BE. THE BREAK
The Art Of Reconciling
From destruction and debris, violence and hate, society reaches a conclusion before one is established; most often it is one of negativity. From exuding animosity and doling out pessimism, an ambience of injustice brews. However, amidst the reasons and cause for violence, arises a cause to establish peace; through the art of reconciling, parts of society propose harmony. ‘Be. The Break’ Exibition held at J.D.A Perera Gallery from the 19th to 21st of October 2019, curated by Anjuli Flamer-Caldera, CEO of The Agency Sri Lanka and Lahiru Pathmalal, CEO and Co-founder of Takas.lk, showcased and presented a collective of artists who strive for world peace and harmony while eradicating the notions of hate and violence. Together with Sri Lanka Unites and The Platform Sri Lanka, ‘Be. The Break’ creates a platform for artists, emerging and established to express and open discourses to resolve and present suggestions, initiatives and solutions to say ‘#NeverAgain’. In partnering with this commendable cause, ARTRA lends its support by providing a platform to reach and convey to society this reverent purpose, so as to comprehend the obstacles and proceed to conquer them. The exhibition also holds a Silent Auction to contribute to this cause in support and purpose to help create a better community.
‘Be. The Break’ represented many artists varying from novices to established; several celebrated artists took to this cause with heart and soul communicating varying aspects of socio-political, economic, social and ethnical issue: Priyanthi Anusha presented ‘Climbing the Ladder’ and ‘Ladder’, “After society shattering blasts, how many mothers are there asking the question “Where is my baby?” This ladder of life, the ladder of success is such an anomaly, as I see it. How would be the mother’s who have lost their babies, sons and daughters be thinking of success?” Priyanthi Anusha seeks to provide solace and comprehension to the mothers who’ve lost in the war of hate, their children. Through monochrome colours and intricate drawings, she presents this metaphorical ladder. Kavan Balasuriya’s piece is a part of a series of drawings and etchings created on aluminium foil, looking to understand the potential of unconventional material originally compiled and showcased at Broken Nature XXII Triennale- Design Takes on Human Survival in Milan earlier this year. The artist’s decision to use aluminium as born out of an intensive period of time that he spent producing art with repurposed single use plastics and polythene.
Sonali Dharmawardena’s ‘Hope’ derives from the thirty year civil conflict ravaged the beautiful island nation the artist grew up in. “For the better years of my life I grew up amidst the smouldering debris of constant bombs and battlefield residue. We lost many lives on both sides. It is not wrong to say the scars of the war are forever etched in my mind.” The golden opportunities in overcoming brokenness is the ‘canvas’ that has been used to construct this beautiful free flowing, silhouette of style and elegance. The motifs in Anusha Gajaweera’s paintings illustrate the inevitable nature of making art, which is drawing and erasing. Such motifs consist of rhythms and straight forms. With this, she attempts to express that living in society and making art has the same existence and reality as processing a dialectical contradiction.
Tamarra Jayasundera illustrated the pain of 72 years of violence in Sri Lanka through heavy textures in metal. The idea behind Wabi-Sabi was embedded in the artist’s mind while working on this piece for peace. Repetitive practices of hammering metal unanimously, not to add pain but only to remind everyone that it is a natural part of nature that needs to be accepted and responded to peacefully, not reacted to aggressively. The recurring emotion of hammering is reminiscent that Sri Lanka has been through decades of pain and that its beauty and thriving force can be reinforced by unity. Jade Jayawardena’s series of art is an exploration of art as therapy or a personal remedy into the healing process of a broken spirit. Drawing from personal experiences of trauma and abuse, this series was created on the journey from hurt to healing. Anura Krishantha’s pieces illustrate the violence in society and how religion seeks to subdue this violence but in reality actually supports and is supported by violence. The irony is a statement in itself.
KUR by Kasuni Rathnasuriya exhibited the delicate art of beeralu lace that has endured over time. The Kaftan presented by KUR reflects a heavy artistic influence from the “Suprematism” art movement and the “Black square” painting of Russian Artist, Kazimir Malevich. Intricate beeralu lace in geometric and floral patterns infuse the silhouette and labour of love. Patricia Mamelka captures the faces of people she meets as she treks through the lands of Jaffna that were severely bruised during the Sri Lankan Civil War; she encapsulates emotions, faces and feelings, “Sri Lanka's Civil War finally ended in May 2009 after causing over 25 years of significant hardship for the population, environment and economy of the country. It suddenly dawned on me that any children I met along the way aged 1 to 20 years had known nothing but war in their life time, it was just something they were born into. In a strange way it seemed our white faces gave hope to some thinking if we were there that peace may be possible,” she says. Lalith Manage works alongside with university students as well as children who were affected by calamitic events in their lives to question, “How can we be happy in a historical backdrop of bloodshed?” “How can we enjoy life together without erasure of memory of horrific events, saying #NeverAgain? Bandu Manamperi depicts the unconventional characteristics of an oval, or rather, an ellipse relating to the egg-shell to portray the fragile exterior that wraps the trauma and social conflict, “Our reality is filled, not with some illusory perfection of a circle but with the contingencies of the ellipse. It is, however, the shape of the eggshell that survived the transformation from the act of the performance to the surface of the painting. Like Kant defined the idea of the beautiful but more importantly perhaps, like the modern astronomers discovered the orbit of our planet. Not circular, but elliptical. Contingent but stable. A regularity without an ultimate reason – like life itself.”
Minal Naomi illustrates the possible capacity in society to communicate, a significant tool in creating peace, not through language but perhaps alternate ways. Historically, language is believed to have created a divide between communities in Sri Lanka. As the Official Language Act (colloquially known as the Sinhala Only Act) passed in 1956, Sinhalese was made the official language, it marginalised many citizens, particularly Tamil and English-speaking communities. She the questions, “But how much communication can occur, when the tool itself is a divisive issue? In many ways, Sri Lankans still struggle to communicate with one another. How much has our inability to communicate and connect, affected our past and present worlds? How effective is language as a mode of real communication? Are there other ways to communicate with one another that are perhaps, nonverbal?” Fashion and textile designer Oshini Perera expresses a perspective of what nature is providing and how we can give back responsibly. “To understand the basic composition of a tree, we must understand how it provides colour and fibre which is used to compile garments, and must realize what we are giving back, once a garment is discarded. All four individual garments presented, make a tree whole and are made from raw cotton - a fibre that is derived from the cotton plant. The fabric is dyed using tea; madder roots and onion peel, using mordant printing technique and hand embroidery,” she states.
Artist Koralegedara Pushpakumara’s canvases contain both doodling patches and figurative forms. Using these seemingly conflicting artistic methods, he illustrates the socio-political existence in the post-war situation in Sri Lanka, which has been witnessed and experienced since 2009. He explains that these works of art articulate that the strategically organized state mechanism and the other power acquiescent groups are continuously carrying out inhuman actions in the same way, but in seemingly separate manners. Artist Sujith Rathnayake presents an exhibition of paintings as a social response applying visual art and imagining the Hallucinations of human being in the face of organized repression of the Hegemonic Regimes as a feature of the suffering, whilst establishing Edward Munch in Sri Lankan context.
Mika Tennekoon, previously featured on ARTRA Magazine Edition 48 advocating to save and appreciate nature, expresses at Be.The Break the pain, heartbreak and loss as it becomes a great challenge for human beings and societies. Her work of art uses nature to portray the fact that through grief, positive transformation can occur, and that to continue to grow, we as whole must overcome, and thrive for a more hopeful and happy future. Aruna Vidaha Arachchi encounters in his journey as a teacher, students from varied cultures with diverse values and ideas. He demonstrates and presents “The Desktop” as a place where students scratch, break and groove to visually express themselves. “It is a mirror of love as well as violence in society. It reflects what kind of ethnicities; religious groups and cultural attitudes are portrayed in society. The formula I have derived from observing these desktops are: If you love, there will be love and vice versa. If you hate, there will be violence and vice versa,” he states. His work of art is a plea and request, perhaps the strive to see “The Desktop” as a place of expression that leads to a harmonized society, “I don’t want to see people being excluded because of their race, religion or culture. I don’t want to see violence. Never again – I keep repeating this.”
Salvage & Geshany Balder present ‘An Internal Dialog’ to express the contrast of chaos and peace standing in two sides of a doorway, yet the metaphor of these two extremes being both an internal struggle extending all the way to a country level is the dilemma society has to face. This installation is made to question the viewer: where do you stand now? With an open door, will chaos always be a step away from our peace? Lakshika Hewage exhibits ‘Under the Gaze of Patriarchy’. She comprehends how most women in society are ‘victims’ of The Gaze. In her exhibit, she refers to The Gaze as the patronizing, cat-calling glance often directed towards women on the street. She uses her platform to make society aware and conscious so as to eradicate this notion for a better community. Artist Pala Pothupitiye presents ‘Mapped Out’; his work mirrors socio political aspects such as national-religious extremism and colonialism, within the world that he experiences. “The conflicts in this country, the cycles of violence, is not what we hoped for,” he states. Throughout history, maps of a country were determined and dictated by people with power – people who are connected with violence. His work of art brings to light how this was the case then, and how it still is the case now.
Susiman Rinoshan exhibits ‘Holy Circle’: an expression of the artist’s memories through his life experiences. While the work is self-exploring, it is also a glance back at how his life has been influenced by religious, social, ethnic and political contexts. Artist Kavindu Sivaraj showcases ‘Broken’: an abstract piece dedicated to everyone who is actively working towards mending everything broken in today’s world. The abstract visuals representing what’s broken and the chair representing the responsibilities each individual takes on themselves.
Along with these celebrated artists, the exhibition also hosted works of art by the Sri Lanka Unites, Reconciliation Centres across the island who showcase their interpretation of the theme #NeverAgain, while committing to a future of non-violence and true reconciliation.
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