Going beyond just the paint and the canvas

By Amy Rose Thomas, Pix by Saman Kariyawasam

Visitors to Paradise Road Galleries at Alfred House Road, Colombo may feel a certain sense of strangeness when they encounter objects such as an artificial black spider web made with ropes knotted and stuck to a canvas and a cloth twisted and painted with an earthy hue suggesting a lava particle welcoming them. They are the creative work of Mahen Perera, a promising, young talent from Colombo, who is holding a solo exhibition at the gallery.

This is Mahen’s second solo exhibition in Sri Lanka, the first being held at the Barefoot Gallery, Colombo last year. Having done a diploma in Multi Disciplinary Design from the Sri Lanka National Design Centre in 1999, he honed his skills in Singapore, where he received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Lasalle College of the Arts.

The exhibition is titled “Material Morphologies” and as the name suggests, involves the use of materials and not just paints. Objects displayed have bits of canvas being charred, torn and sometimes even muddied and other materials such as rope and cloth also used in like manner. “Materials are morphed and something new is created from them,” he explains.

Mahen’s passion for his work and his desire to experiment and grow is apparent in his conversation. “Painting makes me feel alive. It’s satisfying,” he says.

He inculcates elements of the abstract and minimalism in his work, but says it was not a conscious shift in style. “This style allows more of my energy to be accumulated in my work. Apart from painting, I work on canvas.

This makes all the difference. For instance, my work may involve me washing off some paint or burning parts of the canvas.” Among 19 images that are exhibited at the gallery, “Specimen in gold” that looks like the cross section of a leaf and wings of a butterfly to someone else, caught this writer’s eye.

“These images are comprehended differently by each according to each person’s perspective,” he clarifies.

He is inspired by nature and this is clearly evident in his works. “I allow nature to play its role on the canvas.

This makes it something completely different from what I envisioned it to be. When I see an object, it gets subconsciously registered in my mind and while I work I let my mind take control of me,” he says.

He reminisces about how he was drawn to create these works. “While in Singapore, I was washing my canvas. After washing it, I kept it for drying. The next day some thing new had materialized itself on the canvas.

We all evolve when time passes and something new appears,” he says. Clearly this young artist is on a revolutionary journey. “Material morphologies” will run till June 7.

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