Online Exhibition In 1998 the Sri Lankan art audience specially recognizes him from the painting of the 'Great Emperor', which was exhibited Moods and Modes, 50 Years of Sri Lankan Painting exhibition in Sri Lanka organised by the George Keyt Foundation. The ‘Uncanny Personalities' paintings serious in his solo exhibition in 1999 at paradise Road Galleries Colombo seemed to be a turning point. Living in the Netherlands during the last few years, added integral substance to the current practice of his art. The colonial and postcolonial social and political issues in his country stimulate the contest of his recent paintings. Mixing various with popular and unpopular his torical elements combining them as visual pastiche, he tries to synchronize them into an own, unique visual style. His art world reflects trans-cultural hybrid images.

'In the South Asian post-colonial cosmopolitan Colombo cityscape new modern buildings and sky scrapers arise in between historical colonial space such as Dutch, Victorian architecture. Contrast is evident…..You can decide to eat at a Tamil restaurant, Sinhalese restaurant, Chinese, Korean, Mc Donald western eatery……The traditional osariei, sariei, sarom, kurtha, salwari, frock, jeans, western style blouses, Indian style or nationalistic style clothing…… No matter young or old, people are watching t.v., attending cricket matches, window-shopping..... Ox-carts and new modem vehicles together in traffic…. The mix of huge advertisements, thousands of prints, various media posters, publications, images about political posters contrast with still visible signs from the civil war. The mix of old and new life unite”.

The current contemporary Sri Lanka art movement really got started in the mid-1990s. Most private galleries and some foundations emerged with a significant role, such as Paradise Roads Galleries, and Bare Foot Gallery, opening up spaces for the young artists to present their artwork .

In the contemporary Sri Lanka art history, there are two major art trends. From 1940 - 1950 the new anti-colonial group of artists established a movement called the 43 Group, which became active during this period. Sri Lanka is derived from the pre-independent era under British patronage and the European all traditions that were introduced by the British in the latter part of the 19th century.

“The 43 Group artists evolved as a reaction to the prevailing ideology of painting which promoted restrictive academic imagery, pseudo-oriental impersonations, and imitations of the Victorian Natural ism from 'Western art. They based their concepts on the metaphysical and the spiritual elements of modern art. Contexts such as mythical, religious, spiritual and meditative practices influenced the basic structure of aesthetics of Sri Lankan modernism, and this attitude was linked to the ‘nation building' project of the time. After the 1980s the Sri Lankan contemporary art scene experienced a dynamic change, emerging from the influence the new open economic policies that were introduced in 1977.

Trends from 1990s included another significant movement, which began primarily in Colombo. These groups of young artists have made their way and are energizing the contemporary art scene in a highly dynamic manner. ‘The aspect that would recognizably describe this trend is the conscious efforts to define art as an expression of 'now' and 'right here'; art and the art-making process as an expression of being contemporary. In other words, a majority of the contemporary artists show a common conviction in their artistic efforts by necessarily placing themselves and their creative energies within the 'current cultural moment' and its immediate and less frequently, in distant antecedents. This necessity to he in the 'current cultural moment' states a common idea, consciously or unconsciously held by most of the contemporary artists; that is the refusal of a metaphysical narrative that couches a wish to be universal in a theological and trans-cultural sense. Currently the most prevalent subject matter among this type of art making is the representation of urban environments, consumer culture, or chaotic social and Political environments contrasted with rural villages and hometowns.

sanjeewa Kumara's work is directed towards a new dimension, and is not connected very directly with defining the 'present'. However, they do not exclusively portray exotic, primitive, decorative or metaphysical narratives. He finds the motifs from colonialism and post-colonialism, the period between 1555-1977 Which, contrasts the ‘Western’ visual aesthetic with South Indian traditional art, craft and spiritual art. Colonial expansion in a story of the meeting between European and Asian peoples. The mercantile and industrial capitalism of Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch, Belgian etc. reflects the South Indian Ocean trade developments. Over 450 years of colonization and 30 years of independence communicate this trans-cultural conversation. Most significantly, Colonialism and post-colonialism raises questions about how notions of 'self' and 'identity' have undergone deep and permanent changes because of the complex impact of Imperial cultures on native civilizations. His works establish a forum to discuss these crucial issues.

His discipline includes painting and drawing. Kumara works by combining historically popular and unpopular elements from different genres, different periods, and recontexualizes the culturally nomadic images who live in hybrid' society. The recent years he has spent in Europe have given new energy to his work and have changed the viewpoint of constructed ideas, allowing him to reflect, objectively on the perspective of 'self'.

He says: “While Rembrant was commissioned to paint 'The Night Watch’ Devaragampola Silwathenna, courts painter for King Keerthi Sri Rajasingha in Kandy developed a new style of Buddhist temple mural paintings”. This new style started to take influence from foreign architecture and art as well as with the native art and culture.

In Victorian times pictures of the Buddha, Queen Mary and King George were painted in a unified style and placed over the doorways of private homes on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Dutch architecture was also used for major Buddhist temples the Malwatte Buddhist temple in Kandy, and the Gateway of the Buddhist temple at Kalanlya in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is an island civilization with long, rich history. Its pivotal position in the ancient Silk Road, that functioned as a cultural highway between the East and West. In mercantile and industrial capitalism times Sri Lanka is the Gateway to the South Asia.

In his works he removes ethnicity and authenticity as value criteria. As agency replaces dated essentialzing of geography and locality, peoples and cultures, art and styles, discourse opens and how things', (art) change, or how' Candy Cousins emerge “in-between” space. The works give different definitions of the self as and when relevant, that Western philosophical and South Asian tradition have constructed.

Kumara's new artwork clearly has youthful energy’; whether socially conscious or simply aesthetically intriguing these works manage to be both patriotic and global-minded.

Sujeewa Kumari
Daily News. 22 October 2003