LT ARTicle May 2013 | Defining the Indefinable By Saskia Fernando

So Where Are We Now? Four years after the end of the war, a few thousand more tourists every year, problems shifting from war to socio economic upheaval have certainly given the art scene the boost, creatively speaking , which it needed.

Every suntanned visitor who wants more information about the art scene that can be gleaned from just a glance at the painting on the wall asks a standard set of questions. I can honestly say I haven’t figured out the answer to all these questions myself, but as any art professional would tell you (or hide from you) we have the art of gab.

So what are questions? Generally, what is the art scene like? Where are the artists graduating? What are the dominant themes of their work? Have you noticed changes since the war ended? We opt to give them examples of artists working today but it doesn’t quite answer the question directly. Is there no specific answer then? Have I already got you turning the page because you are fed up of my indecisive introduction? I assure you it’s the theme of the article and I shall continue to explain why.

I have been working on a summery of Sri Lankan art history for the last few weeks. When I say summery I mean nutshell. The periods are clearly defined. Buddhist painting to the 43 Group Art and Architecture and then the 90’s movement.

There are obvious and considerable gaps between the periods and one can certainly assume that the same will inevitably occur for the decades following the 90’s.

It is difficult to define the trends of today. Indeed there are some postwar concepts but there are also the newbies, there are the expressionist who remain and also the landscape painters. There such a diverse mix of influences left over from the funding that allowed artists to further their studies worldwide, and therefore it isn’t so straightforward to place all the artists in a box.

Today the world is a much smaller place than it was fifty years ago. With the internet as well as programs that connect people, one need not visit a museum to view a painting by Van Gogh in it’s raw detain anymore. It’s the beauty of the 21st century. The strange effect that this entails is that the artists has exposure the world, thereby being less distinguishable by there location. Our artists at SFG for example, live in Sri Lanka but also New York, Vietnam, the UK and travel around the world continuously.

The result of this is our current state of flux. We are not a postwar art scene, nor are we wholly decorative. We are not spiritually inspired nor are we landscape dominated. The new wave of artists is bringing in mediums and new strains of thought that is certainly changing the face of the art scene in it’s entirety but the older established artists are still going strong. We are waiting for the big boom and I can feel it coming. There is some insane talent that exists in the artists born in the 90’s that is rising fast and opportunity to link up with a gallery are increasing as monthly shows are being stages by all.

I would call this the time of change, at the risk of sounding highfaluting. We don’t want to be defined anymore, we want to be recognized. In response to this and due to the simple fact that I’m bored with these monotonous definitions, this article is essentially the introduction to what will be a feature of artists and focal points of art in Sri Lanka, from then and now. Hope you survive the heat wave and see you in June with an all new ARTicle series.


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