By Shabna Cader
‘Non-Aligned’ takes inspiration from political movements against imperialism, neo-colonialism, domination and military aggression. The idea of drawing inspiration from such a broad subject might sound a bizarre and rough aesthetic task but the simple aim of this collaborative exhibition is to create a space where new approaches could be reflected upon. Showcasing the work of six artists – Muhanned Cader, Mariah Lookman, Lala Rukh, Vaidehi Raja, Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan and Ieuan Wienman – who have come together, bringing collective ideas and new thoughts are from various parts of the world including India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, UK and Australia.

The exhibition is not based on any particular theme and the artists are not bound by any such theme either but the idea of holding such an exhibition is purely based on the idea of bringing together a handful of artists from different backgrounds, ethnicities and countries to create an engagement amongst themselves. It is titled ‘Non-Aligned’ so as to say that these artists are not bound by anything and have a lot of autonomy and freedom when it comes to their creations. Some of the artists expressed their views on the exhibition and said that when there was a compilation of work, a silent dialogue that is created which in return evolves the relationship of the artists and their work.

Muhanned was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka but educated himself on the subject of art in Chicago, USA. His creations are often a series of drawings and paintings, together creating one entire composite work. In his current series ‘Never Mind the Bullshit’, he addresses what is generally considered to be debris. They are paintings of whatnots found washed up on the beach and in his own words is his way of saying to look past the nonsense in life, the overlooked and the forgotten and instead look at something far more opinionated and better.
Hailing from Karachi, Pakistan, Mariah Lookman’s art work is titled ‘Force Fields’. There are drawings that are indeed large scale and capture attention almost immediately. Black on white it creates a story of its own but in her own words they are set in repetition to arrive at visual harmony that represents balance through the power of focus.

Another artist from Pakistan is Lala Rukh. Born in Lahore, her contribution to this exhibition are two contrasting art work; a sound piece and a set of drawings. What is common between the two works is that they were inspired by the logics of Indian Classical Music. The sound piece ‘Subh-e-Umeed’ is a testament to anti-military lawyer’s movement in her hometown in 2007 whereas the drawings are a means of translating music rhythm into a visual image. Although he was born in Sri Lanka, Ieuan Wienman currently lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. His style of art is large - scale multi-media installations that make use of his paintings as their props and incorporates an active dialogue between art communities in both Sri Lanka and Australia.

Shanaathanan was born in Jaffna and he too works on mixed media and installation. He confronts the impact of the civil war and focuses on giving a voice to the minorities who have faced the ravages of the war. In this work he uses paper collages on which he’s combined maps of different areas and districts and shows how maps can amount to the making or unmaking of people and culture. On Non-Aligned Raja has worked on a set of prints and has used portraiture to make autobiographical references to her state of being.


Kuweni, Queen of Lanka

An exhibition by Anoli Perera, curated by Annoushka Hempel

By Shabna Cader
Most of what we know about her is mainly based on mythology but she has remained a well-known figure for centuries and generations later as the original Queen of Lanka. Not much detail is known of the woman who led the indigenous Lankan tribes who lived on this very island; nothing of how she came to be or lived her life but she was indeed regarded as a powerful woman in her time. As historic and important as her existence was to this tiny island, her role and name is too often downplayed whereas her famous husband remained a sought after figure in history.

In her exhibition ‘Kuweni, Queen of Lanka’ Anoli Perera has portrayed the queen as a striking woman, a character much larger than life than her husband and has given more prominence to her dominion and therefore highlighted many features.

As children, nearly every Sri Lankan has been fascinated by Kuweni and Anoli expresses the same towards her. “She was the original woman and queen of the country but however history tends to over-ride her existence and importance too often. Therefore I wanted to accentuate her being through my work; I have involved a lot of sexual tension as well. This series of work somehow touches the woman in me. I have taken immense liberties in selecting or concocting forms that interpret or symbolizes such moments and moods.
“Vijaya is equated to a sea serpent coming from the sea with multiple serpent heads denoting his 700 men. Their phallic form emphasizes the heightened maleness that presents as a constant threat to conquer land, the earth and its inhabitants. Kuveni is presented with a heavy referent to vaginal form, specified as woman through embroidered and patterned surface painted in detail. In my paintings I have patterned conquest, violence (threat of castration and penetration), pride, defiance and play, all within the narrative that unravels in the story of Kuveni”, explained the artist.

Anoli is a professional artist who has an attraction for myth, memory, history and interpretation. Her work is about life, context, moments and action specific to women. Be it mythical, experienced or imagined, the idea of nostalgia lingers somewhere as a feeling, a desire or mood. It also refers to the mythical animal Liger, which is posited in the mythical landscape of Kuveni. Totally blind, Ligers are presented as an army to be led by whoever has power. The works ‘Liger Army with Kuveni’ and ‘Liger Army with the Sea Serpent’ consciously emphasize the equations of power.

“Anoli Perera has always been for me, one of Sri Lanka’s most talented artists, curators and writers. As an individual, Anoli has also been both a pillar of support, strength and an inspiration to young emerging artists around her. So I am delighted to finally have the chance to host a one-woman show by Anoli Perera to highlight and showcase her latest body of work, stunning paintings of Kuveni,” said Annoushka Hempel, Curator of the exhibition held at the Hempel Galleries located at 30/3 Barnes Place, Colombo 7.
“The series touches me on so many levels. On first sight, the beauty of the image of Kuveni, its organic and sinuous female shape enhanced by details of painted lace and embroidery. Her colours bright and vibrant amidst a watery wash almost move and take you into this mystical world. These images are abstract but poetic depictions of woman in history through the life of Kuveni.
“These paintings tell stories of the power and the vulnerability of woman, the ever existing struggle of control and passion between man and woman. Allow yourself to enter this world if you dare. As the small male figures climb up to ambush the world of ‘woman’ with its varied shapes and mysterious places, Kuveni is victimized but also deified. This is a microcosmic world within the history not only of humanity but perhaps even of worlds beyond,” said Annoushka.

The exhibition will go on till April 10.

About Hempel Galleries
Hempel Galleries was initiated as a response to the ever-strengthening artistic talent emerging from Sri Lanka and the ever-increasing need for forums from which this little discovered talent can be seen internationally.
Hempel Galleries operate as a commercial gallery in both physical and virtual gallery spaces, creating and providing new platforms from which to showcase our artists’ work. Annoushka Hempel is actively engaged in the promotion and sale of artwork provided by the Gallery’s collection of artists in mediums that include painting, sculpture, photography, and multi media.
The work is done by artists ranging from emerging and mid career, to old hands who have already fully established themselves over the last 40 years. Hempel Galleries take a personal interest and are dedicated to the promotion of each and every one of their artists so as to increase their profile, their reputation, and to raise awareness in the international forum.


Athula Dissanayake’s ‘Poetic Images’

By Sarasi Paranamanna
Being born and raised in Ampara, Athula Dissanayake needs no introduction to the picturesque scenes in village life. Making his childhood interest a career the seasoned photographer had captured breathtaking scenes of beauty of nature and its relationship with the human in his latest photography exhibition. “Since my childhood I loved the sunsets and sun rises, the beauty of these things…” he said.
Being a photographer, programme director and a TV producer Athula said that he is always sensitive and appreciative towards the character and the colour of nature. His third photography exhibition ‘Poetic Images’ held at Lionel Wendt on 24, 25, 26 & 27 portrayed the different flavours in nature. Golden sun rise, crimson sun sets, misty mountains, endless blue skies and more importantly the village life, the uncomplicated beauty of it had been captured skilfully through his lens.

The photographs were indeed speaking images. Nature, the one thing that inspires everybody was portrayed in an appreciative way and according to Athula, he had been compiling these images for over ten years. “I like to travel a lot. Whenever I come across a nice shot, I take it and some of the hill country pictures were taken when I was doing the TV programme ‘Udarata Menike’.
“Since I am acquainted with nature from my young age I know what to expect so it was easy for me to capture these shots,” he said. The images were inspiring and expressive as the sunsets, the mountains we see everyday on TV were captured in interesting angles which made them truly ‘poetic’,” he said.
It was not only the splendour of nature that was appealing in this exhibition because the images, which depicted the relationship between humans and nature also carried an element of vibrant energy in them. Athula had captured the innocent smiles of children, the simple life of Buddhist monks, and the romanticism in youth with a wave of artistry.

He said in order to capture the true character of a scene the photographer has to be artful as well as aesthetic. He quipped that reading is the best option one has in order to be informed and be appreciative of the environment.

Reminiscing about his childhood he said: “I often use to roam around my village on my old Chally and I had only a small camera to capture what I enjoyed in nature and I used to enjoy reading works by R. L. Spittle and Maya Ranjan. The Dry Zone they depicted still exists and I have captured only a few details of it for my exhibition”.
The myriads of nature and life depicted in one still moment brings out the inimitability of the art of photography and as Athula said his photographs are the best memories of his journeys.
He had also captured moments of his own children. “My sons remind me of my childhood, the carefree joy brings out my childhood memories,” he said.

There was one image of his younger son with a thoughtful look on his face. “Everyday he dresses up in a big shirt and waits for his uncle to take him on a ride. This particular day his uncle was late and he was looking towards the road”. The image carried the essence of the innocence of childhood. Likewise the warm smiles, the thoughtful looks, the doubtful looks and weary expressions were on display at the exhibition.