Women Artists’ Colloquium presents ‘Nine Artists’

In the world of women

Text and pix by Shabna Cader
One of the best things in life is that life itself brings together a combination, a variety of sorts, together in the most mysterious, yet obvious manners.

Who would have thought that nine artists, not just from Sri Lanka, but various other countries would come together in a manner to exhibit their creations, their talents under one roof!
The Women Artists’ Colloquium (WAC) was initiated by the Theertha International Artists’ Collective and Theertha Ret Dot Gallery. It was based on an idea that women artists needed more encouragement to do what they loved to do. There are a number of women artists who spend years at an academy or university studying Fine Arts, but are unable to pursue their dreams and passion; a programme as this allows women who are like that, who are struggling to meet ends and keep their passion alive, to actively engage in their practice of art.
As the Art Manager at the Theertha Ret Dot Gallery, Lalith Manage was sincere when he spoke of how important it was to have an exhibition of this sort. “Theertha itself had nothing to do with bringing these women together; with the use of technology that is freely available and at a low cost, these women have connected in ways unspeakable and begun something that is truly rich and incredible. It is not something out of the ordinary, because it is a known fact that there are issues in life regarding gender inequality but these women have taken that subject up in a very unusual form and somehow created something, a niche for themselves.”
He added that whilst some do feel its pressures, some do not; some feel that they need to make a statement while others simply want to express their creative sides. The work exhibited reflect a variety of notions – feminism, values in life, the feminine role in society and their obligations, issues faced by a society plagued with war, pressures and even a few pleasures in life. These women are not striving to fight for gender equality; they are a lot of strong, determined and wonderfully creative minds that want to be recognised for their works and be able to strive in their artistic practices.

Although they come from different backgrounds and parts of the world, these nine women, these nine artists have something great in common; they are a band of women artists who represent numerous others who do not have the opportunity and are not as lucky to be able to practice their art. These women have faced a variety of impositions within their social, cultural and personal contexts and have realised that it is important to continue to engage their artwork to stabilise their careers as artists.
Inoka De Silva, Lakisha Fernando, Therika Miyanadeniya and Manori Jayasinghe are artists from Sri Lanka. Along with them, the international artists Louise Low from Malaysia, Ruchika Wason Singh from India, Majella Clancy from Ireland, Saurganga Darshandhari from Nepal and Kuzana Ogg from the United States, are a part of the current ‘Nine Artists’ exhibition. They all have been a part of previous Theertha initiatives, workshops and residencies.

In the Year 2008, Anoli Perera mentored the WAC and in the Year 2009, it was continued under the tutelage of Menika Van Der Poorten. The previous year Jagath Weerasinghe worked with the WAC, which resulted in the provocatively titled and very assertive exhibition – Omnipresence of The Prick. This year, however, is different as the exhibition was developed without the mediation of a mentor just like Lalith mentioned.
The work displayed at the Theerthe Red Dot Gallery is the results of six months’ dedication to this exhibition. Out of the art work, each and every display makes a statement of its own, highlighting various subjects.
Inoka’s work titled ‘Letters’ are a reflection of the issues related to a society plagued by war. Kuzana refers to herself as a biomorphic painter. Her forms in her work refer to living entities and the themes of her work include the cycle and development of plant life, and the derivation idea that biological and botanical entities share fundamental similarities. “In this current series, the long-standing motifs of mangoes converge with newer imagery of planted fields and urban architecture. This gives voice to a third theme, concerned with our ability to live harmoniously with each other and also with nature. The mangoes are a nostalgic reference to my childhood spent in India, the seeded fields to a desire for order and continuum, and the windows to the multiple iterations of humanity,” she said.

‘Embroidered Web’ by Lakisha is a result of the ‘female gaze encountering the male gaze’ as she puts it. Created out of water colours and inks, her creations reflect a variety of embroidery patterns; patterns and webs that act as a restriction. “A man restricts spaces for women and imposes boundaries and webs them in cultural containers;” as beautiful and colourful as they look, the recurring theme of male dominance is a constant unmistakable feature.

Louise’s works are based on a story line. Each scene of the print has a story to tell, the basic elements are the power line and lamp post, which are repeated as the backdrop of each scene. The story is an open dialogue reflecting contemporary urban life. Painting on a photographic surface might sound impossible to do but are the works of Majella; the drawings and images were developed in response to particular spaces that have a specific gender and class association. “This body of work also incorporates imagery from my own Irish rural background in the form of old family photos. Through merging seemingly disparate cultural imagery with paint, my practice attempts to question not only the purity of painted space, but also fixed ideas of cultural/national identity, as it relates to my own history and contemporary cultural experiences in a global context. My practice seeks to address multiple and provisional positions and experiences.”

Ruchika’s work reveals her observations and experiences from her immediate and personal environment in India. Her experiences from the roles she plays in life have shaped her art and helped her reframe from time to time, the need and reason to paint or merely create. “Often forms of my daily engagements in life emerge on paper; initially for their own apparent and individual meaning. Later they begin to diverge, and I am able to look at them as sources of commentary beyond the personal domain,” she said.
Saurganga influences in a similar manner, by her culture and surroundings. She likes to include herself along with her feelings in her work. Features that stand out in her paintings are the use of various symbols, important in her life and in her traditional Nepalese culture.

“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Manori’s intricate crafting is a reflection of that saying; a combination of black and white paper and a number of fireflies. The ‘Glass Box’ is the perfect reflection and expression of male dominance or rather man over woman. Manori highlights that although one may not be able to see it; there is an unseen boundary that surrounds women, an invisible shield. A pair of male shoes over the glass box does not need an interpretation.

The de Lanerolle Bros ‘perform’ on Celeb Chat

Their colourful ancestry goes back to Capt de Lanerolle (special emissary of France’s Royal Court) who arrived in Trincomalee in 1672 with a French naval expedition and later settled down here.
Centuries later, the French charm still holds good in his two famous descendants. The “de Lanerolle” brand (one rolls the ‘r’ when pronouncing the name) is a seamless fusion two contrasting personalities unified by an abiding passion for music.
Did you know that Rohan and Ishan (at times) practice in their office and have their staff gaping at them in sheer disbelief? Did you know that Rohan is the talkative and more daring one… while Ishan is the relatively discreet one – quite unlike the image they project?
How does Rohan invent lines, sing verses in the wrong order and still get away with it? How does Ishan completely forget lines and continue convincingly without audiences ever realising it.
Get more than just a peek into the de Lanerolle brothers on Prime TV’s Celeb Chat at 9:30 p.m. on Monday February 28 in a heart-to-heart chat with host Kumar de Silva.