GOODWILL HARDWARE: Beautification of Prohibition

K. Pushpakumara, a member of the initial group of artists following the 90s Trend, presents his new work based on the continuing series Goodwill Hardware first seen in his solo exhibition at Red Dot Gallery, Colombo in 2009, followed by his participation in the Colombo Art Biennale in 2012 and now at Hempel Galleries.

Anoli Perera comments on Pushpakumara’s work: “Primarily a painter, this is a minimalist view in comparison to his earlier work displayed in a series of screen printed and painted large canvases. While imagery in this work at a glance is seen as patterned forms that are almost meditative, what is represented in the images, soon takes you away from any inclinations towards spirituality. By using images denoting items used mainly for restricting movement or associated with violence and war, and presenting these in a seemingly design-oriented patterned form, his works play with the juxtapositions of banality and non-banality, innocence and non-innocence”.

Pushpakumara’s works are pivotal in a time in Sri Lanka where society has already started to forget the recent violent past and artists have begun to move away from political and interventionist themes.

Curator of the exhibition, Annoushka Hempel says: “Pushpakumara’s Goodwilll Hardware series is very much inspired by memories of his childhood in Amapara where barbed wire was everywhere and very much part of life. For Pushpakumara this image has always represented division between two worlds, restriction and denied access.  Wishing this division to end, he started by covering the barbed wire with protective plastic, so it can in fact be touched.  For this exhibition, he has recreated these images, as a reminder that these divisions and boundaries, although less visible, are in fact still present”.

In Pushpakumara’s words: “Buddhism, media, politics, landscape, religion. The development of the Sri Lankan landscape, particularly in Colombo. In this body of work I have added small sections of painted colour to signify evolvement.  Even with this ‘embellishment’, the division still exists, perhaps in a different way but it is still there. I see ‘beautification’ as a decorated surface”.

Annoushka Hempel states, “When I look at Pushpakumara’s barbed wire work, one of things that strikes me, is that although barbed wire is generally a symbol of violence or prohibition, he depicts it with the intricacy and beauty of Jasmine flowers which works as a kind of beautification of violence. Another dimension I find intriguing in this body of work is the way in which the works have been framed. A seemingly unlikely juxtaposition to place these highly contemporary works in traditional gilt frames. Contemporary versus traditional, the value given by what is traditional and quite simply the curiosity it evokes in the viewer!”