BARTERING ART AS GIFTS FROM NATIONS
Artists are enriched by travel, and the world of art is further characterized by the cultural efforts of diplomatic missions. Given its multicultural approach to projects, visions are exchanged as emissaries offer different perspectives through artistic lens. International cultural centers are known to hold innovative platforms for art, film, literature and music of which the Embassy of France in Sri Lanka and Alliance Francaise de Kotte are reputed for their commitment to promoting local and French artistry. Namely that of Bonjour Cinema! of which ARTRA is an Official Partner and the French Spring Festival, a combination of showcasing contemporary art house cinema and a series of street art festivals celebrating French visual and performance art. In conversation with Jean-Philippe Gavois, the Cultural Counsellor for the French Embassy in Sri Lanka, we explore the impact of traveling artists while understanding the embassy’s deepened interest in fuelling local artists and art scene.
“In France, art is a part of public and international policy. You can witness it everywhere you go.” Annual street festivals are held in tandem with open days for museums and cinemas, including an International Music Day for enthusiasts, an interest Jean-Philippe has been instrumental in stimulating through the art and cultural activities of the diplomatic mission. He states “The experience of cinema presents a combination of disciplines. Cinematography, costume design, film scores and the heritage of classical painting are a few components to mention”. As a lover of film, Jean-Philippe spent time as a youth in cinema halls, also consuming a range of genres on television. The counsellor explored hip hop culture, graffiti and dance, commenting on definitions the underground and mainstream channels have held over time highlighting its impact in providing unique identities to spaces. Having studied its impact in France, The French Embassy annually invites professional graffiti and street artists to use the city of Colombo as their canvas . Over the years artists including Raphe HEC (2015), C215 (2016), Marko 93 (2017), and DACO (2018) have used walls in Colombo, Kandy and Galle as their canvases to colour the city with their artistry and characterization of the Sri Lanka spirit.
Facilitating travel experiences for artists to promote their workmanship across geographical borders contributes to a thriving cultural economy. Challenging perspectives are necessary in understanding larger layers of culture. Jean-Philippe remarks cultural capitals such as Paris have so much artistic activities taking place to the point that they don’t need to look outward – which he considers to be reductive. “I’ve had the chance to travel a lot for my work. It’s helped me a lot in building my understanding of artistic expression influenced by unique features characteristic to respective countries”.
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