Art Exhibition Review

5 Jan

A two day exhibition held recently by the Ceylon Society of Arts marked the 123rd exhibition to be showcased in the National Art Gallery, which will be celebrating its 125th anniversary soon.

Among the dozens of paintings were representations by both well established artists and unknown talent. The walls of the gallery were covered with a vibrancy of colours (along with the occasional black and white) showcasing diverse paint mediums, painting / drawing methodologies and subjects. Children laughing, adults gazing pensively, birds flying, elephants walking and monkeys swinging on vines – all shared space side by side without any seeming conflicts.
Some of the pictures were simple and straight forward, some more complex and seemingly told a story, while others invited the viewer to gaze at their myriad details to make of them what they would.

Apparently, the mediums showcased encompassed the wide variety of oils, water colours, acrylics, poster colours, line drawings and pastels while the subjects came under the titles of ‘Portraits,’ ‘Landscapes,’ ‘abstracts,’ ‘traditional paintings’ and ‘compositions.’
Certainly all the exhibits were good but some caught one’s fancy more than others. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all and the painting that most enthralled this beholder was a non prize winning exhibit of a baby elephant enjoying his bath in a river, under the indulgent auspices of his mother.
The artist had managed to catch the joie de vivre of the little calf in such a manner as to bring an indulgent smile to the viewer’s face – echoed in the painting by the mother elephant. On the adjacent wall was a magnificent Tusker, reminiscent of the famed Raja!

There were also interesting ‘traditional’ paintings depicting aspects of mythology. These also included a Sigiriya Damsel reproduction.
In the portraits section, were quite a few interesting people including Diana the Princess of Wales. A thoughtful old man, a laughing child, people with lines and character in their faces gazing appraisingly at the viewer, as if asking “What are you staring at?”
Modern Art is not one of my favourite categories but the exhibits here were quite interesting and creative. Lovers embracing were quite clearly discernible – not to mention erotic, in one such painting. Two others were painted in similar colours / tones in flowing strokes. Upon closer inspection, women’s curvy bodies could be discerned.

The landscapes followed the predictable lines of houses and gardens in rural settings , interspersed with the occasional mountains or forests. But they all (more or less depending on which picture) gave the sensation of tranquility expected of landscapes in general.
Some of the oil paintings could have passed for photographs. One such deceptively simple painting showed only inanimate things; an iron on a stand covered with a cloth, sharing space with a well thumbed book. It is open at the beginning pages, enabling the viewer to see that its title is “Marriage, the Art of Lasting Happiness.”

Nearby, on the same surface the stand is on, are a water jug, three shiny apples, coins which have obviously carelessly been tossed there and a toy duck. Makes you wonder about the owner to whom the scene is supposed to belong. A bachelor? Bachelorette? Married couple?
The scene is somehow poignant and makes one empathetic to the owner of the supposed tableau. Was it a bachelor reading up on marriage? The carelessly and untidily arranged cloth, the tossed out coins with one coin standing like a wheel, probably having come to a standstill while rolling, the well thumbed, dog eared book… do they depict a single person yearning for marriage or an already married couple, trying to adjust to each other? Or was it perhaps an open hint left by the wife to the husband? It is left for the viewer to decide.

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