Art review.


Sonia calls it a photographic documentation, but it is more than that, because she as an artist uses the objectivity of the medium underscored by the character of the takes so as to stimulate it to reveal an evocation of history, the human ethos, memory and broader processes of transformation.

Being often preoccupied with the nature of the relationship between an individual and space, her first show was an environment which revolved around the bodily and emotional discomfort of a person fitting into the cramped geometry of a domestic interior. Like then, she presently blends a minimalist, or at least restrained, and conceptual approach with a sensitive, intimate and suggestive one.

One section of the colour photographs portrayed a series of modest middle-class houses built by the state government in the early 1960s according to one box-resembling design but somewhat altered over the decades by their owners.
The shots look at the facades behind compound walls from exactly the same, slightly angled perspective. The deliberately pedestrian composition enhances both the identical shape of the original buildings and their nondescript aesthetics.
The repetition strengthened by the tight display grid, however, allows the spectator not only to notice the different extensions and decorations but also to intuit the spirit behind them.

Even if superficial or awkward, such embellishments speak of personality, pleasure and fantasy, while the artist watches with empathy. Those sights were surrounded by numerous images of empty plots where perhaps similar houses had been demolished for new construction.

Although more varied in detail, these horizontal prints repeat the steady take – a more frontal view registering the ground widening towards the eye and framed at the back by a flat wall or its angle which opens out symmetrically on two sides.
Neglected, overgrown by weeds, trashed or occupied by street vendors, these vacuous areas still carry a residual imprint of their erstwhile inhabitants – some withering potted plants or a corroded gate ajar. Their prosaic, shabby rawness not devoid of tender strains seems to generate some nostalgic sadness and a sense of uncertainty or passivity in temporariness, as one kind of life ends before something else is built in its place.

Apprehension and anger
“Loom”, the exhibition comprising installations, videos and inkjet prints by Shivakumar J and Umesh L (Samuha, May 9 to 19) was an ambitious, intense venture by these young artists critical and apprehensive about the denatured, violent and perilous state of the world.

Dealing respectively with the artificial homogenisation of a materialistic humanity and the extreme tension that a thinking man is subjected to, the works came through as sincere and often passionately conceived but somewhat ad hock excessive and oscillating between the literal and the vague.

At Shanthi Road
The exhibition by six artists from Colombo (May 7 to 10) inaugurated Sethusamudram, a long-term collaborative project between 1Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery and the Theertha artists’ collective of Sri Lanka which intends to discuss diverse socio-political and cultural issues.
The works of a fairly a modest contemporariness but involved in drastic problems, included a number of paintings with themes ranging from feminine sensitivity to the intrusion of commercialism in life (Anoli Perera, Anura Krishantha, Pradeep Thalawatte) and violence with the more effective images of archaic and kitchen knives by Jagath Weerasinghe.
The installations of Nishantha Hettiarachchi about aggressive authority and confusion being somewhat obvious, the most interesting contribution came from Pala Pothupitiye who transformed sleek cartographic images into belligerent, eerily feral creatures with tusks and talons.
   Another event at the venue brought the show - “Re-Arranging” by K P Hari Rao (May 21 to 23). His paintings strive to evoke the complexity of shifting and transforming processes which underlie the human mind and which link it to the dynamic structure of the world on a micro and macro scale.
By using earth and ash pigments along with industrial enamel on synthetic sheets he alludes also to the archaic sources the rangoli symbolic of the cosmos and plant-life incorporated in the present reality. If genuinely conceived and sometimes quite ambitious in size and energy, the compositions may not have enough self-expressiveness and come through like abstract compositions.
The drawings with webs of smaller motifs and the sculptural work pieced together of laboratory pipettes are more effective in approximating a common core of organic life and scientific probing.

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