Following a very successful private view and opening on 9th October 2014,
the gallery opened for public viewing and several members of FOSLA
attended a special Saturday afternoon event at the gallery joining 4 artists
who gave their own personal interpretation of their work.

We were inspired to hear from Nina Mangalanayagam speak about her work
which centred on her cultural identity and her family who are spread around
the globe principally in Sweden and Paris. Nina explained that although they
did not share a common language their connection was through Sri Lanka.
Her family came together during a family wedding which Nina presented in
the form of photographs. Each evoked a layer of symbolism through the
traditions they represented, where Nina explored the experience of being ‘inbetween’ cultures.

As Nina explained ‘I am half Tamil and half Danish but
grew up in Sweden. I had hardly any contact with my Tamil relatives as a
child because of the large physical and cultural distance between us.
Originally from Sri Lanka, my father’s family has ended up in very different
places in the world, living very different lives. I am interested in how the
physical gap has created mental boundaries between us. Our different
experiences and situations in life have impacted on our sense of self. This
has influenced our identity in our relationship to each other, complicating
relationships within the family’.

We then heard Anoli Perera present her work which engages critically with themes dealing with feminist issues, history and myth to cultural identity, colonialism and post colonial anxieties. Her series of (protest) photographs entitled ‘I Let My Hair Loose’ where traditional family style portraits are reexamined, as Anoli explained ‘when I look at my own old family photographs, the female subjects are often left perched on stools or chairs in theatrical settings, their gazes frozen. Their homemaking lives intruded into a wider canvas which recorded their marginal existence in history. The work ‘Protest’ uses female hair as a means to arrest the male gaze which objectifies the sitter. By covering the face, the hair obstructs the completion of viewers voyeuristic enjoyment in looking at the female sitter’.

Anoli’s work also explores themes of memory, history and relics and one of
her centre pieces included a fascinating ancestral family wedding photograph
where Anoli has layered the piece with fragments of memory, laced with
frozen moments of time including portraits of King Edward and Mary, all
delicately composed and framed within wall paper of the Victorian era.
The next presentation was by Liz Fernando, her photographic work
concentrates on identity, history and the essence of memory set within non-
Western Cultures. ‘Trincomalee’ is a series of re-created photographic
memories and as Liz explains, Trincomalee in Sri Lanka became
synonymous with the war-ravaged northern region, in contrast my father’s
stories are not nostalgic ruminations on its political history but naive and
beautiful little conversational episodes between a Tamil girl and a Sinhalese
boy. It is a visual journey to a forgotten past preserved in my mind’s eye only
through precious oral histories relayed by my father’.

The last artist to speak about his work was Reginald Aloysius exploring
themes of globalisation, emigration and the destruction of tradition through
development and modernisation. Reginald’s work focus’s on Dravidian
temples, although ruins these are also live buildings where people worship, it
is where tradition meets modernity and through his work Reginald etches
flight paths above that charter the movements and the permanence of
migration, emphasising a tension between old and new, between architecture
of ancient temples and modern skyscrapers.

This exhibition is curated by Annoushka Hempel who created and established
the popular Colombo Art Biennale. In ‘Serendipity Revealed’ Annoushka
explains that the artists work unveil narratives and stories of the changes that
have evolved within the country ‘with a younger generation of artists who
speak less of the political civil conflict and war, and more of the socio-political
conflicts and tensions driven by traditional values’.

What is fascinating is the recurrent themes of identities that each artist
explores, their diasporic identities and their long distant connection and
relationship to Sri Lanka. This exhibition showcases modern Sri Lankan art at
its best and is an exhibition not to be missed!

Open Tuesday to Saturday 10.30 to 5pm, late night opening Thursday until
8pm. The exhibition runs until 20th December 2014.

Shevanthie Goonesekera – 11th October 2014

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