Chaminda Gamage: New Paintings


I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
(From the poet William Wordsworth 1888).

Chaminda seems to dream his images like a poet. Paintings from most recent years have a fluttering quality seemingly poetic and visionary. Images from the mind, … a woman made like a a big central vase, a black woman with plants and wings decorating the surface, black head white lips, white painting with blue placenta-ish plants, black figure with white rings on legs and yellow legs, Some men have wings some black plants have white flowers, it seems to celebrate difference. Two black and white men facing each other surrounded by leaves nose to nose, many hands wings and tools. The ground is made expressively with strong colour and the figures are floated. Outlines – simple and flowing – I am reminded of Greek vases and Roman mural painting in the flatness and archetypal nature of the imagery. Their content seems formal as well as symbolic; the paintings are carefully constructed.

Why are the figures in Chaminda’s paintings black and white? Are they discussing divide, are they about reconciliation the bringing together of opposites? The juxtapositions are always beautiful and suggest light and shadow, privacy and the hidden world of the imagination. They also sometimes contain sharp edged implements and jagged plants, suggesting weapons, spears and barbed fences. It would be easy to over-interpret these paintings, reading then as symbolic in a literal manner. Their interpretation is ambigous enough to be left to the viewer.

The surfaces of the latest paintings are covered in train tickets that are used as the ground for the painting. This interuption of the surface (which happens in some of the other work) is a reminder of material reality, the long history of collage is evoked, a harsh reminder that the dream world is a world you wake up from….. or is it about the journey the dreaming journey where you can project your imagination on anything – the power of art and the imagination to transform anything and everything. This is a wake up call to materiality and to today’s world.

Double interpretation, Black and white, beautiful and harsh, expressive ground and delicate formal figure placements, material and illusion – it is a world of opposites. This swinging ambiguity seems to me to be at the root of Chaminda’s beautiful paintings, he permits the material to bring his art like all good art firmly into the real world. I believe that even in the late 90’s when I first knew his work, materiality of the surface, the stuff of paint and touch were at the heart of Chaminda’s paintings. He includes doubt. His brilliant use of material and imagery is not allowed to overwhelm – everything is in balance. The references are universal to painting and the discourse is transcultural.

Andrew Stahl August 11th 2011
Andrew Stahl : Director of Studies Undergraduate Programmes, Head of Undergraduate Painting. Slade School of Fine Art, London ,UK

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