The Colombo Art Biennale is a very young one. Its first edition, Imagining Peace, was launched by Annoushka Hempel and Jagath Weerasinghe just as the tiny island’s twenty-five year civil war was coming to a close in 2009, and was designed to show the world that artists from both sides of the war could collectively work together. By the second and third editions, regional and international artists were joining the program. At this year’s third edition, twenty-five local artists participated alongside 29 artists hailing from countries as diverse as Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Nepal and Qatar, as well as artists from Europe and the United States. Although the Biennale featured a range of excellent work, these emerging Sri Lankan artists are ones to watch:
Manamperi holds the distinction of being one of the first performance artists in Sri Lanka. He has a BFA in Sculpture (although he works with a variety of mediums) and is one of the original members of Colombo’s Theertha Artists’ Collective. In addition, he lectures and consults on a variety of topics including contemporary art, museology and local craft traditions.
Thenuwara, a professional photographer, is a core member of the Collective of Contemporary Artists (CoCA) and has exhibited his work in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Thenuwara is one of the photographers credited with changing the approach to photography in Sri Lanka.
Video Artist Danushka Marasinghe received training from the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo and the Digital Film Academy of the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. The filmmaker is interested in exploring modern society, through socio-political issues and the modern manifestations of privacy (or lack thereof).
A RIBA-chartered architect by trade, Karunaratne takes a detailed look at seemingly commonplace movements or activities through mapping. Movement, socio-economic patterns and political conditions are revealed through the compilation of data.
Fernando, a founding member of International Fireflies Artists network, explores the aspect of ‘intimacy,’ as relayed through women’s experiences with a variety of materials and elements. Of particular interest are women’s traditional handiwork, including needlework, embroidery and lace-making.
A graduate from the LCC BA Photography program at the University of the Arts, London, Liz Fernando explores the roles that identity, history and memory have on non-Western cultures, specifically South Asian. Liz’s work has been shown at the Tate Modern in London and her acclaimed work Trimcomalee – My Father’s Stories And Lost Photographs has been purchased by the World Bank‘s Washington D.C. branch.
Manori Jayasinghe uses her background as a jewelry designer to employ intricate pieces, such as safety pins and buttons, to delve into modern societal issues, for example the role gender plays in contemporary life.
Poornima Jayasinghe is especially interested in looking into whether photographers, through technical means, can achieve the same level of creative freedom as that of a painter and seeks to understand the ‘power of photography.’ Poornima is currently the Head of Art at the British School in Colombo.
Chandrasiri, a core member of the Theertha Artists Collective, has designed award-winning theatre sets, exhibited both in Sri Lanka and abroad and currently lectures on set design. He belongs to a group of artists identified with the 90’s Trend, a local art movement influenced by contemporary art practice and social context.
For the biennale’s latest edition, a team of four curators was formed with Amit Kumar Jain, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, Neil Butler and Ruhanie Perera bringing a wealth of local, regional and international experience. In addition to expositions featuring visual artists working in practically every imaginable medium, a ‘Live Art’ component was added to the already bustling daily program of conversations, curated walks, lectures and panel discussions, spread throughout the city in seven locations.