Face.   1967
Watercolour on paper.  17 x 12.5 cm
The Serendib Gallery Collection

 

Fisherman's Hut.  Undated
Oil on canvas.  80 x 62 cm

IVAN PERIES

1931 - 1988

   Retrospective Exhibition

Peries' work has largely grown out of his pre-occupation with a particular vision of the Ceylonese landscape.  The development of his art has been carried on the momentum generated in his early years in Ceylon.  It is the product of a purely painterly meditation on the painter's indigenous experience.  His mature work displays that fine control over feeling and technique that is present in all his work.  Influences have already been completely absorbed and digested; they are operative as far as the entire convention of landscape within which the picture exists.  This convention is only the point at which Peries' art begins.  If Peries has had anything from tradition, it is only an alphabet; the vocabulary, the grammar, the style, the experience, the meaning, the vision are his own, at once original and universal.

Peries' pictures are quite static, whatever movement there is, is entirely internal, underneath, the gestures of a kind of inner spirit of space.  This spirit, sometimes highly charged, dramatic, even violent, sometimes quiet, gentle, delicate, almost musical, often (in the best pictures) both things at once, is the most profound thing that these paintings have to offer us.  Their duality, this amalgamation, as it were of two opposite states of being obtained right through the years of painting.  Now in his full maturity, yet sufficiently removed in time to have absorbed and digested his experience, Peries has completely mastered his vision and his material.

The scope of Ivan Peries' work, does not stop here.  From the beginning he displays a wide range of interest and a variety of mood and manner.  Yet this variety is always characterised by his distinctive style, that mark of a natural talent, evolving, developing through the years, but containing in his latest phases elements present in its genesis.  The figures are not much than objects for particular arrangements of form and colour, so much more that in the later pictures the figures are often faceless, robed silhouettes rather than identifiable people.  The fineness of the artist's perception has captured much more than the merely formal qualities of the subject.

Again there are other pictures in which the human figure is quite clearly depicted but impersonalised in a way quite different from the portraits.  We might, for lack of a more suitable term, call these pictures mythological.  They are mythological, not because they depict any known or recognisable mythological framework or draw upon a stock of traditional images (that iconography of revivalism that we are familiar with in other painters of our time) but because they deal in a kind of visual symbolism that generates its own meanings and allusions.  These paintings present a world neither ancient nor modern, clearly recognisable, strangely, hauntingly meaningful and yet ultimately outside the natural experience.  This is not to say that they are esoteric, or unreal, rather than that their reality has been pitched at a point of mystery or fantasy, understandable only in their own, purely pictorial terms.  In these paintings, invariable river or beach scenes, with a group of several different groups of figures, Peries presents us with a vision of rural life in that undefined time between work and leisure, a moment of quiet, relaxed, though not restful, community.

Prof. Senake Bandaranayake

(from the Catalogue '43 Group Exhibition Royal Festival Hall, London, 1987)