Hashan Cooray: Creative empathy
Hashan Cooray is a contradictory artist who though influenced by
modernism and postmodernism, reflects disillusionment with modern life
in his paintings, three of which(featured here) are allegorically titled
'At the Gates of Heaven', 'Reflection' and 'Behind the Scene'.
Unabashedly admitting to cynicism and doubt in society, which he blames
on the world wars, he both universalises and generalises the human
condition and the war experience in his paintings, claiming that all
wars cause the same pain and suffering in humans.
His painting titled 'At the Gates of Heaven' explores the dissipation
and degeneration of modern life through the character of Marilyn Monroe.
In a style that hints at touches of Van Gogh, Hashan strives to capture
the tragedy of Marilyn Monroe, a vulnerable girl who was abused as a
child and ruthlessly exploited by the movie industry, which used her to
serve their commercial purposes. The metamorphosis of Norma Jean into
Marilyn Monroe and her decline during the final years of her life is
movingly portrayed by Hashan, revealing her isolation and loneliness and
her futile search for love with the wrong men.
At the Gate of Heaven
'Reflection' on the other hand reveals the horrors of war through the
examination of the destruction it causes both to human existence and
infrastructure. Hashan focuses on a poor, elderly farmer who has lost
his livelihood and is reduced to abject poverty because of the Second
World War. The farmer's aspirations and dreams are shattered by the war
and the artist powerfully captures this through the sadness visible in
the subject's facial expression.
Hashan explores his pre-occupation with modernism and postmodernism
through the figure of the magician in 'Behind the Scene'. He juxtaposes
fantasy with reality by focusing on the magician's art, which is
elusive, and thereby examines the boundary between the real and the
unreal. There is an element of suspense, disbelief and intrigue in the
magician's art, which is illuminated by Hashan through the vivid yet
muted depiction of the magician.
Hashan, who has a diploma in art and fine tuned his art attending a
course at the Goethe Institute in Colombo, says his favourite medium is
acrylic on canvas because it enables him to complete his paintings
within a short period of time. He says his technique is defined by
strong brush strokes and attention to detail.
Currently a senior art director at an advertising agency, Hashan is
married and says he is grateful to his wife who is very supportive and
gives him the time and space he needs for painting.
Behind the scene