||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
'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
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
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
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.
Daily News. 22 October 2003