Thursday, July 26, 2007

Neo-Barrelism’, The Exhibition of Paintings and Installations by Chandraguptha Thenuwara was inaugurated on July 26 th 2007 at the Lionel Wendt Gallery. The exhibition will remain open till July 28th 2007. The viewing hours are from 10am to 7pm. The exhibition is organisd by Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts (VAFA)

He paintings and installations depict the new ‘barrel’ era in Sri Lanka. He used newly established check points, one way traffic, no parking area, towing system to explain the current situation in Sri Lanka. Printed camouflage cloth, yellow paint and plastic gloves are used for paintings and installations.

The following is an abstract from Chandraguptha Thenuwara:

Incidents that took place within a very conducive environment in front of my own eyes about three decades ago are now transformed into acts of terror. In the early 1970s, I lived in Wellawatte. My aunt’s house and business were located, then as now, in front of the Royal Bakery at number 325, on Galle Road. As the weekend drew near, a certain important personage would come regularly to the express bus service stop in front of my aunt’s house. He would place his suitcase against the wall of the shop and use his long umbrella as a walking stick to lean on. We would often see him waiting for the bus in this way.

This important personage was none other than the late Wijeyananda Dahanayake. He would take bus No. 155 from opposite Sravasti, the state hostel for out of town MPs, and then get off at the bus stop in front of our house in order to transfer to the express bus for his home town, Galle. This is how he used to travel back home every weekend and every holiday.

He would take the bus to Galle. This was a man who was not only a member of Parliament, but someone who had been a Minister and had even held the post of Prime Minister for some time. He always wore a very simple national dress of a pale colour.

But what is happening today? When we are walking along a rod we suddenly hear the sound of sirens blowing; we see white gloved hands that belong to security officers riding in an armed vehicle waving us off the road, or at least to the die of the road. The way in which they provide secure travel for very important personages is as if they were transporting a person with an infectious disease, or a social canker, or a psychopathic murderer. Our lives have also been thrust into insecurity because of this situation.

Ashes that were disturbed by the killing of 13 soldiers in Jaffna on July 23, 1983 burst into the flames of an ethnic conflict that has raged from that ‘Black’ July up to the present moment.

Attempts to resolve the conflict through war and the use of force have failed. In November 1994 we embarked on a journey to resolve the conflict that had spread like a cancer, through dialogue and consensus- building that would lead to a political solution. We moved from peace talks to war to peace talks and finally arrived at a ceasefire agreement. The majority of the people in the south gave power to those who promised us peace with dignity.

We thought the ‘barrel era’ had come to an end. We hoped and prayed that we would never return to a ‘barrel era’. Sadly, those hopes lasted only for a few months. There was no peace achieved in three months. In fact we seemed to be sliding backwards on the path to peace. Each month, Emergency laws are extended. A secret war has become a part of our daily life. Lives are being destroyed every day. We have now entered an era in which the image of ‘Prabha’ suffices to protect the ‘prabhu’ (elite). There is only the matter of one letter between ‘Prabha’ and ‘prabhu’.

The country is moving very fast towards a very dangerous situation because of the interests of those who want to rouse racialism and who make money out of it. We cannot even freely walk on the streets any more. Barrels obstruct our paths as they did not so long ago. There are many newly established check points. Roads on which we could travel to and from now have arrows pointing one way only. These arrows determine the direction in which we as a people should travel. Stranding us on a road with one-way traffic, the city of Colombo has been turned into one big time bomb. In order to defend the ‘prabhu’, we must make sacrifices and we must undergo suffering. It is not only barrels that spread like wildfire through the city.

We also see more and more yellow barriers that deny us entry into certain areas, more and more signs that say ‘No parking’ and ‘Vehicles parked here will be towed away’. Is this the Sri Lanka that we dreamed of? We have our doubts. This is a new barrel era which is the expression of a new phase in national security.

We offer manel [1] flowers to war heroes and niyangala flowers to Eelam martyrs.

We have no words yet to describe the place we have reached today.

We thought the society that was built on flaming pyres of tyres had ended. We hoped that the era of the goni billa (informer) had gone forever. [2] Today the tyres are not in flames. Instead, they help the white van that is terrorizing our neighbourhoods to speed away. The numbers of decapitated bodies and bodies that have been disfigured beyond recognition are growing every day. Soon, the numbers of those who die may exceed the number of those who are left alive. We must cry a halt to this.

We were not born in order to live in fear, nor to live with threats to our life every day.

We are born, we learn, we become adults and enter society in order to contribute towards building a community of decent people, with the aspiration of living together with each other in peaceful and harmonious coexistence.

Where are we today?

[1] The blue manel flower is the national flower of Sri Lanka; the red niyangala is a poisonous flower

[2] In the years 1987-1989, Sri Lanka went through what is now described as a ‘Reign of Terror’ in which the sight of bodies burning on piles of tires and of hooded figures identifying those who would die were common experiences
VIP Convoy-Mixed Media, 2007
Nil Manel (Nympheae Stelleta)1,2 & 3 series-Oil on Canvass, 3'*4', 2007

Nil Manel (Nympheae Stelleta) flowers are offered to fallen heroes of the Sri Lanka security forces, when paying tribute
Karthigai Poo (Gloriosa Lilly), (Niyangala)1,2,&3 series-Oil on Canvass,3′*4,2007

Karthigai Poo (Gloriosa Lilly), (Niyangala) flowers are offered to fallen martyrs of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, when paying tribute
“We all thought that the violent era has ended in Sri Lanka. But it continues. I have compared Nil Manel (Nympheae Stelleta) and Karthigai Poo (Gloriosa Lilly) (Niyangala), which are used by warring parties to pay tribute their soldiers and cadres” said Chandraguptha Thenuwara
Chandraguptha Thenuwara holds an exhibition annually during the month of July to commemorate Black July
Art lovers say that,this reminds them of more than two decades of conflict, which claimed more than 70,000 lives
Incomplete List of Killings from 25th Jult 1975 to 16th July 2007
Communities should live without terror or threat
Sunethra Bandaranaike views the exhibits
Camouflage # 1 Acrylic on Canvass, 3′*4, 2007
Camouflage # 2 Acrylic on printed camouflage cloth, 4'*5', 2007
Camouflage # 3 Acrylic on printed camouflage cloth, 4′*5′, 2007
Camouflage # 4 Acrylic on printed camouflage cloth, 4′*5′, 2007
Camouflage # 5 Acrylic on printed camouflage cloth, 4′*5′, 2007
Camouflage # 6Acrylic on printed camouflage cloth, 4′*5′, 2007
Neo-Barrelism, Installation, Mixed Media, 30′*60′, 2007