OF POEMS & PAINTINGS
I am a carnival.
A continuous clutter
of thoughts and actions.
A garage space
heaped with things to attempt, ponder later.
An attic or a dungeon
of good ideas resting against walls,
rolled up and stuffed into
recesses of my head.
(“Shadow”, ‘Hemingway and Jumbled Store’, Layla Gonaduwa, 2019)
Artist Layla Gonaduwa is emblematic of a unique interdisciplinary approach to artistry: her poetry imbued with feeling and ethos intermingle effortlessly with her visual art, creating a narrative that captures layers of human existence. Layla works with the mediums of woodcut, paper, copper, glass, enamel, text, and painting to explore her autobiographical and political perspectives. Uninhibited by conventions, Layla is self-taught and novel when it comes utilizing myriad forms of artistic disciplines to express her thoughts and emotions. We found her experimental nature interwoven into her works of art, exuding a sense of authenticity that we found significant in highlighting the unique characteristics of interdisciplinary art.
“I did not study art but I was a student at Cora Abraham Art Classes where I engaged with the practice of art making. I had a very strong discipline at home, that no matter what I did, I would allocate time to do something related to art in the mornings” she said. In fact in 1998, Layla was invited to take on the role of Vice Principal at Cora Abraham Art Classes but resigned soon after to pursue her interest as an artist. Her first exhibition was dedicated to raising funds for the school in 2008, with enamel work and paintings that were showcased at Barefoot Gallery. Thereupon she experimented with form, material and ideas to create her own unique identity, exhibiting locally and internationally in countries including India, Belgium and the United Kingdom. She has also been a part of renowned art festivals such as Colomboscope (2019), Colombo Art Biennale (2014) and Kochi Muziris Biennale (2015).
Layla’s interdisciplinary practice can be best described with reference to her exhibition ‘Angle of Incidence’ held at Barefoot Gallery in 2016. She used ‘Nidikumba’ a type of common weed found in roadsides, as the motif to explore her personal experiences of the time, developing a fascinating collection of fibre and perspex sculpture, woodcut, print, paintings and installations. “Nidikumba is a weed and has a defense mechanism where if someone touches or tramples it, the plant shrinks and shuts itself,” says Layla. We found the sculpture in the exhibition particularly interesting as it was covered in Nidikumba and once one peered through it, a painting was found inside. While discovering the sculpture surrounded by Nidikumba, the audience was presented with the trappings that rest in her thoughts. The works at this exhibition were a representation of the self. “There were no direct representations, but resulting images." Interestingly, the title of the exhibition ‘Angle of Incidence’, is a term used in the discourse of physics resonating with the idea of the angle of reflection. “I wanted a very interactive exhibition where every piece had to be explored to be understood.” Layla used fortune tellers to denote to her past, and the perspex sculpture at the exhibition was reflective of her life over a period of time. Her installations of two-sided paintings titled ‘Path of Layla’ and ‘Chamila’ were six paintings individual paintings presented together. The title was inspired by her first and middle names, and as one walked across the paintings, she opened an introspective perspective to her life. In fact, we found these paitings to have functioned as visual cues to her follwoing poem– “I try telling them/ It is the greatest luxury/ to revel in,/and come up good in my being” (Layla Gonaduwa, 2019).
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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.