Azara Jaleel

Barbara Sansoni, The Jaffna Kitchen.

Through the years, I have had the privilege of visiting the homes of many artists. I found that almost all share a beauteous culmination of the artist’s mind, epitomizing a unique form of living. As much as their splendid works of art adorn the walls, tables and sometimes the floor it is their holistic approach to art and life that characterize their living. While being captivated by their breathtaking works, which are uniquely placed across their home, in my opinion, are only partial reflections to representing the artist’s stimulating and exemplary lifestyles, of which I would like to share a handful, that represent a distinctive culmination of artistic stimulus. 

I am stirred by their honest way of living. During the compilation of this edition of ARTRA Magazine, I had the opportunity of spending time with Dominic Sansoni at his family home at Anderson Road, Colombo. This residence is noteworthy in many ways, including its unique design by Ulrik Plesner. With its spatial variations and minimal walls under a simple gable roof, which was one of the forerunners of the resolved duality of ‘tradition’ and the ‘modern’, continues to inspire generations of young architects, mentioned C. Anjalendran during a conversation. Additionally, Dominic’s home also integrates Colombo’s first private gallery that showcased the works of renowned Sri Lankan artists. However, what captured my attention most in reflecting Barbara Sansoni’s inspirational way of living, was the manner through which she uses art as a way to show affection to her family and loved ones. Sincere and candid, her personal touch to conveying wit, skill and affection through birthday cards, invitations and bedtime stories for her children, as seen through her impeccable drawings on pages 30, 31, 50 and 51 reflect creative contemplation beyond her professional pursuits. The artist’s extension of her authentic self in fulfilling her role as a mother and friend not only nurtures her soul, but also brings joy and jubilation to those who receive them. Inadvertently, these endearing impulses inculcate a lifestyle that is authentic to one, and their respective strengths, which contributes to an enthused way of living.

Finding meaning, and empowering the space around your home, is yet another form of living and lifestyle that is very riveting. I encountered this virtuous way of living during my visit to the homes of artists Firi Rahman and Vicky Shahjahan in Slave Island.  What I witnessed during my visits in 2018 was that they shared their art, not only within the walls of their respective homes, but also on the public walls around their neighbourhood. The nature of their artistic expression was not only for visual appeal, but also for advocating a sustainable, long lasting and more importantly, a favourable representation of their neighbourhood. These earnest desires to subvert the negative narrative associated with Slave Island by Firi and Vicky thereafter transformed into a social project under the name ‘We are from Here’ spearheaded together with artist Parilojithan Ramanathan. Over the years, this project has received larger momentum in drawing attention to the depletion of historically significant buildings in Colombo. What began as something personal, has now taken on a larger life, inspiring those around them. There is much integrity to this form of living, that is not only laudable, but mostly – cultured.

Barbara Sansoni, Missy Fu

Then there are those homes of artists that are not enclosed spaces, but are part of the natural landscape, and in complete oneness with nature. Laki Senanayake’s abode in Diyabubula is an iconic sanctuary, built on a platform of wood which is supported on timber piers over a large boulder perched above a lake. And his works of art are not sprawled across walls or tables, but on puddles, trees and rivulets where he also had installed speakers across the vicinity, to enjoy his love for music.  His way of living was exceptionally true to his love for nature, and he did not compromise on that in any way. In fact, during our visits to his capricious abode, we would converse more about nature, than that of art, as nature was his inspiration to life. What I find most stirring about his lifestyle is that it reflects his ardent love and respect to nature that fearlessly overrules the conventional ways of living.

The homes and reflective practices of artists mirror their eclectic mind, values and principles, which collectively exemplify an inspired way of living. In today’s context, when living is approached by most through frameworks and styles set by others, than by their own, it delimits the scope of a meaningful and a creatively rousing lifestyle. Whilst not everyone are artists, every individual has their own set of aesthetic and interests. Once individuals place importance to those that ignite their passion, a truly fulfilling form of living and lifestyle can be experienced with art, that they are drawn most to, in fueling their everyday, be it in visual, performative, written or applied form.

Are you part of an organization looking to include cultural diversity? Do you want to introduce some of Sri Lanka's finest artists and legacies to enlighten your collective?  ARTRA Services will gladly offer counsel and guidance through talks, presentations and guidance on the local art scene and all it entails. For more details, call us on +94772305054/+94114545355.

24th August, 2021 Applied Art | Architecture