Cora’s many colours

By Kumudini Hettiarachchi, Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

It’s not just a home but a house full of works of art, each and every piece with a story of its own – unique in its own right.“This table,” says vivacious Cora de Lang, gently touching the low coffee table in her home down Rosmead Place, was crafted especially for the Lang family by a Nigerian sculptor while her husband, Richard (now the Director of the German Cultural Institute in Sri Lanka) was serving there, with the signature of the artiste et al.

But we are in her home not to talk about the works of other artists but of Cora herself. Having had the “inclination” from childhood, for Cora art comes from the subconscious…..never does she draw and re-draw, it is straight onto the canvas and that’s it. And as in her childhood, canvases for this time’s exhibition will take the viewer by surprise.

Boxes, laughs Cora, of different shapes and sizes. Whereas, in childhood the boxes were factory rejects from the family business which turned out cartons for different items ranging from shoes to chocolates and champagne, this time’s exhibition would mainly comprise perfume boxes.

“We began recycling all those years ago,” she says, adding that Papa always brought the rejects home and would straighten out the boxes so that she could use them as her canvases.

An inveterate hoarder, Cora has been collecting all the perfume boxes and has aptly named her current exhibition ‘Pandora’s Box’. The mythical story of Pandora need not be retold but that is life, according to Cora and perfume also be it a Dior or a Kenzo reflects seduction, lure……..that too is part of life.

You smell it, you love it, it is beautiful, but it is impermanent. Cora quickly adds that she does not moralise through her paintings, she just presents what her subconscious brings forth. It’s a “subtle” message to make you think, is how she likes to put it.

“The world is like a big body with lots of cells. Art is like the good cells. There are some cells which are sick. But art would help overcome the sick cells,” she says.

Cora’s encounter not only with painting, but also colour came early, as a little girl, growing up amidst a “family of artists” in Buenos Aires in Argentina. “My parents were not artists, my aunts were,” says Cora.
Later her travels across the world to Germany to study German where she met and married Richard, from then on accompanying him on his postings to India, Nigeria, Mexico and Sri Lanka, she feels have enriched her personally as well as her art.

Cora talks with reverence about Buddhism such an integral part of Sri Lanka; with fascination about the exotic caves deep down in the earth sacred to the Mayans in Mexico and feels an affinity towards them as her “great-grandmother had that blood” and adds in muted tones about the time in Nigeria when her emotions poured out onto the canvas that now hangs in her husband’s Colombo office.

Bloodshed and mayhem were the order of the day in Nigeria and Cora and family were literally “behind bars” for their own safety. “Have you heard of the African ‘Wailing Drum’, she asks and says, “looking through the bars which surrounded our home, I could see this wall made of ugly concrete blocks and geckos and lizards would come out to sun themselves. I drew that and through it the faces of the suffering people.” The painting is named, ‘Talking Wall’.

Back to Pandora’s Box, the emotion comes through when she speaks of two paintings – the best friend of her mother’s and her mother’s. For the first she has used a box of Calvin Klein, a perfume that the mother’s friend loved and her photo.

“That old lady was very upbeat until I spoke to her last on the phone and she said she was not feeling too well. Five days later she was dead. “Cora’s mother also died a few months later, in May last year and she was with her to say goodbye.

In tribute Cora has collected all the name tags on her mother’s clothes and a dainty little bag her mother used in her last days and made up a painting along with a digital image of her rosary which she titles ‘Beyond Paradise’ but she has not had the heart to include her photo. “Not just yet,” says Cora….the emotions are too much.

Boxes, bags and much more

‘Pandora’s Box’ will run from January 18-February 9 (Monday to Wednesday 10.30 a.m.- 5.00 p.m. & Sunday 11.00 a.m.- 4.30 p.m.) at the Theertha Red Dot Gallery, 36, Baddegana Road South, Pita Kotte.
The paintings will comprise large banner-like paintings, digital photo collages, ‘lady’ paper bags and flight bags.

The ‘lady’ paper bags are unique to say the least with guns and flowers, purdah-covered mascara eyes……with the eyes so tough.

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