Remembrance of loss

‘The Wall and other works’ by Chandragupta Thenuwara

By Shabna Cader
Art, exhibited, is a fascinating sight that brings about a throng of emotions and a world of ideas and thoughts. It is a magical experience by itself that also invokes mixed feelings; such is the power and ability of art. Art also soothes, calms the mind and can also exist as a memoir in some. To Chandragupta Thenuwara art is a way of expression, an approach to display as much as escape the haunting visuals of a country plagued by war for more than 30 years.

“I cannot forget” he said, looking around the Lionel Wendt Gallery and at his title ‘The Wall.’ It is a large installation that consists of numerous sculptured images, creating the idea of an endless wall. In reality the wall is 30 feet long and seven feet high – however, the idea of an endless wall is created by the use of mirror reflections on both corners of the installation. It could have been just another wall of sculptured images but Thenuwara continues with his explanation, “this country was plagued by war for many years, and we have had to bear the loss of many men and women. Notifications of death and such posts come in the individual sculpture size, where as the multiple images create the idea of absence and loss. Then there is also the idea, of not just looking at the wall of sculptured images but
imagine what must hide behind it.”

’83 riots
Irrespective of whether he is working on a canvas or sculpture, the only thoughts that invoke inspiration and themes to work on have to do with what happened in the year 1983 and afterward. “I was 23 years at the time and working as a freelance artist for a local newspaper. I was accompanied by two other colleagues when I first noticed that something was amiss. I didn’t think that it was an outbreak of war and hatred but an accident or something close to it at first. After heading towards Wellawatte on my own, it hit me. It feels like I never turned back because those images never escape. I am not plagued by horrifying dreams but that sight is something I will never forget,” said Thenuwara, with a distant distasteful look in his sad eyes.
It has been nearly three decades since. Where have we come since? Thenuwara talks of how cleaning up the streets, paving new sidewalks, growing trees and beautifying the city isn’t going to take away the blood and gore that haunted it once. The reality is that, it happened and can never be forgotten. Once a town or city or even country is painted red, how can it be anything but? A painting is hung at the opposite end of the wall – ‘hope’ it says on the side description. It is a dull and slightly morbid painting of a woman and baby, seated ever so traumatically amidst a home that has been wrecked and brought down by arms and fire. The colours used are dull reds and browns that add to the morbid feeling of the painting; there is hardly anything pleasant which is what the intention behind the work of art is.
‘Hope’ is a depiction of a scene witnessed by Thenuwara when he visited Jaffna during the war. “The war has been won and over; but is there ‘real’ peace,” he questions, the sting of his silent question, statement rather is further evident in some of his other works exhibited. There are a handful of drawings, thorns like wines, and guns, as well as three other large paintings. One is of a white flag and at the bottom it says ‘this is not a white flag. The second is that of a white van and at the bottom it says ‘this is not a white van’ – both works addressing the behaviour of discretion. The third large painting is of a television screen that has a blocked view and a notice that says ‘this is due to Government regulation on tobacco and alcohol.’ The imagination soars.

Thorns are evidently used metaphorically; they could represent barb wires at army camps or hurtful weapons that drain out blood. Whichever it may be, the reasons and metaphors are yet again endless. Thorns are like wines that search for a bit of sunlight and waive their way through anything and everything. They certainly do make their mark; making patterns across other plants’ leaves and barks, scraping walls and fences and draw an exclamation of pain, however strong or weak. One touch is more than enough and could do necessary or more damage. In Thenuwara’s work, they represent all that and more.
“It is not that I don’t find beauty in anything else’ it is just that, this is all my mind can focus on when I am in front of a mould of clay or blank canvas. My previous work also reflects the same ideas and thoughts; the same experiences are depicted in different modes and methods. This, I suppose is my style and the theme I constantly work on because people need to be reminded of what happened. They tend to forget too soon. The reception on the opening night of the exhibition and to my previous works has been good, so I hope that it will continue to remind people” he added.
There is silence in the gallery; silence if not for the blaring of a horn or a vehicle passing by. Viewers and other passers-by walk in without a word and walk around. A few minutes of walking and they come to a standstill at ‘The Wall.’ Here, their silent standstill demeanour adds to the endlessness of the sculptured installation. Here, they remain silent and speechless. Perhaps it is to take a few moments to remember those who have been lost of even to remember that ‘real’ peace has not prevailed. Whatever it may be, Thenuwara does hit the jackpot.


Geoffrey Bawa Awards 2010/2011

Celebrating Architecture

By Sarasi Paranamanna
Architecture, which has evolved with civilization and development of technology, is one form of art that has withstood the test of time and still carries the ability to bear testimony for the bond of families, the strength of friendship and the excellence of great men.
On July 23, 2011 the evening was a celebration of architecture and more importantly it was an evening to celebrate a maestro’s birth anniversary. Geoffrey Bawa Awards 2010/2011 was one gala event celebrating new talent in the field of architecture while commemorating the excellence of the great Geoffrey Bawa.
The much-awaited award ceremony is a platform for budding architects and those who aspire for excellence in architecture as the Geoffrey Bawa award stands for recognition and esteem.
The awards ceremony was brought into the spotlight by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust to honour and encourage passionate people who are part of outstanding contemporary architecture in Sri Lanka. The much esteemed award is an opportunity for budding talent to increase their awareness about the importance of the built environment in the lives of the people. Today it has become an icon for creativity which has carried Sri Lankan architecture into greater heights.

The evening began with a short presentation of the short listed candidates’ works. Architect Yudish Ganesan, Sheran Henry Associates, Archt. Palinda Kannangara, Archt. Sanath Liyanage, Richard Murphy Architects and Architect Thisara Thanapathy were the candidates that had been short listed for the award.
Best of creativity, innovativeness, best use of minimal architectural strategies, consideration of community in public buildings, lighting, ventilation, relevance to the purpose and sustainability in the increasing urban environment were some of the features which were looked at by the panel of judges for the award. The panel of judges comprised eminent personalities in the field of architecture and arts such as Suhanya Raffel, Kerry Hill, Jayantha Perera and Ajith De Costa.

Prior to the presentation of the award two illustrious lives were honoured for their contribution to Sri Lankan arts and architecture. Ena De Silva and Barbara Sansoni Lewcock were awarded special lifetime achievement awards for the wealth of creativity and energy they added to the Sri Lankan architecture and arts.
Ena De Silva who requested Geoffrey Bawa to build her house in the early sixties was a personality who wanted to try new trends in arts and architecture. Her flagship creation was batik and soon she was a Commonwealth Consultant for Design. The textile collages designed by the heritage centre established by her is used in many offices and houses and today during the dusk years of her life, Ena is an inspiration. The award was presented by senior trustee Sunethra Bandaranayake to this illustrious character of the modern creative history of Sri Lanka.
Barbara Sansoni Lewcock too, is a remarkable character in the recent history of Sri Lankan architecture and arts. With high ceilings and wide verandah residencies where her childhood was spent, her interest in building ultimately led her to write a weekly column to Ceylon Daily Mirror titled “Collecting Old Buildings”. Her understanding and bold use of colour led to the cottage industry which is known as barefoot. “To match is mediocre. Clash divine” is what she says often and today she is an iconic figure for revitalizing arts and architecture and finding a ‘colour code’ for modern Sri Lankan identity. Thus awarding and honouring these iconic ladies brought much allure to the Bawa Awards.

The evening was truly artistic as it was not only architecture that was celebrated but the soulful music recital by violinist Mandhira De Saram and pianist Eshantha Peiris augmented the arty nuance of the award ceremony.
Michael Ondaatje, friend of Geoffrey Bawa, winner of Booker Prize and the much celebrated author shared some of his thoughts about arts and architecture at the ceremony.
“Architecture has a far reaching effect than all other arts,” he said. The author who established the Gratiaen Trust and initiated Gratiaen Awards for the well being of Sri Lankan literature noted that he is very interested in how all forms of art merge. He did not forget to mention how much architecture influenced him to write his masterpiece The English Patient. “We do not live in a dimensional universe and all forms of art including writing, drawing melody and designing can change us,” he noted concluding his words.
The highlight of the night which is the presentation of the awards, started off by presenting awards for the honourable mentions which were bagged by the Richard Murphy Architects for their work; the new British High Commission and Architect Thisara Thanpathy for his work; Holiday Bungalow Matale. An award of commendation was won by Architect Yudish Ganesan for his design done for the Udayapuram School, Batticaloa.

The much awaited award, the Geoffrey Bawa Award was won by Architect Thisara Thanapathy for his work; Sarath Abeyrathne house, specially for taking a new direction in architecture with no precedence and making a benchmark in designing for urban housing. The winner’s work was set in a suburban area of Colombo making privacy an important issue. The judges commended his work by mentioning that the orchestration of space in the house creates an uplifting experience for the dwellers.
The award was designed by drawing inspiration from an obelisk placed on top of a gatepost at Bawa’s Lunuganga estate. The shape of the award is derived from the Assyrians and Egyptians which came via the Greeks and Romans to renaissance Europe. The prestigious award was made out of Para Mara and ebony


‘Frozen in Time’ till August 3 at Harold Peiris Gallery

Making them dance with still photography

By Sarasi Paranamanna
‘Frozen in Time’ was a fascination with movement and photography. Though the two concepts are distinctly different the exhibition was a marriage between motion and different techniques of photography.
Dance, being a powerful artistic expression, is all about movement and dynamism and the fascination with this exhibition was that the photographer had the ability of creating an illusion in the observer’s mind that dance can be recorded in a still art form like photography.

Dance photography is mostly used in the media of newspapers. The photographer has the challenge of recording dynamic movements in one frame and to tell the story of a motion glide through a frame. As hard as it may sound the photographs which were featured by the Goethe Institute carried an element of brilliance which showed itself to the observer that the exercise is effortless and smooth.
Photographer Walter Boje writes that dance is, “filtered through the viewer’s receptiveness and receptivity” and in ‘Frozen in Time’ the viewer is taken on a journey which attempts to record and reflect a split second of one of the most transient forms of art.

Though it is a fragment that has been preserved, dance photography created a ‘frozen’ moment and this exhibition was a chance to reflect on these ‘frozen’ shots. The photographs exhibited were dancing bodies depicted as a mixture of time and light and the single shots of these movements had caught the essence of the motion. The expressions, effort, grace, refinement and rhythm of different dance styles were captured making the viewer feel and see the effects of dance then and there.
The series of photographs titled, ‘The Dying Swan’ had a particularly interesting nuance. The graceful glide of swan and the silvery effect given to the images by the gelatin silver print made the photographs look almost like an interesting combination of painting and photography.

Dancers from the German Dance archive were also featured in the collection of photographs. In addition hand movements of a dancer were exhibited. It was video installation and the hand movements are recorded on screen like drawing from a pencil through the gadgets that were fixed to the dancer’s hands.
The other interesting collection was the series that depicted ballet movements but the focus was not on the movements of the whole body of the dancer. Only the arms and legs were recorded and the way pictures were cropped had given the series a radical touch.
The ‘moving movements’ had caught the very essence of the dance technique of contemporary ballet. The photographs had energy, motion and strength that managed to weigh down the viewers attraction long enough into the photographs so that the viewer was able to get a holistic feeling as if he witnessed the dance movements in a live setting.
This interesting collection can be enjoyed till August 3 in the Harold Peiris Gallery of the Lionel Wendt Theatre.


Chrissy Rozairo unveils bridal collection
By Sarasi Paranamanna
Just as the bride the stylist is also happy on the wedding day. Chrissy Rozairo is one such veteran stylist who has the experience to make her clients look elegant and beautiful on the most important day of their life.

Her wealth of experience Chrissy is a well known name in the industry. Twenty years of making the brides look beautiful and this year her bridal collection especially designed for the Bride and Groom Fair was unveiled showcasing her ability to bring out the best in each bride whether they are dressed in the traditional ‘Osari’ or in a western styled outfit.

“I wanted to showcase the latest trends from this collection and I observed that laces have come in again,” she quipped explaining her work. There were four brides in her collection who were dressed in the traditional Osari, an Indian outfit, a Saree and a Western out fit.

The Osari was the traditional outfit but Chrissy has given it a modern touch making it look unique and glamorous. It was draped from a heavily worked Indian saree and it was adorned using pearls and dull gold jewelry giving it a glamorous look.

“The young brides like to carry on with traditions but they want a modern touch as well” said Chrissy.

The western outfit looked elegant and dainty. One was a wedding gown and the model had a simple hairstyle fusing elegance and simplicity in one design. “If you notice, I have not used complex hair styles in any of the models because now the trend is to keep things simple but with elegance. Most brides who come to me go for simple hair styles,” she explained.

In all the styles jewellery was dainty and the lacework and cutwork enhanced the feminine appearance of the design. The batik print was also a nice change from the usual bridal designs we see most of the time. The batik fabrics were provided by Erik Suriyasena and jewellery was courtesy of Stone ’n String while Marie Samarasinghe provided the bouquets.

The bouquets, makeup, jewellry, outfits and hairstyles complemented one another. “I want to bring out the true beauty and the personality of each bride. The bride groom should be able to recognise the bride on the wedding day. I always insist on that because it is not real when you doll up and put too much make up.

The secret is to bring out the true beauty in each bride,” said Chrissy sharing the magic with us which had made her one of the most sought after stylists in the bridal industry over all these years.