Nelum Pokuna Art Street.

Yesterday I needed to fill some space on a wall so I trotted off to the side of Viharamahadevi Park, along Green Path (aka Ananda Comaraswamy Mawatha aka Nelum Pokuna Mawatha) opposite the National Art Gallery where you see generally young artists and art students selling their wares. While this roadside art sale started off as a weekend market nowadays there are rows of canvases for sale everyday of the week. At least half a dozen artists were displaying pieces on Monday and perusing their work is a good way to kill some time – their display area is right next to the park so shaded and very pleasant.

Best of all the artwork is very reasonably priced – with works ranging from Rs. 2000- 20000, though there’s quite a lot of haggle room. The work is by young artists and students and you’re unlikely to walk off with a masterpiece, but among the hundreds of canvases you’ll probably find something you like. As they tend to be local art students from the same art-schools the techniques and palates used are pretty similar. You see the same motifs – monks, Sigiriya, village scenes again and again. However, despite what seems to be a broadly similar training, each artist also has a unique style and the level of skill and creativity varies quite significantly between the different stalls.

Many of the works on show are clearly churned out as a means of earning enough to survive but the odd piece is executed with care and real skill. Again, we are talking about Rs. 3000 canvasses so it’s more about choosing something you’ll be happy with than making an investment. You never know though, the paintings are all signed and your artist might make it big one day. I went for an abstract orange rendition of a village by Kavantha Jayalal – 3000 Rs (original asking price Rs. 5000), and I’m hoping to see his work at some Colombo gallery soon selling at greatly inflated prices.

Personally I think this is one of the most pleasant and interesting places for gift shopping in Colombo. There are few places anywhere you can pick up original(ish) artwork for $20 and the location is lovely. If you’re looking for something to fill some wall space don’t hesitate to give it a try.

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