An exhibition of paintings THE ENCOUNTER, by Sri Lankan artist Sanjeewa Kumara is open for public at the Paradise Road Galleries until January 14, 2016.
Born in 1971 in Colombo, Sanjeewa Kumara is a visiting lecturer for visual art at Kelaniya University Sri Lanka. He holds an MFA from the Netherlands and had many solo and group exhibitions, inside and outside Sri Lanka. Sanjeewa Kumara is a finalist for the prestigious 2014-2015 Sovereign Asian Art Prize. He explores the use of lush, sensual imagery, and how the collision between Western pop culture and the South Asian island’s post-colonial legacy impacted his imagination.
In conversation with the artist he explained his influences behind the creation of these series of paintings.
When asked what inspired ‘THE ENCOUNTER’, Sanjeewa says, “In recent years my art works are becoming abundant with flying six-legged elephants, floating hunters, flower paradise, and all sorts of creative creatures, which have made the paintings increasingly colourful. I paint no paradise. I paint something extremely more difficult: their echo.” He emphasizes that it’s not about the arrival, but the ‘exit’ from paradise. “I make countless references to things disappearing into the depths of space, to the cut off at the edges and to falling out of utensils of a passing time.”
Sanjeewa’s paintings are almost ‘moving’ images. “When man went to the sky and to the moon this ‘moving’ feeling came to the painting more than ever. I wanted to create popular iconography moving ‘form’ and space. So I try to synchronize them into my own, unique visual language. I try to re-imagine, re-invent ‘new form, new identity, new landscape. It becomes a self-styled project.” He explained that in this project he brings the viewer to a surreal reservoir of images of Sri Lankan history, the furniture of a bygone colonial world, Egyptian art, rococo art, Indian legends, Greek philosophy, planets and space, sea animals, dinosaurs, and secret languages spoken by the painters only.
Indeed his works demand the viewer to walk through centuries, “while thinking about his own life,” adds Sanjeewa. “Some set pieces are interwoven with other segments that contradict each chronology or a definite place and demand the radical activation of their own imagination. This is not flirting with the viewer, but it is a very risky exercise.”
When asked whether he draws his inspiration from local or international art practices, Sanjeewa admits from both. “Non-western artists and their works are my biggest influence.
However, some of Pre-Renaissance artists and artists like Pieter Brueghel have influenced my works.”
When asked why he prefers oil on canvas as his primary medium, Sanjeewa says that he might have taken to the traditional medium of oil paints because of his interest in art history and the feeling that he wanted to be part of the evolution of painting — from the cave paintings 35,000 years ago to the present.
“Essentially, we use the same tools — a stick with some hair on the end of it, minerals from the earth mixed with some oil. I love that sense that I’m doing the same thing that people have always done. Of course, as a medium, oil painting is characteristically slow. However, I try to react fast.”
When asked how he sees himself in comparison to other local contemporary artists, Sanjeewa says his art is a challenge to the western hegemony of art. “Mostly Local contemporary artists don’t do that. They mostly imitate modern and post-modern art without thinking. And not give attention to the cultural landscape of Sri Lanka. Paradoxically or ironically I cannot move with western art.” So, he calls his art ‘non-western western art’. “Art is also about thinking, I believe revolutions are still possible in paintings. I just wanted to be free. Freedom is of enormous importance to an artist as well as to my [art] work.”
Exhibition is open until January 14, 2016 at Paradise Road Galleries, 2, Alfred House Road, Colombo 03, Open Daily from 10 am to midnight.