is himself a Shanaathanan enthusiast and avid collector. Mr. Fernando
goes on to explain, however, that Shanaathanan’s signature
style remains distinct.
a Lecturer in Art History in the Department of Fine Arts in the
University of Jaffna (a department which he helped to establish),
Shanaathanan was the recipient of the 2005 Kalasuri Award, an honour
bestowed upon him by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. His
work has been exhibited in London, Madras, New Delhi, Paris, and
Colombo itself, while collections of his work are to be found in
France, England, Germany, Canada, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Shanaathanan is credited with having played a fundamental role in
re-establishing artistic production in post-war Jaffna, and has
done much to promote artistic links between the Jaffna province
and the south of the island.
By Dhananjani Silva
In Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Lankan-born Saman Leema
Perera’s work has adorned many homes. Her paintings, table
tops, lanterns, window and door panes all in stained glass are much
sought after, while her posters and greeting cards are snapped up
self-taught, Saman Leema is a versatile artist who is equally at
home with watercolours, oil on canvas and stained glass paintings.
What is significant is her ability to capture nature in its pristine
beauty through her work.
believe that my environment has given me the energy to be an artist.
Without nature, a person cannot be an artist. However, I got closer
to nature after I returned to Sri Lanka and I have noticed a remarkable
change in the style of my painting as well,” she said. Explaining
the technique of doing mosaic on glass, Saman Leema says it is time
consuming. Once the sketch and the outlines are done, the paint
is applied drop by drop onto the surface.
are first drawn on paper, mosaic style in segmented drawings and
painted to establish the desired colours. They are then cut out
and taped to the underside of the glass. This is followed by a long
procedure to reach the end result, which is a colourful stained
glass design,” she explained.
These glass paintings are so versatile that she has even made them
into coffee tables and glass panes for windows.
back in Sri Lanka, Saman Leema has opened her own art gallery -
‘The Island Art Gallery’ in Pahalawatta Medawathugoda,
Yakkala, which showcases many of her works including one she had
done of Britain’s Prince Charles. The Island, is open to any
artist from anywhere in the world to display their work free of
charge, she says.
prints in Colombo
Alliance Francaise de Colombo is now holding a lithographic exhibition
of engravings selected by the Louvre Museum, at the National Museum
in Colombo of works by Edouard Denis Baldus, Claude Mellan, Robert
Morris, Franz Gertsch etc. The works will be exhibited till January
exhibition "Chalcograpies du Louvre" travels around the
world. It was exhibited in Korea in October, in Taiwan in November
and will move on to Pakistan after Sri Lanka. The Chalcography collection
of the Louvre, contains all prints made from plates held by the
is a craft, a trade - as the 19th century academicians would have
it - whose exemplary nature is inextricably linked to the traditions
of the great masters.
just as Mellan, Daubigny, Audran of Demarteau continually invented
their own language to interpret the great masters, the contemporary
artists who, for the Chalcographs of the Louvre, have engaged in
their own dialogue with the classical heritage entrusted to the
museum, have asserted the same need for a new language.
poetry in motion
The Book Buzz series, an initiative of the British Council offers
audiences the opportunity to get a taste of the best contemporary
UK talent. On Monday, January 9, the British Council garden will
come alive with the powerful vocals of performance poet Zena Edwards.
uses techniques like song, music and dance to perform her poetry
as against merely reading it. She is also a musician and workshop
leader who works in schools and arts colleges across the world facilitating
self-devised workshops in creative writing, performance poetry and
workshops and performances provide a platform for creative self-expression
and encourage the development of style and originality providing
performance skills for young people who wish to explore and improve
their own creative flair.
inspiration through personal experiences and/or using external resources
such as music and instruments, images, debate, the use of literary
and multimedia materials (paintings, sculptures, photographs etc.,
she also encourages children and adults to be confident about their
performance, teaching them about rhythm, tone tension, release projection,
Zena will be the first artiste to be featured in the Book Buzz series
for 2006 and will perform in the British Council garden at 5.30
p.m. on Monday, January 9. This event is open to all children and
adults on a first-come-first-served basis.