When it comes to not understanding art, I've observed two types of people. The first type will look at something and say "well clearly I'm not sophisticated/educated/aesthetic enough to understand this" with a deprecating smile that says they are all of the above, thanks very much, this thing I'm looking at is just dumb. The second type, and I fall quite solidly into this category, are those who will look at something and say "they call this art? Meh. Real art is
". Both are equally irritating and both are equally right, I think. Some artists are better than others, as is some art. It really just depends on who is looking at it.
Art exhibitions always make me think and re-evaluate what I consider art. This year's Colombo Art Biennale for instance, did just that. I was fresh off visiting Druvinka's exhibition at Barefoot, and everyone knows I have raging arty hard on for her work, so that is the benchmark by which I judged the artwork at CAB this year.
I was and was not disappointed.
First off, sadly, I missed many of the art talks, some which I heard were really good. Secondly, in contrast to last year, the artwork was on display at multiple locations, which made it quite a bother to see everything and I ended up missing CoCa's fringe event. While I do like the art-around-town idea they were going for, in execution I think the vibe of the last Biennale was missing, where you felt immersed in the feel and the theme of event. I apologise for how fruity that sounded.
The theme this year was 'Becoming', and I think the local artists completely outshone the international, in both execution and thematic interpretation; some of the work really had me becoming confused, pardon the pun. But those that stood out, really stood out.
The piece below Second Skin, for instance, a dress made out of elastic, was just fantastic, and not captured in this photograph are a series of photographs on the opposite wall of the artist (?) draped in the dress in a series of poses.
This piece titled The Fireflies Network I did not get, but it was pretty cool.
This larger than life woman sitting in her own tears was.. upsetting.
I cannot rave enough about Pradeep Thalawatta. His series "Disappearing and Reappearing Landscape" depicted travel between Colombo and Jaffna, in what I thought was the most creative and playful sense of art. The highlights for me being the two pieces below; one a mixed media piece showing the foliage highlighted against the ever familiar candy striped wall so popular to the North and East, and the other a series of vehicles, from transport to terror. The video demonstrating the technique used for the first piece was an added plus.
Juxtaposed against the lighter side of Becoming; the looking forward, was also the darker side; the looking backward. There were tables and chairs made of razor blades that creeped the life out of me, as well as some other structure of the same. A series by Koralegedara Pushpakumara titled "Barbed Wire" also invoked ideas of war and entrapment, and there were other war-themed motifs, including a sardonic "this is not a white flag" series.
Dominic Sansoni's set of photographs, however, were the star of the show for me. Titled 'The Jaffna Home", the series depicted the interiors and curios of old homes. The faded cloth of a sewing machine caddy, the patterned cabinet that, in another time and place, could be considered "vintage", the tattered shoe, the light falling through the window onto a wall of scribbled emotions, the bare bed in the darkened room.. they all of spoke of life, the hard, no nonsense life so many in post-war Sri Lanka live.
I was discussing the series with a colleague and she was saying how sad she felt looking at these pictures, of how hard these lives must be, but I admit I was thinking on a totally different level; more along the lines of omgaaawd these are gorgeous, these colours, omgaawd. Seriously, the photographs were stunning. Everything from the exposure to the composition was so flawless, and the eye on the photographer must be amazing. And I say this because I have seen and photographed these very same houses; walked in and out of these same dark rooms thinking there's nothing to photograph here, only to see them brought to life in this series. It was a lesson in photography all on it's own.
I had to take photographs of the photographs, but the series is online here.
*Sorry for the poor quality pictures. Blame it on the camera phone.