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If he seems free, it’s probably because he’s escaped

Comments / 619 Views / Saturday, 18 February 2012 01:10

By Kshanika Argent

There’s no question about the idea of ‘becoming’ something, in fact there’s very little left to become anymore, but the urge to escape (conscious or otherwise) lies buried deep in the heart of every man. There’s not a doubt in the mind of self confessed escapee Anup Vega.

So when the third edition of the Colombo Art Biennale (CAB) rolled around this year (15 to 18 February) under the theme ‘Becoming’, it was the perfect platform in which he could show off and humbly at that, his retreat from civilisation.  

Giving me a tour of his work themed ‘Becoming Escapee’ Vega is frank: he’s been escaping for as long as he can remember; in various forms, the earliest we can remember being music from his days with Tapas, days he refers to as the height of “rock stardom,” but now the river overflows with art of the visual kind, art in which he escapes to, art inspired by his escapes and art through which he hopes to portray what it really means, to escape. Quite different to running he assures me.

His muse since of late has been the far out lands of Horton Plains, an iconic and virgin territory that has captivated Vega since childhood. But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. His collection on display at the Hempel Gallery throughout the Biennale was of a foreboding mood, a dark amber portrait of the devastating and poisonous Murugasam Rains predicted in Sanskrit literature.

Vega explains, “I wanted to tell this story through a painting. It’s a story in which humans turn to beasts, where hunters each become one another’s prey,” we move on to the next painting. A blurred black and grey memory from his childhood of a lake in his home town village of Manduragala and how he remembers seeing a rock from it, “I can tell you what that place is becoming, a disaster.”

He laments a while on the destruction and commercialisation that has come with progress and development, seeping into natural habitats like his hometown.

And back to the Horton Plains, Vega has spilled out on canvas angles from the Ohiya sections, so remote he considers it “Sri Lanka’s Himalayas.”

Art for Vega is a way of life, not a product, he says, “If it’s not in line with an artist’s way it’s a mess,” and as for his sombre mood in the paintings he says it wasn’t quite intentional. “The darkness, it just happens, I am as much a witness to the work as the gallery.”

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