In collaboration with curator Alnoor Mitha for the Colombo Art Biennale 2016 themed Conceiving Space, Art Space Sri Lanka is pleased to announce the launch of Virtual Space. The concept of a 'virtual space' gives artists the opportunity to present their works to a wider audience and the intention of this project is to literally conceive and archive within a virtual space by interpreting the current biennale theme to a broader level of virtual reality in the digital age. Notably in Sri Lanka, where contemporary art is less supported by the public sector, the world wide web, social media and digital networking play an important role for young artists to articulate their voice. By providing a virtual space for artists to present their work on a curated platform in a country where galleries are limited, our virtual space will literally conceive a space that will continuously present exhibitions of contemporary Sri Lankan art to an international audience.
This first exhibition focuses on the work of artists with a connection to Sri Lanka whom have chosen to confront a series of work or dedicate their practice to subject of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Through their personal experiences, through the documentation of others or through mapping the path of war, these works come together to provide the audience with a broader sense of how artists have chosen to engage with the subject of war and the effects of racial conflict.
This will be the first of future virtual exhibitions to be initiated on the online art platform Art Space Sri Lanka to introduce young artists within a curatorial setting. Their observations will be demonstrated in artworks of different media and techniques that will thereafter be presented on the artspacesrilanka.com website and remain there for the public to view.
"The idea of "Conceiving Space" for the fourth edition of the Colombo Art Biennial is to link local and international artist with each other. The 10 physical spaces in Colombo bring an array of artistic genres. However, the virtual space extends the vision beyond the imagination into a new and compelling reality. The audiences sensibility is heightened. Conceiving virtual space offers multiple experience that is both mesmerising and challenging!" ALNOOR MITHA
ABDUL HALIK AZEEZ - CASSIE MACHADO - GAYAN PRAGEETH - KANESH THABENDRAN - KRISHNAPRIYA THARMAKRISHNAR - MUVINDU BINOY - M. VIJITHARAN - PAKKIARAJAH PUSHPAKANTHAN - PRADEEP CHANDRASIRI - THUJIBA VIJAYALAYAN
RASAMMA, 2016, Digital print on canvas, 36 x 36 in
Two years ago Rasamma was evicted from her home, along with a bare handful of Tamil families in Dambulla who were living close to its main Buddhist temple. Their land had recently been declared 'sacred' in a legal sham and their profane presence was therefore no longer deemed suitable.
They were brutally harassed by the military, their basic services were cut off, and where intimidation didn't go the distance, insignificant sums of money was paid as bribes to sign their homes away. Ironically, their small village also included several Sinhalese that suffered the same fate. Their kovil, in which they took shelter, was demolished. The statue of their goddess Kali was dragged out and flung into a well. Having no knowledge or recourse to fight, they were forced to leave, beg from extended family and continue surviving in whatever way possible.
They have received no compensation or reparations. Many have fallen sick and some have died. Not a few of them, we are told, from depression. Some of the community, now living together elsewhere, carefully shelters a small altar with a statue gifted to them by a well-wisher in a small room, this is the only place of worship they have left. Tomorrow they will go to Colombo for another try for justice from the new regime.
As Rasamma shows us old documents from a bag, a tiny postcard slips out and falls to the ground. It is dated 13-7-70 and is from the Commissioner for the Department for the Registration of Persons of Indian Origin. It reads: 'I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your application for Ceylon citizenship'
Her thin face is etched with long years of worry, but her expression is always calm and collected. Her eyes are old and yellowish; watchful and quiet, and her gaze always resigned. Occasionally she will smile. And then you see that she is truly beautiful. Her face, aside from her neat, colorful clothes and graceful posture, is the most striking thing about her.
But I cropped it out because Rasamma has no right to a face. Why must i allow her to transfix you, to force you to acknowledge her? Why must I dignify her in a picture when you haven't even dignified her in real life?
ABDUL HALIK AZEEZ
Abdul Halik Azeez (b. 1985) is a strategy consultant working both for the corporate and development sectors. He is also an independent researcher whose main areas of interest currently include online hate speech and critical discourse analysis. With a master's degree in financial economics and a bachelor's in international business, Halik has worked in fields as diverse as marketing, banking and economic research.
A former journalist for the Sunday Leader and an active citizen journalist, Halik's recent interest in journalistic and conceptual photography has garnered a large following on Instagram. His work has been published on platforms such as The Picture Press and Groundviews and has been exhibited at Spectrums: Alternative Views on Development Explore the power of pictures at Center for Poverty Analysis, Colombo (July 2011) and Colombedouin at the Saskia Fernando Gallery, Colombo (November 2014)
In Muvindu Binoy's latest work Every View Matters (2016) nude female bodies are intimately intertwined. A pink machine gun is laid to rest on a creamy white pillow, a possible reference to violence. The artist’s choice of pastel-colors is interesting as it seems to demonstrate the need of his generation to make their environment look stylish. With the boom of the digital era, it gave them the opportunity to share their photos on a virtual platform that had no boundaries. In reality once uploaded it forms their alter ego profile. Is the younger generation incapable to empathizing with trauma of something they never part of? Are they seemingly being ignorant and narcissistic individuals who simplify war as yet another posh accessory, depicted by fashionable sneakers or a fancy Frappuccino to-go? Or is this contemporary make-over somehow necessary to make it easier to move on and to justify their own identity in the narration of post war Sri Lanka?
At first sight, his bright multicolored collages appear as a Sinhalese modification of gaudily Pop Art, where he assembles various objects off the internet to hybrid figures. His choice is never arbitrary, so you will discover lots of references to daily Sri Lankan politics by examining the detailed and accentuated compositions closer. With his latest series Divine Thru (2016) and Holy Merchandise (2015) the artist raises questions about urban socio-cultural developments of his native Colombo. As the ambiguous titles indicate, the images are latent cynical, associates contrary positions or even let them overlap.
As an emerging digital artist Muvindu Binoy (aka Bo Sedkid) represents the so called Generation Y of his country. ‘Why’ implies to the questioning of character and integration of reality experienced in his artistic outcome. Born in distinctive year 1989, Muvindu himself never actively participated in the long lasting civil war of Sri Lanka (1983-2009), therefore he is able to observe the ever-present trauma from a certain distance and embed his artistic approach in a globalized context by exploring terms of gender, agency and identity. Despite the process of coming to terms with the past, he takes part in the post-war space, to deal with what comes next.
Therefore, the artist expresses his generational outlook, a subtle feeling to be trapped in the burden of a tragic history – to be in search for reconciliation, but overall to be a confused individual. His generation is expected to be compromising traditional values with modern-emancipated standards of the digital age. It’s a status of cultural in-betweenness.
As an independent film maker and graphic designer, Binoy incorporates digital pictorials and his style is distinguished by combining straightforward constellations and aesthetic effects. His selection of colors and images also signify the takeover of a precise global hipster trend of his generation, once an urban subculture, now a glossy visual hegemony.
Muvindu Binoy (b. 1989) is a self-taught filmmaker and artist living and working in Sri Lanka. His debut solo exhibition titled The Holy Merchandise took place at Saskia Fernando Gallery in 2015, followed by Divine Thru in 2016. They come together as a powerful mergence of varying subjects that communicate instantaneously the emotional relationship Binoy formed with his surroundings.
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In the series of Motherland (2016) thin white lines gently inscribe braiding patterns, veins and figures on soft paper. The range of colors is limited to pastel-light colors – sweet as candy. Tharmakrishnar’s minimalistic compositions are reduced to very mellow, sometimes almost invisible imprints that is derived from a distinct female imagery. Her recurring symbol is the womb, where one sees belly shaped outlines, resembling the nude female body, nursing and protecting a fetus surrounded by an intelligent web of cocoon-like branches. It demands a very concentrated and patient eye so as to not underestimate the calm mode in which the artist structures her works.
Within a broader feminist discourse, female artists addressing the women’s body, reproduction and motherhood based on intrinsic feminine qualities are often accused of an essentialist point of view. According her observations and experiences, Tharmakrishna for her part focuses on her own female identity and more than that her rather feminine approach bears lot of creative potential to be placed in the context of post-war Sri Lanka, since maternity is easily linked to the idea of motherland. Thus her fertile symbolism refers to a future generation who will hopefully not have to experience the pain and sorrows of war. Yet they are innocent, but they are embedded in an empty space, the void that was left behind by the absence and loss of so many friends, family members, parents, brothers and sisters. Despite the simplicity of her style, Tharmakrishna’s intimate drawings nevertheless claim strength to balance the given space and creates a map of her life’s path.
Krishnapriya Tharmakrishnar (b. 1987) holds a Bachelor of Art and Design from the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka. Krishnapriya has exhibited in group exhibitions organized by the university's Faculty of Arts, as well as exhibited at Saskia Fernando Gallery in Colombo. By using intricate designs and patterns, she attempts to trace and inscribe the tracks of her past, present and future.
THE HUNT, 2014
Her series titled The Hunt (2014) is dedicated to draw attention to permanent gender inequality and social obligations women have to face today especially in her community. The dowry system and the compulsion that Tamil girls should get married at a very young age has brought about a situation of chaos and discontent among the women. Education and ambitions are just of secondary importance, since even employed women are viewed as inferior to their male colleagues, where their talents are being ignored. Under this context, the young women of Jaffna are placed under additional pressure to deal with the changes their lives have gone through after the end of the civil war. The series depicts several sights of an enchanted forest, nightmarish visions of demons who haunt her, representative of women. Mysterious hybrid creatures bare their teeth; monstrous insects lurk in the shadows. This impenetrable labyrinth will send cold shivers down your spine with its visionary maelstrom of oppressive conceptions where one could easily run the danger of losing herself in it. With her artwork Thujiba points to an awareness of a natural female strength, which makes it possible to empower herself to overcome social expectations and to find a female identity in post war Sri Lanka.
Thujiba Vijayalayan (b. 1984) works focus on vulnerable women, portraying the issues and the forces that have to be faced and overcome. She expresses them through the natural world around her by developing a combination of techniques and mediums to complete a piece of art - from lines and colors with charcoal on paper or canvas.
Although the thirty years of war came to an end, its effects are still alive. Many people were forced to move away from their home to safeguard their lives. But my family struggled to stay to safeguard our house and household things. But in the end we had to move. When we came back all our household items were gone and the house was badly damaged. Bits and pieces of the house existed. By burying all our memories of home, we were able to build a new house. But we could not get all the household items back. Therefore, the sense of what is missing is always a cause for pain. This reality transferred us into another zone of conflict. My works talk about the new reality and what is missing through the act of cutting out of photographs. Though we have water and a well – our well bucket was taken. This missing element, like all the other items that were taken, interrupts our reality, even though the war has ended.