Dressing up your walls

By Namali Premawardhana

At some point or the other we’ve all experienced the trauma of having to sit on someone else’s sofa feeling uncomfortable and not knowing what to do about it except stare at the wall in front. Often enough, the wall carries a garish lampshade or a photograph of someone you’re not very sure you want to be caught staring at for lack of better things to do. So what then?

Tell your host about the Zsa Zsa Gallery.

Fitted snugly into its new home at the creative end of Queen’s Road, Shanila De Livera’s unique venture is set out to take away your wall-blues. “Customers coming into Foto-Design often asked about something different in terms of wall concepts” the proprietess explains. She believes that home-makers are at a loss for wall-décor because of a lack of affordable and convenient options. “Viharamahadevi Park pieces are reasonably priced, but the experience is so overwhelming” Shanila continues, “and at the other end, art studio pieces are really expensive!”

The cogwheels slowly began working with Shanila and she started collecting small art pieces she found in her travels around the country, with the idea of an affordable wall-art concept gallery framing her selections. The concept came to fruition in 2008 and has now just stepped into a new phase at its new location.

Newer pieces at the Zsa Zsa gallery feature light-wood works encompassing a wide range of sizes, colours, styles, moods and techniques. Shanila is bouncy and energetic and her personality comes through in the pieces she designs. Some pieces, like those inspired by coconut palms and other local fauna are two-tone works in thick bold lines that capitalise on contrast for effect.

Others, like those made of embossed lily-pads painted or stencilled in pale gold, burnished bronze and dull green, convey a more calm and subdued aura. No two pieces are alike, and one lily-pad piece especially brings across a dark, brooding personality.

Combining the bold and the graceful the pieces are based on trees and creepers. One, against a backdrop of gold fading to black, carries impressions of trees, the branches of which are carved so gracefully and sensitively that one can almost feel the wind blowing through them. Another similar piece is one based on Shanila’s favourite motif – the sandakadapahana. Finely woven lines drawing intricate patterns and thick bold ones displaying flora and fauna appear alternately on dark brown and beige rings, bringing to mind the intricacies of the traditional Sri Lankan moonstone.

Although some of the pieces are machine-crafted, most of the intricate patterns are handcrafted. Most of the pieces take hours upon hours upon days to be completed, and then the craftsmen must spend more, working on accenting and complementing the carvings with different kinds of colours and application techniques. Shanila is careful to visit the craftsmen often and discuss new ideas with them first, in order that the designer and craftsman have a mutual understanding and work together to create a unified concept piece.

Most of the pieces are based on paulownia wood, one of the lightest and softest woods available, and therefore the most suitable for the purpose. While the more dramatic hangings are worked on a single wooden base, many of the larger, more subtle ones are panelled.

Shanila promises therefore that there is something at her gallery for everyone – the truth of which fact is easily found out upon stepping into Zsa Zsa gallery. And best of all is the possibility of working with Shanila in order to create just the piece you want for just that wall! The Zsa Zsa gallery also has murals and metal work art and even mirror work.

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