AboutIn the introduction of the exhibition catalogue After Shock - Conflict, Violence and Resolution in Contemporary Art, Yasmin Canvin states that 'In the 21st century socially or politically driven conflict and violence has become an omnipresent backdrop to our life'. This is may be why the majority of contemporary artists are constantly exploring and questioning conflict in diverse ways, raising their individual voice against the moments of violence. As Canvin elaborates,
Instead through the video, photography and reworked images, these artists articulate the voice of the individual producing poignant, personal response to the conflict and violence they have either directly or indirectly experienced (Canvin, 2007, p.7).
As such the contemporary art work itself is presented as a cultural and political critique. What Canvin discussed is well evident within the work of well-known Sri Lankan artist and activist, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, whose art practice often consists of socially and politically integrated subject matters. His paintings, illustrations, drawings and installations are widely considered as visual media that interweave living truths such as political conflict, disasters, social and economic concerns. Thenuwara's personal integration with these issues is significant and his work becomes a product of dark life experiences, memories and social criticisms. His multidisciplinary work symbolically reflects his own experiences, strategies and manipulations of violence, and growing fear and instability in Sri Lanka's civil life.
In Thenuwara's paintings the spectator can see symbols of conflict and violence. His 1997 exhibition entitled Barrelism & Other Works" at The Heritage Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka, consisted of painted barrels and paintings of weeping Madonnas. Between the 1990s and the new millennium, painted camouflage barrels and walls became popular images in Sri Lankan cityscapes. Barrier gates, road blocks, walls of the military establishments, but also sometimes bus stops, were painted using camouflage colour patterns. This militarisation of society is symbolised and questioned in Thenuwara's paintings.