Colombo's art scene is maturing, with an emergence of young, abstract artists taking on technically daunting tasks instead of focusing purely on storytelling and narrative. Kavan Balasuriya is one such artist. He's got a BA in Fine Art from the Central St Martin’s College of Art & Design, University of the Arts, London. His second exhibition at Ruby Studio Gallery starts on October 15 and runs till October 30. We were allowed a sneak peek while Kavan was arranging the work that will be featured.
At the age of 18, Kavan visited Myanmar. On this trip, he took photographs. Among these photographs were a Myanmarese asura (demigod), an electric lamp of a bullock cart, and a palm leaf thatched roof of a brewery. Over the past year, Kavan revisited these photographs and took each of them in different directions, constantly reinterpreting them as he turned digital images into analogue prints. To him, this process is an analogy for how our memory functions. When we recall an instance in our lives, the emotions that they invoke depend on context and circumstance. In the same way, as Kavan takes a photograph of a lamp and reverses it, the emotions evoked by the colours change the mood of the picture. This made us think of how nostalgia tends to colour our memories.
Kavan pays meticulous attention to detail, and that's called for by the processes he employs in his work. From painting, drawing and sculpture to installation, the artist is putting a lot of skills on display at his second exhibition. For the 'Contact' series, with the lamp, Kavan took the digitally manipulated photograph and broke it down into four layers (CMYK) to emulate the function of a printer. He does this by hand, applying one colour at a time, through a stencil, to create the picture.
The most time-intensive piece, though, is based on the Dharmachakra. The symbol itself signifies the cycle of samsara (birth, life and death), and the Sanskrit term dharma means 'to hold firm'. Kavan finds it paradoxical how his attempt to find peace in the process of creating a work of art requires the infliction of damage upon the paper, as the amount of graphite pencil he had used weighed it down. He attempted to maintain the tension of the paper by using tape, but this caused warps when the tape was removed. He used two swastikas to create this symbol, and he recalls that it was the ethnic tensions stirring up within Sri Lanka at the time of creating this piece that led to his association of fascism with Buddhism. Interestingly, Myanmar, the other country that finds its way into this exhibition, has also had its fair share of tension.
Time & Place
The Private View is on October 15 from 5.30PM to 8.30PM at Ruby Studio Gallery, 61/5 Ward Place, Colombo 7. It's right opposite the Cargills Food City, down a little lane just by a Singer outlet. Do check out the Private View as there will be a video projection screening that takes you through the artist's process, and also offers a peek into the past two years of his life, in London and Sri Lanka. You can check out the exhibition between 10 AM to 6 PM until October 30.