Paper Canvas, Colombo's first group show of contemporary art posters opened at the Saskia Fernando Gallery on 15 September 2011. The title is self explanatory, but plays on the fact that these works mark the transition we are making towards new mediums of contemporary art locally.
In Colombo we boast a fast evolving art scene, where artists, designers, photographers, and creative people of all backgrounds combine their practice thereby expanding and diversifying our art and culture. Exhibitions take place on a monthly basis at galleries scattered throughout the city, and young people are becoming increasingly interested in what is happening around them. The exposure we received as a gallery to the advertising and design industry was a particular eye opener for us towards the talent that exists in these industries and this exhibition has enabled us to collaborate with a range of artists from both these industries with differing backgrounds and creative identities.
From Toulous-Lautrec to Shepard Fairey, posters have been a medium of contemporary art for quite some time. In Sri Lanka we are more accustomed to posters of another type. Political Campaigns, funeral announcements and mass media advertising lead the majority of Colombo residents to spray paint their walls with 'Stick no Bills' signs. Coincidentally even our printer didn't quite conceive why we would want to offset print only 20 pieces of one particular poster. This made it only more tempting for us to stage this particular show, working with a combination of incredibly talented artists who all stand out through their designs, illustrations, photography, etc. We boast an untouched wealth of expression that exists in the growing community of graphic designers and illustrators that are accumulating locally.
Sujeewa Kumari was educated at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies at the University of Kelaniya, and completed her MFA at the Dutch Art Institute in the Netherlands, where she began explored her experimental spirit as a female contemporary artist. Within her early body of works the artist expresses her point of view as a woman in Sri Lanka, focusing on her female identity in the contemporary art scene and society based on her experiences, and her research on the concept of post-colonial identity discourse. In her most recent artworks Kumari comes to terms with de-realized memories derived by history, tradition and daily life reality, to formulate a compelling artistic synthesis of cultural images.
Her body of work varies from new media techniques as digital photograph collages, video installations and performance, however she is most recognised for her mixed media drawings. In every medium she is following a surrealist tradition to open her dreamy realistic cosmos to the viewer. The essence of her work is that she refuses an explanation in favor of an open strategy, not to “over-think” her compositions, as she puts it. In her subtle elegant style, Kumari combines thin lines and fluid ink washed clouds with detailed portraits, everyday objects and symbols, together they form dreamy light translucent layers and structures on the paper. Her use of color is very subtle but pointed. In favor of a magic realism, she evolves a distinct mystic appearance to refer to her memories, hidden desires and a spiritual self-discovery of historical constructed identities of “self” and “other”. The spectator is encouraged to discover these hybrid images, invoking an empathy with the presented contemplative strangers and think about one’s own place in Kumaris enchanting oeuvre.
Sujeewa Kumari has held solo shows in the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.