Anjalendran's Vicarious & Vivacious Approach

A brisk walk across the living room to the courtyard of the beauteous home of Anjalendran alone captures the charismatic persona of Sri Lanka’s Modern & Contemporary art, which further reflects, the architect’s stirring stimulus and wondrous way of living. We have had the honour of visiting the homes of many artists across the years, and what we found most unique about Anjalendran’s home is its symbiotic nature, reflecting not only the minds and musings of the great art masters but also the wholesome approach of the architect himself, who derives direction and allure from amorous artists. His home not only epitomizes a unique form of living, but represent a distinguished set of characteristics one acquires when one lives and engages with art.

The portraits and paintings, sculptures and lithographs that adorn the walls and floors of his home in Battaramulla, have been collected across decades. His rich cultural understanding and appreciation plays a significant role in his personal collection of art by esteemed and emerging artists, which he bought and received as gifts from artists and friends alike, that which spans across diverse cultural influences from the late 1970’s to date. In fact, Anjalendran’s fervent curiosity and passionate indulgence are what nudge him to invest in the many forms of art, of which in our conversation we explored the manner through which art had enriched his being and shaped his perspectives along with the tantalizing tales of his iconic collection.

Anjalendran learned under the Bauhaus tradition with David Robson and so insists that every architect should then own an Anglepoise lamp of which he has three, two butterfly chairs and a Marimekko wall hanging, which are placed aesthetically in his living room. And amongst his designer furnishing, the architect positions many works of art by both esteemed and emerging artists of Sri Lanka and a couple of works from artists overseas. His selection of Laki Senanayake owls, collected in 1999, are spread throughout the expanse of his living room, bedrooms and court yard along with a collection of lithographs and maps, more particularly, crooked maps of Ceylon, that he showcases resplendently as one enters his home. For Anjalendran, art is not only significant for its aesthetic fascination but as a way of aiding artists, especially those who are emerging that he comes across in his life. As he takes us around his home, the soft notes of Carnatic music floats in the background as he gestures to an Ajantha Ranaweera painting he owns alongside a Kingsley Gunatillake canvas, which he compares to a Donald Friend painting, that was given to him before the artist left for his hometown in Kandy. 

Among this collection is a photograph of a wall in Thimbirigasyaya, photographed by Dominic Sansoni beside a Matisse lithograph gifted to him by his friends Dharmavasan and Julie, Sanjay and Lakshmi for his 70th birthday, and a Howard Hotchkins obtained from an exhibition he visited with the legendary Barbara Sansoni. He explains, “It’s easy to get into a particular time period from a particular subject. But, I think that the more boundaries you cross, the more cross-cultural you become. For instance, a lot of people can say that they like Carnatic music from India, but very few people can say that they like both Carnatic and Hindustani music. If you resonate with both, you develop a better awareness of it. Thus, the more limitations you cross, the more universal you become, and you continue to develop a keen understanding of the people.” 

Anjalednran’s collection is more intriguingly, bound by his heart-warming relationships with friends, family and students. Anjalendran’s collection acquired over the years, which now adorn the homes he built for himself and his loved ones, namely the Anjalendran Home which adorns the works he purchased between 1977-1993 and his recent acquisitions, the Crooked House that incorporates the pieces he purchased from 1993 to 2008 and Kumar’s Home that showcases his collection that he bought between 2008-2019. Anjalendran explains that there was no plan or intention but that he received or bought what was available at the time and what he could afford. He said, “I had made up my mind that when I come back to Sri Lanka, half of my earnings would be spent on art and craft.” Anjalendran’s collection is thus, the compilation of simple indulgences and appreciations reflecting an innate sensibility of artistic gratification. It is not only the visual arts that appeal to him but also that of performance art. In fact, Anjalendran’s involvement in the performance arts is one that is distinct to his persona and pursuits. The architect completed his dance studies in 1965 at the mere age of 15, having held his Arangetram. He said, “Oscar Wilde wrote that ‘The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life’s tragedy.’ That is to say, by dancing, more than anything else, I got to know myself. I played all the ragas, and checked off the ones I liked and crossed off the ones I didn’t like. I found that the ones I liked come from two thaats – the Bilawal thaat and the Ahaliya thaat, the two being immersions of one another.”

We find, as an architect, Anjalendran’s artistic sentiments are inherent. They are desires that arose within to quench his curiosities. His background in the performance arts can be seen in the ways he creates, celebrating an authentically Sri Lankan culture influenced by diversity and difference in character and rhythmic in design and direction. “I am first and foremost a proud Sri Lankan. I don’t aspire to be anything else than a proud Sri Lankan. I don’t look at myself as a proud Tamil or Sinhalese. This is something I learned from Geoffrey Bawa, Ena de Silva, Barbara Sansoni and Laki Senanayake. They are the people I aspired to be, I didn’t aspire to be those whom I didn’t know. They gave me my grounding. And that is also what I try to teach my students, to be proud of themselves,” he shared. 

As the conversation wound down, Anjalendran repeated a quote by Lawrence Durell, one that takes us back to our first feature of him on ARTRA Magazine E28 where he said, ‘Like all young men, I set out to be a genius, but mercifully laughter intervened,’ insisting that one must laugh at himself if he were to live a fulfilling life. Amongst many intriguing opinions shared, he explained that he would not part ways with his Laki Senanayake’s ‘Boy with a Flute’ and that his oldest painting, Richard Gabriel’s ‘Cow dung, bull and bird’. Anjalendran’s life of art, architecture and artistic pursuits reflects a spirited understanding of humanity, culture and heritage. We find his collection to be a reflection of the way he lives, authentic and enthusing, mirroring his multi faceted persona and vicarious and vivacious life and spirit.

25th May, 2022 Applied Art | Architecture