CONCEIVING VIRTUAL SPACE curated by Alnoor Mitha and Saskia Fernando | a collaboration between Colombo Art Biennale and Art Space Sri Lanka | 02.12.16 - 02.03.17

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 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


OFFERING I-VII, 2014, Polaroid Picture, 10.7 x 8.8 cm/ 8.8 x 10.7 cm


Cassie Machado’s Afterlife (2011-2016) is a body of work, which reflects on the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war, and is a meditation on its trauma and its memory. The title Afterlife is inspired by the traditional beliefs towards Death in Hinduism and Tamil culture – which require a series of funeral rites or acknowledgements symbolising closure to be performed as a means of safeguarding the peaceful onward journey of the self or soul into the afterlife for reincarnation.

In the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war, which was fought on the island’s northern shorelines on an otherwise idyllic land spit known as Mullivaikkal, it is estimated that between 40-70,000 civilians died in the last months of fighting alone. In this period, the vast majority of families were physically unable to perform all if any of the traditional obsequies for their lost departed. According to the traditions of Hindu and Tamil cultural beliefs, as their deaths were left unmarked, the souls of the deceased were perpetually left to wander restlessly, spectres in an obscured twilight realm. Occupying a space between reality and fiction, politics and poetics, Afterlife seeks an end to this twilight for the dead and some illumination for the living.

Offerings portrays a series of hands belonging to one family who survived the final stages of the civil war from the Northern district of Mullaitivu. Shot in varying degrees of visibility the photographs are coupled with hand written texts inscribed directly onto the surfaces of the images by the subjects themselves. Acknowledging the significance of the hand as an organ of performance the images work in unison with the accompanying texts to go to the heart of the feelings of one set of survivors who bore direct witness to the final months of fighting from the shorelines of the no fire zone. Offerings give these survivors both form and voice to express their emotions to the outside world providing them with an avenue for traumas and emotions to surface empowering them as victims and transforming them into active agents working for change. Previously when I asked one of the survivors how he felt he described a burning sensation deep inside. After he wrote on the images I asked him again and he told me it felt like the burning sensation had been reduced.

Cassie Machado (b. 1982) is an artist of English and Sri Lankan descent. She studied English at King’s College London. In 2011, Cassie was awarded the Fundación Botín Residency Award by Paul Graham.

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 (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)

INVISIBLE PEOPLE I-III, 2016, Digital print on canvas, 36 x 27 in

Invisible People is an ongoing series that looks at the lives not only of the structurally invisibilized. The people on the receiving end of the inequality that is a part and parcel of the global neoliberal project, in which Sri Lanka is now a keen participant. These people are invisibilized by the obscuring of the ways in which their dispossession happens. So much so that they do not know it themselves. More importantly their dispossession is shielded from the view of the upwardly mobile middle classes, who can now buy into the dream of the development narrative guilt free. The government and corporations exploit while the media massages and paints a beautiful narrative, and the middle-classes willingly take the pill. They are compliant in the destruction but can maintain a clear conscience. They are free to work and improve themselves, safe in the illusion that economics is not a zero sum game. That what they gain won’t cause a loss for someone else.

... or follow him on Instagram

SINCE 1983 VI, 2016


Since 1983 VI is referring to inner-political conflicts caused by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) – a fundamentalist Buddhist organization that promotes an anti-Muslim- and Tamil agenda since its founding in 2012. In his collage the artist cuts several newspaper images depicting homes demolished by riots led by the BBS. The subject matter is not clear at first, because the triangles are arranged like a colorful mosaic which is deceptive. The pattern confuses the eye but when examined closer, the viewer is encouraged to assess every triangle which holds a host of information that needs to be put together as a whole. Prageeths method correlates to the current news distribution throughout the media, wherein each time a person would share the news the actual content is distorted by editing the available information. A dark cloud is overshadowing the scene, symbolizing the depressing character of the ongoing ethnical conflict in Sri Lanka, as the latest series of racist assaults since July 1983.

Dayan Prageeth (b. 1980) graduated at the University of the Visual and Performing Arts in 2009 and soon became one of the islands strongest emerging artists.

He combines intricate acrylic painting with fine ink drawings on rice paper, pasted on the canvas, to evolve a dynamic sharpness within his elaborate compositions. In his recent series titled 'Since 1983', Prageeth furthermore explores the art of installation, with a subtle link to the ready-made, transforming manufactured steel buckets into time critical objects.

Overall, his body of work is characterized by a Sri Lankan specific iconography and bears a sensitive awareness of ongoing environmental and political issues. His works have moved further into controversial politics facing the island over the past years. The subtlety with which he approaches his subject combined with a strong detail in his technique make him part of the growing trend of artists choosing to use contrast as a mechanism of representation in their art.



Where are you? This question was on Pushpakanthans mind when he created this photo collage of bomb-gutted ruins of post-war Jaffna in 2013. The artist had to pass by this rather depressing scenery every day during his undergraduate studies at the Jaffna University. The bare concrete walls of empty homes were riddled with bulled holes, providing evidence of the sad destiny and the prevalent haunted presence of this once lively neighborhood. Different shapes of destroyed buildings that irritate the viewers eye and makes oneself lost in the architectural maze. Doors that lead to non-existent rooms, walls and ceilings smashed in, missing, columns that reach into the air resembling burnt trees.

With everything having fallen into ruins, the artist seized this fragmentation to isolate the photographic vision and combines them to open a new space by duplication, reflection, sliding and turning them upside down. The artist builds a fictive space representatively for so many places as such what you will find after the war. Furthermore, he positions this place in such a manner where the background is white and empty, indicative of a vacuum – a desolate nature of abandonment. Who lived there? Where have they disappeared to? What are their stories?

Where are you? Pushpakanthan yet doesn’t have answers to any of these questions, but through refined shifts of perception, the spectator is able to empathize the feeling of loneliness and what it means, to be forced to start one’s life all over again.

Pakkiyarajah Pushpakanthan (b. 1989) holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka. The mood of his work is intentionally unsettling as he draws inspiration much of his experiences in the conflict and trauma of the war in the North: “I strongly believe that we can narrow disparities between the communities by using art as a tool of healing. By exploring unforgettable memories of death, disappearance, torture and wounds, I try to use my work as space to lay bare the painful realities of the past so that people can grieve. The more we explore the hard truths, the more we will be able to open the wounds. Without first opening these wounds, we cannot treat them, we cannot heal them.”



Pradeep Chandrasiri’s light box Motherland (2013) shows an austere black-and-white close-up photography of a shaved male head illuminated by bright back light. Referring to aesthetics of a neon sign advertisement, the lettering Motherland is underlined by a deep scar, branding the skin like a landmark on a map. This stigma alone stands for the painful trauma people had gone through in the aftermath of war, suffering physical and mental trauma. Though faceless, the subject symbolizes anonymous soldiers or civilian young men who had sacrificed their lives. The image is promoting the idea of motherland and varying assumptions to its identity. Like a fading echo the back light flickers, briefly highlighting this irritating snapshot, only to blend out the unpleasant memory as soon as the light is turned off. The artist demonstrates a morbid but prevalent glorification of war as the light box also appears as a modern shrine to worship and praise the myth of heroism.

Pradeep Chandrasiri is a well-known Sri Lankan artist who has exhibited locally and internationally. He is a visiting lecturer on theatre set design and production design at various universities and theatre schools in Colombo. He has designed award-winning theatre sets for the National Theatre Festival of Sri Lanka. He also received the Commonwealth Art and Craft Award for his work in the visual arts in 2003, which allowed him to participate in a visiting artist programme at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He has participated in many local and international artist programmes since 1998, including the second Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial, at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan in 2002.

Chandrasiri is currently based in Colombo, and belongs to the group of artists first identified with "90s Trend," a Sri Lankan art movement that professed a new ideological position in art production influenced by contemporary art practice and social context. He came to prominence within this discourse during the 1990s. His works are profoundly influenced by autobiographical memories of his experiences in Sri Lanka. In addition, Chandrasiri is a founding member and executive committee member of the Theertha Artists Collective.



From my point of view any artistic creation is a means of showing history which is influenced by the experiences of the artistic at any time and which has a terrific impact on his mind. My own perceptions, feelings and experiences during my own reactions to such real life experiences manifest themselves in my artistic creations.

We had to undergo multiple displacements during every stage of the Eelam war. It was not only the bombings that sacred us. On the contrary, we had to wage a real struggle for necessities needed for human survival as well. There was acute scarcity for food items. Even the scanty suppliers that we managed to gather, we could not cook and consume in a proper place. The war was so cruel.

During the height of the final war, we were compelled to move to several places on a single day. We used to take a steel plate to enable us to prepare "rotti" and some other vessels. We lived, most of the time in the shelter of the bunkers. At that time, it took a long time to cook rice and curry for a meal. On many occasions it proved to be absolutely impossible to engage in such tedious cooking. It was a relentless struggle for survival. The steel Thosai plate helped us to dissolve the corn flour quickly in some water and pour it on it, and heat it and eat it as the most rudimentary form of Thosai in a hurry. People use coconut scrapings and other spices and condiments when they prepare Thosai. I share the painting of the 'Four Thosai Plates" with you. The species and condiments in this case are the cruel pains of the war inflicted on us in a meaningless conflict.

There were incidents when the flesh and blood of our kith and kin who were victims of sudden aerial bombings were sprinkled liberally on the Thosai plate. If the dough gets heated, we get the "rotti". The war roasted the lives of so many relatives and they are gone. Thus in the "Four Steel Thosai Plates" I am sharing with you my eye- witness accounts of the lamentations and screams of death and my experiences of extreme horror. I make them the themes of my artistic creation as I do not want to experience the terrible, stark realities of war again.

SHARING FOUR THOSAI PLATES I-IV, 2016, Mixed Media Installation, 31 x 26.5 cm

It remains unclear in which direction the images on Sharing Four Thosai Plates should be read. Either way, each of them precisely narrates first-hand experiences the artist had of the daily challenge to survive the civil war in the Vanni region. Vijitharan chose an abstract mode of representation in earthy colors. The perspective varies from close-up to preferably aerial view, probably to enable a focus on his memories from a distant point of view – seen from above. Sketchy miniatures show crowds of refugees, evacuated in camps, tent upon tent, airplanes and helicopters crushing down on them, bombs hit the grounds. A cassette and megaphone decorated with guns associate with sirens to alarm people seeking protection in bunkers; a dead corpse is only patched up with cloth patterns. His face is buried under a grid of deep scrapes in the metal surface of the Thosai pan. Bullets pierce his body leaving him bleeding and in pain and grief. In Vijitharans illustrations people are reduced to red and black dots, that can be easily targeted from the air. The people are trapped and unable to go about their daily routine, like tending to their paddy fields, as they are contaminated with landmines. Using Thosai pans as medium is a way for the artist to embrace tragedy with the comforting memory of sharing meals with family and friends during an otherwise life-threatening struggle. For that matter a trivial object like a Thosai pan of all things became a surrealist symbol of hope.


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.

...or follow him on Instagram

MOTHERLAND, 2016, Mixed Media, 40 x 29 cm


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.

MOTHERLAND, 2016, Mixed Media, 40 x 29 cm

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.

STAINER I-IX, 2016, Tea Bags, Glass Beakers, Strainers and Ink, Dimensions variable


Her series using strainers and stained tea bags metaphorically represent the strain of the people in her community and the stains marked on their lives. Each strainer is painted white and stained with tea. The images on each individual strainer tell stories of childhood, schooling, leeches and childbirth. The ovaries on one strainer discuss the childbirth that occurs in children who are married and impregnated before they are physically ready. The varying depths of each strainer symbolize the process or cycle of struggle that the women in these communities endure.

Somasunderam completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Jaffna and has exhibited her work at the Saskia Fernando Gallery Colombo, Dhaka Art Summit 2016, Bamyan Cultural Centre Afghanistan and Open Space Colombo curated by Raking Leaves and the Asia Art Archive.

My work attempts to share the struggle faced by upcountry plantation workers in Sri Lanka. This struggle has existed for over a hundred years without a solution or public attention. Although we live in the highlands of the country closer to the clouds and sky our living conditions are so poor. We contribute to the country’s economy and suffer hardship in return. In these works I explore the plight of the tea estate workers who work hard to get their daily wages, contend with nature; landslides, leeches and climate only to bear the strain of what life dictates on account of their work. One day’s full pay is only paid if a plantation worker completes working for a full 18 days. This payment is not sufficient to look after their daily needs. They live in ‘line’ houses and have to send their young children to child care centres (pulla kambara). Children not only miss their families, they also miss the chance to receive a proper school education and usually end up working as child laborers and in child marriages.

I use locally-used handmade strainers and tea bags as sculptural materials. Together they conceptually embody the strain suffered by this community, which seeps into every aspect of their lives along with that of their offspring, like an indelible stain that marks you for life.

Hanusha Somasunderam (b. 1988) completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Jaffna and has exhibited her work at the Saskia Fernando Gallery Colombo, Art Dubai 2016, Dhaka Art Summit 2016, Bamyan Cultural Centre Afghanistan and Open Space Colombo curated by Raking Leaves and the Asia Art Archive.

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.

THE HUNT, 2014


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.

Lost/Loot, 2016

Thabendrans photo collages are rather minimalistic in its method. He cuts white silhouettes of trivial objects and paste them into images of his home. Obviously the remaining void stands for all the missing items which had been looted from his house after his family had returned home after the war ended. They were items not of particular value, but as simple as a missing water bucket or a missing chair seems, they are fundamental interior you need to build a home and it bears evidence of injustice that they had been taken. A symbolical value has been inscribed to the objects by enlarge their actual size, to underline their personal importance. They are floating in the space, referring to their unstable status. The background of the collages is distinguished by a ‘snap shot’ appearance, so the focus is not distracted by effects but concentrated on the objects itself.

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