Colombo Art Biennale Reviewed!

There is art and there is art. Sometimes there is also art that may not appear to the untrained eye to be art, but it is art nevertheless. But if all art is creation, and if everything is created, is not everything art?

But such profound thoughts were NOT running through my mind as i lazily decided to step out last Saturday to take this CAB everyone seemed to be raving about. I went here looking for some art together with some free Italian sandwiches, but then i found out (after arduous reasearch on the internet and many online discussions with linguistic experts) what biennale meant; bi-annual.

Or was it the inverse of that, as in every two years? Nevertheless, the name was posh enough for people who normally wouldn’t look twice at Michelangelo’s David to flock to Park Street Mews dressed in their coolest casually urban get-ups to witness it.

The traffic cones at the entrance were NOT a part of the exhibition, neither was the gas cooker on the table near the ticket counter. I almost took some photographs of these ‘exhibits’ but thought better of it, saving myself the agony of dying of retrospective embarrassment.

Here’s what i saw.

The Dead Wall


extreme left: work of Chandraguptha Thenuwara

This was something we all stared at for a long time. And though we tried to understand what the artist was trying to say; we failed miserably. Next to the wall of disembodied heads there were carrion birds with ties on; which i took to signify corporate exploitation (rock on!). Next to that there was a wall made up of skeletons and on the right of that a curious apparatus made up of cardboard and plastic bottles. On the whole, everything spoke of oppressive dominance and torture etc (and maybe global warming). So i guess we got the message.

The Freedom Of Expression Thing


'Illegible books' : Kingsley Gunatillake

This guy burned up some books, blacked out a few more, tore up and charred some others, nailed ’em to the wall, called it  ‘Freedom of Expression’ and priced the whole thing at around 70k. And no i don’t think the price includes the piece of wall. A single book was 5k. But i can get you the same thing for 10k,  installation free (I have a friend who has a friend).

Full points for concept though (well not really). But at least some points for audacity.



'World Trade Centre': Anuradha Henakaarachchi

A depiction of 9/11. One of the more interesting pieces i thought.

The Mutilator Exhibit

'The Curtain': THEERTHA (click for more info)

According to our ‘guide’ the artist wanted us to imagine the flowers were Tamil people and to think up ways of physically harming them with the giant objects in the piece; quite unimaginative (not to mention disturbing) as far as concepts go. It was probably designed for the more morbidly psychotic art connoisseur *cough*puppeteer*cough*. Didn’t look that hard to draw either.


I liked these, some symbolic stuff that i actually got. Like the ‘king falling on Pettah’  which was @thejester100’s name for it (kids i tell you!), and the space age pistol, trumpet, clown combo etc. I may have actually bought the last one if i had the cash to aimlessly throw around.

Labor Unions gone buck wild


'Industrialized Peace': Prageeth Manohansa

Wheelbarrows, rusted metal, hanging licence plates in wierd positions. Doesn’t really signify anything like a uprisal of the masses but if chaos is the keyword here then i guess it does.

All that Jack left behind

'Universal shrine' Anup Vega

I don’t really know what this was meant to express but to me it conveyed the sense of loss felt by the giant when Jack ran away with his golden-egg-laying rooster and all he was left with was the one solitary egg; to gaze at and revere forever. Or he might have felt this if he weren’t lying in a crumpled heap at the bottom of a destroyed beanstalk. Which makes it even more poignant. One of my favorites.

Wierd hook like device




Did you go for it? myself, i can’t wait for the next one to come along in six months, or two years.

  1. Jerry said:


    Can someone please explain all this?

  2. Whacko said:

    Fallen – no, not REALLY 😀

    dilsiriw – if i knew a little more about art i’d prolly agree with you there!

    Jerry – explain what?

      • Whacko said:

        what you mean like the meaning of life, how babies are made etc?

  3. Yes, you can find art in everything.
    What sets traffic cones apart the installation pieces at CAB is how the artist created it and what it symbolises among many other things.

    The curtain installation at Jagath Weerasinghe’s warehouse did not mean what you’ve described it as. If you had paid attention when I was explaining you would know that he did NOT in the least mean that the objects were supposed to be used to physically harm Tamil people!!!!

    THE HORROR! I was in complete shock when I read that!

    • Jerry said:

      Then why have the tamil people in there at all? :S

    • Whacko said:

      yes, good question!

  4. Anon said:

    Well, there’s really nothing to ‘KNOW’ abt appreciating art is there? you either like or you don’t and no one gets hurt. Anyone could come up with a ‘work of art’..its just a matter of if you show it and who you show it too.

    Thought the be-anal was pretty good although slightly pretentious as most art things in SL tend to be. but nevertheless some very interesting work if you went to see and not just BE seen.

    • Whacko said:

      good points.. and yes well, most artsy events smack of pretension at least slightly don’t they? maybe its cos most art is slightly pretentious to begin with 🙂

  5. Must admit the golden egg had me quizzed.. but the whole mood was so tranquil and the lighting was beautiful! i really didn’t want to leave… it definitely gave the “feeling” of peace although it didn’t really spell it out.

    Hmmmm but I thought it was pretty interesting overall really… cos well not everything has to make sense all the time… i actually liked the fact that it didn’t! made me think “what the E does that mean??”

    If everyone understood it wouldn’t be art, it would be a public notice =)

    • Jerry said:

      You don’t get public notices with spreadeagled women on them though…

      • hence, the reason they call it art! =P

    • Whacko said:

      some E may have definitely helped.

  6. Don’t look for a specific meaning in the piece. The whole concept is actually quite broad.

    The jasmine flowers symbolises the Tamil community. Think of the ’83 riots. Think of the hundreds of people who were brutally killed like their lives didn’t matter and that death is just some ‘everyday’ thing as in something you don’t think twice about.

    Now you’re probably wondering what that has to do with ‘imagining peace’? According Jagath to be able to imagine peace and move forward, we must remember where we have been. A solution can only be made by evaluating the whole war, beginning from where it sprouted out.

    Almost all the pieces there had a broader meaning. I think the organisers of CAB failed terribly in not providing people with proper explanations of the work on display, because some of the pieces were actually pretty neat and quite meaningful.

  7. T said:

    agree with the puppeteer. there should def have been a description of each piece or at least a note on the artist’s train of thought.

    • Whacko said:

      or at least free sandwiches right? 😀

      you and the puppeteer have a point. What would have really helped is if the artist or someone who was involved in the creation process took you thru it while you walked around looking. But i guess that only happens if you’re flashing $$. And anyway, some may argue that it is the seer and not the creator that needs to percieve the art, if you get my drift.

      • amen on the seer/creator bit.

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