By Azara Jaleel

Art reflects the ugly, as much as it does of beauty. And when beauty is subverted, one cannot help but question its fatal attraction. Or perhaps, the deadly lure is devised to awaken our minds to alternative spheres of mysticism and memory - arousing our curiosities. To subvert, is one of art’s most captivating characteristic, and to some, it is the basis of its existence; even when it comes to the painting of flowers.

ARTRA Magazine’s Subverted Flowers presents the works of eight esteemed local and international contemporary artists including Anoli Perera, Anusha Gajaweera, Sanjeewa Kumara, Sujeewa Kumari, Priyantha Udagedara, Gayan Prageeth, Nuwan Nalaka and  Marium Agha with their own interpretation of this age-old motif. The artists featured in this thematic edition have used flowers, infinite in their formal and symbolic potential, to reflect the relationship between clarity and chaos, nature and culture, beauty and consumption, history and heritage, subverting the ornate function of flora.

Flowers across the centuries have been depicted in Modern and Contemporary art, often for the sake of beauty or to signal gendered stereotypes. However, the works published across the pages of the magazine utilize a system of symbols in which different variants of flowers are assigned inimitable meanings. ‘Subverted Flowers’ is an allusion to colour and vitality, as much as it is about the colourless and that of sombre sentiments, sometimes forsaking form and proportion. The works of art on the cover by Anoli Perera seek transcendence and aesthetic mysticism in a bygone socio-cultural context, of which the flowers are reminiscent of Sri Lanka’s colonial legacy. The roses on the artist’s works on the cover of the magazine subvert memory with national strife, while the flowers on Anusha Gajaweera’s works are hardly recognizable in its prickly form, subverting its sublime beauty to death and decay. The profound characteristic of Gajaweera’s works is its relevance to the present context of the global pandemic, and its consequences upon society at large – socially, politically and economically. Like its prickly nature, it makes you uncomfortable, and through that discomfort, probes one to question one’s own perception in an altered way.

In artistic expression, there is a significant amount of cultural production. The underlying conceptual instrumentality of works probes one to think about the meaning of a flower as it is often considered to be of sublime beauty. The ‘Subverted Flowers’ edition of ARTRA Magazine examines the beauty of the flower in disrupting power and gender. If anything, flowers are more relevant today than it has ever been, as their faded form reflects these dark and desperate times calling out for indignation, as much as its lustrous state, reigniting hope and jubilation.

7th April, 2021 Visual Art | Paintings