Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 10 June 2012





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Chandana Ranaweera:

Minimalist monochrome artist

"The more minimal the art, the more maximum, the explanation." -Hilton Kramer

When wisdom accumulates, its expression becomes slim. Proliferating insights speak pithily. Profound, mature experiences emerge in simple, chaste and austere idioms.

Terse, aphoristic formulae, would very well reflect a rich, ornate and baroque inner being.

Similarly a linear minimalism, will, on many an occasion, stunningly represent a soul, replete with currents and cross-currents of complex thought-patterns.

In recent years, Chandana Ranaweera, an unassuming villager from remote Alawwa, taking shelter within a pronounced cocoon of an ultra-self-conscious personality has been assiduously producing a series of monochrome sketches, that has now evolved into a vividly significant oeuvre, that no lover of art can afford to disregard any more.


The simplicity of his linear depictions, is beguilingly deceptive. It is quite possible for a viewer to fall into the trap of assuming, that these lines begin to occur with an effortless ease.

But the stark reality will eventually dawn on him, if he could find the patience to scrutinise one of these sketches, in something of a detail.

I suggest you focus your sustained attention on the sketch titled "Flautists". At first sight you may miss its taut concentration. But, when you continue to be immersed in it, the sketch begins to overwhelm you.

You see the unison with which the two players, put their souls together to work out the rhythm of their instruments.

Their cheeks are puffed as they breathe the tune into the flutes. The eyes are sharp and keen while they are fully bent on the note they produce together. The fingers flutter on the stops of the flute enabling them to trace the varying levels of the music.

The waist-bands gleam - still continuing the uniformity. The sketch is so tantalisingly alive, that if you listened carefully, you feel that you may even hear the lilting music of their flutes.

With an admirable discipline, the artist inserts the authenticating detail tellingly, to capture the reality of his theme, in his minimalistic sketches.

Wit and whimsicality are among the inescapable effects, that his sketches exude. If you look at the "Flautists", you cannot help but see a good reason for amusement, in their earnestness and their unswerving concentration.

When the sketch-artist abstracts a character, from out of the general parade of humanity, the character seen isolated from the large context of life, tends to communicate an intriguing whimsicality.


Artist Chandana Ranaweera has a built-in capacity to discern the irony, wit, whimsicality and even the down-right humour, implicit in some of the themes he selects for his minimalist, monochrome sketches.

Artist Chandana Ranaweera, has returned to the theme of "God", in several of his minimalist sketches. In one, the God is bewildered by the offerings made by his devotees, in their fervour. The smoke from the lamps lit for him, fill his restricted space with smoke.

Floral offerings thwart him. The sacred weapons he should have in his hands, are now aimed directly at him. In mother sketch, a god is shown ready with his sacred weapon in hand. He expects his worshippers. But, though he awaits anxiously they do not seem to be coming.


In a third instance too, the artist revisits the god theme. There too, the god communicates the nation, that he is awaiting his devotees.

In this ironical "deity" series of sketches, artist Chandana Ranaweera, makes a comment on the eroding sense of religions fervour, leading to the anxiety of gods, test their congregation be depleted.

Chandana's minimal art, needs to be delved into seriously. The simplicity of the end-proodnet, is ensured by several significant factors.

The artist, selects his theme, and peels off layer after layer of elaborate details. Through this process he pares down his creative concept to its barest minimum lines. He presents the end result, leavened with the eccentric linear arrangements peculiar to him.

Linear designs

His linear designs contribute a compelling liveliness to his minimalist vision. In his sketch titled "Moon Rising", he enlivens the portrayal with his whimsical fansy, that the moon takes wash in the ocean, before it rises above the hrizon, to illuminate the world.

The minimalist of this sensitive sketch-maker, who imparts a telling "colour" to his strange monochrome creations, has not yet been received into the main-stream of art in Sri Lanka, in our day. His minimalist art is poetry and fantasy synthesised into monochrome dreams. Artist Chandana Ranaweera's minimalist monochrome vision, could substantially, illuminate the landscape of contemporary Sri Lanka art, if he could be allowed a worth while entry into the domain of today's Sri Lankan art, which does not seem to be still prepared, , to let his minimalist wonders a foot-hold within it.



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