George Beven

One of the very few modernist artists still producing work in contemporary times, artist George Beven hardly requires an introduction. Born in 1929 in Negombo and having spent a lifetime dabbling in colour, exploring landscape and portraiture, a pictorial trend in modern Sri Lankan art during the 20th Century, this artist of Burgher descent now shifts between London and Negombo. George developed his skills alongside generations, consistently reaching stages of distinction through varying techniques and artistic styles. Along with his partner Wolfgang Stange, a dance choreographer, the pair share their lives of travels and wanderings through art. “I always take a sketchbook when I go on holiday. Most of these pictures are done with felt pen and spittle, to get the shading”. Notorious for improvisation, both George and time itself prove little stands in the way of a determined artist.

George’s professional journey in art began with a secured position at the Lake House publication group in the late 1940’s. Initially sending sketches to a ladies magazine produced by the Ceylon Observer, George finished his studies before becoming the first artist employed at Lake House. The artist worked with critically accalaimed artist Aubrey Collette, cartoonist, political satirist and a member of Sri Lanka’s iconic Modern Art Collective ’43 Group. Lake House, meanwhile, sent George for evening classes at Heywood Art College down Green Path and it was here that his path crossed with that of artist David Paynter from whom he learnt to draw the human figure.

As a young painter, George was also sent by Lake House to London to further his art education at St. Martins School of Art. “I think the English like watercolour paintings mainly nothing too bright. I use a lot of colour. I paint with any colour - if I see yellow on a face, I’ll paint it”. During the 1930’s, it was difficult for the largely unknown artist to independently secure gallery representation in Colombo, with the ‘43 Group exerting much influence. “I paint to suit myself. I have no style, I draw as I feel like it. In the old days when brushes and canvas were too expensive, I would paint with my fingers instead, on a ‘padura’ [brush mat]”. George’s move to London spurred ideals of having individual showcases in Sri Lanka.

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15th August, 2018 Visual Art | Paintings

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