This sharp division of ideas is reflected on the walls – stark monochrome images on one hand with bright primary colours on the other
A combined exhibition of paintings by Nelun Harasgama and Chaminda Gamage at the Barefoot Gallery brings together two very different mindsets.
Harasgama in the introduction to her work emphasises on the quality of suffering: “suffering is all around us” while Gamage sounds more abstruse: “the combination of entirely incompatible entities, sometimes, drives for the success. For easy understanding, we say it is black and white.”
This sharp division of ideas is reflected on the walls – stark monochrome images on one hand with bright primary colours on the other.
Both are artists with long track records, their careers going back to the 1980s and ’90s. This is bio-data, no more, but it is there for the record. Not all painters improve with time – some do, some don’t.
The exhibition will go on till April 16.
Both are artists who like to deal with a central image, or theme, which might puzzle the uninitiated. The two-headed bird ‘Bherunda Pakshiya’ is one. An explanation is offered in scribbled handwriting in one small image. The handwriting being harder to decipher than the image, one is inevitably drawn into a mysterious realm, into a mythology of forces darker and stronger than oneself.
The ‘colourful’ side of this artistic combination offers a series of brightly coloured paintings against a recurring central motif – human figures seen from a profile. They are silhouettes, or rather cutouts reminiscent of what Matisse did with coloured paper and a pair of scissors.
The figures, which may be a man and woman (or androgynous figures) suggest sensuality rather than sexuality. Dark, fluid and elastic, they suggest static poses or graceful motion, their dark ‘cutout’ figures standing out against bright backgrounds whose palette sometimes suggests the tropical sensuality of a Paul Gauguin setting, with overlapping colour layers and pale moons. In the background, one can sometimes discern the plan of a house (another recurring motif) as if the two figures (assuming they represent a couple in this particular painting) and the plan together represents someone’s hopes for the future, literally speaking.
The stark side of the combination offers a series of oils and acrylics on canvas, much smaller in scale, of solitary human figures in flowing white robes.
Their heads, hands and feet, protruding black or dark brown blobs against a wall of almost overflowing white backgrounds, might be called African and the landscapes suggest deserts. Again, such definitions might be too limiting or not necessary at all. All we can surmise is that the figures are not mythical like the two-headed eagle. Their humanity is all too tangible, and almost overwhelming despite their ‘cropped’ size and cartoon-like appearance.