By Kala Keerthi Edwin Ariyadasa
One unique feature of the artist Chandana Ranaweera is how he constantly peeps into his conscience in an attempt to explore new heights and new methods in his own art. Chandana isn't a 'standstill' artist. He moves from one form of art to another, showing a certain amount of creative bravery as it includes some risk, and an expressionist’s freedom which is easy on the eye.
Chandana strives to reach new heights in contemporary art by experimenting new ways. The term 'experimenting' is used here in its utmost gratitude form, a gratitude that is rendered only to the artists who are open to the idea of 'creative exploration'.
Because of Chandana's willingness to try our new dimensions, his artistic experiences are always animated, filled with life and rhythmic impulses. The years he has spent experiencing life has allowed him to reach these new dimensions in his art, filled with a spiritual novelty unique to Chandana.
This eagerness Chandana has to try out new things sometimes presents him with unique challenges. With every creative experience Chandana has to come up with a novelty expressionist way to present his experience in an artistic form. However, Chandana doesn't seem to mind this challenge. Perhaps he feels as if the conventional brushes and palette of paints are not enough to express his unique style.
Recently, he has adapted yet another challenging form of art, an alternative style to express his art which is the pen and ink. In many ways this looks like a fresco-style art form because the artist can hardly go back and amend the artistic impulses he has already expressed using the pen and ink. An artist who uses fresco style in his art utilises a wet surface. Because of the artistic talent and innate skills Chandana possesses, his initial work becomes the complete work of art that doesn't require a revisit or any amendment.
Chandana has been in the field of art for many years now. However, he reaped his best artistic harvest in the year 2014. Those who are familiar with Chandana's previous works or art, these 2014 artworks of his will come across as an amazing novelty experience.
His new works, done using the pen and ink immediately impresses the viewer through its simplicity. His early work was riddled with intricate and complex lines and colour combinations but as the artist within Chandana matured he has found a new way to reach the audiences, to express the same impulses utilising only a few lines and colours. This maturity can only be reached through experience and age.
Take the artwork titled, 'Shiva Linga Veneration'. Despite being simplistic in make, the painting effortlessly arouses deep thoughts in the mind of the viewer and that too. Another simplistic painting with deep meanings expressed is, 'Thuru II'. By using only a few trees in a row the artist brings out the deep theme of the painting. The eccentric lines Chandana has used in the painting opens door to endless interpretations. Are these trees agitated, is this a planning session? One might wonder because the simplistic illustration has given the trees somewhat human-like nature. In another painting Chandana reveals the spirituality the flora possesses. The theme is merely hinted in the painting but the lines scribbled to form the painting manage to plant thoughts of a certain 'lifestyle' in the viewer's mind. The way Chandana communicates with the viewer, the way he effortlessly reaches to the audience is not something that can be done easily, even through a complex painting with intricate lines and a wide range of colours.
He sometimes includes sarcasm in his paintings. His intentions however, are not to offend any masses but to express something deep and meaningful in a manner that could be understood and grasped by even the not-so-art-savvy viewer.
Quite a few of Chandana’s paintings include figures of gods. One such painting depicts a devotee lighting a lamp in veneration of a god. However, right behind the flower plants before which the devotee venerates, the god is standing in human form. Infusing reality and the mystery both together in fine balance like in this painting, can give a deep meaning, a deep interpretation to the overall concept of the painting.
In another painting the god comes to the flower plants and picks the lamp to bring with him. The importance of this style of Chandana is that it leaves way to a multitude of interpretations among viewers. He may have painted only one painting but depending on the eyes of the beholder, there could be so many different versions of the same painting.
In one painting a god can be seen yielding multiple tridents. Perhaps it could be that the creator is trying to say even a god in this time and age can't survive with only a one trident or that even gods are powerless in their conventional form in this contemporary world.
'Water and Ocean Waves' is another proficient painting by Chandana through which the interconnectedness between the rain and waves is explicitly expressed. Perhaps it is the clouds that create raindrops or perhaps it is the ocean waves that throw water droplets towards the clouds. The strength of expression is quite powerful in his paintings which create quick abstract impulses in the viewer's mind. Being the well-disciplined painter he is, Chandana draws a few sketches based on patterns created by lines. He names one of these, 'Bats' which shows the bats as dark figures trying to flee the light of the moon and the night stars.
The flowers such as lotuses and water lilies bloom as the sun rises and wither away as the sun sets. However, this doesn't leave the night flowerless. The night has its own unique flowers - the moon and stars. The painter sees the difference between these two types of flowers in the artwork titled, 'Star-Flowers of the Evening'.
In his painting, 'Moon Rays on tank Bund', the painter depicts moon rays in black and white. Although it looks monotonous the idea of moon rays is quickly and explicitly planted in the sub-conscience.
The innate skills and the unique talent of Chandana are clearly shown when he draws human figures. One fine example of this is his painting titled, 'The Flutists'. The enthusiasm the flutists possess and the creative competitiveness they maintain among each other are clearly and realistically shown in this painting.
In the painting, 'At Dagoba Terrace' the polar opposite is depicted. Unlike the active flutists the human figures shown in this painting are calm, tranquil, and collected. The sketch titled, 'Towards the Bo Tree' is a fine depiction of the skilled discipline of the painter. The difference between the green, full-of-life Bo leaf and the withered, dried up Bo leaf is aesthetically shown using the colours black and white. This two-toned depiction of contrasting life truths through two Bo leaves leave the viewer pleasantly surprised and amazed at the same time.
Chandana is sensitive and aware of even the simplest details of his paintings and what it can convey to the viewer. His prowess as an expressionist artist is clearly shown in his two-toned sketches. Appearing although simplistic at first glance, these drawings require shrewd know-how in art to be enjoyed and understood fully. One should dissect his paintings and study them deeply to reach the meaning Chandana is trying to convey. Only through such intricate and sensitive means of interpretation could the arts of Chandana be fully appreciated and admired.
Chandana is a down-to-earth artist who so far, has travelled in a 'Third Class' compartment. However, he has done so while holding onto a well-deserved ticket for the 'First Class'. His latest collection of black and white drawings is a fine example of this truth.
(Translated by Sanuj Hathurusinghe)