Shalini Ganendra Fine Art advisory
SANJEEWA KUMARA b. 1971 Sri Lanka Sanjeewa Kumara’s surreal and fantastical artworks are self-declared ‘pictures’. ‘An abstract painting is a painting because it dwells primarily on the material and the surface,’ states Sanjeewa, ‘but ‘picture’ implies a space one goes into.’ The eclectic, electric-hued compositions provide far more than purely aesthetic pleasure; instead, they delve into the heart of Sri Lanka’s colonial and postcolonial legacy, and questions what is meant by the ‘self’ in South Indian art and culture. His aim is to synchronise diverse historical elements into a visual pastiche, creating a unique visual language that he terms ‘Non-western Western art.’ Sanjeewa traces his artistic influence to ancient cave painters, saying ‘I love the sense that I’m doing the same thing that people have always done.’ That is not to say his work is anything ordinary; his is the art of the unexpected. His pictures recontextualise traditional myths and stories, placing them within a hybrid society of vibrant colours and ambiguous narratives. Cows, elephants, lions and deities act out mysterious new legends against bold acid-coloured backdrops and eccentric motifs, taking the viewer beyond the exotic and into the uncanny. Sanjeewa has spoken of the many challenges facing postcolonial artists today, highlighting the difficulty of the attempt ‘both to resurrect their culture and to combat preconceptions about their cultural identity – against the confines posed by Western discourse.’ His own artwork tackles this thorny question with a youthful energy, blending social conscience with aesthetic playfulness to create artistic forums that call for artists and viewers question existing identities. His works have been featured in a number of public shows, including the Colombo Biennial and the Dhaka Art Summit.
Uncanny Personality, 2013 Oil on canvas 20 x 160 cm