The power of Sri Lankan art

Saturday, 7 July 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

‘The Power of Sri Lankan Art: 1943-2012’ published by Sri Serendipity Publishing was launched in Colombo last week at the Leo Burnett Advertising agency, an event organised by the Galle Fort publishing house with Aitken Spence Printing and Packaging.

The book is big with 360 pages of full colour images charting the history, incorporating provocative text, covering the present and the potential future of art in Sri Lanka from 1943 to 2012.

Profiling around sixty artists using a variety of mediums, this superb anthology is not meant as a catalogue of the best of the best, rather a snapshot of art in this country, caught naked and unawares, exposed for public consumption for the readers to decide; is this art? What is art? Does it have any power? Can this book teach me anything beyond the fascinating historical academic introduction?

The book quickly hooks you and the foreword and introduction both offer an important intellectual contribution into this fascinating period of national history and the artists’ response to their work is the reason so many universities are putting it on their academic reading lists.

The foreword written by Ellen Dissanayake, an affiliate professor of the University of Washington, focuses concisely on the thematic changes that have sometimes ripped through Sri Lanka, the “impersonal yet insatiable behemoth of globalisation” and its effect on ritual and culture.

“The communal violence that opened a gate to hell that has permanently altered the psyche of everyone in this country” and the path and role of artists who existed in the years covered by the Power of Sri Lankan Art. From 1943 to 2012, the artists therein communicate their responses to this world.

Juliet Coombe the publisher admitted, “It is a highly academic textbook, dressed up as a readable coffee table book.” Its square design perhaps being the give-away, it opens to beautifully illustrative pages filled with provocative quotes created by Australian designer of the year Monica Lawrie and confronting lines of poetry.

‘The Power of Sri Lankan Art 1943 – 2012’ can be bought for Rs. 5,000 rupees at Barefoot, Odel and all leading bookshops. It can also be purchased from Sri Serendipity Publishing House directly – call Juliet Coombe on 0776838659 or contact her via email at