Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict and current sociopolitical downturn has created a personal and collective crisis for its population. Beauty and Agony - New Art from Sri Lanka is an exhibition of contemporary art by four Sri Lankan painters representing their highly personal experiences and responses to this particular crisis. Major shows in the West of Asian Art have been dominated by India and China and those featuring work from Sri Lanka tend towards a traditional, uncritical view of contemporary life on the island.
This exhibition is significant featuring works showing a side of Sri Lanka many wish to be kept out of the public eye. The work by four artists deals with the day-to-day life where crisis has penetrated the normal and disrupts the perceptions of an idyllic place as portrayed in tourist brochures and promotional material. Vajira Gunawardane's paintings are colourful, but at a second glance it seems they are not so bright. It shows something familiar but unsure, unsettling our vision and somewhat inexplicable because weird-looking human faces, wide-open eyes, gestural hand signs, popular symbols, and imageries of facade as well as skeletons symbolize something beneath the colourful world we live in.
Monoranjana Herath's work investigates fear of life in a war torn society showing blind faces surrounded by revolvers and lotus flowers while Prageeth Rathnayake's portraits painted in variations of grey colour, create a ghostly appearance. These ghostly appearances refer to the anxiety created in one's life. Sanjaya Bandara's work has influences from both traditional Buddhist mural art and imageries borrowed from posters. Colourful over pasted posters are visible on every corner of the island with diverse messages such as political propaganda, advertisements and anti-government responses. Using these imageries Sanjaya questions our past as well as its overlapping with the present.
Beauty and Agony - New Art from Sri Lanka provides an exhibition platform for new contemporary Sri Lankan art presenting the artists' rich and complex experiences to the British public.
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