CHARACTERIZING SRI LANKA'S PERSONALITY
While Sri Lanka’s essence has been reflected through manifold perspectives, we at ARTRA believe that contemporary is the most symptomatic medium of characterizing the nation. Thus in tandem with the growth in digital consumption, we at ARTRA, merge our principle with that of technological competence to present ARTRA Canvas, our digital platform on our Official Website www.artra.lk/artraworks/canvas to experience Sri Lanka through artistic expression. ARTRA Canvas is a means through which artists from all 9 provinces of Sri Lanka share their thoughts, responses, and perspectives under curated themes expressed in the forms of visual metaphors, culinary dishes, travelogues whilst reflecting the culture and heritage of the places they come from. This digital platform celebrates the intrinsic nature of our diverse provinces with indigenous features to bring together our nation’s multidimensional character and landscape. It is also curated in a manner that reflects the value of artists in the larger context of their vital influence in shaping the narrative of our nation in an authentic fashion whilst staying true to one’s identity and spirit.
The first showcasing of ARTRA Canvas exhibits a series of works that depict the responses of artists to the pandemic. Artists across the nation have produced works of art depicting the consequences of the pandemic through varying mediums and ideologies. Shahdia Jamaldeen from the Western province stated, “ARTRA Canvas as a platform has been a collective tool that has helped a new generation of digital and traditional media artists gather from all over the island to showcase their experimentation. The quarantine period allowed many (fortunate ones) of us to explore and experiment our current styles further, and to discover our intrinsic motivations, once derived from the external humdrum and stimuli. It caused me to question, how does a singular, collectively binding situation (COVID) affect me and my approach to it, artistically? The Canvas platform has helped view similar different, individual approaches across the island, beyond provincial boundaries and state lines. It has helped me identify both parallels and obliques in how we have creatively approached the effects of quarantine, regardless of region or district. Beyond this, ARTRA Canvas has also opened the possibility to different mediums beyond the traditional. It has helped reinforce the concept that ideas, however complex or simple, can be conveyed beyond their literal meaning through the composition and exploration of digital medium. It has pushed me to explore my own quarantine artwork through digital media, instead of the comfort of learned traditional mediums; on the theme of contemporary styles vs. medieval methods in sustaining health during quarantine. The results have been surprising and encouraging, and I am thankful for that.” Shahdia’s works capture a notion of broken beauty in the depiction of flowers against disease. The concept portrays the directives where the smell of roses is used to obscure the stench of illness.
ARTRA’s Canvas launches with the thematic showcase of responses of artists amounting to 100 works in total. The platform’s most particular characteristic is distinct in its capacity to showcase works of art by artists from each of the nine provinces expressed inventively through diverse mediums ranging from acrylic, pencil sketching, digital art to mixed-media. Artist Mohamed Hathi from the Eastern province paints trauma and grief, a reflection of his innermost psyche. We found his perspective drawing each component of the influence and impact of the pandemic on individuals and the reality of its cause and effect. Hathi’s works of art are those of multifaceted intents indicating and representing intriguing realities and the scope of its trauma. A work of art symbolizes diverse nuances of the global disease, a figure affected, a dark and disturbing implication as it represents the innermost consequences, mentally and physically. In conversation he stated “My aim is to always evolve as an artist and impact a larger viewership with the message I have intended to convey through my works of art. ARTRA Canvas helped me facilitate this process and start my journey. Through this process, I was also able to interact and be in contact with other established artists, where I was able to learn and grow as an artist. ARTRA Canvas has played a huge role in this journey of mine. ARTRA Canvas provides a platform for the works of emerging artists in various parts of Sri Lanka and gives them opportunities to grow in the same way.”
Tharuk Kanishka from the Western province takes on a depiction of post-apocalyptic ideologies, an alternate reality that captures mental integration and sanity. The series of artworks by Tharuk explores the mental disintegration of an artist and his effort to keep his mental condition sane and stable during this period of the pandemic where time seems to stay still. Tharuk depicts through his art, his own conscious and inner thoughts. ‘Isolation Vacation’ is all about an imaginary situation and how he makes himself feel things as though he lived pre-apocalyptic conditions, turning the negativity and toxicity into optimism and sanguinity. In conversation he states “ARTRA canvas is something I was looking for, and wanted for so long. As an artist based in Sri Lanka, it is not easy to publish all of our creative outcomes, but ARTRA Canvas gave us the opportunity to be free and put our work up on with Sri Lanka’s exclusive Art Magazine ARTRA. Creations can be made but they can’t get the publicity but ARTRA Canvas has paved a path for all artists to get published. I really appreciate what ARTRA Canvas is doing for the Sri Lankan art industry, and making the space lot bigger. This space can pave a path for young art students to reach and create. As an emerging artist myself, I had to create my own paths to come to this point in life. Now we have ARTRA Canvas to show all our skill and creativity. I really like what Azara and the ARTRA team are doing by opening bigger spaces to new artists,” he shares as we converse on the effects and outcomes of ARTRA Canvas.
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