A conglomeration of canvas creativity

17 August 2017 12:54 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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‘Beyond the Water Margin’\- A group water colour exhibition 

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place, from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web” were the words of Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest painters to have ever lived. An artist’s creation holds the mystic power in adding colour to life and getting rid of the bland black and white that makes an individual’s life monotonous. ‘Beyond the Water Margin’ is ready to accomplish just that by painting colour into the soul and make life bubble to the surface through an expressive and unique collection of artistic creations.   

‘Beyond the Water Margin’, a group water colour exhibition, will be inaugurated on August 18 at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre as the clock strikes 6 in the evening. The exhibition will be open to art lovers among the general public from August 19 to 21 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.  

The exhibition stands as the fruit borne to the tree of creative endeavour of four professional artists, representing four different eras in Sri Lankan water colour art. The skilled pairs of hands behind the masterpieces that will be on display at the exhibition belong to artists Gunasiri Kolambage, Basil Cooray, Sanjeewee Senevirathna and Nilusha Weerakkody.  


‘Beyond the Water Margin’, a group water colour exhibition, will be inaugurated on August 18 at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre as the clock strikes 6 in the evening. The exhibition will be open to art lovers among the general public from August 19 to 21 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.


A Character Portfolio  

Gunasiri Kolambage is deemed as one of the few artists who belongs to the era when the Sri Lankan water colour trend first sprouted into existence. His painting styles unfold a fusion of European and Indian traditions. He is recognized as the pioneer in Sri Lankan abstract water colour art, with his most matured work being influenced by artists such as Stanley Abeysinghe, H.B. Perera, G.S Fernando and Susil Premaratna. His source of inspiration has been the simple lifestyle, recommended through Buddhist teachings, he leads.   

Basil Cooray, a descendant of the second era of the water colour trend, follows his own independent and unique style. Scenes of humanity, folk lifestyle and rural life are brought to life on white space envisioned through his artistic eye. Basil’s art gives priority to sentimentalism over symbolism.  

Sanjeewee Senevirathna belongs to the era where two Sri Lankan water colour trends existed. His earlier work took on a blend of second and fourth water colour eras which later developed under the influence of modern trends from the European and Asian regions, bee-lining towards artistic maturity and a unique identity. Modern Sri Lankan water colour trends mingled into existence with Sanjeewee’s work in 2010. Sanjeewee has explicated a Sri Lankan identity internationally, having emerged victorious in numerous water colour contests, both contemporary and international.   

The local identity or cultural adherence never stood in the way of Nilusha Weerakkody in finding the subject in art. The artist is focused on expressing his creativity. His work connected to environmental, material and humane activities, fantasizes about worldly pleasures, sensuous and warm colour schemes, which is free to be grasped with an open mind.  

Artistic perspective  

The event organizer for ‘Beyond the Water Margin’, artist Sanjeewee Senevirathna, aired his views regarding the trends in water colour painting.  

According to Sanjeewee Senevirathna, water colour paintings are done using various styles. “Water colour painting came into existence in the 18th century. From the start it had its own culture building up and it expanded worldwide. Water colour painting has spread in to different paths which include materials and equipment, exhibitions and contents, demonstrations, printed and e-publications, watercolour societies, current conversations, workshops, water colour academies and water colour museums etc,”he said.

Senevirathna compared the spread of water colour art in Asia in comparison to Europe. He stated that though it’s generally considered that water colour art originated in Europe, the basic foundation to this art sprouted from the great Asian art culture, mainly from china and Japan. “While China discovered paper, the use of water soluble ink to draw on paper originated from both these countries. For the purpose of drawing, they created their own calligraphy brushes using soft hairs of animals. In Europe the only difference made was the modification of these techniques. So Asian and European artwork expressed differences in their own unique ways. The styles of water colour artwork coming from European, Latin American and Australian continents fall under the category of European artwork while the styles followed by Asian artwork come from countries like China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia,” he explained. By comparing the art work of artists from Europe such as Joseph Zbukvic, Alvaro Castagnet, Mary Whyte and Asian artists such as Guan Weixing, Liu Yi and DirekKingnok, the uniqueness of these styles surfaces clearly.  

Many consider the water colour medium to be difficult. But Senevirathna accentuated that something being hard or easy depends on the person’s interest for that particular subject. “I never felt that water colour art was hard. But unlike other art media, like oil painting and acrylics- where the drawings can be altered even after the final result- the final drawing can’t be altered in the water colours medium,” he added. Senevirathna supported his point by quoting an Indian water colour artist who once said: “Painting with water colours is like shooting an arrow. Once shot, it can’t be brought back.”  

Senevirathna expressed his thoughts on the identity and uniqueness of the modern Sri Lankan artist. “The decision we have taken as artists to remain in the water colour field, selling our artwork in the art market, fulfilling the requirements of museum owners, using rare and easily available raw materials in creating artwork- all the while attempting to minimize expenses -involves risk. But we still work for what we feel has to be done within the frameworks of our identity,”he explained. 

No matter how much water colour art has expanded worldwide, modern Sri Lankan artists don’t show partiality towards water colours. Senevirathna envisions it as a question of one’s identity, expression and interest. “The opportunities for new artists to analyze the water colour medium is very low in the country. It’s important to analyze how the medium is used internationally. Art creations at international level explicit professionalism through which the medium’s uniqueness has been preserved,” Senevirathna added. He further stressed that Sri Lankan artists require an intellectual stubbornness to reach that level of competency.

Through ‘Beyond the water margin’, admirers of artwork will be able to observe a collection of different and unique artwork by four Sri Lankan artists representing four different eras of water colour art. Senevirathna stated that this will be the first time that the attendees will be able to witness a variety of different and unique paintings under different concepts and themes inside one gallery. “The public has an open opportunity to observe and appreciate various ideas and concepts through art creations under one roof,”he stressed. 

In water colour paintings,it is said that a message hidden beneath the exterior beauty is conveyed. Senevirathna pointed out that any artist despite the difference in medium, works with concepts unique to them. “If an artist works out of this context, then the creation will only be materialistic. It will be a lifeless creation without a soul. Artists differ by individualistic concepts and themes, brought to life on the canvas. Surpassing the exterior splendour of the artwork, there should be a hidden message for the observer to perceive,” he said. Senevirathna also said that an observer initially gets drawn to a painting for its external beauty. But then they are prompted to move towards the meaning hidden behind the art. This he stated is something special about water colour artwork.   

The decision we have taken as artists to remain in the water colour field, selling our artwork in the art market, fulfilling the requirements of museum owners, using rare and easily available raw materials in creating artwork- all the while attempting to minimize expenses -involves risk

The four talented artists maintain connections through the exhibitions held by International Water colour Society (IWS), which is sure to make its impacts on Sri Lankan water colour art. Senevirathna addressed its influences. “IWS is the largest water colour society with branches in 85 countries. The main person-in-charge of each branch is referred to as the country head. As the Country Head of the IWS branch in our country, it’s my responsibility to create interest in water colour paintings at a national level. I also have to engage Sri Lankan artists in international IWS activities. IWS provides a great foundation for local artists and creates an opening for them to enter the global world of art. My fellow artists and I participate in international exhibitions and contests held by IWS,” he said. Senevirathna invites all amateur and professional artists to make links with IWS Sri Lanka through the official facebook page. “I am happy to note that among the limited number of local artists who use the medium of water colours, the majority of them have joined hands with us,”he concluded. 

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