Weaving a colourful theory
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s concepts of colour will unfold at a fabric exhibition by Chandramani Thenuwara
By Ayesha Inoon
A magnificent realm of colour was unveiled in the seventeenth century by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the greatest poet, playwright, novelist and essayist in the German language. Chandramani Thenuwara, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Moratuwa, incorporates the essence of Goethe’s thoughts on colour in her unique pieces of handwoven fabrics which will be on display at an exhibition at the Goethe Institute between January 27 and February 11.

Goethe reformulated the theory of colour in an entirely new way. Apart from Newton’s explanation of colour as a physical problem, he realised that what we see of an object depends upon the object, the lighting and our perception. His experiments with prisms and other optical devices helped to support his view that light and dark were inseparable and that colours are the product of their interplay.

Ms Thenuwara was first introduced to this fascinating study by Professor Senguptha of the Indian Institute of Technology when she began lecturing at the Open University of Sri Lanka, to students of textile technology. Having been trained in the methodology of education through art, which was to use art as a medium of expression to develop one’s personality and sensitivity to the surrounding world, such formal theories were new to her. Embarking on a voyage of discovery, she decided to weave the concepts she was to teach, to make them concrete to her students.

At the time, she was working as a Textile Designer for the Department of Small Industries’ design centre, which gave her access to the most skilful of weavers, as well as the freedom to explore her creativity to its fullest potential, which she feels would not have been possible if she had been in the market oriented private sector.

She examined the works of Johannes Itten, a German scholar who studied the master works of Goethe and developed a basic course on form and colour for the famous Bauhaus founded by Walter Gropius in the 1920s. One of the chief features of Itten’s contribution is considered to be the study of colour contrast.

The double weave medium weight fabric structures, which form the core of this exhibition, are from her personal collection. The skilfully woven pieces are representations of the theory, with the spectrum colours, or the colours of the rainbow, outlined in white or black, with the opposite effect on the other side of the fabric. The fabrics also show what happens to our perception when the proportions of black and white change. Other creations include fabrics with the so called ‘cool colours’-purple, blue and green, fabrics with the ‘warm colours’-red, orange and yellow, and black and white on reversible fabrics, reminding us of Goethe’s famous statement, “We may learn about our world as we may, but it will always have a day and night side.” This theme of spectrum colour contrast with black and white has also been extended by her to lightweight fabrics such as sarees and dress fabrics.

At a time when the glamour and lucrativeness of fashion designing has attracted many students, Ms. Thenuwara feels that it is a great pity that there is no textile designing degree course available in Sri Lanka. “A good job is defined by the personal satisfaction and growth it provides rather than the money you make. For a designer freedom to do what you want is more important than money, and young people in the field must get their priorities straight.”

She hopes that the exhibition will lead more people to discover the wonderful world revealed by Goethe and inspire students of arts as well as sciences to work with colour. With all the technological advances, especially Information Technology, this world can be discovered in so many more fascinating ways, she says.

This programme of the German Cultural Centre of Colombo, sets out on one side to illustrate Goethe’s large interest in the natural sciences and particularly his work on colours by screening a 52 minute documentary titled ‘The Light, the Dark and the Colours’, and on the other side to present Chandramani Thenuwara’s unique works of art with the application of Goethe’s theories. A presentation CD will be available in the library.

Strokes of 4 generations
A family exhibition featuring the work of four generations of the Fernando family from Moratuwa will be held at the West Hall of the National Art Gallery on January 28 and 29.

The exhibition is being held in memory of the late Anne Austilo Martino (nee Fernando) who excelled in art and was trained in oils and pen painting on glass.

Her talent was inherited by her daughters Ingrid Fernando, Chithranganie Fernando and Jean Boulton, her grandchildren Dr. Lakmal Peiris, Shalini Wilson, Heshan Fernando, Susith Perera, Dilshani Perera, Michelle Warne, Niroshini Silva, Georgina Warne and Joanna Martino-Boulton and great grand-children Anjali Fernando, Shovana Perera, Kamaal Williams and Serene Williams. There will be a variety of work from water colours to photography, sugar craft and wood carvings on display.

Dr. Lakmal Peiris, a professional guitarist will provide music at the exhibition.

Kishani strikes high at Covent Garden
By Varunika Hapuwatte Ruwanpura

As Pamina with Sarastro in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’

Soprano Kishani Jayasinghe has carved a niche in a field that few Sri Lankans have ventured into, winning a coveted contract with the Royal Opera House in Britain.

She is one of four singers chosen from over 500 international applicants for the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme run by the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.

On a brief holiday in Melbourne in December 2005, she spoke of her excitement at being selected as the soprano for the programme. “Applicants flew in from all over the world,” she said. Thirteen finalists were picked after a rigorous auditioning process and of these, only four were chosen for the Jette Parker programme, one of each voice type.

Kishani is the first South Asian on the programme and probably the first Sri Lankan ever to be contracted to sing opera at Covent Garden. The contract is for a two-year period beginning in September 2006.

This is the most recent of Kishani’s long list of musical achievements. She previously won scholarships from the Royal Academy of Music in Britain in 2002 to 2006, the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and the Wingate Foundation to name a few. In addition she has also won many prizes for her singing and acting ability both in Sri Lanka and Britain such as the Royal Academy of Music – Silver Medal for Musical Excellence (UK) in 2005 and the Isabel Jay Operatic Prize - Royal Academy of Music (UK) in 2004.

Mary Anne David, one of Sri Lanka’s most respected and well known choral directresses was Kishani’s first singing teacher. “Your initial training is everything,” Kishani stressed, saying her early training with Ms. David had given her a grounding in vocal skills. So much so that her vocal coaches at the Royal Academy had commented on the quality of her early musical training.

2005 was an exciting and eventful year for this young musician. Besides winning this contract, she also performed at recitals at St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Chichester Festival and at the Barbican Hall, all in Britain where she is based. In November 2005 she was invited to sing at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - Gala Concert at the opera house in Malta.

Kishani is obviously an exceptionally gifted young lady. But talent alone is not enough. As I watched her talk about what she hopes to achieve this year, it became clear how focused and goal-oriented she was. This year looks even more eventful as she takes up her training at the Royal Opera House. “The image of the opera singer is changing,” she explained. “Singing skills alone do not make a successful opera singer anymore.”

Kishani and the other young singers will be set a rigorous training schedule that focuses on improving their physical stamina and dramatic skills as well as singing ability. “We’ll only be given about four weeks off,” she smiles. Opera, after all, is as much about acting as it is about singing. Combined training sessions with the Royal Ballet will also be part of their personal development.

At the end of the two year contract, it is hoped that the programme participants will have gained a robust training that enables them to secure a position as the “principal artist within an international opera house”, Kishani said.

Despite her schedule being very tight for this year, she hopes to do a solo concert in Sri Lanka next summer.

She also has a performance as the soprano actress in Night at the Chinese Opera with the Royal Academy Opera lined up in March this year, and the role of Leila, the Sri Lankan princess in Bizet’s Pearl Fishers in May. 2005 was a ‘dream year’ for her. and given her rising star, this year should be even better.

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