Nelun Harasgama

‘Walking on Water’, an exhibition of sarees and paintings by Nelun Harasgama opens on the 21st of March, 2019 at 7:00PM and will remain open till the 15th of April, 2019 (10:00AM – 07:00PM, Monday to Saturday; 11:00AM – 05:00PM, Sundays). The exhibition will be showcased at the Barefoot Gallery, Colombo 03.

Nelun Harasgama ARTRA Magazine’s 29th Edition, featured artist, does not limit herself to a canvas; she celebrates the simplicity of unstitched life. Albeit rudimentary in her artistic principles, her works are intriguing as a result of her varied mediums, which make them multi-functional. Nelun’s ability to transcend her works to that of varying dimensions makes her a vessel of creative energy, a trait of all artists and designers. They are not limited to parameters, as art itself is boundless which Nelun capitalizes upon creatively to share unique experiences of artistry to the wearer.

Nelun Harasgama’s work is distinctively recognisable. Her solitary figures, sitting or standing within bare interiors or barren landscapes have not only become synonymous with the near-abstract style but have also contributed to her standing as one of the few female artists of her generation. Nelun has been making work for nearly thirty years. On occasions, her solitary figures have been joined by a tree, a window or a chair but rarely, much more. The sense of loneliness and isolation within her work is undeniable. “Suffering. It’s all round us. It’s in your conscience. It’s in one’s genes. We carry suffering within us. Even if we have never suffered in our lives.” explains Nelun. Her work, she continues, “is my take on samsara – the eternal cycle of wounding death and mourning. Maybe a person, maybe a culture, maybe a race it dies. We then mourn its passing while never learning not to do it again.”

Born and brought up in Sri Lanka, Nelun has travelled around the country extensively and is part of a generation that have witnessed the circuitous changes of the island over the 40 years. In stark contrast to the work of many other painters in Sri Lanka, her paintings resonate with tension and torment without recourse to an expressionist or gestural style. Nelun’s paintings by comparison are stripped bare of painterly marks, identifications or unnecessary details. Starkly painted compositions, like studies in abstraction, provide the backgrounds for her elongated figures. Otherwise everything else has been edited out. Unsurprisingly, Nelun notes, “I paint new flashes. ‘Gore crow found at Maradana junction’ or ‘four bodies found on the Poornaryn Road’, I do not have an opinion or moral or story to tell. Just a news flash.”

Painting and designing sarees are two different modes of creative expression. However, Nelun Harasgama retains the skillset to do both. Conveying her talent of painting onto fabrics to bring alive sarees, Nelun is a master and artist of many capabilities. The art of painting and transmitting these designs onto a canvas constructed to be worn, an apparel of significance is a marvel and phenomenon in itself. The mechanism through which she creates may differ but the art that she produces is unique and fascinating. On her serigraph works, she moves even closer to a news print format medium – working with just ink and paper – creating visually striking compositions of single figures.

Ohé Island embraces the unstitched life, a life that takes you where it will, when it will, without precarved paths to follow or places to have to be at; colourful, bold and random collections of raw silk, batik and patchwork sarees, clothing and accessories take up most of their shelf space. At Ohé, everything is handmade; everything is pure silk or 100% cotton. Every few days Ohé Island make something new, depending on what they feel like! The little things matter to them when making what they like calling ‘wearable art pieces’. If there’s a hint of an idea for a saree that you’d like made especially for you, Ohé Island could do that too!

ARTRA is Sri Lanka’s Art Magazine exploring curated content on Sri Lanka’s visual art, performance art, applied art and written art. Launched in 2012, ARTRA Magazine is a compact monthly art read providing a comprehensive understanding on Sri Lankan artists, art events, monthly art calendars and the Sri Lankan design landscape. In sum, all you need to know about art in Sri Lanka.

18th March, 2019 Visual Art | Paintings