world of billboard beauty
By Esther Williams
"Billboards mark the Colombo cityscape where larger than life
men and women with their bodies airbrushed and photo-edited to perfection
gaze down on mere mortals, offering them a dream, a fantasy, a glimpse
of consumer heaven."
latest exhibition 'Goddesses Descending' portrays the billboard
It is a commentary on the present consumer culture where men and
women with perfect bodies entice you to the products they represent,
be it cell phones or soaps.
"Television extends this fantasy into our living rooms,"
says the artist. Looking like goddesses the models come out through
Greek columns with perfect bodies that everyone aspires to have:
Lux or Rexona for lovely skin; Odel Unlimited wearables for the
body beautiful and Black Knight to smell divine.
seem possible but it is not real!" the artist explains of the
illusory world they offer. Advertisements are technically manipulated
to make an image look blemish-less. Anoli says that everyone is
caught up in it whether they like it or not. "I am not critiquing
it but making an observation of what I see," she says.
We need to
see through the images, adds Anoli who finds that most of the time
sexuality and sensuality are defined by these images. People should
judge what the reality is, she says.
has used a mixed medium of pastels, acrylic, ink and cut out images
from magazines for the 30 X 28 cm paintings. Amidst the vibrant
colours are recognisable faces of Indian models and Bollywood film
stars who have a big influence on Sri Lankan fashions and beauty
Anoli has always
worked with collages. Of late her themes have revolved around the
woman. In her earlier collection called 'In the entangled web' she
used fabric and lace to depict how the middle class woman organises
her domestic space.
of liberal arts from the Colombo University,Anoli changed course
to become an artist and has spent considerable time abroad learning
new techniques in painting and water colours also working with sculpture,
stone carving, metal and cement.
She has been
painting since 1989 and has had several exhibitions since then.
Her work - paintings, sculpture and installations have been exhibited
here and in Asian Art Festivals in the US, UK and Japan. She has
contributed to art columns in magazines abroad like the Frontline
and other Asian magazines.
Colombo based artist is the coordinator of Theertha International
Artists Collective that engages in community work and art projects.
She will be leaving shortly to China to attend an artists' workshop
are being exhibited at H.W.Architects, 410/111 Bauddhaloka Mawatha,
Colombo 7 from October 8 to 31. The office designed by its Director,
Hiranthi Welandawa is a work of art itself and perfectly complements
Anoli's collection. "We want to be a part of art and the students
and I are keen to learn from it," Ms. Welandawa says adding
that the office will house other art exhibitions in future.
of dramatic suspense
"Who Killed Santiago Nasar?"Garcia Marquez presented on
the Sri Lankan stage
Mark Amerasinghe, the veteran "Mono Dramatist" performed
Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Cronica De Una Muerte (Chronicle of a Death
Foretold) that he himself adapted as Who Killed Santiago Nasar.
He has already adapted and presented four novels/short stories,
namely, The Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoy, Albert Camus' The Fall (adapted
as The Mirror), The Outsider and Victor Hugo's The Last Day Of A
Condemned Man (adapted as The Last Day In Death Row).
published his Cronica De Una Muerte in 1981, the year before he
was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. In this novel a faceless
narrator describes the brutal murder of young, proud and handsome
Santiago Nazar by two young men from the same village who think
that he was responsible for the loss of virginity of their sister,
an unpardonable crime in that society.
in the novel, who is also a member of the village, and a good friend
of the victim, presents his story neutrally, albeit vividly, using
his own recollections and descriptions of eyewitnesses, and the
most important and the horrible moments of the saga that he collected
whilst investigating into the incident to find out the truth.
In the novel
the friend of the victim describes the incident in detail before
the villagers gathered in the village square at his request. Amerasinghe
adds a different perspective to this story by making him the narrator
in his monodrama. Thus in Amerasinghe's version the narrator performs
a dual function as a partaker of the incident and the presenter
of the performance simultaneously.
begins as follows: "On the day they were going to kill him,
Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for
the boat the bishop was coming on. He'd dreamed he was going through
a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and
for an instant he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke he felt
completely spattered with bird shit. "He was always dreaming
trees' Placida Linero, his mother told me 27 years later, recalling
the details of that unpleasant Monday ".
theatrical adaptation the narrator of the novel is sent before the
spectators, and he addresses his fellow villagers: "Buenas
noches y gracias senoras! It is good of you to have turned here
on the square, at such short notice, to meet me before I leave.
You all know why I came back to this town after more than 20 years.
I just had to.
We were all
there on that Monday morning when it all happened, and most of us
surprisingly, just looked on, helplessly. It all happened on this
very square in broad daylight, in the unobstructed view of a whole
town paralysed into inactivity. This fact has gnawed at me over
the years, and I had to find out how and why this was allowed to
occur, particularly, since we all knew, hours before the deed, that
the Vicario brothers were waiting to kill him."
In the monodrama
Amerasinghe has not only made the presentation of the story more
dramatic and lively, but also added a third dimension to it by articulating
the attitude of the narrator overtly. The direct involvement of
the narrator throughout the adaptation, who in the original story
was only an eyewitness and investigator, deepens the impact created
by the collisions of different perspectives.
his story with a report of the faceless narrator who also quotes
an eyewitness who describes the last few minutes of the dying man
Santiago Nasar: "He stumbled on the last step, but he got up
at once. 'He even took care to brush off the dirt that was stuck
to his guts' my aunt Wene told me. Then he went into his house through
the back door that had been open since six and fell on his face
in the kitchen."
who adapts the novel into a "drama", ends the main episode
with the same statement as in the original made by the narrator
who in his adaptation has turned into the protagonist of the play.
However, Amerasinghe's narrator does not stop at just describing
the final moment of the murder, but makes his observations, expresses
his emotions, and opens a discourse in the minds of the spectators/auditors
regarding the legal and moral implications of the whole incident
with these words:
I have presented to you the final act of that tragedy which most
of us witnessed over two decades ago, on this very stage. Although
practically the whole town saw the Vicario brothers slaughtering
Santiago Nasar in broad daylight, the twins were acquitted on the
grounds that it was a case of justifiable homicide, the settlement
of a debt of honour."
ends his play with the following words of the narrator:
".... So do I, after years of committed, hard, unremitting
toil, remain perturbed. My perturbation stems from a question that
nags, and will continue forever nagging me. That question is: Who,
who really killed Santiago Nasar?"
who had only a wig and a moustache as makeup, presented this monodrama
in the little auditorium of the Alliance Francaise de Kandy, an
audience of about a hundred watched it for one hour in total silence.
They were not spellbound. Their ears, eyes and minds were made alert,
and they not only watched the drama, but also observed, and were
able to come to their own conclusions and make their own judgments.
and also the secret of the success of Amerasinghe's monodrama "Who
Killed Santiago Nasar is the use of presentation through narration
instead of representation through acting. A normal naturalistic
stage play based on the same story would have easily faced the danger
of turning into a piece of melodrama.
In this form
of performance the absence of the actors representing the dramatic
personae eliminates that risk. One can argue that this is not drama
but story telling. However, it is clear that it goes beyond just
story telling and becomes a dramatic epic or a dramatic narration.
Thus there is no doubt that the author-director-actor Amerasinghe
has perfected a powerful instrument to bring problems of a particular
type before an audience (not necessarily on a proscenium stage).
There is another
question one may ask about this type of adaptation. That is, whether
justice has been done to the author of the original work, here Gabriel
Garcia Marquez. It is an uncontested fact that any adaptor of a
play or a story written by another playwright or an author has the
freedom to interpret it according to his/her wishes, albeit not
distorting the original. In the case of "Who Killed Santiago
Nasar" Amerasinghe has certainly done no injustice to the author
of the novel but has made his point of view more effectively felt.
a very modest yet talented artiste, should give more spectators
of the country the opportunity to share this rare experience. Undoubtedly
a "monodrama" of this type has much potential, especially
in a country like Sri Lanka where a strong tradition of political
drama including "street drama" has developed during the
past few decades.
Dr. Michael Fernando
master artists works to go on sale in London
Martin Russell was one of the patrons of the '43 Group in its formative
years. He helped the individual members by purchasing their paintings.
Eleven paintings from the Martin Russell collection, four George
Keyts from the early 1940s, all oil on canvas and seven paintings
by Ivan Peries mostly from the 1940s and one painting from 1951
will be sold this Tuesday, October14 at Sotheby's in Bond Street.
The son of
a London merchant banker Gilbert Russell, Martin Russell acquired
his interest in modern art from his mother, Maud Russell (the daughter
of the German Jewish stockbroker and racehorse owner Paul Nelke).
She had been painted by several English artists, including Nicholson,
Orpen and McEvoy, and had sat for drawings by Matisse in l937.
assistant private secretary to Duff Cooper, the Minister of Information.
In 1941 Duff Cooper was sent by Churchill to Singapore to report
on the co-ordination of the numerous British Government departments
active in the Far East. Duff Cooper returned to England in January
1942 while Russell remained in Singapore to close the office.
was lucky enough to escape to Sumatra two days before the Japanese
occupied Singapore. After working his way through Sumatra and Java,
he arrived in Ceylon on a river steamer in 1942.
He was assigned
to the cypher office at the museum in Colombo by the Army command.
He was introduced to Lionel Wendt and met Keyt in Colombo two years
later for the first time at the inaugural exhibition of the '43
Group where he purchased all the Keyts exhibited sans one.
posted to Lord Mountbatten's staff in Kandy, he formed a friendship
with Keyt and other members of the '43 Group. He built up an extensive
collection of the early works of the members of this group.
to England in 1946 where he started to write his book The Art of
George Keyt. As Keyt had moved to Bombay in 1947, Russell decided
to spend more time in Ceylon and India in order to enable him to
complete the book, which was published by Marg in Bombay in 1950.
The images of
the paintings can be viewed on the Serendib Gallery website: www.artsrilanka.org
and the Sotheby's website too could be accessed from this site for
further information. (Images of the paintings offered for sale could
be viewed on the website www.artsrilanka.org).- MD