Available at all Barefoot Branches: Colombo 1, 3 and Galle Fort
To paint, as to produce any work of art, is to engage in an act of creation. In Druvinka’s work, creation itself becomes the subject. Her large-scale abstract paintings speak of inspiration, gestation, and genesis. On these canvases, she evokes the very sources of life, both human and divine.
Born in Sri Lanka and now based in northern India, Druvinka has over the past two decades developed a distinctive body of work devoted to the deepest mysteries of the human experience, and the transcendent realms beyond. Washes of watercolor and tempera sweep across bamboo paper; acrylic paint is built up in layers. Out of these watery depths, geometric and figurative forms seem to emerge and dissolve. There are recurring themes: the dark slit of a yoni, the imposing obelisk of the lingam. There are spherical bodies—be they ova or planets—concentric rings, and shadowy penumbra. In some works, liquid stains spread across dark, cosmic fields. In others, tangled forms writhe in a static explosion, as if the artist has distilled the chaos of birth in paint.
A retrospective look at Druvinka’s oeuvre reveals a clear evolution. Ten years ago, her canvases exhibited tight control: flat planes and square edged boxes constrained a swirling universe, like narrow windows onto outer space. In works from this period (DM 005.JPG), there’s a sense of foreboding, as if these alien forms could swing out of orbit unless they were kept hemmed in, locked beneath layers of acrylic paint. Druvinka’s perspective in these works is remote, as if she wants to maintain a safe distance from her subject.
Over the next two years, her style relaxes and softens. Her forms become looser and freer, and the perspective draws closer to reveal overlapping, translucent forms where once there were stark, opaque boundaries. The image of the yoni or vulva appears again and again, central and distinct (DSC00652). Her palette darkens, almost as if the viewer is being drawn into an underground cavern where shadowy forms overlap and merge. The paintings of this period are pregnant with longing.
And then in 2007, as if bound by some mysterious process of creative gestation, Druvinka’s canvasses begin to feature a proliferation of pale limbs, a nearly human figure. Her palette shifts from brown and green to crimson and orange (DSC00214). Gone is the quality of fear and constraint, replaced with an almost maternal confidence. That confidence remains in her more recent works, where her mastery of both form and medium is evident. In works from 2009, clear figures surface out of the layers of paint and paper: Ganesh floats in the foreground or peeks out from some dark opening, while serpents snake their way around the perimeter. Even the phallus has taken on a new quality of realism, as if the artist has allowed these symbols to rise from the level of the unconscious.
Take for example an untitled work from 2009 (DS_090303_9109.JPG). Here, the thick, dark body of a snake winds its way around the frame, while the elephant hovers ghost-like at the center. At the base of this mythic dreamscape appears a male member split by a leaf-shaped cavity: a merging of masculine and feminine. At the upper left, the phallus appears again, as ghostly as a palimpsest. No longer hidden or resisted as in earlier work, these forms appear organic, as if they have emerged without effort or calculation.
In her most recent works, deities and human figures feature prominently, though always against a backdrop of liquid shadows and cloudy dreamscapes. Her once relentlessly dark palette has lightened to mauves and pinks, creams and yellows; there’s a new emphasis on the divine feminine: Lakshmi hovers here and there, her neck garlanded with serpents.
Though many of Druvinka’s symbols stem from Hindu mythology, it would be reductive to read her paintings as emblematic of one religious tradition. To linger with these works is to bear witness to stories that are at once deeply personal and universal—stories that resonate across cultures and ethnicities, creeds and eras. In this way, Druvinka conjures a new world, drawing from many traditions to forge a vision distinct and unmistakable: a world that suggests nothing less than the whole of creation.
Arts writer, Santa Barbara, California, USA
The centre piece of my work will be a painting made up of 48 separate images all interlocking with each other in many different permutations creating one piece titled “Theatre of the rock”. Alongside this are a number of single pieces continuing to expand the theme of “The Unwritten Book” .
The interior of the rock has become a network of individual lives and events. The way they are seen changes according to the images that surround it, reflecting how our lives can change on a daily basis through our powerlessness over others behaviour. Pieces of the work can be seen individually almost as souvenirs, a memory of the time when things were whole.
I am very excited at being able to exhibit with the these 3 Artists, all people who are creating there own paths and whose vision and practice I greatly admire . We all have strong links to Sri Lanka but actually met in the UK in Oxford and when I first saw their work felt that there would be an interesting and sometimes challenging cross fertilisation of ideas by showing together.
ALEX STEWART 2013
Ganeshism 3 is a celebration of Lord Ganesh in art, through an exhibition of paintings at the Barefoot Gallery. It is the third show of its kind since 2008 by Sri Lankan artist Mahen Chanmugam.
Mahen has been painting for over thirty-five years and has devoted the last eighteen years to portraying Lord Ganesh. The paintings in this year’s show are part of a collection that attempts to present, not only the symbolism and iconography surrounding Lord Ganesh, but also the artists view of the powerful energies that Lord Ganesh represents, in the world around us, and within ourselves.
For Mahen Chanmugam painting Lord Ganesh, the deity with the elephant head, is a personal journey that was inspired by his spiritual connection to Lord Ganesh. In 1994, while working and living in Singapore, Mahen began a study of the iconography and symbolism of Lord Ganesh. He started exploring the classic forms, postures and the iconographic principles of perfect poise within the 32 forms Lord Ganesh appears in and translated these into contemporary representations.
The intensity of the search for new content in classic form has added an intellectual ambivalence to his work. Whereas the image topic is constant, the paintings now capture a range of emotions and themes. Today his art looks at Lord Ganesh’s iconography as a philosophical template that symbolizes liberation from ego, acceptance and the laws of cause and effect. Paintings like the Thousand Petaled Lotus of Light and Lord Ganesh with a Flute visualize the deity as a force that enables consciousness to evolve from its lowest to its highest. Deep, mesmerizing eyes gently look down from many of his paintings, reflecting his inspiration of love and awe from a single form that is so eloquently described in Progress of the soul by John Donne: Nature’s great masterpiece, the elephant, the only harmless great thing, the giant of the beasts.
Mahen has worked with all types of media, having mastered, then abandoned, oil painting and airbrush illustration for the transluscent brilliance of acrylic. He now works on materials as varied as canvas, wood, glass and mirror and sometimes, even on rice bags and other industrial packing material. He has had five solo exhibitions in Singapore and Sri Lanka and he paints and lives with his wife, two children and cats in his home studio, amongst the water monitors and bats in Nawala.
Ganeshism 3 will open at the Barefoot Gallery on the 29th of November and will run until the 16th of December.