M.O.B by Chandraguptha Thenuwara

How do we define the crux of an availing cause? Across the diverse historical epochs and cultures, the lines between art and politics have intersected paths to change and respond to radical concerns. Art becomes the language through which an activist, boldly and perpetually expresses their opinion. An artist, an activist, lecturer and curator, Chandraguptha Thenuwara’s work has presented riveting political commentary for nearly two decades in this documentary format. Thenuwara’s work is made up of the juxtaposition of objects and paronomasias; these works are exhibited annually on 23 July to commemorate ‘Black July 1983’. As a multidisciplinary artist the exhibitions have included installation, canvas, drawing and sculpture; they draw parallels with international issues that relate to borders, militarization, ethnicity and human rights. Essentially this artist’s entire body of work is dedicated to his plight to expose political corruption. From Barrelism to Camouflage, Neo-Barrelism, Dhammapada, Post-Barrelism, Beautification, Electric Chair for Sale and Glitch, artist and activist Chadraguptha Thenuwara exhibited M.O.B, his latest exhibition at Saskia Fernando Gallery from the 23rd of July to the 13th of August.

Through the years, Chandraguptha Thenuwara’s works of art have been dedicated to his ambition in uncovering political corruption in Sri Lanka. In 1997 he began a series of work titled Barrelism in response to the change in the cityscape of Colombo during the war. Thenuwara’s work is a combination of the comparison of objects and a clever play of the status quo. ‘M.O.B’, otherwise known as ‘Maliciously Organized Bastards’ is his interpretation of the disruption of peace that took place in Sri Lanka on the 13th of May, 2019. Through this collection, Thenuwara questions what is happening around us, and constructs through art his thoughts about the methods of recuperation of the end of a 27 year long war instead of establishing a peace building process by returning occupied land and removing camps. Significantly, M.O.B. presents a continuation of works alongside installation and editioned sculpture, a reference to previous themes and an attempt to highlight dysfunctional politics.

Chandraguptha Thenuwara has presented solo exhibitions at Maroondah Gallery Victoria, City Gallery Russia, Colombo National Art Gallery as well as group shows including Art Dubai 2016, Colomboscope 2015, Colombo Art Biennale, Bengaluru National Gallery of Modern Art, Breese Little London, Asia House London, Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and the Devi Art Foundation. Thenuwara also recently presented his works at Baik Art Gallery in Los Angeles along with other Sri Lankan artists in a group exhibition, called ‘Crossing Place’. Widely known, his series of work transforms themselves to represent the current times using transformations of symbolism to illustrate a previous state of affairs. 

Chandraguptha Thenuwara’s abstract works address political violence and corruption, representing the malfunctioning of society as jagged, pixelated lines, or glitches on canvas and unique sculptures depicting the misuse and exploitation of power. We found Thenuwara’s works of art empowering individuals and communities, and practising its roles in striving for justice to achieve the greater purpose.

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3rd September, 2019 Visual Art | Art Talks & Panels