Bold colours for the brave

‘Peace’ – Marie Alles Fernando’s 2009 collection is a tribute to the people - the Sri Lankans who never left the country, to those who stood bold and courageous through the hard times. The exhibition will be held on December 18,19 and 20 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Harold Peiris Gallery, of the Lionel Wendt, Colombo 7.
By Adilah Ismail

Her paintings are a confetti of colour, revealing a figure here or a sudden streak of colour expertly coaxed in a corner, which perhaps you wouldn’t notice upon first glance. Over the years, while her style has subtly evolved in more ways than one, her paintings still retain their capacity to surprise and bring scenes, figures and landscapes to vibrant life with confident, multi-hued strokes.
Marie Alles Fernando

Garbed simply in white, the deep green necklace nestled near her throat the only tell- tale sign of her affinity to colour, veteran painter Marie Alles Fernando sat down this week to talk to the Sunday Times about her latest exhibition at the Harold Peiris Gallery of the Lionel Wendt from December 18 to 20.

Emphasizing her unwavering love for this country, which never ceases to inspire her paintings, she sombrely says that the start of the war, the JVP insurgency, the ’83 riots, the ’89 insurrection and the numerous other incidents the country bore over the past years, should never have happened.

“There are so many people who have lived through all of this. People forget about ordinary people who live through terrible times and survive. They are the true heroes,” says Marie elaborating that her latest exhibition is held as a tribute to the people who remained in the country, and unwaveringly braved the turbulent times over the past decades.

One of Sri Lanka’s leading artists, she has held exhibitions in London, New Delhi, Japan, Singapore, Bangkok and Vienna and seen her paintings adorn banks, hotels, homes and offices around the world. Her exhibition in Vienna in particular was held under the patronage of the Austrian federal minister for education, sports and culture for the UN year of peace in 1986 and stood testament to Marie’s belief in the role that artists play in society.

Her latest exhibition consists of 20 oil paintings done during the course of the year, miscellaneous oil paintings from past years and selected pictures in pastel. The exhibition promises to thrill any art aficionado. ‘Golden Harvest’ for instance, is a large canvas depicting a typical rural scene in Sri Lanka. This commonplace rural scene is rendered on Marie’s canvas in a riot of colour. Gone are the staid greens, browns and ochres which are predominant in most villagescapes as vivid hues of yellow, crimson and red take their place to depict the hustle and bustle of the villagers.

‘Brilliant red’ is another painting predominantly worked in fluctuating shades of red, orange and indigo with sudden strokes of white, depicting the serenity of the Vesak season. A mural incorporating the many lively facets of a perahera, from the richly attired elephants to the twirling dancers, is deftly portrayed on another. A large painting of Hakgala stands in cool contrast, primarily worked in soothing shades of green and blue.

In order to be truly creative, a state of serenity needs to be acquired, the artist believes. “When I glimpse this realm of spirit through meditation or seeing an awe inspiring experience (here I mean an unusual colour combination that works, hearing a hauntingly beautiful piece of music or viewing an interesting face), it feels like falling in love. It is then that I enter into this domain that is beyond time and space.”
It is following this, that sketching, filling in colour, composition and balance then come into play, she explains. “Every painting is a new one. It is like a river, this creativity, it flows.

“I never think of the end,” she smiles. “I’m just joyous about doing it.” The progression of her style, she describes as -“It started off being realistic and has evolved into being modern expressionist.”

“My heart and soul belongs to the Sri Lankan land. And the people form an integral part of it,” she adds, explaining that she hopes to visit Jaffna (having had the opportunity to visit it only once before the war) and capture the people and places through her canvas, as her next project. “As artists and intellectuals we have a moral obligation to speak out and be agents of change.”

The greatest legacy that she feels as an artist, she can leave behind are her paintings: “They will live long after I am gone”.

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