The Sunday Leader

Green Path — Sudden Burst Of Vivid Colour

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Some of the works that were on sale and A drawing depicting the war

Driving down Green Path last Sunday you were greeted by a sudden burst of vivid colour. This was Kala Pola, the open air art fair by the George Keyt Foundation — a riotous mix of sapphire blues, emerald greens, pink and sunset orange stretched as far as the eye could see.

Over 250 artists and sculptors travelled to Colombo to display their work.

Walking through the fair the sheer variety of art on display was apparent. It was truly eye-opening to see the volume of raw talent — a positive sign that the arts scene is far from static in Sri Lanka.

Oil paintings jostled with sculptures and line drawings. Wood etchings featured everyone from Bob Marley to Buddha. Michael Jackson was found next to granite figurines. Abstract paintings vied with lifelike portraits. There were beautifully rendered scenes of women harvesting paddy and demon dancers.

The recent war victory was on the artists’ minds too, several canvasses depicting President Rajapaksa, arms raised in victory. There was a stall depicting landscapes in Jaffna in watercolour. The most poignant, however, was a simple pencil sketch featuring a child IDP, trapped behind barbed wire — the frustration in her face clearly evident.

The artists themselves came from a plethora of backgrounds. Some, like Christine Keil, paint as a hobby. “It’s a great stress-reliever, being able to paint,” Christine said. Others, like freelance artist Anura Srinath, considered art a profession. Anura said he had been painting for 30 years and added it was indeed possible to make a living purely on painting. The glossy pamphlet he handed me proclaimed him to be an illustrator, cartoonist, storyboard and comic artist as well as being a painter.

Malaka, who created wood-etchings, said he had participated in Kala Pola for three years running. He said the etchings were purely a hobby, something he did in his spare time.

Malaka said he had sold three pieces that day.

It seemed a lack of demand for the artwork was a problem. “People come and look, but no one buys,” complained the artist stationed next to Malaka.

A bystander who had come to look at the artwork said she would probably refrain from buying a piece, “Everything is too expensive,” she complained.

Indeed there did seem to be a lot of interest, with crowds turning up to admire the artwork even in the scorching heat. However it was not immediately clear how many were actually willing to buy paintings.

One major plus point of the fair is the exposure it gives local artists. No doubt many careers have been launched at the Kala Pola. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie, with the artists going from stall to stall, chatting with their neighbours. Most of the artists were friendly and willing to discuss their work. The stalls selling ice cream and cold drinks, not to mention the candy floss vendors, really heightened the carnival-like atmosphere.

Overall, the Kala Pola was a colourful and vibrant experience — and a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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